In 2022, the average customer calling a company for support had to wait 43 seconds for a response. Even the fastest executives couldn’t attend to a call before a minimum of 30 seconds.
In times when we are loath to wait even a second for websites to load and apps to launch, this is too much. Worse, it’s costing your company more than you think.
On the one hand you are losing business as customers grow dissatisfied with slow service. On the other, you’re also spending up to ~$8.01 per contact on phone, live chat, or email.
This is just part of the reason why you need to invest in knowledge management for your organization, yesterday. Knowledge management can help you organize and streamline information for both internal and external users in the company.
Consider this, for context. Companies with strong self-service customer support channels (such as well documented knowledge bases and help centers) spent only $0.10 per customer contact in 2022.
When done right, knowledge management brings in efficiency gains worth multiple times the investment.
This blog will help you understand knowledge management systems in detail and pick one that’s right for you.
Understanding knowledge management
Knowledge management refers to the process of creating, identifying, organizing, storing, using, and sharing collective information in an organization. It helps transform information scattered across apps, servers, repositories, accounts, and systems into valuable business assets.
Knowledge management is also a means to ensure important information gets documented and reaches the people who need it, rather than getting lost in a graveyard of abandoned resources.
Consider, for example, a conversation between a trainee support agent and the Customer Success Lead in a company. The Lead might share a few tips from his many years of experience in dealing with support issues, which are not covered in the standard onboarding and training materials. As a private email or Slack thread or a phone call, this is a wealth of useful learning lost to the company. Every new batch of trainees could benefit from it. If it is documented centrally and made accessible to everyone, it can improve the quality and bring down the costs of customer care.
Recommended reading: Top 5 lessons from big corporations on organizing workplace information
What is a knowledge management system?
A knowledge management system (KMS) is a system for storing, organizing, and sharing knowledge within an organization. It is designed to capture, store, and disseminate information in a way that makes it accessible and useful to the members of the org. A KMS can be a software application, a database, or a combination of both.
The main objectives of a KMS are improving efficiency, productivity, and decision-making. This can be achieved through a variety of means, including document management, collaboration tools, and search functions.
KMS can be as simple as a shared network drive or as complex as a software platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend relevant information to users.
Why does your organization need a knowledge management system?
Organizations need a knowledge management system to make sure every user—internal as well as external—knows what they’re supposed to. If people don’t have the information they need to do their jobs, the organization ends up taking a big hit in productivity.
Already in 2012, McKinsey concluded that employees had to spend 1.8 hours every day—9.3 hours per week, on average—searching for and gathering information at the workplace. It basically means that one in every five employees spends all their time just looking for things without getting any meaningful work done.
Companies with a robust knowledge management system can avoid these problems.
Recommended reading: Navigating the new era of workplace productivity
Having a KMS in place is also a good practice for keeping external users such as clients, potential business partners or investors, journalists and media persons etc. in the loop and addressing their information needs.
A KMS is good, no, great for the bottom line. And that’s far from its only benefit.
Top 5 benefits of using a knowledge management system
Here are the top five benefits of using a knowledge management system in addition to higher organizational productivity.
1. Increases information efficiency
With a central repository for all relevant information, powerful search capabilities, and version control over documents, a knowledge management system makes it easy for employees to quickly locate specific information and ensure that it is up-to-date.
2. Streamlines communication, encourages collaboration.
A knowledge management system includes collaboration features such as wikis, forums, and chat platforms that enable employees to easily share information and work together seamlessly. This removes information silos where only one person, team, or department is in the know. As a result, everyone is aligned with the company goals.
Recommended reading: How to create a culture of collaboration
3. Facilitates better decision-making
A knowledge management system can help organizations make better decisions by providing employees with access to a wide range of information and expertise that would otherwise be out of easy reach.
4. Improves customer satisfaction
A knowledge management system can help organizations provide faster and more accurate responses to customer inquiries, leading to improved customer satisfaction.
