It’s one thing to have a great idea. It’s quite another to translate that idea into a product or service that reaches the market.
Why companies are shifting to Q&A as the new format for knowledge management. Download now (pdf)
You need the right team in order to bring something to market. You also usually need capital to support development, and you need sales and marketing operations to help promote the product. These are all challenges that are typically covered in Business Management 101, and they are easy enough to solve.
There is another critical component for bringing a product or service to the market, however, that is easier to overlook: knowledge management. In order to develop, market, and sell something, your business must constantly transfer knowledge between different employees and teams (not to mention to customers). Without an effective knowledge management strategy in place, you’ll struggle to do this.
Let’s take a look at why knowledge management is so important and how you can hone your strategy, leading to shorter time-to-market and less overhead as you develop and sell goods and services.
Knowledge and time-to-market
Time-to-market (which refers to how long it takes your company to develop a new product or service to the point that it is ready to be sold to customers) is reliant to a great extent on the way you manage and share knowledge.
That knowledge takes several forms, including:
- Product or service knowledge: You can’t develop and sell something new unless you can record and share technical information about how it works.
- Market knowledge: Bringing something to market requires you to understand what the market actually wants. That knowledge must be shared between different teams (development, marketing, and sales) to ensure that everyone’s operations are aligned with market demand. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting effort on developing or marketing products that don’t correspond to what customers actually want.
- Process knowledge: Developing and selling a new product or service involves a complicated process. Each team and individual employee must understand how the process works and which role the team or employee plays in it in order for it to work.
- Feedback: In order for a new product or service to be a success, you need to collect ongoing feedback about how the market responds to it, then share that feedback with your various teams so that they can respond and optimize their operations.
These types of knowledge are critical not just for ensuring that your development, sales, and marketing operations are running effectively, but also for minimizing the overhead that those operations require. By overhead, I mean the tools and resources that are necessary to sustain the operations. Product or service development always entails some overhead, but you should strive to minimize overhead in order to run a successful business.
If your team requires a large stack of different software tools for managing information during the development and marketing process, or if it maintains a sprawling, difficult-to-manage IT infrastructure to host those different tools, you end up with excess overhead, which undercuts business agility.
Effective knowledge management for product development
As noted above, many factors impact time-to-market and overhead. However, because knowledge management is part and parcel of the entire product or service development process, an effective and efficient knowledge management solution lays the foundation for a lean and mean development and marketing operation.
To support product development in a way that minimizes time-to-market and overhead, your knowledge management solution should have several key characteristics.
The tool or tools that your teams and employees use to record information about development and marketing should be easily accessible by anyone who needs them whenever the need arises. If you rely on meetings or expect knowledge to be transferred via phone calls or instant messages, you force team members to have to wait on answers, which slows down their operations. A better solution is to build a knowledge base that can be accessed anytime.
Support for collaboration
Bringing a product or service to market requires collaboration by a variety of individuals and teams. As a result, knowledge is developed collaboratively in a somewhat decentralized fashion. Your knowledge management solution should reflect this characteristic.
A knowledge management platform that is designed to impose information from the top down, like a documentation database, doesn’t work well in a collaborative environment. A better solution is one that provides everyone on your various teams with an opportunity to give input and help build the knowledge database.
Easy to update
Anyone who has managed a product development process can tell you that plans, strategies, and processes will inevitably change. For that reason, your knowledge management tools must make it easy for all team members to update and revise information on a constant basis. A documentation database or development roadmap that is created at the outset of your development process and is difficult to update will not serve you well.
Easy to work with
As we’ve noted, product development involves the collaboration of many different types of employees. Some of them might be technical wizards, but others don’t have technical skills.
That’s why it’s important to embrace knowledge management tools that don’t require users to understand restrictive category hierarchies or guess at what the eventual reader needs. Instead, try something more intuitive, tailored towards the questions that people are actually asking. If you have the questions in hand, you can provide the exact answers and store those for future knowledge seekers.
The more knowledge management tools you have in your stack of solutions, the more overhead your team has to manage. Indeed, having too many knowledge management tools increases the amount of knowledge that your employees need to master, because each tool requires its own expertise.
This is why you should strive to build a knowledge management solution that lets you cover as many bases as possible using a single tool. The tool should be able to support all of your different teams while recording and sharing different types of information. In other words, it should offer as much breadth as possible.
Knowledge is power, as they say, and effective knowledge management is the key to powering product or service development operations that minimize time-to-market as well as the overhead that your teams require to do their job. Knowledge management is only one part of the puzzle, but it’s the foundation for all the others.
See how Stack Overflow for Teams can transform collaboration within your organization. Learn more