Knowledge Management Systems: The Complete Guide

How to Capture, Maintain, and Develop Knowledge Management Systems for Employees & Customer Support

Knowledge Management Systems are popular business tools to improve the flow of knowledge within your organization. These tools can also help you improve customer support operations, and achieve better collaboration between support agents.

KMSs are an internal resource to help your team make their processes more visible, and reduce the problems associated with loss of knowledge. Helpjuice is one example of knowledge base software, and it has been designed from the ground up to help you scale your customer support, and collaborate better with your team.

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What is a Knowledge Management System

Knowledge management is the process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organization.”

A Knowledge Management System is also known as a knowledge base, but it is also a holistic system that can offer many ways to present your documentation.

For example, your KMS can contain:

  • Knowledge base
  • FAQs
  • Forum/wiki/community
  • Academies & training programs
  • Case studies
  • Webinars

In short, it covers anything aimed at online user education. The “knowledge” in your Knowledge Management System is information that has been made useful within a particular context.

According to Gamble and Blackwell (2001), "Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, expert insight, and grounded intuition that provides an environment and framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the mind of the knowers. In organizations it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories, but also in organizational routines, practices and norms."

Knowledge Management is a developing area of business, and the tools are just now catching up with the needs of users. Instead of forcing users to change their habits to accommodate the tools, tools are now being developed to match user habits – eg the desire for ease of use.

As such, Knowledge Management Systems contain the ability to index and search content, perhaps with an element of Artificial Intelligence. Creating and sharing your knowledge is about better communication, and in this case it fosters employee engagement.

In the case of your customers, it is a one-to-many form of customer support – one system enables you to help a multitude of customers.

What are the benefits of a Knowledge Management System

There are several key benefits to having a Knowledge Management System for your business.

It helps your customers

The first is the potential benefits for your customers in terms of ease of use. Customers expect you to provide a self-service support option and have a comprehensively documented product. Fast response times are the number one attribute of the customer experience, and 40% prefer self-service over speaking to a human.

KMSs improve your customer experience, and help you demonstrate your unique value proposition to customers more effectively with documentation.

It helps your employees

The second is the benefits for your employees, and their productivity and morale. Employees expect easy access to knowledge, and knowledge workers depend on effective collaboration with their team.

Employee retention rises when you improve the employee experience, and reduce the effort it takes to find information. And according to their State of the Global Workforce report, Gallup estimates that active employee disengagement costs businesses approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity per year.

It helps your business

The third is the business benefits that arise from effective knowledge curation – better product adoption, lower churn rates, and improved customer loyalty and advocacy. Automating repetitive tasks like finding information and capturing your knowledge as content just makes good business sense – sharing knowledge boosts your organization’s productivity by 35%.

“It’s time for companies to develop a strategy for knowledge work—one that not only provides a clearer view of the types of information that workers need to do their jobs but also recognizes that the application of technology across the organization must vary considerably, according to the tasks different knowledge workers perform,” says Thom H. Davenport, Knowledge Management expert.

The challenges of Knowledge Management Systems

Despite these many benefits, Knowledge Management Systems ultimately depend on a culture of knowledge sharing and access to the appropriate technologies. Success in this area is a complex interaction between the minds of your employees, and the technological systems you invest in to curate and share their knowledge.

If the system you invest in doesn’t fit with your company culture, your employees will fail to use it. Then your Knowledge Management System becomes costly to maintain, while you still haven’t sold your original problem.

Effective knowledge sharing depends on company culture, and the belief in a shared purpose between team members. That could be contributing to a customer service-centric culture, or a team-building culture, or a mixture of different motivations.

It’s called the issue of reciprocity, and concerns whether the person sharing their knowledge anticipates a return on their time and effort. 47% of managers cited a lack of incentive as the reason their Knowledge Management efforts failed.

The challenge of user adoption is compounded by the fact that previous Knowledge Management Systems were not quite up to task. This means there is now a profound lack of trust from teams when you announce you’re adopting a new system to improve collaboration.

Ultimately, Knowledge Management System is an investment you make now that pays dividends in the future. It can help prevent critical problems arising from loss of knowledge, high staff turnover, and churning customers. You must convince your employees of these future benefits so they commit to using your KMS.

Developing your Knowledge Management System

Developing a Knowledge Management System is an ongoing process. Involve the whole team in your Knowledge Management development process – if your team is too big then nominate representatives as knowledge champions.

Start with identifying broad top-level areas of knowledge that need to be documented. This will give you an idea of the scope of your whole system. Determine the best format to deliver your knowledge – written content, video, webinar, forum, or a mixture.

Here’s a very broad overview of the step-by-step process:

  • Categorize your knowledge topics
  • Identify quick links or frequently used articles
  • Link to supplementary resources (eg a community, or webinars)
  • Include a feedback mechanism
  • Produce your content
  • Edit and review your content
  • User test your content
  • Publish and promote your knowledge

Your knowledge base can contain tutorials, how-to-guides, reference material, code snippets, and processes. Decide which of your content needs to be restricted access so you can use the same system for both employees and customers.

Promoting acceptance and adoption

The success of your Knowledge Management System depends on how will it fits your existing processes and workflows, and matches your company culture. It starts from the ground up.

A successful Knowledge Management System requires an organizational investment in the user. The tools have to fit the people – not the other way around. Pick a system that is as user-friendly and intuitive as possible to match modern UX expectations. The ease of communication is what most employees voted for enabling good communication, according to Slack’s report.

The larger your organization, the more difficult your knowledge management efforts can become – especially as employees are less likely to collaborate. People become focused on their individual teams, and less on the organization as a whole. Their contributions become siloed.

Demonstrate the purpose and usefulness of your Knowledge Management System and the role it plays in your company’s shared vision. Solicit senior stakeholder buy-in, and identify knowledge champions to promote knowledge-sharing practices within your business.

A system to drive business growth

A Knowledge Management System is an essential part of your strategy to drive business growth. Investing now pays dividends in the future, since your team will collaborate more effectively and customers will be more loyal.

Your KMS is a living system designed to help you to create, share, and manage knowledge that leads to competitive business edge.

Helpjuice is specialist knowledge base software that helps your business to communicate better, and scale your customer support.