The factors impacting knowledge work today

Neil Araujo
CEO and co-founder, iManage
Neil was responsible for thought leadership and product strategies before becoming CEO.
18 March 2021

At iManage, we find meaning in our work by helping our customers unlock value from their knowledge.

We have recently undertaken a significant research piece indicating that optimizing knowledge work more effectively leads to greater efficiency, collaboration and productivity.

Let us set the scene. Rapidly expanding knowledge assets and technology have changed the way we work, live and conduct business. With much of the global economy trading on intellectual capital rather than the production of tangible goods, workers' knowledge or intellectual property may not be physically seen or touched. Still, it holds tremendous value in driving business results and must be preserved, protected, and shared within the organizations it powers. It is worth an exploration of the factors impacting knowledge work today.

The ways of working

Workplace transformation has had a significant impact on the standardized ways of working, with disruption accelerated significantly in the last 12 months alone by a global pandemic. The changes – for better or worse – are not all going to go away. No one knows whether we will revert to old behaviors or retain current working patterns and create new habits.

Digital workplace transformation has hastened the adoption of AI and automation technologies, sparking a collaborative reliance between workers with legacy knowledge and those disrupting old systems.

Understanding how to make knowledge work to achieve its highest and best use within organizations is a perspective shift beyond enabling simple knowledge management. It requires putting into place an ecosystem for knowledge activation.

More information than ever before

The average American worker, for example, is inundated with 34 gigabytes of information every day, more than the average laptop default.

Such is the wealth of data in society today; it has ended up with many feeling so adrift in a sea of information that knowledge is no longer anywhere in sight.

Our research backs this up, highlighting the state of play and the perceived shift required to manage and overcome the information overwhelm:

  • 30% of respondents said that documents reach their organization via five or more channels.
  • 28% of survey respondents said that most or all of their documents are scattered and siloed across multiple systems.
  • And yet, 68% of survey respondents described "the information contained in digital documents and files" as the most critical asset to their business.

This data overload can lead to information anxiety, decision paralysis and the inability to distinguish between high quality and poor quality content.

Demographic disruption

There is also the leaking of knowledge and how best to handle it too. Every day, 10,000 baby boomers retire. Each one will take with them 30–40 years of professional expertise and institutional knowledge. There is an ongoing business need to capture and convert individual knowledge into institutional knowledge. And yes, new ways of working often come to the fore and become the norm, but the cost of an irretrievable loss of knowledge soon adds up.

Consider the cost of recreating information? What is the cost of inefficiency when trying to find and filter through information? All these consequences cost businesses close to a trillion dollars per year in the US alone. That is why it is time to make knowledge work.

Making knowledge work

In making knowledge work better for business, the revised ways of working require; effective collaboration among remote workers. Secondly, company-wide access so employees can easily retrieve fundamental knowledge and information from secure platforms across multiple and diverse devices. Thirdly, to integrate better knowledge storage, sharing, and protection into the shift from on-premises to the cloud.

Every business is looking for an edge – a way to work more efficiently, innovate faster, or get the most from their employees' expertise. To get that edge and stay ahead, every resource counts, but knowledge remains a valuable, underexploited asset in too many organizations.

By making knowledge work we unlock the hidden value in documents and people, unleashing their full potential.

Take the right path

Organizations must have a breadth of capabilities at work that include collaboration, secure storage and retrieval, ability to work from anywhere, and capacity to curate and repurpose institutional knowledge – all delivered through a high-performance, reliable cloud service.  This empowers knowledge workers to create opportunities for unencumbered thinking, higher-level productivity, and creativity that drives innovation and spurs new business opportunities.

At iManage, our purpose is to help professionals do more valuable work and achieve their desired business outcomes. It goes well beyond optimizing a specific task like document management. We're working on a platform to make our end users more effective and more efficient. To empower knowledge workers to do their best work and attract the best knowledge workers to the field.

Please download our complimentary Making Knowledge Work™ report. 

The value and impact of knowledge

Discover the importance of making knowledge work in your organization. Our report highlights the true meaning of knowledge work and knowledge workers and demonstrates the full value of their expertise.