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Knowledge Management Critical for Start-ups
Author: Luigi Lugmayr
Date: 06/03/03

Start-ups are one of the most information intense and fastest changing organizations in Business. Yet most start-ups rely only on the basic tools like email and maybe a file-share to manage information. It’s crazy when I think about it... 5 years back I co-founded my own start-up and we made the same mistake. It was a nightmare to share information and to keep track of the ever-changing direction of the business. Sure it was ok when there where only four of us. But after raising money, we began hiring steadily in two locations and within a couple of month had a staff of 70.

Because we did not have a central knowledge base that we could point them to, we had no easy way to orient new employees when they joined. Newly hired executives and consultants asked the same questions that had been researched and answered months prior but the information was lost in email and not stored in context where it was easy to find.
With our engineering team based in Germany and marketing and sales in the US, we found it difficult to collaborate across the two offices. Email and phone were the only ways to communicate and it was not efficient to say the least. We introduced an intranet to help solve our information sharing problem and it worked for particular processes like product management and QA. But for sales and marketing, corporate strategy, competitive intelligence, investor relations and customer management we had only email.


It might sound strange, but I think a knowledge management initiative is as important in a small and growing organization as it is in a mature global company. It’s tempting to say that it is “just a couple of people” who can communicate directly everyday. However, what people forget is that this communication exchange is lost forever by not being captured. If the start-up is successful, in the long run, it will struggle to grow. On the flip side, if a start-up has to lay-off people, which is not uncommon these days, the employee’s “knowledge” walks out the door because that knowledge was not stored in context in a knowledge base.

If I were to launch another start-up, I would deploy a KM solution early on. The challenge is that most KM solutions on the market are geared towards large enterprises and SMEs, for example, Entopia Quantum (http://www.entopia.com) (disclaimer: yes, I work for Entopia and yes there are other great KM solutions out there, but I still believe that Entopia Quantum is the most holistic solution solving the many layers of KM including document management, collaboration, expertise profiling, search and more). It is worth noting that Entopia Quantum can be deployed with small number of seats through its pilot program. Many KM vendors offer pilot programs that can give a start-up an affordable way to get started on a KM initiative.

With a KM initiative in place at the outset, all the research and information gathered during the business plan creation could be captured in a knowledge base. The knowledge would build from day one. New partners or employees would be able to join the system and get up to speed quickly through a new employee orientation workspace. And once up to speed, employees can use the KM solution to continue to build the knowledge base, share information with colleagues through collaboration capabilities.
Startups are the breading ground for great ideas. With a KM solution in place this ideas can be easily captured and leveraged in future product versions or in patents.
What’s also important is that a KM solution has a built-in search engine that not only finds information but also identifies experts based on their activity and creation of information.
Sales pitch disclaimer: Entopia Quantum can be used for any information related process, like competitive intelligence, product management, project management, investor relations, customer support, and so on. The beauty and cost savings to a start-up would include not having to invest in specialized solutions like CRM for some time. The collective knowledge of the company would be stored in one system and could be leveraged across the growing organization.
If you are in a start-up and you are interesting in discussing how a KM solution like Quantum could help your company grow, don’t hesitate to contact me. You can either post a comment here at the realKM (http://realkm.blog-city.com) blog or send me an email at luigi@entopia.com.

Links:
About The Author: http://www.entopia.com/about_pg1.2.htm#m6

RealKM Blog:
http://realkm.blog-city.com

Entopia - Innovator in Bottom-Up Knowledge Management:
http://www.entopia.com

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