A knowledge management system helps organizations and companies manage insights and information important to the company.
But what does that mean exactly? And why do so many businesses seem to be using these systems lately?
In this article, we'll break down everything you need to know about knowledge management systems, including what they are, how they work, and why they're becoming more popular every day. Stay tuned!
What Is a Knowledge Management System (KMS)?
A knowledge management system (KMS) is a technology-based system that is designed to capture, store, and distribute documents, procedures, important data, and other forms of collective organizational knowledge.
A KMS can take many different forms, from a simple FAQ page on a website to a more sophisticated system that includes searchable knowledge bases, forums, and social media integration.
The important thing is that the KMS makes it easy for employees to find the information they need when they need it.
As finding the right piece of information on time is actually one of the biggest issues employees encounter in their day-to-day work, having a proper KMS in place proved to be a valuable asset for many businesses.
For example, SmartBug Media, a full-service inbound marketing agency, has developed a series of innovative processes over years of working with clients.
But their road to success hasn’t been easy.
The problem was that these processes were scattered all over Google Docs, making it hard to find and recognize them or remember that they exist at all.
Or how Jessica Vionas-Singer, Director of Inbound Marketing at SmartBug, explains the problem:
“You never really knew what was out there. You had an idea that something might exist, but finding it was usually quite difficult.”
As it became more and more challenging to manage their work that way, they decided to implement a KMS, and have seen great results.
Or in her own words, KMS has enabled all teams and departments to “get on the same page, to document our processes, to remove friction from finding the information [they] need.”
As you can see from this example, companies have a wealth of knowledge and experience within their workforce, but often this knowledge is untapped or siloed within individual staff or departments.
With the right KMS in place, this knowledge can be discovered and accessible to the entire workforce, offering significant business benefits and results.
Types of Knowledge to Include in a KMS
A KMS can help a company organize and keep track of important information, making it easier to find and use when needed. But what types of knowledge should be included in a KMS?
Generally speaking, there are three types of knowledge that can be relevant to an organization:
- Explicit knowledge
- Implicit knowledge
- Tacit knowledge
Here’s a brief overview of what these entail.
Explicit knowledge is the easiest to identify and manage, as it is typically codified in documents or knowledge bases.
This type of knowledge includes things like product specifications, manuals, and processes, but also policies, regulations, and procedures, as you can see in the IBM Business Conduct Guidelines below.
Implicit knowledge is more difficult to define and communicate, but it can be just as important as explicit knowledge. This type of knowledge essentially includes know-how, learned skills, and best practices.
On the other hand, tacit knowledge is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to articulate. It is often acquired through experience and practice and exists more in the form of skills, expertise, innovative ideas, or intuitive judgment, more than in any explicit form.
For these reasons, tacit knowledge can be extremely hard to transfer from one employee to another and include in the knowledge base.
But hard doesn’t mean impossible, as we can see in the example below from Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
They understand the importance of tacit knowledge and have developed a way to capture it.
Their Innovation Garden is an intranet-based platform where employees can share their innovative ideas that can contribute to the company’s growth.
The company first encourages employees to share their ideas and then adds them to the Innovation Garden. If an idea is perceived as something that has potential, it will move through stages from “seed” to “fully blooming”.
This allows YVR to tap into the tacit knowledge of its workforce and identify new opportunities for development. By encouraging employees to share their tacit knowledge, YVR is able to maintain a culture of innovation.
Remember, a well-rounded knowledge management system can help you capture and use all of the valuable insights your team generates.
And by including different types of knowledge in your KMS, you can make sure that everyone on your team has access to the data they need to do their job successfully.
The Goal of Knowledge Management
The goal of any company is to set up efficient workflows to realize healthy profits, while keeping the workforce happy and satisfied.
But few things kill productivity faster than wasting precious time looking for the right kind of information or a proper document or a file, and we have the numbers to back this up.
According to a Panopto study, an impressive 81% of employees report being frustrated when they are unable to find the information they need to finish their tasks.
And dissatisfaction leads to a lack of motivation, poor productivity, and even high turnover rates.
In response, many companies have turned to knowledge management as its main goal is to make it easier for people to find the information they need when they need it in order to be more productive and efficient in their work.
By centralizing and organizing information, knowledge management systems allow employees to quickly find the solutions they need without having to search through mountains of data.
As a result, employees are more productive, and the company saves time and money.
In short, the purpose of knowledge management is to harness an organization's collective intelligence to improve its performance.
Tesco, a supermarket giant, has a knowledge management system in place for that exact reason—to harness insights gathered by employees to make its help center more efficient, productive, and effective.
Tesco’s technology department alone deals with over 40,000 tickets per week, which makes the internal knowledge base indispensable for call center agents, who use it to answer any and every question a customer might have.
On the other hand, as their internal knowledge base brings together different service desks within Tesco and collects their knowledge, all of the 460,000 employees located across nine countries have a reliable, relevant go-to place for information.
And that enables them to solve problems more effectively and handle customer queries more efficiently.
As you can see, the goal of knowledge management is to make sure that the right information gets into the hands of the right employees at the right time.
Many organizations, like Tesco, have seen significant improvements in productivity and efficiency after implementing KM strategies.
Therefore, it’s worth the effort to invest time and resources into implementing it in your company, as the results can be impressive.
Benefits of KMS
Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge. Using the right KMS would minimize those losses.
When used correctly, a KMS can be highly beneficial for organizations as it can help to improve the decision-making process. Organizations that use a KMS are able to make better decisions because they have access to a wealth of internal and external knowledge.
This includes data, documents, customer feedback, and lessons learned from past projects.
