Knowledge is power, as they say, and the expression certainly rings true in the world of business.
However, there’s a caveat: knowledge will lead to progress only if you have the right system in place to capture, manage, and distribute it. Knowledge by itself isn’t going to move the needle — you need to share it among teams, update it to reflect new information, and keep it secure.
That’s where knowledge management systems come in — the all-in-one information management and distribution solutions. With a knowledge management system, you can centralize internal knowledge and make it accessible to the right people.
But what makes a knowledge management system more than just a glorified digital storage shelf?
In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of an effective knowledge management system, how you could benefit from using one, and all the core features you can expect to find in one.
What is a knowledge management system?
A knowledge management system, in the simplest terms, is a framework for executing your knowledge management strategy.
First, let’s define knowledge management. Knowledge management is how you find, store, and share any and all business information, from customer data to process guidelines
So, if knowledge management is how you collect and access useful business information, a knowledge management system is how you bring it all together in one centralized digital platform.
Think of a knowledge management system like a digital library: while there’s nothing wrong with a physical library, sending team members to hunt down information in hard-to-find books isn’t an efficient way to manage knowledge.
The knowledge management system, therefore, is a digital hub you can design to accommodate the various teams and departments within your company. It saves you the time and effort of tracking down information, providing advanced search functionality, filters, and straightforward categorization.
Unlike a knowledge base, a knowledge management system is a fully interactive system that invites teamwork across the board and provides additional features such as communication and analytics to leverage team data and company knowledge.
More specifically, here are some of the ways a knowledge management system can help you:
- Aggregate information: Information can come from a wide variety of sources — with a knowledge management system, you can bring it all together in one place. Sources of information can include everything from customer support tickets to financial reports, spanning all the important business functions and processes.
- Classify knowledge: Centralized knowledge can still be difficult to sift through, which is why a knowledge management system provides you with the tools to classify the knowledge you obtain. With metadata, content tagging, and more, you can make sure everything is accessible.
- Manage permissions: When dealing with confidential business information, it’s important to control who has access. With a knowledge management system, you can assign multiple levels of permissions — for example, a team member can only view reference information while a manager can make and edit resources.
Why is it important for a business to use a knowledge management system?
In any business, there’s likely a staggering amount of knowledge floating around even if you’re not aware of it.
Here are some examples:
- Process guidelines
- Team workflows
- Project-specific information
- Company policies and values
- Onboarding documents
- How-to guides
- Troubleshooting instructions
All of this information needs a home because the harder it is to find, the less efficient your knowledge management strategy is. The type of information will vary from business to business, but the need for a knowledge management system typically remains equally as important.
As such, a knowledge management system can streamline your information storage and distribution to save company time across the board.
Benefits of using knowledge management systems
Viewing knowledge purely as a way of documenting past information and data is a mistake. To make the most of internal knowledge, you must use it in your day-to-day operations to innovate and refine your existing processes.
Knowledge is one of your most powerful tools for growth, but only if you understand how to leverage it.
With a knowledge management system, you can log feedback from sales agents and customer service reps, then find ways to use that information to refine processes going forward.
For example, you could turn a sales call into a video to highlight what went well and what could have been better. The whole sales team can then benefit from this knowledge, which may otherwise have remained undiscovered.
Your hiring process is how you source and nurture talent to bolster your ranks and drive your company forward. So why not find ways to help new recruits hit the ground running?
A knowledge management system allows you to organize all of your onboarding documents, guidelines, and multimedia resources in one place. Not only does this make the hiring manager’s job easier, but it also allows them to see what might be missing or how the onboarding process could be better.
These days, 54% of Gen Z job applicants won’t even finish an application if they feel like the hiring process is outdated.
With virtual recruiting becoming the norm in many cases, it’s wise to have a digital system for managing knowledge so you can pass on necessary tutorials, documents, and other resources directly to aspiring candidates.
Once a candidate has made it through the hiring stage, you can then grant them permission to access your internal knowledge management system so they can immerse themselves in all of the onboarding resources.
Shape the way you work
Even after undergoing your onboarding process, new hires and existing employees alike can struggle to work in alignment with the work culture.
With a knowledge management system, employees have a simple way to check in with company values, policies, and guidelines for completing various projects and tasks. Rather than struggling to remember exactly what was said during onboarding, employees have an interactive knowledge source they can tap into for up-to-date guidance.
Whenever there’s a change in how you work, the changes can be reflected in the knowledge management system so you don’t have to rely so heavily on meetings and briefings that can disrupt team members’ day-to-day work.
Improve the customer experience
So far, we’ve mainly focused on how a knowledge management system can help you improve your internal operations, but it isn’t just those within the company that can benefit.
A knowledge management system can also help you better support and serve your customer base. How?
81% of customers attempt to solve an issue for themselves before seeking the help of an agent. With a knowledge management system, you can support customers in their initial desire to solve their problems by presenting them with the option to serve themselves.
A knowledge management system allows you to set up a self-service portal and implement AI assistance so that customers can easily find what they’re looking for and quickly access FAQs or user guides.
In the case that a customer’s issue can’t be easily resolved with a self-service portal, you need a highly trained team of customer service agents to help customers.
A knowledge management system helps you in this aspect too, as every agent will have access to a huge database of specific knowledge they can draw up in an instant. This reduces the need to pass customers around to different agents and ultimately slows down the customer service process.
Plus, with a self-service portal handling most simple customer requests, agents have more time to invest in learning solutions to more complex problems and better serving customers.
What are the features of a good knowledge management system?
Now you’re familiar with the problems a knowledge management system can help you solve, it’s time to turn your attention to the features you should look out for.
