Knowledge Management System: The Complete Guide with Examples

An Exhaustive Knowledge management System Guide With Examples
In today’s digital age, businesses are bursting with data. This data guides everything that happens in your company. 

For example: 

  • The support you provide to customers depends on your knowledge of their pain points and the challenges they face. 
  • Your products are developed and improved by your team’s in-depth knowledge about the subject. 
  • The way you market your offerings depends on the knowledge your marketing team holds about your target audience. 

What if this data isn’t managed properly? 

It can lead to broken internal processes, inefficient teams, and poor customer support. 

This is where knowledge management steps in. A versatile knowledge management system has the power to streamline information flow across departments, encourage collaboration within teams, and improve customer support. 

This blog covers all aspects of a knowledge management system, such as: 

Let’s dive in.  

What is a Knowledge Management System (KMS)?

A knowledge management system helps you create, store, and share knowledge across all departments in your organization. The primary goal of a KMS is to bring all fragmented pieces of information together on a single platform where employees and customers can access it conveniently. 

It is a centralized knowledge platform that streamlines information flow, fosters collaboration, and improves your customer support function. 

Depending on who your target audience is, a knowledge management system can include the following: 

A knowledge management system for employees comprises: 

  • Employee handbooks
  • How-to articles and videos
  • Subject matter expertise 
  • Latest news and developments
  • Company work processes
  • Previous and new projects
  • Company information - vision, mission, clients, and much more.  

On the other hand, a KMS built specifically for customers or your customer support team comprises of: 

You might be thinking of why exactly you need a KMS. Are there any solid reasons that should convince you to embrace knowledge management solutions at the workplace? 

Yes, there are a plethora of reasons. Here we will be talking about a few significant ones. 

Why Is a Knowledge Management System Important?

Knowledge is the basis of everything that happens in your organization - a new product launch, new marketing campaigns, changes in the customer support process, product development, and much more. 

If this knowledge is not managed properly, it can hamper information flow across departments, leading to reduced employee productivity and poor decision-making. 

A knowledge management system can save you from such hassles and many more.

Here are some of the significant knowledge management benefits: 

1. Prevents Information Silos

Information silos are one of the biggest blocks to company-wide knowledge access. You might have experienced important business information locked in years-old files or folders, with only a few people knowing their whereabouts. 

Not just this, even department-specific information remains in the confines of a department, without a proper system to share it with others. 

That’s where a KMS helps. It maintains a smooth knowledge flow across your organization so that employees don’t have to take the trouble to dig through scattered files and folders. 

This knowledge platform turns the otherwise cumbersome process of information-gathering extremely simple and seamless.

2. Keeps Teams Closer

A knowledge management system brings all your employees under the knowledge umbrella, where they can work together, share opinions, ideas, and boost one another’s knowledge. 

Employees stay on the same page, and redundancies are reduced, which ultimately leads to a work culture that’s collaborative and well-aligned. 

When employees feel that their knowledge and experiences matter to everyone in the organization, they tend to stay more engaged and work collectively towards their goals.

3. Boosts Employee Productivity

Are you wondering how is that possible? 

It is if your employees start using the knowledge management system extensively during work. As you know by now, the chief objective of a KMS is to make information-gathering effortless. No more searching for information in scattered files. 

A KMS offers a roadmap that guides your employees on everything - what to do and how to do it. It ensures that employees get what they need in a few clicks and swipes, and they are headed in the right direction, always! 

That’s how it boosts employee productivity. 

4. Limits Knowledge Loss

What happens when key employees retire, resign, or are sacked from your organization? 

The enormous pool of knowledge leaves with them. And this is a huge loss for your organization. The expertise, knowledge, and skills employees gain while working in your company is an asset. If this knowledge is lost, it can hamper your internal processes significantly. 

A knowledge management solution can prevent this from happening. It gives employees a platform where they can regularly share their institutional knowledge with their colleagues and members of other departments. This way, the knowledge stays with you forever and ever!

