What is an Audit?

"The most general definition of an audit is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, project or product. Audits are performed to ascertain the validity and reliability of information, and also provide an assessment of a system's internal control. The goal of an audit is to express an opinion on the person/organization/system etc. under evaluation based on work done on a test basis. Due to practical constraints, an audit seeks to provide only reasonable assurance that the statements are free from material error. Hence, statistical sampling is often adopted in audits. In the case of financial audits, a set of financial statements are said to be true and fair when they are free of material misstatements - a concept influenced by both quantitative and qualitative factors." - Wikipedia

However, a knowledge audit works a little differently, its more qualitative evaluation. It is essentially an investigation of an organizations knowledge “health”.
The knowledge audit is the first major step of a knowledge management initiative. It's used to provide a sound investigation into the company or organization's knowledge 'health'.

For those of you who are confused between a content audit and a knowledge audit: a content audit is focused primarily on the content in the organization. It just identifies what content exists and what doesn’t. Details like what the content is used for isn't really looked into. A knowledge audit, on the other hand, looks at problems and puts the information in the context of the problem.

The reason a knowledge audit is so vital is that it gives an organization a comprehensive picture of its strengths and weakness, allowing it to focus its efforts in the right direction.

Some of the questions addressed during a knowledge audit are as follows:

  • What are the organisation’s knowledge needs?

  • What knowledge assets or resources does it have and where are they?

  • What kind of gaps exists in its knowledge?

  • How does knowledge flow around the organisation?

  • What are the blockages that prevent knowledge from flowing across the organization ( people, process, technology)?

Once you start asking these questions a clear picture of your organization's knowledge structure will start emerging, and using these results can help you establish processes and systems to tackle certain shortcomings.

Some of the key benefits of a knowledge audit are as follows:

  • It helps the organization clearly identify what knowledge is needed to support overall organizational goals and individual and team activities.

  • It provides evidence of the extent to which knowledge is being effectively managed and indicates where improvements are required.

  • It provides an evidence-based account of the knowledge that exists in an organisation, how that knowledge moves around in, and is used by, that organisation.

  • It provides a map of what knowledge exists in the organisation and where it exists, as well as revealing gaps.

  • It reveals pockets of untapped knowledge.

  • It provides a map of knowledge and communication flows and networks.

  • It provides an inventory of knowledge assets, giving a clearer understanding of the contribution of knowledge to organisational performance.

  • It provides vital information for the development of effective knowledge management programmes and initiatives that are directly relevant to the organisation’s specific knowledge needs and current situation.