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Raise Your Corporate IQ by Documenting and Sharing Business Knowledge

by Charlotte DeKeyrel, Expert Decision Modeler

Decision Management Solutions

You know who they are—the members of the brain trust in your organizations. They are the seasoned subject matter experts who understand business decision-making and business processes down to the letter. They are the individuals everyone goes to for clarification and help when questions arise.

They’re seemingly indispensable because they have a vast reservoir of unique knowledge that’s mainly stored in their superb minds. But what happens when they are not available—when they leave the company, retire, get promoted, or take time off for personal reasons? It’s always painful when you lose key people. Typically, there’s a huge knowledge gap, as teams scramble to piece together information about business processes and decision-making to make some coherent sense of these. Suddenly, your organization or department doesn’t seem quite so smart anymore, and it feels as if there’s been a collective IQ drop. Not only that, there can be substantial losses in productivity. Research has shown that a firm with 1,000 employees can lose as much as $2.4 million in productivity every year, and a firm with 30,000 employees may lose $72 million annually.

The question that springs to mind is how do you maintain or even raise your corporate IQ when high-value employees leave? The answer lies in building out your decision-making process. When decisions are properly documented and developed with rigor, everyone gets smarter by understanding the complexities and flow of decision-making.

The operative word here is “rigor,” which means following a proven methodology. It’s not as onerous as it may sound. It’s critical to start the process proactively—while your experts are still active in their roles at your company—by building a model based on a key decision. It’s as simple as gathering all your experts in a room and asking them focused questions to kick the conversation into gear.

Let’s start with an easy-to-understand example: processing insurance claims. You can start with a general question: “How is claims processing done?” You’ll see that they will gladly share what they know—whether the process flow is standard or some deviation from the standard. You can probe further with questions such as “What do you need to know in order to handle a claim?” They will likely answer that the claim needs to be “eligible,” so you can continue by asking a series of questions that cascade from answers to previous questions: “What makes a claim eligible or not eligible?” “What data needs to be identified to determine eligibility?” “What is the knowledge source (laws, regulations)?” “How do you handle red flags?” By using the construct of a decision requirements diagram to facilitate the discussion, the answers to those questions build the model for you—a model that’s built upon the expertise of the team that can be easily verified by the experts themselves.

The next step is to build the logic of the decision in a decision table using the Decision Model and Notation (DMN) standard, which is quickly becoming the definitive approach for sustained business engagement, improved traceability, and flexible analytic applications. This is a highly iterative process, so you can expect to do fine-tuning and tweaking along the way. Make sure you cover as many relevant possibilities and combinations as you can—from the best case (claim eligible for processing) to the worst case (claim rejected) and everything in between, such as cases where red flags might appear and merit additional investigation. The beauty of these tables is that they can be shared company-wide and are readable by everyone—business and technical teams alike.

From there, teams can work together to implement the decisions that will enable automation, which results in greater efficiencies. Now your best and brightest no longer have to spend time on manual tasks and can free up their valuable time for more strategic, complex efforts.

By following this methodology and documenting business processes and decision-making in this way, you’ve already elevated your corporate IQ. Your company is smarter because all your people are smarter and can evolve into Jedis quickly. Best of all, if everyone understands how something is done and can readily access the documentation, they’ll be inspired to find ways to continually improve decision-making—and soon you’ll cultivate a culture of experimentation and innovation.

People may come and go, but you can keep valuable business process- and business decision-making knowledge from disappearing into the ethers by leveraging decision modeling.

Start on your journey today by encouraging your team to sign up for Decision Management Solution training classes and workshops.