5. Builds Delightful Customer Experiences

Knowledge management can also benefit your customer. 

If you use the knowledge management system as a customer-facing knowledge base, help center, or manual, you make it available to your customers for self-service. They can look up your document to get instant help whenever they encounter an issue with your products or services. A friction-less problem-solving experience indeed!

As a KMS provides access to a vast amount of information, your support team can use it to stay on top of company information and deliver accurate and timely help to customers across channels - chat, social media, calls, or emails. 

Since your customers can solve basic issues on their own, your support staff will receive fewer tickets on critical matters. Agents can focus on these larger issues that require careful analysis. 

Types of Knowledge Management Systems

There are majorly two types of knowledge management systems:

  1. Public or External KMS
  2. Private or Internal KMS

1. Public or External KMS

A public knowledge management system focuses on your external audience, i.e., customers. They use it as a self-service tool to clear their confusion around your offerings or for solving the basic or primary challenges they face while using your products or services. 

You can have a public KMS in various formats - knowledge base, help center, FAQs, manuals, help sites, and many more, depending on your goals. 

For instance, if you want a sweet and simple help section that addresses common customer questions, an FAQ section is the right choice. But, if you want a comprehensive resource that covers almost everything about your company, products, and services - a knowledge base would fit the bill. 

2. Private or Internal KMS

An internal or private KMS is just the opposite of a public or external KMS. It is targeted towards your internal audience, i.e., your employees. They can use it to share their knowledge with others and access company best practices, code of conduct, and any possible information they need.  An employee-centric KMS helps you in employee onboarding, cross-department collaboration, and knowledge sharing. 

Some of the popular formats of an internal KMS include an internal knowledge base, internal wiki, employee handbook, HR documentation, and training documentation, among others.

Type of Knowledge management system


Leading Features of a Knowledge Management System

There is a difference between having a KMS and having a high-quality, feature-rich KMS. You don’t want to adopt KMS for the heck of it, right? You have a purpose, a goal that you want to achieve with your knowledge management system. 

Therefore, you should know about the features that turn a KMS from good to stunning. 

This list gives a glimpse of some of the leading features of a knowledge management system.

1. Centralized Collaboration 

An ideal knowledge management system allows different individuals and teams to join forces and participate in the content-building process. 

It has a user management process in place, wherein you can add new users and groups, allot them a role - writer, editor, administrator, or viewer, and allow them to work together in a shared space.

Content collaboration in KMS

This collaborative system streamlines the content-crafting process, as everyone knows what they are supposed to do. There are no clashes among users, and your business knowledge always stays updated and fresh for everyone to use.
Read More: Effective Tips to Cultivate a Collaborative Work Culture

2. Uninterrupted Search

A knowledge management system makes information-gathering faster and easier, thanks to its Google-like search system. 

Whatever your employees need, and whenever they need it, all they have to do is type the question or a keyword in the search bar. The AI-powered search system of KMS shows the most relevant article suggestions at the top and loosely-related content pages towards the bottom of the results. 

No more sifting through multiple files and folders!

Here’s how a decent search system works:

Search System in Knowledge management system

3. Effortless Navigation

If employees can smoothly sail through the articles and find the right information in a snap, consider your knowledge management system is doing a great job.

A KMS offers friction-less navigation wherein relevant pages and articles are interlinked to one another. A good amount of internal linking in the KMS ensures that readers are led from one page to the other as smoothly as possible. 

They don’t have to press the back button now and then. Every article provides comprehensive information and internal links to other articles, making it easy for readers to reach the right information quickly.

4. Easy Accessibility 

The best part about a knowledge management system is that it works seamlessly on every device - laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. Whichever route your employees or customers choose to use, they will get the help they need with equal ease and convenience. 

As a KMS facilitates effortless accessibility across devices, employees can address their challenges anytime, and from anywhere they are. With the remote working culture going mainstream, remote employees need a system that allows them to work independently with utmost ease, and a KMS makes that possible. 