Having all this information in one central location makes it easier for stakeholders to draw upon it when they make important decisions.
In addition, by collecting information in one central knowledge base, everyone in the company has the same information at their fingertips, which makes it easier to collaborate and come up with new ideas.
As a result, employees can work together more effectively to solve problems, become more innovative, and better able to meet the challenges of a dynamic business environment.
For example, NCR, a fintech company, used the KMS to spark innovation in its business processes.
By shifting from spreadsheets, waterfall processes, and disconnected systems to one central repository where all the knowledge is stored, they were able to modernize their processes, provide better service to their customers, and deliver more innovation to their business.
In the words of Arthur Meloy, VP of Innovation and Development Transformation:
“We have thousands of highly motivated engineers with modern skills, but they were mostly relying on spreadsheets and Smartsheets to keep up with tasks. We wanted to take all that grunt work out of it so the teams could really focus on producing value for our clients.”
Also, there is a risk of duplication of effort if the same information is being collected and stored in multiple places by different people. This is also where a KMS can be extremely useful.
Consolidating all of the knowledge into a single system allows everyone to share and access the same information. This way, everyone can be sure that they are using the most up-to-date information, and not entering information that has already been put in.
Before they invested in an internal knowledge base, Firmatek, a stockpile management and 3D mapping company, stored their procedures in different platforms, such as Google Drive, Egnyte, and even physical documents.
And that made finding the right information a challenging task.
But after they invested in a KMS, the company’s technicians were able to look up what they needed, answer clients’ inquiries, as well as train new hires. All of this boosted their efficiency and productivity.
When considering whether or not to implement a KMS, businesses should consider the costs and benefits of doing so.
Nevertheless, while there may be some upfront costs associated with implementing a KMS, the long-term benefits of doing so are likely to far outweigh the costs.
As such, investing in a KMS is likely to be a wise decision for any business that is looking to improve its overall performance.
Examples of KMS Tools
The best knowledge management software solutions available in the market today offer a combination of social collaboration tools, workflow management features, and document repositories.
Each of the following platforms offers a unique set of features that can be customized to fit the specific needs of your company.
So let’s see why they are considered among the best on the market.
If you're looking for a cloud-based KMS that can help you keep track of your product documentation, Archbee is definitely worth checking out.
Archbee is designed to help organizations manage and share knowledge effectively.
It has a range of features that make it easy to use, including a drag-and-drop interface, an advanced search function, document tagging, and support for team collaboration.
The option to publish content to your custom domain allows you to use your company's name in the URL, which makes it easy to remember and find.
And because it's a custom domain, you can easily use your company's branding on the site, as you can see in the example of Frase, a software for creating SEO content that uses Archbee to guide users through the product.
The option to add a custom domain, as well as a logo and brand colors throughout the site is an extremely useful feature, as it helps to build brand recognition and makes it easier for employees and clients alike to find the website.
Archbee is also highly flexible so that it can be adapted to any workflow. Whether you are working on a small personal project or a large corporate one, Archbee can help you to get the job done.
Nuclino is a cloud-based collaboration platform that helps employees organize information and collaborate on projects.
It offers a unique mix of features that make it ideal for both individual and team use, including integrations with popular tools like Slack, YouTube, Miro, and Google Drive, interactive media embeds, and ways to structure and visualize content.
Zendesk includes a searchable knowledge base, which is perfect for storing and curating large amounts of information.
Zendex also offers a ticketing system that helps businesses keep track of customer inquiries and provides a knowledge base for customer support teams.
In addition, it integrates with a number of other software options, making it a versatile and powerful tool.
ProProfs is knowledge base software designed to make it easy for employees to find the answers they need, and to keep knowledge organized and up-to-date.
It also includes features for collaboration and community building, so employees can connect with each other and share knowledge.
As you can see, there are many knowledge management solutions available, each with its set of features. Every company should consider its needs when deciding which one is right for them.
Key Features of KMS
KMS offers a wide range of features to help employees work more effectively.
A Google-like search mechanism is the heart of any KMS. It needs to be robust enough to handle all types of user inputs and deliver relevant results.
The search engine should also be able to index and search through a variety of content types such as PDFs, images, emails, etc.
Another important feature of a knowledge management system is the ability to track user activity.
For example, Archbee has a Search Analytics feature that enables companies to see which keywords are being used most often and optimize the content accordingly.
This helps businesses to understand how their employees are using the KMS and identify areas that need improvement.
Also, a knowledge management system enables employees to closely collaborate on building the knowledge base content.
Content can’t be the work of a single employee, it’s a collaborative activity where team members come together to manage and create articles in the knowledge base platform.
That’s why a KMS typically has features that enable companies to assign roles and responsibilities to different users.
As you can see from the picture, by assigning roles of team member, administrator or superadmin, you will gain more control over your KMS, it will be up and running in no time, and everyone will know what their responsibility is.
One of the key features of KMS is also its ability to integrate with other tools and software.
Integrations help businesses to automate their workflows by seamlessly connecting different applications and systems.
For example, Archbee offers integration with 20 tools, such as Figma, Jira, Slack, Airtable, Trello, as well as Google Analytics, which not only saves time and money but also helps companies to improve their overall efficiency and accuracy.
With so many benefits it has to offer, it's no wonder that knowledge management systems are quickly becoming the go-to solution for businesses around the world.
From everything that has been said so far, it’s clear that a KMS is essentially a digital library for all the information amassed by your company.
Such systems come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all have one common goal: to help you find the information you need when you need it, thus making your business run more smoothly and efficiently.
Knowledge management may seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right tools and support, you can make your KMS a cornerstone of your company’s success.