“Knowledge is power.” Few people would disagree with that business truism. However, ask someone how their organization is managing — and ideally growing — this valuable resource, you are likely to get a blank stare. Or perhaps a wince. Either way, it is an acknowledgement that their firm doesn’t have a process for managing and providing access to its institutional knowledge, or at least hasn’t educated its employees about it.

Unfortunately, failing to record your firm’s collective wisdom and ensuring that it’s readily available makes it more difficult to achieve your objectives. For fundraising teams in particular, data access means the difference between closing a fund and watching it slip away.

Managing Knowledge Starts with Asking the Right Questions

If the realization that your company may be losing important insights prompts an institutional knowledge capture/management initiative, a good place to start is to ask stakeholders:

  • How are we capturing data? Recording what you know is a critical first step to retrieving and leveraging it later.
  • How are we storing data? In most organizations the answers run the gamut from “I take copious handwritten notes,” to “We store it in a customer relationship management (CRM) system.” Obviously the latter is preferable to the former.
  • How do we access our data? The answer to this question is very dependent on the answer to the question above. Leveraging institutional knowledge is much more difficult if it is languishing on an employee’s notepad.
  • Will the knowledge remain if team members leave? Without the right insight management processes in place, a significant amount of knowledge can walk right out the door when a person takes a new job or retires.
  • Is our data secure? Data is a double-edged sword. Wielded properly, it is very powerful, but in the wrong hands it can be problematic. Data security is critical.

Answering those questions provides clarity and helps you formulate a strategy for moving forward.

Institutional Knowledge Management: Taking Advantage of Technology

It goes without saying that private equity firms that rely on notepads for capturing institutional knowledge put their fundraising teams at a distinct competitive disadvantage when it comes to closing funds on time. Organizations that implement a CRM system for collecting, managing, and enabling secure access to data have positioned their employees, and the company as a whole, for success.

Of course, technology alone is not the answer. You should also:

  • Develop and document a process for identifying important information and taking steps to capture it.
  • Create a mentoring program for transferring hard-to-record knowledge to new team members.
  • Have a well-defined strategy for collecting insights from departing employees.
  • Work with staff members to stagger retirements and other departures if possible.
  • Perform regular information audits to determine if any knowledge gaps exist and address them promptly.
  • Emphasize to all employees the value of the company’s collective wisdom and the importance of recording it.

With the right data management system and strategies in place, institutional knowledge isn’t just retained, it is continually refreshed and refined, making it even more useful to your teams.

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