Winning the Business

Knowledge Prevails

Keys to leveraging your knowledge management strategy during an acquisition

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Whether you’ve been the acquirer or the acquired, you likely perceive acquisitions and mergers as a necessary evil in business, bearing increased effort, risk, and change. For proposal professionals who rely heavily on a knowledge library, transferring and retaining knowledge-based resources can be a challenge. Here are four ways the knowledge management (KM) strategy can help.

  1. The KM Leader as the Protagonist

The role of the KM leader is critical—KM leaders advocate for the overarching corporate vision of the KM strategy and ultimately determine the success of the entire program. KM leaders are often creative transformers, having the difficult job of getting the buy-in from stakeholders at many different levels of the organization. During an acquisition, the KM leader’s job is essentially to convince a stranger to hand over years of carefully crafted responses, summaries, and overviews. Fostering trust and building relationships are essential early in the process. As time goes on, KM leaders should always be available to share knowledge and to provide encouragement and recognition to subject matter experts (SMEs).

  1. Success Depends on Knowledge Champions

Selecting effective knowledge champions is key to ensuring a smooth content transition. Knowledge champions spread the KM strategy, provide support at the departmental level, and most importantly, network. Engaging employees during an acquisition is one of the strongest ways to give them a sense of ownership—by allowing them to influence their own roles, establish priorities, and communicate with others on the KM team. Being a knowledge champion also gives employees a sense of identity during the early stages of the acquisition, which is often a time of uncertainty for many.

The role of the KM leader is critical—KM leaders advocate for the overarching corporate vision of the KM strategy and ultimately determine the success of the entire program.

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (Content)

An acquisition is the perfect time to clean the content house. Remove all those one-off, outdated, and unused content fragments. Meet with your SMEs to see if there is any content that they think you could do without. Reusing reliable content sounds straightforward, but unless you have a central single-source-of-truth repository, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Ensuring key individuals have equal access to the content repository from the very beginning is critical. If there are licenses required, make sure they are requested as soon as possible. If you’re using an automation system or knowledge library that requires training, confirm that training is included on the onboarding agenda early on. Allowing newly onboarded employees to contribute and refine existing content can be a mutually rewarding experience and will set the tone for the level of support they provide to the program in the future.

  1. Metrics, Metrics, and More Metrics

You can’t make progress on something that’s not measured. Depending on your content management system, metric reporting can be simple and straightforward or clunky and irrelevant. Creating a meaningful tracking system is a vital part of the KM strategy. Determine your priorities first. What is important to your KM strategy? Start with a few main measurements (e.g., user activity, expired content management, event auditing) and ensure the leadership team is involved in establishing priorities. Determine the frequency of data collection and reporting: Typically, quarterly is best, but each organization has its own unique set of requirements. Presenting the results regularly to the KM team and to the leadership team will create visibility and is what will ultimately allow the KM program to grow.

Utilizing these strategies, acquisitions and mergers can become catalysts in elevating your KM strategy and can showcase it as an even greater asset to your organization.

Angela Merrick is knowledge manager at OpenText, a Canadian information management software developer. She can be reached at