Say NO to time and location barriers!

5. Customization Options

A powerful knowledge management system gives you the opportunity to customize the look and feel of the KMS. 

From adding your company’s logo, brand name and choosing your favorite font styles to pick themes that resonate well with your brand, a KMS gives you the power to tailor your knowledge base, wiki, or manual the way you want.

knowledge base branding and customization

Customizing your KMS gives it a unique identity, an appealing appearance, and an aura that feels right. Change in color, structure, theme, and fonts bring a significant difference in a KMS, urging employees to use it frequently for company updates or issue resolution.  

You can finally have a knowledge base that feels like your own!

6. Revision History 

With so many individuals and groups working in your KMS, how do you keep track of the changes and revert to a previous article version if need be?  

Worry not. KMS has got your back. An ideal knowledge management system saves over 30 last revisions of every page. You can track all recent changes, check who made the changes and restore any previous version of the page at any time. 

It is easy, right?

Knowledge management system guide7. Smart Reports

You have a KMS, but how do you know if it is successfully addressing readers’ issues and providing them pertinent information? 

That’s where reports help. They offer a graphical and tabular representation of all aspects of your KMS’s performance, right from the keywords delivering accurate results and poorly rated articles to inactive or broken article links. 

These comprehensive insights give a transparent picture of how adept your KMS is in fulfilling employee expectations. Leverage the reports to modify your existing content or add more quality articles to your KMS.

knowledge-management-reports


Challenges of a Knowledge Management System

One of the major challenges to KMS implementation is user adoption. You cannot force employees to use the KMS. They should use it willingly and happily every time they want to share an experience, add value to existing content, access subject matter expertise, or get an update on the latest company news. 

If the KMS doesn’t blend well with your work system, or if it doesn’t fulfill employee expectations, employees are likely to avoid using it. They won’t find it helpful. Moreover, it would be an added burden for them than a helpful resource. 

The result? You will have to bear the cost of the KMS even when employees don’t use it as often as you expected. 

The challenge is similar when it comes to customers. You cannot force your customers to use your KMS. Most customers would still prefer conventional routes - phone calls or emails for issue resolution.

In that case, you will have to educate customers about how beneficial your KMS is. You need to promote your KMS while interacting with customers on email, calls, or social media and encourage them to use it for problem-solving. 

Besides user adoption, KMS implementation faces various other challenges such as: 

✅ Security Issues

A knowledge management system increases the risk of information leaks, as this system is purely cloud-based. To avoid that, you need to have a tool that helps you safeguard confidential information and prevent its misuse. 

✅ Recognize Key Knowledge Holders

There will be multiple people in your organization who have key insights into different business processes, departments, projects, clients, etc. You will have to identify these people and encourage them to build and maintain your KMS.

✅ Knowledge Dissemination

Simply having a knowledge management system doesn’t guarantee that business information will reach across departments and to all employees in the hierarchy. You will need to have a proper process that ensures that KMS is used by, if not all, then at least a few members of all departments.

✅ Continuous Changes

As your company evolves, so should your KMS. That’s a big challenge as you have to appoint various employees to do the review and maintenance work on a regular basis.

These are some of the challenges that can come in the way of KMS implementation. However, with the right knowledge management system tool and the right strategy, you can conquer these challenges and achieve success with your KMS. 

How To Build a Smart Knowledge Management System

It is time to finally take a plunge into what matters the most - how to build a knowledge management system. Follow these simple steps to build a compelling KMS for your employees and customers.

1. Set a Goal

Who are you creating a knowledge management system for? 

What do you want to achieve with your KMS? Which business areas are you looking to improve with a KMS? 

These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself before beginning with the creation process. 

Your aim might be to build a customer-facing knowledge base that helps customers effectively solve their challenges on their own.

