Knowledge Audit: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

Marcel Deer - Writer for Unleash
By Marcel Deer
Kirsty Mac Dougall
Edited by Kirsty Macdougall

Published July 28, 2022.

Illustration of papers coming out of a computer screen

A knowledge audit examines an organization's knowledge requirements and how its leadership, organization, technology, and learning can work together to meet those needs. Instead of focusing on numbers, it examines what people in an organization know, how well they know it, and how they share that knowledge.

When there is no clear structure for sharing information within a company, people start working in isolation. The result: information silos and duplicate work—leading to inefficiency and wasted productivity.

The purpose of a knowledge audit is to show hard evidence of what knowledge an organization requires, its location, how it is used, any challenges and obstacles that exist, and what can be done to improve the flow of things.

4 Components of a Knowledge Audit

1. Knowledge Needs Analysis

A knowledge needs analysis is a way to figure out what knowledge people and organizations already know and what other knowledge requirements they may need to be more productive. A knowledge needs analysis will help a company develop an effective knowledge management strategy by highlighting basic requirements and showing areas for improvement.

2. Knowledge Inventory Analysis

A knowledge inventory analysis aims to find, record, index, and categorize the organization's existing explicit and tacit knowledge assets.

Because explicit knowledge is physical, solid, and generally documented, this analysis may be carried out by looking at where the knowledge is located, how it is organized and accessed, its relevance, and its uses.

During an audit, being unable to find documentation can pose serious problems. Document management software can make finding and managing your files easier.

In contrast, the analysis of tacit knowledge could be based on people's knowledge and expertise. This can be done by looking at employee directories, their academic and professional degrees, skills, and experience.

This analysis helps an organization uncover knowledge gaps and duplicates by comparing its results to a knowledge needs analysis.

3. Knowledge Flow Analysis

This is a look into how knowledge flows from where it is to where it is needed. For example, the analysis could look into the organization's policies and practices for web publishing, managing records, or data handling.

A knowledge flow analysis will demonstrate how people behave and think when sharing knowledge and highlight good and poor practices. It also involves studying the degree to which people use knowledge daily.

When it comes to technology, the focus should be on the systems being used, such as portals and content management, as well as how accessible they are, how easy they are to use, and how frequently they are used.

4. Knowledge Mapping

Knowledge mapping is the visualization of sources, flows, barriers, and sinks of knowledge within an organization. It's an impactful guide that shows relationships and dynamics. It also helps better define people's roles, like who creates knowledge, who collects it, or who uses it.

It can influence how organizations see knowledge and help them focus on viable opportunities.

How to Conduct a Knowledge Audit

You can run a knowledge audit through the following steps:

  1. Identify Your Objective Setting objectives before you start can help you explicitly state the purpose of your audit and direct you toward the kind of information you should gather.
  2. Form an Audit Team Choose the right people to be part of your knowledge audit team. Ensure you include various stakeholders for accuracy. If it's a team audit, you might want to involve a few members who you think will have valuable input.
  3. Compile and Catalog Existing Knowledge In this crucial step, you need to make an inventory of the existing knowledge available in your organization and where it is located (i.e., intranet, shared drives, documentation platforms, etc.).
  4. Examine the Flow of Knowledge This is where you study how knowledge is shared. Ask yourself, "How do employees access information?" and "Who are they sharing it with?"
  5. Spot Obstacles and Gaps As you progress through these steps, you may notice gaps and barriers such as duplicates or knowledge hoarding that impede the flow of knowledge. Here, you can also identify methods that will improve knowledge sharing.

Benefits of a Knowledge Audit

A knowledge audit improves your organization by uncovering gaps and obstacles in one's internal knowledge base, allowing you to identify areas for improvement. It will help to recognize and avoid duplicates in the future.

Additionally, creating a shared understanding of how to use knowledge management processes will help teams stay in sync and better understand how much knowledge is available, where it is stored, and how much more is required.

Deliverables & Outputs of a Knowledge Audit

While deliverables and outputs may vary, generally, a knowledge audit should:

  • Establish what knowledge an organization needs to attain its goals
  • Help assess the significance of knowledge and its contribution to the organization's performance
  • Offer evidence of how well knowledge is handled and areas where adjustments should be made
  • Identify untapped knowledge areas
  • Create knowledge and social network maps
  • Examine the usage of external knowledge and identify better ways to use it