Knowledge is power. So goes one of the greatest cliches of all times.
But cliches, more often than not, hold true.
It’s knowledge—that of agricultural techniques—that allowed humankind to progress from hunting-gathering to civilization.
And it’s knowledge that has today become one of the most valuable intangible assets owned by any organization.
It’s not surprising that companies want to maximize the value of this asset. And they can do so by investing in knowledge management and creating strong knowledge management systems.
What is knowledge management?
Knowledge management (KM) is the process of creating, identifying, organizing, storing, using, and sharing collective information within an organization.
Knowledge management in an organization helps transform heaps of raw, scattered information—Slack threads, Jira tickets, Google Docs, Github PRs—into useful assets.
Why is knowledge management important?
In the absence of organizational knowledge management, employees waste significant time, energy, and human resources looking for information relevant to do their jobs.
According to a 2012 McKinsey study, employees spent 1.8 hours every day—9.3 hours per week, on average—searching and gathering information. This means that up to 25% of an organization’s resources, on an average, are absolutely unproductive.
All of this can change for the better with a robust knowledge management system.
What is a knowledge management system?
Organizational knowledge management is a system for gathering, storing, sharing or retrieving, and using knowledge. This includes any resource, document, file, database, or tool that your teams need access to so they can do their jobs effectively.
The purpose of a knowledge management system (KMS) is to improve collaboration, learning, and process alignment.
A typical knowledge management system includes a knowledge base where content is stored and gathered, profiled access to the knowledge base for various stakeholders such as management, employees, vendors, clients/customers etc, knowledge sharing tools, AI and ML capabilities, intent inference, process guidance, analytics, communities of practice, cultural guidelines, and more.
Benefits of a knowledge management system
A knowledge management system helps resolve problems encountered at every stage of the knowledge management process.
It can fastrack access to information for everyone in the organization, saving hours of unproductive and frustrating labor. As ripple effects, new employees can be onboarded faster, existing employees can focus on meaningful work, customer support can accelerate request resolutions, and overall costs related with information search, discovery, and usage, reduce.
Further, knowledge management encourages team collaboration, and the sharing of ideas acts as a catalyst to drive change and create a culture of innovation.
Recommended reading: Importance of knowledge management in an organization
Types of knowledge management systems with use-cases and examples
There are three major types of knowledge management systems, namely enterprise-wide knowledge management systems, knowledge work systems, and intelligent techniques.
1. Enterprise-wide knowledge management systems
Enterprise-wide knowledge management systems comprise company-wide efforts to collect, store, disseminate, and utilize knowledge. As you can guess, their value lies in streamlining workflows. Thanks to them, organizations can direct their focus towards optimizing business processes rather than spending time searching for data.
There are three major types of enterprise-wide knowledge management systems:
a. Structured knowledge systems
A structured knowledge system provides tools and databases for maintaining knowledge documented formally in the organization. This includes procedural guidelines, methodologies, best practices, research reports and white papers, case studies, employee information, board and investor related information etc.
Example: Think of a company intranet that features access to such resources and has in-built tools for collaboration among team members, no matter co-located or remote. It is often the central hub of communication among different departments and teams, between management and employees, superiors and subordinates.
Individual departments, say the HR department, can use it to upload important documents that serve as a single source of truth, such as the employee directory, the leave policy, details of compensation benefits etc.
On the intranet, product teams can share launch updates, marketing teams can share success metrics of their campaigns, IT teams can share security SOPs and more. The leadership can use it to make important announcements and introduce company-wide changes. And the list goes on.
b. Semi structured knowledge systems
A semi structured knowledge system is one that provides an infrastructure for tracking, organizing, and storing semi structured knowledge which cannot be adequately contained in formal documents. Examples of such information can be emails, Slack threads, images and videos, or other scattered media stored in different locations with different members of the org.
Document management systems, content management systems, and company wikis are some examples of semi structured knowledge systems.
Popular document management systems today include Confluence, Google Drive, Adobe Acrobat etc. For content management, companies rely on solutions such as WordPress, Squarespace, SharePoint, and others. While the likes of Notion, Coda, and Slab are some of the preferred company wiki applications.
c. Knowledge network systems
Knowledge network systems are built to transform unstructured and undocumented knowledge into explicit knowledge that can be stored in a database. This can be knowledge held only by certain members or groups in the company where finding the right person often becomes the only way of locating the right information.
