Business growth through a knowledge sharing platform

February 4, 2018 in Best Practices

Business growth through a knowledge sharing platform

Knowledge is the key asset of any professional services firm. Knowledge about its clients, its processes, its technical capabilities and its commercial acumen. So a knowledge sharing platform, or knowledge sharing software, should be among the key tools for business growth for a professional services firms. Yet often, it is not.

Most professional services firms do not effectively manage the flow of information among their staff, clients and prospects. They may use a client relationship tool to manage some client data, or they may have a passive knowledge management process (like Sharepoint, or some PDFs or slides). Rarely does a professional services firm have knowledge sharing software to identify, capture and share knowledge in a meaningful way.

This is a shame, as a knowledge sharing platform can take the key asset of knowledge and use it to enable significant business growth. Let’s review all the ways knowledge sharing software can drive business growth.

Better outcomes through better processes

Understanding and managing knowledge sharing within a professional services firm helps identify links between knowledge and outcomes. A business typically tracks outcomes – the ends. However, most businesses do not usually do enough to track how those outcomes are achieved – the means.

Implementing a knowledge sharing platform reveals the trends, inefficiencies, inconsistencies, best practices and disconnections within the business. It provides data about HOW outcomes are being achieved within the business. To change the ends, we usually need to change the means. When a business implements knowledge sharing software, it also enacts a cultural change towards valuing knowledge – know-how – and not just results. By better understanding how knowledge is used in the firm, managers can retrain or refocus staff to achieve better outcomes.

  • Accounting firm example: Accounting firm write-offs are a huge focus for accounting firms. A knowledge sharing platform can be used to specifically target processes around write-offs. Best practices and advice can be captured from partners and senior accountants, to be shared among the firm. In particular, proven processes which reduce write-offs can be captured and included in induction training to prevent behaviours that lead to write-offs in new accountants.

Long-term improvements in workplace behaviours

Unlike generic training activities provided by external training providers, a knowledge sharing platform can drive fundamental changes in employee behaviour. Externally provided training is designed to appeal to a wide range of companies and industries. Your employees have little or no ownership, and it often feels like an ‘event’ – something happening to them for a short time.

Knowledge sharing software overcomes these issues. Knowledge sharing starts with cultural change. It provides infinite opportunities to improve employee collaboration, interaction, innovation and performance by engaging employees directly in the development and sharing of knowledge. Employees are now the ones creating, sharing and driving knowledge: they have total ownership in the process. Because the knowledge is from within their firm, it also has significant contextual relevance. They can use this newly shared knowledge easily, and it often yields immediate results.

  • Accounting firm example: Accountants often struggle to implement behavioural change simply because they are so busy. Training events come and go, without any context, ownership, or reinforcement. A knowledge sharing platform can immediately improve the relevance of the content, which in turn engages the accountant – they can gain the benefits of using new knowledge immediately. Knowledge sharing software should also provide automated reinforcement of ideas via notifications, on-the-job activities and accountability with key stakeholders. For example, a knowledge sharing topic on conducting ‘work in progress’ team meetings could include activities which require accounting teams to implement improvements in their WIP meetings. These activities should be automated over a 2–3 month period, with notifications to HR, training or Managing Partners to boost accountability. Knowledge sharing software can also share lessons between peers (social learning) to foster best practices and ‘fear of missing out’.

Accelerating delivery to your clients

If knowledge is the key asset for professional services firms, time is the key expense. But a knowledge sharing platform can specifically target the issue of productivity and efficiency.

First, knowledge sharing software can rapidly capture and share your most efficient client processes to reduce the time needed to service clients. All those little tips and tricks used by your star performers can be shared with all staff. Processes can be standardised between teams to drive efficiencies and savings.

Second, a good knowledge sharing platform will enable knowledge sharing with clients. Sharing knowledge with clients can enable a huge range of benefits – cross-sell and upsell opportunities, reduce support costs, better expectation management, efficiency in the delivery of low-value services and more. Knowledge shared by clients with your firm can improve outcomes or reduce the length of client meetings. Educated clients are more self-sufficient and require less support and service resources.

  • Accounting firm example: Accountants have many repetitive client meetings – meetings of the same type and structure with many different clients (tax planning, tax returns, annual reviews). Knowledge sharing software can automate those meetings. Client updates and education, on changes in tax legislation or regulations, can be provided by the platform in a far more efficient and consistent manner. Clients can be better prepared for meetings and educated on how to prepare their own financial data for submission to their accountant. All of these actions result in time savings for accountants – better data, data in advance, less time spent educating clients – resulting in lower delivery costs and higher margins.

Stimulating innovation and collaboration

As mentioned earlier in this article, a knowledge sharing platform often improves the culture in a professional services firm around issues of collaboration and innovation. Knowledge sharing demonstrates to employees that the sharing, curation and refinement of knowledge is just as important as the knowledge itself.

Knowledge sharing software breaks down the ‘expert culture’ within a business. It stops employees hoarding or withholding knowledge and trying to use that as power. This is often a critical issue for professional services firms, where knowledge is used as a means for promotion or relative out-performance against peers.

Instead, knowledge sharing should be the means for promotion. Staff should be rewarded for sharing their great ideas, not just coming up with great ideas and using them exclusively in their team for personal ambitions. Knowledge sharing also breaks down silos and encourages self-reflection by staff and teams. After all, collaboration and sharing go hand-in-hand.

  • Accounting firm example:  For accounting firms with multiple services  – compliance, advisory, audit, coaching, advice – a knowledge sharing platform can often be the driver of cross-referrals or cross-selling. Each service area can produce topics on their services and products, along with tips, case studies and resources for other service areas to acquire. Best practices on cross-referrals or cross-selling can be readily captured and shared. Success sharing from accountants who provide new services to their clients can form the basis of peer-to-peer learning.

Tribal Habits is the knowledge sharing platform for professional services firms

Tribal Habits has been designed exclusively for professional services firms to deliver these exact benefits. It allows your firm to change its culture around innovation, improvement and collaboration by involving your staff (and clients) directly in the knowledge sharing process.

We have designed a user experience that allows any employee to capture and share their knowledge on ANY topic important to your strategic goals.

Now you can drive revenue, reduce expenses, improve service, boost engagement and provide technical, compliance or educational training – all from the same platform with detailed data tracking and extensive automation. It’s like a training manager, knowledge curator and business coach all-in-one.

If your firm values knowledge and recognises its value and strategic advantage, then contact Tribal Habits now to discuss your objectives. Or create a free Tribal Habits portal for your firm right now to start driving business growth, improving collaboration and using your firm’s knowledge as a powerful asset.