Knowledge management and handbooks in the financial sector: A wiki with blog for the Saalfeld-Rudolstadt district savings bank

“Finally, more time for business thanks to the Web 2.0 – The Saalfeld district savings bank cracks open its knowledge silos and finds a new way to deal with rules” by Christian Sauer (summary of the progress report by Nathalie Köpff).

It is well-known that many things in Germany are over-regulated. Instead of supporting creativity and entrepreneurial thinking and action, too much regulation blocks the big picture and leads to redundancy, or in extreme cases to contradiction. The introduction of the Web 2.0 breaks open knowledge silos, helps colleagues share newly-acquired knowledge, in a central place accessible by all, for example in the intranet. Members of staff should have an information platform available which motivates their active cooperation, adding discernible value.

Online organisation handbook and open documentation

The Saalfeld-Rudolstadt district savings bank wiki meets both requirements. One part of the wiki satisfies the statutory and supervisory editorial requirements. This area fixes the procedural rules for business operations. Amongst other things, there is an open area in which the staff can freely document their knowledge. A blog provides support for the system, giving a non-binding form of transmitting information.

The main page of S-Pedia links to important innovations
The main page of S-Pedia links to important innovations

The backing of the management was indispensable to guarantee a wide enough basis for support and initiative. Furthermore, users were needed who really see the need, and last but not least a suitable provider. To get the project of the ground, one has to concentrate on the users, as they will be working with the system later on. For this reason, members of staff from the most diverse divisions of the company were integrated into the planning process right from the start. Taking the requirements of the users into account early on, avoids acceptance problems later on and developments missing the users’ requirements. In the case of the district savings bank, the first job was to determine the central activities clearly and specify a name for the platform: S-Pedia.

Together with Hallo Welt! GmbH, the following challenges were tackled

1. What content should appear?
The wiki needs to display the organisational handbook, i.e. the areas: Organisational and operational structure; company structure; human resources organisation; but also the organisation of safety, equipment and tools, and governance arrangements. As a result, there is an area which needs to fulfil stringent editorial requirements, but also an open area which is principally used as a sort of glossary at the moment. Questions are answered such as “what is a cost centre?” and “how do I calculate a interest reference rate?”.

2. How can I fulfil the legal constraints of editing?
The editorial constraints are very stringent, and the wiki solution needed to offer this. We have a solution in the form of a workflow and approval mechanism, which is only active for the organisational handbook. The company organisation can then carry out regular appraisals.

3. How can existing regulations in Office format be integrated in the wiki?
Many documents had been saved in Office formats on different disk drives. These were integrated into the wiki and are now in a central place accessible to the search function. Changes are easier to follow and the documents are heeded more than they were. This motivates the authors of the handbooks to update them and improve them.

4. Display the expertise of colleagues transparently.
A savings bank with 350 members of staff needs to be able to access information about the expertise of those colleagues quickly, so we created user profiles in which the areas of responsibility and interests of the members of staff are made clear. The name, operational unit, telephone number etc. were taken directly from the central data management system.

5. Reduce information overload and assist communication.
In discussion with users it became clear that there was an overload of information coming from non-filterable notices, reference mails and suchlike. For this reason, we integrated a blog ino the wiki; messages are now set up centrally. Users can subscribe to those sections which interest them or which are in their scope of competence. However, there are obligatory sections, such as “Information from the board of directors”. The blog developed quickly, becoming a lively communication platform with productive commentary and valuable entries in all areas of the bank in just a few days.

The blog replaces many internal emails
The blog replaces many internal emails

Lessons Learned

  • Open source software has saved us costs. This is because instead of investing money in a vendor lock-in, we have used it as part of the handling costs of useful consultancy and customisation services.
  • An experienced and competent provider is extremely important to set up the wiki so it is user friendly and meets our editorial demands, and to choose the suitable extensions.
  • In particular, the part of the wiki which needs to meet the editorial demand is extremely important. Therefore, a great deal of time needs to be planned for, in order to talk through all the existing in-house processes with the provider, so that they can build them into the wiki compatibly.
  • When importing the existing organisational handbook into the wiki, many documents could be discarded because they were obsolete or redundant.
  • What is difficult is the development of new templates and standards. Reading and navigation practices need to be harmonised with the possibilities offered by the new system. There was, however, a significant advantage to be had in article numbering as much of this numbering could be dropped, improving the readability.

Conclusion

Information can be found again; it is linked internally so that the knowledge necessary for a situation can be developed on ones own. The linking to relevant document paragraphs saves the reader from browsing through long sections of instructions. In general, communication is now different as questions are readable by all, and are asked and answered only once.

Next Steps

Almost every day brings new ideas on how we can build up the system and use it even better. For example, we want to introduce “homepages” for individual areas, which can be used specifically for marketing them. Area specific or even personal pages are to be used to replace the reference files still existing with an automatically updated version too.

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