A knowledge network bridges the gap between those who seek answers and those who have them, by maintaining a database of existing solutions as well as experts.
It also features communication tools like QnA portals where both parties can talk and the solutions created in the communication are then added to a database of solutions in the form of FAQs, best practices, or other documents.
Internal knowledge bases and help centers, public knowledge bases on the websites of companies, customer support tools that put customers in touch with product experts etc. are all various kinds of knowledge network systems, whether facing internally or externally.
2. Knowledge work systems
Knowledge work systems are set up by companies to enable specialized sections of employees, say engineers, product designers, researchers, architects, scientists, financial analysts etc., to create new know-how for the company.
Common examples of knowledge work systems include computer-aided design (CAD) systems, virtual reality systems for simulation and modeling, and financial workstations.
Such tools can run thousands of powerful calculations in seconds to speed up business decisions, provide valuable information for planning processes, accelerate product development, minimize production waste, optimize service scheduling, and more.
3. Intelligent techniques
Artificial intelligence tools and technologies are used by companies to capture individual and collective knowledge and to extend the organizational knowledge base.
A major example of intelligent techniques used by modern companies would be an enterprise search system that employs capabilities such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), semantic search, and Machine Learning (ML), for knowledge discovery and to deliver a highly relevant and customized search experience to its users.
How to choose the right knowledge management system for your organization
Which knowledge management system will fit your org like a glove?
We can’t promise it’s an easy job to choose one. But we sure can help you out with the decision.
Here are some essentials to look for while choosing knowledge management software for your company.
1. Powerful search
Work in an average company today is scattered across 254 applications. Once you’ve let that sink in, imagine how frustrating and time-consuming it would be to scan even half this number of apps for something you needed.
This is why robus search would be the top evaluation criterion for most organizations looking for a knowledge management tool.
While comparing options, you should prefer ones that deep-index all content across all file types and formats so that every resource in your company becomes searchable. It’s a huge bonus if the search is intelligent and adapts the results as per their relevance for the user.
It’s likely you are already using a variety of systems such as intranets, extranets, document and content management systems, CRMs etc. for your everyday business. Your knowledge management software should ideally integrate with (most of) the platforms your team is accustomed to working with, so that they don’t waste time switching between different apps.
Is your knowledge management system equipped to maintain more information as your organization acquires it? Can it scale as your teams grow and your business expands? A scalable knowledge management system can help you avoid the painstaking process of migrating your enterprise’s entire knowledge base between tools at a later stage.
4. Access controls
Employees, experts, customer service reps, managers, board members, and clients/customers all need to access different sets of information. Permissions and access controls help regulate the flow of information and ensure that the right information reaches the right stakeholders.
5. Reporting, insights, and analytics
Reports and analytics let you judge the efficacy of your knowledge management practices. They can help you gain insights into how many members are using the enterprise knowledge base and in which manner.This is crucial for improving the knowledge base and sustaining its usefulness.
Recommended reading: How to choose the best knowledge management system for your organization?
OSlash for effective enterprise knowledge management
OSlash is an enterprise knowledge management tool that is useful at every stage of the knowledge management cycle:
- Collecting knowledge. Most information today lives online in URLs. They are impossible-to-remember and hard to find. OSlash helps you collect and capture all the information you need by transforming complex URLs into simple shortcuts that are intuitive to find and easy-to-remember.
So your product roadmap can be accessed at 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. This is instrumental in creating a single source of truth for important company resources.
- Organizing knowledge. OSlash lets you create folders called Collections to organize your links (shortcuts) the way you want. You can also use tags to classify the shortcuts based on various criteria such as roles, departments, functions, dates, subject matter etc. You can even update destination documents as often as you like, to maintain a living repository of enterprise knowledge, without changing URLs.
- Sharing knowledge. Unlike links, you don’t even need to copy-paste OSlash shortcuts for sharing. You can say them out loud, auto-link them in text editors, and even discover them yourself since they’re oh-so-intuitive.
- Using knowledge. By letting you name your everyday links using everyday words, OSlash lets you find, navigate, and share workplace information at lightning speed. So that there are no logistical barriers left to using knowledge.
By simplifying URLs, OSlash simplifies finding information at fingertips—for you, your team, your department, and your entire organization. And saves you more than 9 hours every week.