Not every knowledge management system will serve your specific business needs, so it’s important to weigh up the different options. One of the best ways to do that is to compare core features.
Analytics and reporting
Knowledge, once collected and stored, becomes data, and data is a cornerstone of effective decision-making.
That’s why analytics and reporting are an integral part of the knowledge management system — they help you learn from the data and glean insights from how employees interact with the knowledge. For example, those with admin privileges will be able to see how many views various documents receive over time.
With this information, you can apply your energy in the most-used areas of the knowledge management system to maximize results, or make important resources more visible or accessible if they’re underutilized. An 80/20 analysis could be helpful in this instance to identify the most popular resources, so you can then make sure they are prioritized and frequently updated for accuracy.
A common way to judge any software platform beyond its core features is to look at how many third-party solutions it integrates with. With integrations, you can expand the software’s utility beyond its most common use cases and save time in the process.
To prevent the productivity plague of tab-switching fatigue, it helps to have one solution that can serve many functions.
For a knowledge management system, here are the most useful integrations to look out for:
- CRM: Customer relationship management tools help you improve employee-customer relations, and insights can be fed directly into your knowledge management system
- Project management: Project management software lets you manage tasks, optimize workflows, and store project and task-specific information that can help you build out your knowledge management system data
- Document storage: If you already rely on document storage solutions for securely managing files, knowledge management system integration can ensure everything is up to date.
- Order and inventory management: If you have physical stock, order and inventory management software integrations can help you track how many products you’ve stored and shipped in your knowledge management system for analysis.
- Communication: Communication tools aren’t just useful for real-time chats between teams — they can also serve as information repositories, which can inform future processes and fill out your knowledge management system database.
Physical data servers are expensive to maintain and hard to protect from breaches. Cloud storage is the better option in many cases, so, if you want your sensitive data to be available around the clock and secure, a knowledge management system is the way to go.
With cloud storage, employees can access the information they need wherever they are, provided they have an internet connection. It also provides you with pre-existing infrastructure for your data, so you don’t have to build time-consuming, costly software to house it all.
Cloud storage also solves the issue of memory. If you’re building an ever-growing knowledge base, you don’t want to be restricted by a lack of memory. With cloud storage, you can limitlessly expand and add as much content as necessary, which supports scaling.
When it comes to putting everything together and updating the content within the knowledge management system to reflect real-time changes, it pays to find a solution that supports collaboration as much as possible.
The creation and maintenance of a knowledge management system isn’t a one-person job; it should be a company-wide, collaborative effort. It’s not only internal contributors that are involved though — there are also external stakeholders and clients to consider.
So how do you find a transparent yet collaborative knowledge management system? The best way to ensure that collaboration is seamless is to look out for the following features:
- Messaging: If you want a knowledge management system that allows for straightforward collaboration, find one with messaging functionality. Whether it’s in real time (synchronous) or not (asynchronous), back-and-forth chat between team members ensures that knowledge isn’t the result of one person’s work.
- Approval requests: With approval requests, team members can quickly get the approval from their team leader in a few clicks. This speeds up workflows and allows teams to cut down on idle time waiting for approval before taking the next steps.
- Team notifications: Notifications aren’t always welcome, but they are necessary in many cases. With notifications based on action item completion, team members know when it’s their turn to get started on a particular task.
Feedback is an integral part of effective internal knowledge sharing.
If you don’t have a feedback system in place whereby team members can add their input on the helpfulness of various resources, it’s almost impossible to know if your knowledge management system is working as intended.
Common knowledge management system feedback features include the option to add comments to various resources and documents, as well as feedback forms that ask a series of questions and provide fields for team members to enter their answers.
If you want to create a system that works for the entire workforce, it should factor in feedback and provide you with ample opportunity to refine the way you manage and update internal knowledge.
How Wrike can help
If you’re looking for a way of managing projects, storing knowledge, and optimizing day-to-day operations, Wrike’s project management solution can help. With a range of business development services, Wrike can act as a knowledge base management system and support company-wide services for small and enterprise-level businesses alike.
Here are some of the ways Wrike can help you make the most of internal knowledge and refine existing processes:
Wiki knowledge bases
With Wrike, you can build company-specific Wiki knowledge bases from the ground up and fill them out with innovation-breeding data and insights.
Using parent folders, you can embrace the “one idea, one task” philosophy and keep everything neatly arranged and organized in Wrike. Once you’ve created and populated these folders, you’ll have an easily accessible backlog of information that team members can access.
Set up permissions to make sure the right people can create and edit tasks and move information around, and you’ll have an effective system for knowledge management at your fingertips.
Maintaining the Wiki knowledge base is a simple case of uploading and attaching files related to Wrike tasks, using integrations with storage solutions such as Dropbox or Google Drive if you’re short on space.
Single source of truth
As a single source of truth, Wrike can be your one-stop shop for all pertinent company knowledge. Rather than scattering data around among various sources, you can use Wrike and its knowledge management system integrations such as Zendesk and Yammer to keep everything together.
Wrike offers various project management services to help manage tasks, perform customer-facing duties, and update the knowledge you accumulate — all in one place.
As a cloud-based solution, your data will be secure and easily accessible, too.
Wrike supports various forms of asynchronous communication, which is often the best way to keep in touch with coworkers. Asynchronous communication is any means of communicating that doesn’t require both parties to be present at the same time.
The main benefit is that you can have two coworkers on different sides of the world working together harmoniously, as each can respond to messages when they log in rather than struggling to sync up schedules and attend video calls at odd hours.
Specifically, you can:
- Send voice messages
- Tag team members
- Add comments to tasks
Sign up for a free two-week trial with Wrike today and optimize your knowledge management strategy.