According to Info-Tech Research Group, 74% of all companies do not have an IT knowledge transfer plan. I don’t have the specifics on how many associations don’t have a knowledge transfer plan, but I’m going to bet that number is even higher.
“Okay,” you say, “probably. But what is an IT knowledge transfer plan?”
Dictionary.com defines knowledge as “facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.”
IT knowledge, of course, is specific to anything in your organization that is automated: networks, AV, telephones, cloud services, AMS, website, email, marketing automation, LMS—and who the vendors are, who the support contacts are, how members are affected, what the processes to complete a business operation are, and so on.
No one person ever holds all of that information; most staff hold critical pieces and use them to get their jobs done. Knowledge transfer means making sure that more than one person shares knowledge of how to do those things— and a few things you haven’t thought of yet.
“Okay,” you say again, “we’ll write that information down.”
Documentation is an excellent start. But there is more to knowledge transfer than just writing it down. To effectively share knowledge, you have to understand where your biggest risks are if you don’t know something, determine how best to gather that knowledge—establishing a good relationship with a particular vendor, for instance, is not documentation event—and figure out who else should have that knowledge. The membership coordinator in charge of the dues process through the AMS is probably not the best person to share network architecture information with. That’s a broad example, but you get it.
What are typical risks for knowledge gaps interfering with the association’s day-to-day and its goals? Baby Boomers retiring. Younger staff moving on to new opportunities. Pandemics and natural disasters disrupting normal business. Someone on extended leave who is unavailable for questions. Mergers with other associations. An office move. Anyone who is the only person who knows how to do something can put your normal business operations at risk if they become unavailable.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Information is not knowledge.” Recognition of the wealth of both—information and knowledge—- that association staff hold is the first step in ensuring its capture. Understanding and documenting IT knowledge is required. Building a strategy and a roadmap to empower staff to share that knowledge with each other is key to reducing your risks and building an organization that is resilient.
Sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you.