Knowledge management is an ever-present term in the workplace. Wikipedia, the most popular online knowledge database, describes knowledge management as follows: "Knowledge management is the methodical influencing of the knowledge base of a company (organizational knowledge management) or an individual (personal knowledge management). The knowledge base comprises all data and information, all knowledge and all skills that this organization or person has or should have to solve its various tasks."1

Well-known platforms have long since taken over the structured processing of knowledge in the private sphere. When it comes to sports, product reviews or vacation bargains, we turn to search engines, research selling platforms or evaluate offers using price-comparing websites. All of these are knowledge repositories that provide quick and accurate answers to our questions. In a professional context, structured knowledge acquisition is much more difficult, with the speed of personal search results being transferable only to a limited extent. Primarily, this is usually due to the complexity of the specific issue at hand. On top of this, the answers sought are usually poorly prepared and hardly available in the necessary, individual level of detail. 

In a situation like this, a specially created knowledge database can be helpful. It can be fed from a variety of sources such as an acquired literature collection, historical data in a sophisticated folder structure, votes stored in the e-mail inbox or transcripts from OneNote or similar. In doing so, we also rely on our own memory to keep track of the flood of information and data. As the amount of data increases, figuring out whether and in what form an issue that currently needs to be addressed may have been resolved in a past project becomes ever more challenging. Many of us recall the overwhelming feeling when searching for a specific file or trying to enter the right keyword for an email file. We have countless examples in our day-to-day work where we rely on the availability of individual knowledge. If we circle back to the definition of knowledge management presented above, it refers in particular to "methodically influencing the knowledge base of a company". It is up to the reader to decide whether the widespread practice of searching for content in the depths of one's own e-mail inbox actually satisfies the above definition of "methodical". But even if every individual has a good grasp of their own data, this individual knowledge base remains inaccessible to other employees and is usually forgotten once that person leaves the company. And creating an individual database is also a very tedious process. Quite often, it takes many interactions with colleagues to find the required information and store it for future reference.

Once a company has decided to set up a knowledge database, the first step is to establish a comprehensive knowledge management strategy. The next step is to select a suitable technical solution to which the strategy can be mapped and to define access rights. At this stage, it is a good idea to focus on the design of the knowledge system and make it understandable for everyone. Doing so is very important to ensure that new content, additions and corrections are continuously incorporated. The knowledge database should evolve through continued use instead of being as comprehensive and complete a knowledge management system as possible at the time of go-live. By consistently integrating it into the daily work routine, the resulting "wiki" becomes a systematic repository of data such as templates, presentations and references to sources of literature. Additionally, the wiki can for instance be supplemented with explanatory articles or video sequences for specific use cases as an additional means of sharing knowledge. In a world of limitless information and answers, a knowledge database serves as a reliable source of information for your team and also allows you to standardize processes and procedures. 

"As a result of today's knowledge and innovation-oriented communication age, the knowledge capital available in the company is increasingly becoming a decisive production factor. (...) This represents an extension of the view of information (for example in the context of market design and influence) as an operational resource or production factor."2

Using a knowledge database speeds up the onboarding of new employees significantly, improves enablement and increases efficiency when processing technical or administrative tasks. This kind of platform can quickly become established as a central source of reference and support the entire team in their daily business. A side effect may be that less information is stored on other sharepoints, which tend to fall out of use over the years. On the positive side, employees leaving the company no longer necessarily mean that relevant knowledge is lost and can instead be retained within the company.

Leveraging standardized processes, templates and knowledge saves time and cognitive resources that are needed to work out new issues and assess data quality. This will create space for innovation and transformation.

Source: KPMG Corporate Treasury News, Edition 141, March 2024
Ralph Schilling, CFA, Partner, Head of Finance and Treasury Management, Treasury Accounting & Commodity Trading, KPMG AG 
Marie Czentarra, Managerin, Finance and Treasury Management, Treasury Accounting & Commodity Trading, KPMG AG


1 Knowledge management – Wikipedia
2 Wikipedia