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What makes up a knowledge management system? How do you choose the best option?

Jul 27th 2022 ux

What makes up a knowledge management system? How do you choose the best option?
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In 2021 alone, it’s estimated that about 79 zettabytes of data were created. To put that in context, all the recorded spoken words in human history can be stored using only about 42 zettabytes. This overwhelming flood of data is a problem for the planet, not to mention individual businesses, which need to be able to effectively share information and use their company knowledge to help fuel the success of both their employees and their customers.

Enter knowledge management (KM) and its helpful knowledge management systems (KMSes). Knowledge management systems provide businesses with a way for team members to share crucial organizational knowledge across departments, promoting workspace collaboration while reducing silos and bottlenecks, thereby improving overall metrics.

What is a knowledge management system?

A successful knowledge management system is a software platform that allows businesses to share the right knowledge — including three specific types: implicit knowledge, explicit knowledge, and tacit knowledge — with employees who need easy access to the veritable content library. KM tools control the creation of, capture of, organization of, access to, and usage of information assets for sharing know-how across the business. That means a KMS can help employees input and store data efficiently, uncover insight, and then automatically deliver that found wisdom where and when it’s needed. 

Different companies have different business processes, requiring them to focus on different features in their knowledge management system. Fortunately, there’s also a large amount of variation in the types of knowledge management tools on the market. 

Examples of knowledge management systems

Some KMSes act as advanced note-taking platforms or intranet-accessible document-management systems, while others feature integrated customer-service tools and customer support ticketing automation. A KMS may need to incorporate sharing of knowledge-repository docs, project-management spreadsheets, learning management systems, reusable templates, data stored in different formats, permissions for different levels of users, a CRM (customer relationship management) tool, communication software such as Slack, or any combination of these many elements. Regardless of the particular KMS features, the quality of KM systems’ user experiences can also vary widely.

What are the benefits of knowledge management?

Good knowledge management isn’t just about deploying quality tools for employee productivity or customer satisfaction by way of a friendly interface; it must coincide with a cultural shift toward collaborative work and knowledge sharing focused on one single source of truth; information is there to help everyone do their job well while helping the company reach its revenue and other goals. 

Did you know that failure to share knowledge has been linked to employee dissatisfaction and huge financial losses? IDC reports that the issue costs Fortune 500 companies $31 billion per year. Unfortunately, without the impact of dedicated knowledge management tools, this is the sad reality.  

The good news is that once you’ve got your company-wide knowledge management system properly nailed, the benefits can multiply like crazy. From better employee retention rates to better answers to customer questions to higher overall sales, by sharing learnings across every department in your company, you can create a positive ripple effect across every balance sheet.

Here are some of the most commonly cited benefits of implementing an effective KMS: 

Higher staff retention 

Giving employees improved access to vital information is a good way to boost retention and hold on to your best talent instead of watching them jump ship. Using a knowledge management system ensures the availability of a central content-management hub that employees can access to help them complete their daily tasks and projects. This improved access to information can prevent frustration and increase employee satisfaction. A well-informed employee is likely to be a happy one.

Faster onboarding 

A poll by Gallup found that just 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job of onboarding new hires.

First impressions are important to new hires. Just as you wouldn’t expect a new employee to forget everything they’ve learned in their career to date, an organization shouldn’t expect employees to start work with a blank canvas. Having a centralized knowledge management system can speed up onboarding by collating all new-employee materials so they can be easily accessed by incoming employees. Depending on the type of knowledge management system you use, you can also manage the way this information is delivered (e.g., as courses requiring certifications, tutorials, or FAQs). 

Higher sales 

It’s a fact that in organizations ranging in size from small businesses to mammoth enterprises, when sales teams are well informed, the customer experience improves.

An excellent knowledge management system helps sales reps find information faster and streamline their processes. Reps can help customers get instant answers to their questions so they’ll be more likely to make a buying decision sooner, rather than having to seek the information elsewhere or wait for a callback. 

A stand-out customer success team

Much like the sales team, with a good knowledge management solution, your customer success team will find it easier to manage customer data in order to keep customers current with the latest features, training, and self-service support created by the help desk. A good knowledge management tool brings departments together: if the product team releases a significant new update on the team wiki, they can also add details about it to the KMS, where these vital details can be easily retrieved. 

This knowledge can then be adapted by marketing folks for outbound messaging and utilized by the sales, customer success, and support teams in future correspondence with customers and leads. A better-informed customer success team is always a plus.

Choosing the best knowledge management software

The first thing to remember when you’re considering a KMS is that effective knowledge management isn’t static. It’s an ongoing commitment, and its success relies on instituting a cultural shift in your organization. If your stakeholders and employees can commit to fostering a knowledge-valuing culture, you can expect great results with your KMS.

First step: on-point decision making. Think about which priorities for a KMS are most important for your company’s unique use case.

Here are three crucial features to keep in mind when searching for your company’s perfect KMS.

Integration

Access to relevant information should be seamless, user friendly, and compatible with your employees’ day-to-day workflows. You can make this possible through integrating knowledge management with the apps and programs your people are using. It’s important to check any potential new knowledge management tools to see if they’re compatible with your existing applications and collaboration tools.

Knowledge flow

All employees create and consume different types of knowledge during their workday, but the people in some roles, due to their job descriptions, naturally generate more knowledge for your internal knowledge base than others. This also means other employees  often require access to their created information. If you can uncover the knowledge flow — identify who is generating significant information in the knowledge management process and by whom it’s being consumed — you can then create the right KM system to take advantage of it. 

Searchability

All good knowledge management systems are the most effective when bolstered by smart, intuitive search capabilities that let users efficiently find what they need among the  reams of ever-burgeoning digital bits. Your search functionality can be provided through an integrated search tool or a premade advanced search API. The benefit of using an advanced API is that it can pull data from a range of sources and seamlessly centralize all your organization’s information. Either way, with your onslaught of daily data, excellent search is a lifesaver.

Getting the right knowledge-base software

In the context of setting up an effective knowledge management system, a search API is an easy win that can give you a significant competitive advantage. It provides the optimization, power, and reach of a full knowledge management platform, along with the ease and convenience of a sophisticated search engine that provides your company data seekers with near-real-time results.

With Algolia, you can centralize your siloed data and make it accessible through one convenient interface. Our SaaS solution can also modify your users’ search results based on their activity and past searches, making it easier for them to find the information they regularly need. We offer pay-as-you-go-pricing, too.To get some real-life examples of how search works with knowledge management systems, ping our team; let’s talk about your knowledge management strategy and how you can optimize for success!

About the author
Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

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