Or, you might want to have an internal knowledge management system for employees to promote knowledge sharing and collaboration among teams. There is also a possibility that you need a versatile knowledge management system that can fulfill both these objectives. 

If rising support tickets is a persistent issue, then building an external or customer-facing knowledge base is the right choice. In case there is an internal challenge pertaining to knowledge management, collaboration, or broken workflows, you should create a knowledge management system for your employees. 

Identify the one thing that is giving you sleepless nights, set that as a goal, and take your next steps confidently.

2. Identify Key Individuals & Assign Them Relevant Roles

It is not possible for a single person to manage and maintain your knowledge management system. The process of content creation is intensive, requiring the collective effort of multiple individuals and teams. 

Now, you cannot involve every employee in the process too. That would turn the KMS messy, and you will have no track of which information is relevant and which isn’t. 

You need to identify key knowledge holders in your organization - people who are subject matter experts, department heads, managers, experienced newcomers, and top performers. 

Once you have the list of individuals with you, the next step is to identify who is good at what. Accordingly, appoint them as: 

  • Information gatherers 
  • Project Managers
  • Knowledge builders, and more. 

Till the time, you don’t have a dedicated knowledge management team, keep shifting these roles. That’s because each of the roles might involve individuals and teams from different departments, who will have to take care of their core duties along with the KM tasks. 

Keep it flexible and open so that employees can easily contribute to your KMS according to their bandwidth.

3. Get a Dynamic Knowledge Base Tool

Once you are done with the basics, the next step is to select a knowledge base tool that fits the bill. 

 The tool should complement your team’s efforts, helping them create, design, manage, and analyze content in a hassle-free way. 

While the online marketplace is awash with knowledge management tools, not every tool can deliver the right results. You need to have a hawk’s eye to identify the knowledge management tool that is abundant in features, strong in functionality, and based on the cloud. 

We have curated a list of some major features that are critical to a knowledge management tool to help you make the right choice. 

Here you go:

✅ Well-Designed Templates

The tool should offer a wide range of templates catering to your requirements of building employee handbooks, internal knowledge base, company knowledge base, manuals, online documentation, and more.

✅ Rich text editor

This online editor functions like the popular MS Word. You can use it to create articles, style your content, and add images and videos.

✅ User Management, Roles & Permissions

Adding and deleting users, assigning them roles, and managing their responsibilities is super-easy with this feature. It allows multiple users and groups to join forces and contribute to the development of your KMS.

✅ Conditional Content

This includes some predefined rules and conditions which you can apply to various articles or specific sections of articles. The rules control what’s displayed and what’s hidden from the readers.

✅ Customization Feature

This allows you to add various design elements to your KMS. You can change the font styles, pick a theme that aligns with your brand, and opt for color schemes that seem appropriate for your KMS.

✅ Lightening-Fast Search

This AI-powered search mechanism works similarly to Google. It is fast, seamless, and accurate. As a reader types a question or a keyword in the search bar, it offers pertinent page and article recommendations.

✅ Comprehensive Reports

These reports offer intelligent insights into how successful your KMS is in meeting your business goals. 

The idea is to give you a gist of the kind of features and functions you should be scouring while shortlisting tools for KMS. Once you have a list of tools, go for their trial versions to explore the features they offer.

A KMS is an investment of the present that will give you dividends in the future, so think and analyze carefully before making the call.

Read More: The 20 Best Knowledge Management Software of 2020

4. Gather Information

The next logical step is to gather information from every source available to you. Your KMS should comprise relevant content that can be useful for readers in some or another way. 

The question is where to look for data. Firstly talk to department heads and managers. They know the ins and outs of the realms they operate in and can give you valuable insights that should be added to the KMS. 

Look at various reports generated for internal as well as external use. Go through third-party industry reports. Recognize the pain points of your audience and try to gather information that can be valuable for readers.

5. Write & Organize Content

It is finally time to plunge into the content creation process. Now, there are two ways you can craft content for your KMS. First, by writing content afresh, which is quite time-consuming.

