People making use of knowledge management systems concept art

Knowledge sharing is a vital component of high-performing teams and individuals. There are numerous mediums of, and practice for, transferring knowledge to others, however they have one thing in common: Knowledge Management Systems (KMS).

Knowledge Management Systems are business tools and software that improve the flow of knowledge both within your organization and to external stakeholders.  They allow you to store content, present it in a variety of ways, and enable retrieval of it through search or indexing.  

These holistic systems are relevant to all parts of your business. IT, HR, Support, and other departments all will benefit from making use of knowledge management. Knowledge management systems are also useful for helping customers along the entire customer journey - prospects can make use of your company's organizational knowledge to learn more about your business and its products while current customers can enhance their product use or self-service issues that arise. 

A good knowledge management system can surface the right content at the right time to the right audience, whether that be inside your application, on your help desk, via a Google search, or anywhere else you choose to expose your content.

A knowledge management system along with the best knowledge management software is critical for everything from scaling support and allowing your customer to self-help, to building a community or locating your internal policies. Let's explore the types of knowledge management systems and show examples that will help you achieve your business needs.

What Are Knowledge Management Systems

The value of a knowledge management system is its ability to streamline a consistent workflow across the entire knowledge life cycle and organize all of those knowledge assets in a logical, retrievable way. All knowledge management systems will help in one or more of the following ways:

Knowledge Creation

Creating knowledge should not be an onerous task. Templated workflows, embedded into your day-to-day applications, and quick-and-easy stylizing and editing are keys to a good KMS.

Knowledge Publication

Publication is the process of review and assigning permission to who can access the asset. It may be to a specific team, internal only, one or more customers, or open to the public. A knowledge management system can keep track of the review process and secure the content.

Knowledge Search And Retrieval

Knowledge isn't very useful unless it's findable. The software you use for your knowledge management system should allow your users to access the content they want, using search terms They are familiar with. Depending on the nature of your knowledge and what  KMS you use, that may include SEO for common search engines, Artificial Intelligence that assess intent of the search, or widgets that embed within your ticket or IT management tools,

Knowledge Sharing And Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge is relevant in a variety of places. A high-quality knowledge management system helps with knowledge sharing as well as knowledge transfer by exposing the right knowledge, at the right time, to the right person. This could mean linking to a webpage, but also embedded within your ticket management too or, inside your product or application.

Knowledge Evolution

A quality KMS can help you determine gaps in your knowledge or highlight when knowledge may be outdated. Search term analytics are one way to understand what the users are trying to find and if they are having success. You can also have review or expiry dates set on articles to

Knowledge Deletion/Archiving

Knowledge isn't static.Regularly conducting maintenance of what is relevant and accurate is a key component to a healthy knowledge management program. A KMS can guide you to which content is stale, hasn't been accessed recently, or has been flagged by a user as incorrect or outdated.

Knowledge Application

Perhaps most important to the consumers of your knowledge, a KMS can help them understand how to apply the knowledge assets to their use cases. Combining knowledge assets and creating tacit knowledge enables better outcomes. A KMS can help recommend, organize, and present collections of content to better apply your captured knowledge.

Benefits of a Knowledge Management System

  1. Democratizing knowledge creation and sharing. Knowledge is not centralized to one person or team. Knowledge management systems allow you to have multiple people create and update content that can be shared as required. Expanding content creation can help you generate more content, faster that will drive better experiences for your customers and internal users.
  2. Accelerate employee onboarding and training. Having a common foundation for new employees or to upskill a large team is pivotal to the long term success of your business. Add in the capabilities to track who has taken what training and you can now easily assess
  3. Remove knowledge bottlenecks and dependency on subject matter experts. Knowledge is needed in real time. Without a KMS, finding the right content can take longer or require conversations with specific experts who may not be available.
  4. Facilitate self-service for your prospects and customers. When your customers need answers, they want them right away. Self-service knowledge is vital to a positive customer experience. A KMS will deliver self-searched content to whomever wants it whenever they need it.
  5. Reduce time to resolution of common issues. Whether you are supporting external or internal customers, there are always types of issues that are repeated every day, sometimes multiple times in a day. Reusable content in a common KMS reduces the need to re-research and type up common steps which reduces the time to get known resolutions in the hands of the people who need it.

Knowledge Management Systems Examples

There are many types of knowledge management systems. Each serves a different set of use cases depending on who needs the knowledge and how you want to share it or track it. 

Let's explore some types of knowledge management systems along with examples.

Knowledge Base

Knowledge base software is used to collect a company's knowledge in one central, accessible location. Access controls can dictate whether an asset is available externally or if it is only available as an internal resource. Often these articles are used by support or IT teams to deliver knowledge to their stakeholders. This system type is highly demanded by customers. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that 81% of customers try self-service before contacting support.

TCL is an example of a high-quality knowledge base implementation. Their knowledge base contains categories for each of their product lines, embedded video assets which can quickly walk a customer through how-to do tasks that are easier described visually.

Document Management

Document management systems (DMS) act as a repository for digital copies of all of your documentation in a hierarchical, searchable format. A popular use case for document management is to use it as a library for all of your company's internal documentation as a way to enable employees to better understand company culture as well as be more successful in their roles. 

Some of the internal documents that are typically managed with a DMS include:

Overall, a DMS organizes, controls, and tracks the important content that runs your business. They bring version control, editing and viewing permission, and searchability to all of your organizational assets. Improving the way people find content reduces time, effort, and cost.

Learning Management

A learning management system (LMS) stores, assigns, tracks, and reports on the learning modules your Learning and Development team uses to onboard employees as well as upskill your team. Learning management systems often have features that group common lessons together in "learning paths" which allow you to apply your training to different roles

Lazyboy uses their LMS to assist in employee training and development across their departmental processes, products, as well as compliance. Every user has a profile which tracks their courses and completion rates. The implementation of an LMS showed an 85% increase in course completions and  resulted in more consistent branding and consistent support

Online Community Forums

An online community forum allows your users to share their knowledge and ask questions to each other. They spark engagement and creativity in your customer ecosystem which helps to evangelize the use cases of your product. These interactions help build more product engagement and provide more value to your customers. It also is a more casual interaction where feedback and recommendations can be discussed openly between your company and customers which helps drive Voice of Customer Feedback initiatives.

Adobe uses their community to do exactly that. They connect their customers to experts internally and externally to foster creativity and hear direct feedback about their products. Topics can be submitted by any registered user, they have added in gamification to encourage people to post and answer questions, and they use it as an opportunity to share training and other knowledge assets.

Knowledge Management Systems will Elevate your Business

Each of these Knowledge Management System Examples facilitate the transfer of knowledge to stakeholders. But they do serve different functions and their features vary greatly. As your company scales and evolves, you will likely need to add multiple KMSs to your environment. When going to market it's important to understand what use cases you require and how those interact with existing processes or tools.

Consider the business objectives you want to achieve:

  • Internal vs external sharing
  • Specific questions vs generic overview
  • Files and documents vs other media

Consider the lifecycle of your assets:

  • Who will be accessing the assets and how often?
  • Who creates the assets
  • Does knowledge change or evolve frequently or infrequently?

Once you understand these needs, you can confidently go to market for the type of KMS your business requires and start to recognize the benefits of sharing knowledge more widely and consistently across the company and your users.  

Knowledge Management Systems are the foundation of scale. They enable repetitive tasks to be streamlined, reduce the time to deliver knowledge, democratize who can create and access knowledge, share the overhead of updating and archiving outdated assets, and can create better customer and employee experiences.