Most companies protect their secrets more aggressively than they protect the lives of their key executives. It’s been reported that only two people at KFC’s headquarters know the exact proportion of the eleven herbs and spices behind the Colonel’s original recipe. The secret formula for Coca-Cola rests in an Atlanta vault. And don’t expect the folks at Google to release a handy guide to their industry-leading algorithms anytime soon.

There’s also been an valuable secret to our success in business process outsourcing. It’s the company’s process for developing and leveraging knowledge about its business partners. We take a painstaking approach to learning everything we can about their processes and procedures, documenting every detail, recasting it in formats allowing immediate access and sharing, and constantly updating and refining it.

Your organization knows a lot. Some of it resides in the brains of your subject matter experts. Some of it is lurking in a dark corner of a server, on a post-it note on somebody’s desk, or a scrap of paper someone jotted down during a conference. In fact, you probably have no idea just how much your organization knows, so you can’t leverage it.

So we step in to gather and glean knowledge from all sorts of sources. More important, we know how to organize that knowledge and transform it into documents and written steps, so when a customer calls with a familiar problem, or an employee isn’t sure what step to take next, the answer’s right there. Instead of leaving that knowledge scattered across people and paper, we organize it and keep enhancing and improving it. That lets you access the value hiding inside knowledge to make customers happier and employees more efficient.

We develop what we call a service catalog, where we document everything your organization does and who you do it for. By capturing, organizing, and documenting everything your organization does (and who exactly does what), it becomes easier for leadership to understand the potential impact of decisions. It calls attention to potential problem areas and conflicts. It provides a roadmap for allocating current resources and spotting future needs. And it highlights opportunities for efficiencies.

We also document the entire enterprise. Why? Because of Phil. He’s a veteran IT guy and his employer’s technology has evolved into something increasingly complex and layered. It’s a stew of new equipment and legacy platforms held together with the digital equivalent of duct tape, kite string, and rubber bands. It works because Phil makes it work. When an accounting module suddenly stops communicating with an inventory app, Phil sighs, taps some keys, and in minutes, things are good again.

One problem: Phil’s going to drop dead tomorrow morning. And when he dies, so does his employer’s IT, because he’s the only one who knows how everything really works. So instead of storing all that enterprise knowledge between Phil’s ears, we document every bit — from mapping enterprise topology, to server logs, to runbooks application and maintenance, to change policies — and spell out how every element interacts with every other element. That way, if the entire IT team quits tomorrow, their replacements have everything they need to keep the company running. More likely, when something breaks, it will be considerably easier to figure out how to fix it.

Much of the knowledge we collect and leverage arises as a result of problems. A customer tries to install your new widget, and it doesn’t work. An employee who’s entering information about a customer inquiry into your database can’t find menu choices matching the issue. Problems are not inherently bad — often, they’re the source of innovation and improvements. Sometimes, they inspire some sort of band-aid that works around the issue and provides an easy fix. Other times, they call attention to the need for major changes in engineering or code. Either way, everyone learns from them.

What’s learned in the process of managing problems makes organizations more knowledgeable. So if we change perspectives and focus on finding and solving problems, we get better at managing change. Through root cause analysis, we discover the true sources of problems, document potential solutions, and develop sound recommendations. That leads to higher quality and better service, along with even more effective problem management.

The results of all these strategies? Significantly higher customer satisfaction scores and placing well ahead of industry norms in every metric we track. Managing knowledge is simply that powerful. So what do you know that we should?

Jeff Medley is the CEO and founder of Netfor,

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