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Loss of Critical Knowledge and Skills - How an EA Tool can Help

Loss of Critical Knowledge and Skills – How an EA Tool can Help

Understand how an EA Tool can address loss of critical knowledge and skills through knowledge capture and codification, and managing skills.

Organisations depend on knowledge to function, knowledge that is inherent in people, processes and systems in the way it is generated, stored, and applied.  However, when knowledge is lost through people leaving the organisation, processes being outsourced or systems becoming obsolete, then it creates organisational risk that is unwanted and almost certainly avoidable.

I’m sure we all have many examples of when this has occurred and caused issues for an organisation.  One we know well is a classic example of key person risk.  A medium-sized banking firm relies on a homegrown solution for client reports.  These reports form part of a critical process and they have to be provided to clients on a regular basis.  If there are issues with the system, the reporting process has to wait for someone to fix the problem, impacting three teams as they wait to complete their steps in the reporting process. The system that provides the reports is over 20 years old and is reliant on just one individual who is nearing retirement.  There are no plans to update the system or train other people.  Management doesn’t seem to grasp the potential impact of this and deprioritises any action every year – but the problem will become very apparent once the key individual does retire.

There are other factors that can contribute to a loss of skills and knowledge in organisations.

In the current climate a major factor is the tightening of budgets.  As EBN (Employee Benefits News) recently reported, “As we head to 2024, 92% of employers are expecting additional headcount cuts, according to the talent solution company’s 2023 Global Severance research report”. Pressure to reduce costs and, potentially, headcount means undocumented knowledge will leave organisations, with critical processes impacted.

Added to this, Business Leader reports that there is now a general lack of available talent in the market.  They state that “According to the latest Hiring Trends Index report, over one-third of businesses reveal they are struggling to find the right people, with a quarter of businesses reporting lengthy times to hire as a top concern this quarter.”  The inability to find appropriately skilled resources, especially when people leave, means that organisations can have blind-spots where they lack the internal skills to address problems.  They are then often obliged to engage external consultants to fill the gaps, with significant cost implications.

So, how can Enterprise Architecture (EA) help in this situation?

There are two key areas where EA can help to reduce the risks that occur when knowledge is lost:

Knowledge Capture and Codification

Whatever the reason for a loss of knowledge, whether it is through key staff leaving or the outsourcing of processes or support, the potential risk to the organisation is the same. A way to address this issue is by using an EA tool to capture and formalise the relevant knowledge and ensure its availability within the organisation. This approach involves systematically collecting and documenting the knowledge and expertise found within the organisation, ensuring that critical information and insights are not lost but are instead preserved and made accessible for future use. By doing so, the organisation can maintain a continuous flow of knowledge, safeguarding against the loss of expertise due to employee turnover or other changes. This strategy also facilitates the sharing of information across different functions, enhancing collaboration and enabling more informed decision-making.

Identifying and Managing Skill Gaps

Identifying the skills required by an organisation, both now and in the future, and ensuring that those skills are available throughout the organisation through identification and effective EA training are crucial. Knowing what you have, what you will need, and the gaps is important to ensure the risks can be minimised

Knowledge Capture and Codification

  1. Documentation and Knowledge Management

    Knowledge about processes, systems, roles and so on can be documented so it is available to others across the organisation.  A great example of this is one of our asset management clients that identified a key person risk in their reporting function.  To mitigate the risk of a key individual leaving unexpectedly, the organisation documented the flow of data through its processes and systems to understand where there was exposure to risk and where change was required.  By targeting critical processes, the firm was able to limit the scale of work involved.  The skills risk was nullified by implementing knowledge transfer, skills upgrades and, where appropriate, system rewrites.  The new approach also allowed others to be able to resolve issues as they arose, speeding up the process and making it much more efficient.  The added benefit is that as and when reports have to be updated, due to regulatory changes for example, or if the system is replaced, the analysis is immediately available to speed those processes considerably.

  2. Knowledge Repositories

    An EA tool should be used to capture the data, as it provides an easy means to keep the information up to date and also to make it available across the organisation. The EA tool can also be used as a gateway to knowledge transfer and collaboration.  We worked with one organisation that linked from their key process and application documentation in the EA tool to videos detailing how to use applications, as well as to key areas in a process that required more detailed knowledge.  The tool also enabled collaboration via comments and questions.

  3. Process Standardisation and Automation

    If you have documented your current state in an EA tool, this can be used to highlight where you have non-standard processes across the organisation and where there is potential for automation.  Standardising and/or automation of key processes means that an organisation becomes less dependent on particular individuals, and the knowledge becomes transferable and replicable.

Identifying and Managing Skill Gaps

  1. Identify Key Skill Gaps

    An EA tool can be used to identify the key skills required across an organisation, from understanding of a particular business area or process to the technical skills needed to support an application, for example, along with an estimation of the number of people and the skill levels required. To identify gaps, this analysis of required skills can be compared to the data held about the skills people currently have.

  2. Identify Key Person Dependencies

    Skills mapping can contribute to risk assessments by identifying areas where the organisation is heavily dependent on specific individuals or where there is a lack of available skills, both now and in the future, as the skills required by an organisation will inevitably change over time. This can enable organisations to prioritise skill development in areas crucial for achieving business objectives, ensuring the workforce is equipped with the right skills to support business change initiatives.

  3. Skill and Succession Planning

    Information on skills can be used to identify suitable candidates to train and develop in the areas where skills are short.  This is especially important when skills can be mapped back to strategic plans that require change, and where they cannot be implemented with the current skillset.

 

At some stage most organisations will realise that they have a key person dependency, have outsourced key processes that they wish to bring back in house but lack the required expertise, are reliant on an out-of-date system which new hires are unable to support, or some variant of these problems.  All these risks can be mitigated if the EA repository is used to document and codify the knowledge and manage the skills requirements.

To discuss how Essential can help contact us here

 

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