5. Promotes a culture of innovation
A knowledge management system can help organizations tap into the collective knowledge and expertise of their employees, leading to the development of new ideas and solutions. It’s easier to build on top of a solid foundation than it is to lay the groundwork afresh each time to solve a problem.
Convinced that you need a knowledge management system pronto? Before you get ready to build one, here’s a bunch of things to be mindful of.
7 essential components of a knowledge management system
Building a good knowledge management system starts with checking a few essential boxes.
Here are the seven main components of a knowledge management system.
1. Knowledge workers
Knowledge workers include the subject matter experts and content contributors in an organization. The Engineering Leader who has perfected cutting costs by optimizing the number of API calls your app makes on each interaction, the VP of Marketing who knows how to keep the lead pipeline full at all times, the Hiring Manager who has a knack for finding the best talent and culture fits for the company…they are the primary building blocks of your knowledge management system.
2. Repository or knowledge base
Once you have knowledge workers ready and willing to document their pearls of wisdom, you need a central location where they can do so and where the information will be managed. This is your repository or knowledge base which contains your knowledge assets—documents, reports, policies, procedures, and other resources.
3. Content creation and workflow management capabilities
While shopping for knowledge management software, ensure that it has the tools that make it simpler for knowledge workers to create, review, approve, edit, and update the content they share. Some must-haves include rich text editing, ability to add and modify images, screenshots, videos etc., provision for embedding code snippets to your articles, and workflow management to promote collaboration and ensure accountability for the information posted.
Information that can’t be discovered can’t be used. Your knowledge management system is incomplete without a system for categorizing and organizing information that aids discoverability. One of the most logical ways of doing this is by grouping the information into a hierarchy of categories and subcategories.
5. Strong search and retrieval capabilities
A knowledge management system should include powerful search and retrieval capabilities. Users should be able to rely on the KMS to speed up search and save themselves time while looking for information.
6. Comprehensive data analytics and reports
Your knowledge management system will likely require constant updation to stay relevant to in-house employees and customers alike. You can do that by collecting feedback on the quality of information available in the KMS.
Good knowledge management tools come with built-in real-time data analytics and reports including visits, views, interactions and engagements with the content etc. You should also gather user feedback on the helpfulness of the documentation to delete irrelevant things and improve the ones that need it.
7. Permission settings and access controls
These are important even if everyone is involved in contributing to the knowledge base. You want your knowledge base to be a trustworthy source of information. The rights to publish or update articles should therefore be confined to a select few to preserve quality standards and prevent unauthorized addition or removal of information.
To foster better adoption of your knowledge management system both within the org and for external users, it can help to choose software that is easy to set up, intuitive to use, provides instant updates, and integrates with your existing tech-stack.
In the next section, you can find out what kind of knowledge management system will fit your needs best.
What are the different types of knowledge management systems and their examples?
There are various classifications of knowledge management systems, beginning with structured and unstructured knowledge management systems.
Structured knowledge management systems use a database model to store and organize knowledge. They have preset categories and subcategories to store and retrieve specific bits of information.
Some examples of structured knowledge management systems are:
- Document management systems: These systems are used to store, organize, and track documents. Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive are some examples.
- Task management and collaboration platforms: These systems facilitate communication and collaboration among team members, including defining tasks and assigning responsibilities etc. Some examples include Asana, Trello, and Monday.com.
- Content management systems (CMS): These systems are used to create, manage, and publish digital content such as on websites and social media platforms. Webflow and WordPress are some top-rated content management systems.
- Learning management systems (LMS): These systems are used to plan, deliver, and track training and education programs. TalentLMS, Moodle, and Absorb LMS are some leading names here.
- Business process management (BPM) systems: These systems are used to design, model, execute, and optimize business processes across functions including HR, finance, customer care etc. They often use a high degree of automation to get this done. Companies such as Oracle and IBM offer complete BPM suites to enterprises.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) systems: These systems are used to manage interactions with customers and clients. Think of software such as HubSpot and Salesforce.
