What is a Knowledge Management System?

by | Knowledge Management

What is a Knowledge Management System?: image 1

A knowledge management system is an organized way to store and retrieve knowledge using people, processes, and technology. It is the blueprint, the roadmap, or the structure for a company’s knowledge efforts.

Knowledge management systems allow people in organizations to both document and access resources and knowledge. They are operating systems (often created by a knowledge or operations team) to ensure employees or customers have access to important information they need to get the most value from an organization’s products or services.

The components of an effective knowledge management system should work together to provide the answers people need in the most effective format. In this digital-first era, customers expect to be able to quickly and efficiently find answers to their questions.

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Knowledge Management Tools

Knowledge managers use tools to manage content such as articles and FAQs within an overall knowledge management system — after all, systems need tools to work.

Knowledge managers often use a few different technology tools as part of their knowledge management systems — most in the form of software tools. These tools might include: a knowledge management platform, a learning management platform, and a knowledge base. Knowledge management systems are composed of different tools that should all work together.

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Even though multiple tools may be used as part of an overall system, an organization should have one source of truth specific to knowledge that everyone agrees on. If you have multiple places your organization stores knowledge, you create silos that are impossible to manage simultaneously.

Knowledge Management Platforms

A knowledge management platform is the top-level knowledge management tool that includes the most comprehensive set of features needed to maintain and surface knowledge. An effective knowledge management platform will surface knowledge everywhere, and will support advanced content types like decision trees, FAQs, and videos. Like a knowledge base, a knowledge management platform also serves as the “home base” for users to find and retrieve answers. A knowledge management platform should include deep integrations into customer service applications and be able to provide answers on-demand, wherever needed.

Knowledge Automation Platforms

The use of knowledge automation in knowledge management represents a huge leap forward in knowledge management tools. Not only can a knowledge automation platform surface and manage knowledge, it uses data from integrated sources to surface the best answers, and to automate knowledge work for knowledge managers. This next-generation platform uses AI to process data, serve recommendations, and can automatically provide insight into the knowledge database.

Knowledge Bases

Knowledge bases are entry-level knowledge management tools that include basic storage and retrieval capabilities. They are generally found in the form of standalone software; you can also find knowledge bases used as modules within enterprise software. Knowledge bases are designed for internal use in an organization and are ideal for small, growing companies that need a simple method to store and consolidate information. Sometimes knowledge base software will be referred to as a company wiki software, knowledge sharing software, or something similar.

Knowledge Storage Systems

Knowledge storage systems are the lowest-level tools in a knowledge management system. Products like Google Drive, Dropbox, and even SharePoint focus on knowledge storage first and foremost. Historically, these solutions have been the starting point for storing company knowledge but don’t offer the features of more advanced tools. These low-level knowledge management tools may have some components shared by knowledge bases and knowledge management platforms, but they won’t have the same degree of functionality.

Other Knowledge Systems

So far, we’ve covered knowledge management systems in the traditional sense: enterprise-wide knowledge management systems that include people, processes, and some sort of knowledge software. There are also systems designed for specific use cases. These knowledge systems do handle knowledge in a sense, but the software used by these systems doesn’t always include a true knowledge management software. Here are some common examples.

  • Community Forums are hosted by an organization or third party vendor; this crowd-sourced solution helps engage customers, provide self-help and networking opportunities, assist in market research based on user feedback, and generate authentic content from their fans.
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS) primarily focus on training and educational processes. These systems give employees access to learning materials through an LMS platform. A learning management system may include customizable learning paths, engagement metrics, and interactive quizzes. With a LMS, you can upskill and re-skill current employees, onboard new employees, and track employee training compliance.
  • Customer Service Systems commonly include CRM software as well as processes needed to answer frequently asked questions and common service issues. A growing number of companies choose to integrate their primary knowledge management platform as a part of this system to avoid creating knowledge silos.

Adding Technology to Your Knowledge Management System?

An effective knowledge management system needs the right set of processes and software tools to meet the needs of both employees and customers. Here are some features you should look for as you decide on the technology you’ll need to complete your knowledge management system:

Self-Service Capabilities

As your company grows, eventually you will need a knowledge management system that can integrate and surface knowledge in self-service channels. You need accurate information available 24/7 so customers can find what they need when it’s convenient for them. If your company is at the stage where out-of-the-box knowledge modules aren’t cutting it, look for a knowledge management system with deep integrations into chat solutions and other self-service channels you rely on to deliver information.

Solid Enterprise Integrations

Your knowledge management system should include integrations with software you currently use, so you can deliver the right information at the right time to customers. Below is a list of vendors Shelf integrates with:

  • Genesys
  • NICE inContact
  • Five9
  • Kustomer
  • Salesforce Service Cloud
  • Zendesk
  • Slack

Agent Support Capabilities

If you have a team of agents on the front lines of customer support, their feedback is invaluable to improve your knowledge management system. Look for knowledge management technology that not only allows employees to share knowledge, but also allows employees to access knowledge in their working environment — like the contact center.

Improve Your Knowledge Management System

Now that you have a better understanding of what knowledge management systems are, start with a virtual demo of the Shelf suite of knowledge management system solutions.

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