The second way is to import existing files directly to your KMS. The content present in these files gets converted into knowledge articles, saving you plenty of time and effort. 

You can go for either of the two ways or adopt a mix of both - whichever you deem fit. 

Some of the key things to keep in mind while writing content: 

  • Keep the paragraphs short, simple, and sweet. 
  • Have benefit or action-oriented headings
  • Stick to short and clear sentences. 
  • Do not bombard readers with a lot of information on a single page. Have some breathing space across all articles so that content is easy to consume. 
  • Use bullets wherever possible. They help you break down complex concepts and paragraphs into easy-to-understand points. 

Once you have the content in place, start organizing it. Create a few broad categories and divide them into subcategories. Have a maximum of four to six broad sections. Ensure that each topic is covered comprehensively and provides enough information to readers. 

These are some best practices that you can follow when organizing your knowledge management system: 

  • A table of contents on the left is a good practice to keep content well organized. 
  • Have an FAQ section that lists down all the common or popular questions asked by your audience. 
  • Add images, videos, and screenshots to articles and cater to the different learning needs of your audience. 
  • Inter-link related and relevant articles, videos, and other resources, to make it easy for readers to get the help they need in seconds. (This can even boost your knowledge base’s SEO

Model your knowledge management system in a way that readers find it smooth to navigate through it. 

Mimosa shows us how to write and organize content correctly. Go through its knowledge base and get inspired.

mimosa-knowledge-base-design


6. Set Workflows to Maintain Content Quality

How do you ensure that all articles in your knowledge base are reviewed at various levels before going live? 

Workflows help you here. Your team can set workflows every time they start working on an article. For instance, they can assign a status such as - Draft, In Progress, Ready for Review, or Published, depending on the stage of an article. If the stage doesn’t fit in any of these categories, they can create a custom status as well. 

You can glean two benefits from these workflow rules: 

  • It infuses transparency in the work process as anyone can see which article is in which stage. 
  • It ensures that all articles are reviewed carefully before getting published for readers. 

Publishing error-free content is crucial. Whoever your target audience is - customers or employees, they should find the most accurate and reliable information in your KMS. 

Set workflow in operations manual7. Gather Feedback & Act on It

If your audience is employees, you’d want to know whether or not they are successful in using your KMS, right?

Having a feedback mechanism in your KMS is therefore important. It gives employees the opportunity to share their suggestions on an article, escalate an issue, and participate actively in the KMS improvement process. 

They would want to have a say in your KMS. If you take their feedback seriously and come up with prompt solutions, it will reassure them that they are important to your organization. 

There are two ways to collect feedback. First, by asking a simple question - Did you find this article helpful.

Feedback in internal wiki

When someone clicks ‘No’, a comment box appears where feedback can be provided. 

The second way to gather feedback is via survey forms. Whatever your goal is - measure employee satisfaction, target employees at specific points, or reduce bounce rate, survey forms can be a huge help. 

You can add surveys of any kind - NPS, in-app, popup, or sidebar forms to your KMS, to gather instant feedback from employees, understand their pain points, and provide a quick resolution. 

This video gives complete information about how to add surveys and forms to your KMS -
8. Keep Your KMS Safe & Secure

A knowledge management system is meant to store your business information safely, with little to no risk of data leak.

Making every article or page accessible to everyone can pose a threat to your organization in more ways than you can imagine. That’s why data security is critical. 

You can apply rule sets pertaining to the viewing device, user group, member group, and more to all folders, pages, or even specific sections of your KMS, and control which sections are displayed and hidden from readers.

Keep your KMS safe and secure

Besides this, you can limit the viewing and login access to specific IP addresses. This means that if a user tries to log in to your KMS from an IP that is not listed with you, he or she will not be able to access your knowledge management system.

9. Analyze, Revise & Update

How do you know which article is performing well and which isn’t? How do you understand whether readers are finding your KMS helpful? 

