If you’ve been following the Hightail blog for a while, you’re already very familiar with the notion that effective communication and collaboration is vital to the success of your creative team.
It’s not exactly a controversial statement and it’s, in fact, one area where the vast majority of teams completely agree.
- 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”
- 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures
- And 97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project
But, of course, becoming more collaborative doesn’t just “happen.” Approached haphazardly, your team’s efforts to collaborate can easily go off the rails.
Becoming more collaborative across the board requires a strategic, cohesive approach by both your creative team and your organization as a whole.
This blog post will look at a big part of this more strategic approach to creative collaboration that you might not be as familiar with: knowledge management (KM).
With strategic knowledge management processes in place, your team’s ability to communicate — with each other and your clients—will continue to improve on the regular.
What is Knowledge Management?
At Helpjuice (a knowledge base solution), we define knowledge management as:
The systematic management of an organization’s knowledge assets, for the purpose of creating value and meeting tactical & strategic requirements. Knowledge management (KM) consists of the initiatives, processes, strategies and systems that sustain and enhance the storage, assessment, sharing, refinement, and creation of knowledge.
Okay, that was … a lot.
For our purposes, we’ll look at how KM can be used to enhance your team’s ability to collaborate with one another, other teams within your organization and the clients your company serves.
Knowledge Management and Client-Team Collaboration
Your creative team’s ability to work well with their clients is critical to the success of your business.
From a bird’s-eye perspective, your team and their clients need to be aligned in terms of:
- The client’s needs and expectations
- Your team’s capacity to meet these expectations
- The agreed-upon terms of your business relationship
On a more “nitty-gritty” level, it’s important for both parties to stay on the same page throughout completion of the project in question. This means keeping up with the team’s progress, any problems encountered and any other need-to-know info that may come about.
In both cases, a strategic approach to knowledge management will optimize your team’s ability to create this alignment—and to maintain it throughout your relationships with each client you serve.
For one thing, knowledge management focuses on ensuring all project-related knowledge, information and documentation is available to stakeholders at all times. Documenting your progress simply becomes part of your team’s workflow—in turn allowing you to easily keep your clients in the know as you move through a project.
(This also cuts down on time spent actively communicating updates ad nauseum to your clients. As discussed before on Hightail’s blog, redundant communications and other such missteps between parties can be detrimental to your overall relationship with your customers.)
With each party on the same page at all times, it becomes much easier for your team to collaborate with your clients as needed throughout their various projects. Basically, your team and your clients will spend less time talking about what’s next—and more time actually making it happen.
It’s also worth mentioning that your clients will have access to documentation regarding a given project’s scope and specifications. This gives them a clear idea of what to expect in terms of deliverables, timeline and all other services to be rendered by your team — and keeps their expectations from running wild after you’ve set things in writing.
Strategic knowledge management also focuses on standardizing the various processes involved in collaborating with clients. This means defining how you’ll be communicating with a client, when you’ll be doing so and for what purposes. Again, because your clients will know what to expect when engaging with your creative team, it will be much easier for both parties to focus on working collaboratively on the task at hand.
Knowledge Management and Creative Team Collaboration
Whether working on-premise or remotely, it’s not exactly difficult for creative teams to become disjointed while working on a project.
Really, all it takes is a single employee to miss a single memo for a team’s efforts to go off the rails. If the issue involves more than one team member, it will take even more work to get things back on track.
Of course, something is always happening with regard to your team’s various projects; as the saying goes, the only constant is change.
That being the case, it’s essential that your creative team has the systems and structures in place needed to maintain alignment and work collaboratively.
This is another place where strategic knowledge management can come into play.
As for the necessary systems, part of knowledge management is standardizing your processes and workflows to maximize overall productivity. For our purposes, this means defining exactly how your creative team will work collaboratively in various circumstances, for various reasons. Moreover, KM also ensures these documented processes are accessible whenever a team member needs them.
Knowledge management also looks to the structures needed to facilitate collaboration throughout your creative team. Here, we’re talking about the various tools and technology your team will need to communicate and collaborate with one another.
More than just defining which tools your team will be using, KM again focuses on creating documented processes for doing so. This ensures your creative team follows best practices when using a specific tool or resource.
The idea here is for your creative team to get to a point where they don’t need to think about how, when or why they should be working together; they just do it.
With proper knowledge management baked into your team’s creative processes, collaboration will simply become second nature. In turn, you’ll easily be able to deliver on any promise you make to your clients.
Knowledge Management and Cross-Team Collaboration
Taking things a step further, your creative team should also be aiming to work more collaboratively with the many other teams within your organization.
The importance of cross-team collaboration can’t be overstated.
On a more practical level, being more collaborative with multiple teams will supercharge both parties’ efforts.
- Your customer support staff can help your creative team develop more laser-focused content based on common issues your customers bring to them.
- Collaboration between your creative and sales teams allows for more targeted, personalized messaging to your individual clients.
- Better communication between executives, managers and creative staff ensures all “ground-level” efforts by your customer-facing teams lead to improvements and growth for your business.
Looking at the “bigger picture,” cross-team collaboration is essential for your organization to move forward as a single, cohesive unit. When your teams are more apt to work together in a literal sense, they’ll be more likely to maintain a common vision and common goals as time goes on.
Once more, knowledge management plays a huge role here.
Thinking practically, KM is all about squeezing as much value as possible out of all data, information and knowledge held by your team members. When all teams are focused on systematically sharing their knowledge of your customers, best practices and all things in between, it will be easier for all teams to become more collaborative and cohesive.
Similarly, KM aims to keep all team members informed as to what everyone else is working on at any given time. This allows all teams to understand how their efforts empower other teams’ efforts. In turn, all team members will be better equipped to help each other put their best foot forward.
Going back to the “big picture,” knowledge management helps keep your organization’s mission and vision in focus at all times, for all teams.
By working together to create this shared vision, making the related documentation readily accessible and baking company values into your various processes, your teams will create common ground for all to stand on. In turn, your team’s ability to work collaboratively on ground-level, customer-facing initiatives will continue to grow stronger on a daily basis.
Communication and collaboration is all about harnessing the knowledge your team possesses, and using it for creative and productive purposes—and knowledge management can be a key part of that.
Without full oversight of your team’s organizational knowledge, effective communication and collaboration just won’t be possible. In turn, your team’s overall productivity will never reach its full potential.
With full oversight of your team’s knowledge, though, effective team-wide communication can occur at all times.
Hightail can also help teams with the need to control the information that continuously flows through their organization. In turn, your team members will always be on the same page — allowing collaboration and communication to occur with ease. (If you’re not using Hightail yet, please sign up for a 14-day free trial to see it in action firsthand.)
About the Author
Emil is the Founder and CEO of Helpjuice – a powerful knowledge base software company. Emil is an organizational learning expert & author of Knowledge Management: A Theoretical and Practical Guide for Knowledge Management in Your Organization.