Unstructured knowledge management systems on the other hand are characterized by their flexibility and the ability of users to shape the organization of the information within them. Instead of having fixed categories, they use tags, keywords, and other metadata to organize and store knowledge.
Some examples of unstructured knowledge management systems include:
- Intranet: Techtarget defines intranet as “a private network contained within an enterprise that is used to securely share company information and computing resources among employees.”
The most popular example of a company intranet is perhaps Google’s moma, supposedly (nick)named after the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York which boasts an unending collection of masterpieces and is famous for its creative exhibitions. Googlers also fondly call it “Google Search for Google”—from guessing the right go-links for documents to privately searching for an email in your inbox, it helps them find it all.
- Wikis: Wikis are collaborative web-pages that allow users to add, edit, and delete content. The organization of the information within a wiki is often based on the users' own knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.
- Brand communities: The toymaker, LEGO, has LEGO Ideas with over 1.8 million members; the SaaS legend, Notion, has a global community of enthusiasts who publish templates, organize meetups, conduct webinars and whatnot together. These online communities contain a treasure trove of insider tips and tricks around the product they support.
Psst…we have a brand new and cozy o/community for OSlash users too. Check it out here: community.oslash.com
- Social networking platforms: Social networking platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn allow users to create profiles, share content, and connect with others. The organization of the information within these platforms is often based on the users' connections and interests.
- Personal knowledge management systems (PKMS): These are systems that are used by individuals to store, organize, and share their own knowledge and resources. Examples include personal note-taking apps and knowledge management software.
If you’d like to explore the various types of knowledge management systems in depth, you can check out our blog below.
Recommended reading: Types of knowledge management systems
What is the difference between a knowledge management system and a knowledge base?
At this point, you know what constitutes a knowledge management system. Even then, it’s easy to get confused between a knowledge management system and a knowledge base.
Before we delve into the process of implementing a knowledge management system, let’s quickly highlight the main differences between the two.
How to build and implement an effective knowledge management system?
Here are some steps for building and implementing an effective knowledge management system.
1. Define the purpose and goals of the KMS
It is important to clearly define the purpose and goals of the knowledge management system before building it. This will help to ensure that the KMS is aligned with the needs and objectives of the organization.
2. Identify and start capturing the knowledge to be stored
Determine the types of knowledge that you want to store in the KMS. This can range from policies, procedures, and best practices for employees, to FAQs and product information for helping your support team resolve queries faster with canned responses. Make a plan to start documenting this information and capture it in a central repository.
3. Determine the users of the KMS
A KMS is typically accessible to all the members of an org but the access controls and levels may vary. You can start by identifying whether the KMS is meant only for internal users or also for external stakeholders.
Next, you can decide who has the permissions to add, edit, and update the knowledge assets based on job roles, teams, departments, seniority and other criteria, as applicable.
You may also want to restrict some information to selected users. For example, you may want to restrict information on a referral program only to active users while the help center is made available to all the registered users of your SaaS application.
4. Select a KMS platform
There are many different KMS platforms available, so it is important to choose one that meets the needs of the organization. Consider factors such as cost, functionality, integrations, and user-friendliness.
Recommended reading: A guide to choosing the right knowledge management system for your organization
5. Populate the KMS with knowledge assets
Once the KMS platform has been selected, it is time to begin adding knowledge assets to the system. This may include creating new content or importing existing content from other sources.
6. Train users on the KMS
Provide training to users on how to access, create, and update knowledge assets in the KMS. This will help to ensure that the KMS is adopted and used effectively.
7. Monitor and evaluate the KMS
Regularly monitor the usage and effectiveness of the KMS and gather feedback from users. Use this information to make any necessary adjustments to improve the KMS. You may find it helpful to add feedback surveys and rating scales at the end of relevant articles to understand if the information is and continues to be of use.
Lastly, it helps to remember that your KMS, just like knowledge, should not be static. The information assets should be updated and revised in real-time as the scope of the product or company broadens, as changes crop up, and as customer preferences evolve.