You cannot arrive at a straightforward answer if you don’t keep constant track of your KMS. 

A handful of metrics such as poorly rated articles, popular articles, successful keyword searches, failed searches and broken links help you analyze your KMS to the core. Use these metrics to get insights into your KMS and make smarter and timely decisions to improve your content quality. 

Metrics such as new articles created, author activities, and the number of reads on new articles can help you understand how frequently your KMS is updated. If you don’t find valuable data for these metrics, it indicates your KMS isn’t updated as often as it should. 

Based on what customers are searching for, failed searches, and downvoted articles, you can ask writers and editors to fill your KMS with more relevant and helpful articles. 

It is a great way to have a thriving knowledge management system that never fails to delight readers! 

Tracking KMS performance and injecting new articles into it shows your proactive approach to maintaining KMS. It is, undoubtedly, a challenging task, but if executed properly, it can reward you with - customer/employee happiness, reduction in internal or external support tickets, streamlined work processes, and much more. 

Watch this video to learn more about these metrics and how you can analyze them -

Let’s now quickly look at some of the best knowledge management system examples. 

Knowledge Management System Examples

1. HighQ Help Center

HighQ’s help center is a great example of a knowledge management system for customers. It is comprehensive, well-structured, and searchable. There is a home page with broad categories pertaining to videos, getting started, system admin, best practices, use cases, and more. 

As you click on each category, you will find multiple subcategories, with each category providing detailed information on the said topic. Every topic is clearly explained using images and videos. There is also a feedback question - ‘Was this article helpful’, at the end of each article. 

You will also find the related pages section at the bottom of each article, ensuring an easy switch between topics and pages.

HelpQ knowledge management example

Image Source

2. ManageEngine

ManageEngine’s software manual is another great example of a knowledge management system. This KMS is built for customers. 

What is unique about this KMS is its clean structure - a table of contents on the left, with sections and subsections, clearly defined. As you click on each category, you will find quite a lot of information presented beautifully on the right-hand side. 

One of the interesting aspects of this manual is the Welcome section at the bottom that comprises FAQs, how-to videos, and other education and training resources for those who are completely new to ManageEngine.

ManageEngine Help Center-min

Image Source

3. Microsoft's Help Center

Microsoft’s customer-facing help center is goals. It is brilliantly designed, meticulously structured, and offers everything you need to have a smooth experience with Microsoft’s products. 

Its KMS is quite exhaustive. It has a trending topics section at the bottom where it displays all popular articles. If an issue isn’t resolved, customers can ask questions to the Microsoft Community, the link of which is given at the end of the page.

Microsoft Help Center

Image Source

You can create similar knowledge management systems for employees too. It can help you encourage team collaboration, improve employee onboarding, and promote a culture of knowledge sharing in the workplace. The benefits are discussed in detail in the previous section.

Drive Your Business to Success With a Knowledge Management System

Whether you are looking to create an internal knowledge base or an external one - both offer unique benefits, taking your business on the path to progress. 

Both these KMS have one thing in common - they capture, store, and manage business information that can be utilized by your employees or customers for problem-solving. 

Building an awesome knowledge management system that delights your audience at every step and gives you a competitive edge starts with a few basic things. Start by setting a proper goal and gaining a clear idea of your target audience. Identify the key employees who can work with dedication to build your KMS. 

Once you are done with these simple things, get a knowledge base tool that is powerful and feature-rich. Collate all the information you have and start writing and organizing content. You can set workflows to maintain content quality and utilize performance metrics to turn your KMS into an evergreen information source. 

Invest in a knowledge management solution now to reap the rewards in the future!

 

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About the author

Brayn Wills

Brayn is a knowledge management expert. He has been published in CustomerThink, PointVisible and Apruve. As a customer support specialist at ProProfs, Brayn has been instrumental in building a robust knowledge base and documents that help support executives keep every customer delighted. You can catch up with Brayn on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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