Measuring the effectiveness of your knowledge management system
"You can’t improve what you can’t measure", says Management Guru, Peter Drucker. Of course it applies to your knowledge management system too.
The health of your knowledge management system will determine the health of business decisions taken in your organization.
Here are some of the indicators you can use to judge the effectiveness of your knowledge management system.
1. Usage metrics (implicit user feedback)
Users of your knowledge management system will give you feedback even before you ask them for it. How? With the help of the following metrics that show whether or not they find the KMS useful.
- Number and frequency of interactions: If your employees and customers use the KMS often and at shorter intervals, it means they find the information relevant to their needs and trust it to solve the problems they are facing. If the number of interactions is low, you may need to check if everyone knows the system exists, are able to access it, and are satisfied with the results they get from it.
- Average time-saved on each interaction: The more time the KMS helps people save while searching for information, the more effective and well-structured it is.
- Average number of documents accessed to solve a problem: The lower this number, the better it bodes for the health of your KMS. It means that the answers to most problems your employees or clients face are easily accessible or at least figure-out-able using existing resources. And that there isn’t a digital junkyard in your org where half-baked information and/or duplicated documentation are rotting away.
2. Explicit user feedback
Implicit feedback may be good, but nothing beats an opinion that comes straight from the horse’s mouth.
Through surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews, you can delve deeper into what is working well and what could be improved for your KMS. It can also help you prioritize the most significant changes without getting pulled in different directions.
3. Search activity and volume
Like higher usage metrics, a high volume of search activity can be an indicator that users are finding the system valuable because it is well-organized and contains high-quality knowledge assets.
On the other hand, low search volume may indicate issues with user experience or relevance of the knowledge assets. This could be a sign that the system needs to be improved or that users need more training to use it well.
Further, if users are frequently searching for the same information, it may indicate that the knowledge asset is not easily accessible or that it is not well-organized within the KMS. This could be an opportunity to improve the KMS by making the asset more visible or reorganizing the system to make it easier to find.
Recommended reading: The ultimate guide to enterprise workplace search
4. Active user contribution
User contribution is a measure of the extent to which users are actively creating, updating, and sharing knowledge assets within a knowledge management system.
A high degree of user contribution to the KMS indicates that they are motivated to use it, that it meets their needs, and that it is effective at facilitating knowledge sharing within the organization and a lower degree means the opposite.
The quality of user contributions is also important. If users are contributing high-quality knowledge assets, it is proof that the KMS is serving its purpose well.
Now that you understand virtually everything about knowledge management systems, let's cut to the chase and find out how you can equip your organization with one this year.
Try OSlash for robust enterprise knowledge management in 2023
After dogfooding OSlash at OSlash, we can wholeheartedly recommend you to try it out and watch your worries about knowledge management disappear.
By transforming most-used URLs and snippets into shortcuts, OSlash cuts the time spent on organizing, tracking, and managing information across teams and departments.
Recommended reading: Transform snippets into shortcuts with OSlash text expander
OSlash helps you capture and organize important enterprise information in a single, intuitive source of truth for everyone. Your product roadmap, for example, becomes accessible by typing o/roadmap instead of https://www.notion.so/xhtryE/roadmap-d60645aa5640422ebcd8238510e156e. And your everyday standup meeting opens at o/standup instead of the random Google meet link meet.google.com/bcj-jddu-kat.
Your GTM team no longer needs to type 100 outreach emails from scratch. They can type o/intro or o/meet and let OSlash auto-type the entire thing for them.
It’s akin to having a dynamic repository—one where you can update destination documents, snippets, and their corresponding shortcuts as often as you’d like. You can also use tags to classify the shortcuts based on various criteria such as roles, departments, functions, dates, subject matter etc. And of course, sharing shortcuts is infinitely easier than copy-pasting links or entire snippets over and over.
OSlash lets you find, navigate, and share knowledge within the org at lightning speed. The time-savings from these can compound up to 30 hours every month for power users!
Ready to say hello to OSlash? It’s easy (and free) to get started right away!