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What is a Knowledge Management System (KMS)? In-Depth Guide with Examples

Businesses are becoming hyper-competitive these days. All that is mandatory to succeed is to be followed by default. But still, from time to time, we feel something is lacking. As the business companies start to grow in size, knowledge preservation and knowledge organization become a top priority. A knowledge management system(KMS) for your organization is a must-have embodiment to achieve greater success in the customer support system and to make all business processes more effective.

Any organization has a lot of information, that it is not aware of, and thus is not managed properly. Some types of knowledge that can be easily found in your organization are:

  • All formal documents like SOPs, OnBoarding Checklist, etc.
  • All financial statements like total earnings, primary sources of those earnings, biggest expenditures, etc.
  • Collaborative documents like sales pitches, Customer Service conversations
  • All information stored in the database, through notes, and memos
  • Knowledge gained through years of experience of your employees
  • and so much more

All of this information that is found within your company needs a proper management system so that you can make the best value of all that you already know. This is where knowledge management software comes into play. After reading this blog, you will have a solid understanding of:

  • the basics about knowledge management systems
  • the classification of different types of information found in your organization
  • how to properly document the different kinds of information (content management)
  • the benefits you gain by choosing a knowledge management platform
  • how to choose the right knowledge management software
  • common features offered in the knowledge management solutions, and
  • the top examples of knowledge management software found in the market

So without any further ado, let’s dive right in.

 

 

What are Knowledge Management Systems

Knowledge Management (KM) is an inevitable task for any organization and it is “the process of creating, sharing, using, and managing the information of an organization”.  It usually includes 3 stages: Accumulating, Storing, and Sharing Organizational Knowledge. 

International Data Corp. estimates that in any organization in which staff members are trying to find information, 70% of them can’t find the information they are looking for, and Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5B in a year by failing to share known information. 

To combat the dire challenges faced due to poor knowledge sharing and organization, most of the Fortune 500 companies use a Knowledge Management System to organize all the documents and other information. With a knowledge management software system, it becomes easy to keep documentation up to date. It also helps you provide better customer service and customer support.

Not just the customers, but your internal employees also benefit from an internal knowledge base. Wondering how? It’s simple. You can store internal data and information in it for your employees and they can easily search for the same. The data could be in various formats like documents, audio-visual, table format, or others. This way, you may provide information about the policies, SOPs, how-tos, etc. of your company to the employees.

With the right knowledge management software, you also get to provide permission-based access and restrict access to search engines and crawlers, depending on how much information you want to share, and with whom you want to share it. This helps companies organize all the data from the very beginning and hence helps them keep their information organized even after their company grows.


Understanding Types of Knowledge that Needs Management System

Internal vs External Knowledge Management System

In most of the companies, the information found can be bifurcated into two categories:

  1. Explicit Knowledge:

    This type of information is formalized and well documented.  It is easy to identify, store, and retrieve when needed.  One common example of explicit information is the common checklist that the sales team uses to access the needs of clients, the questions to be asked, and requirements to be inquired about.  SOPs, Financial records, memos, notes, etc. also qualify as explicit knowledge. In a nutshell, anything that is a solid form (i.e. documented) is explicit knowledge. This is very easy to manage with a KMS and not as needed as tacit information, which comes next.

    To capture explicit knowledge, all you need a file/document management tool. You already have the raw materials i.e. the documents. Some documents may need a bit of polishing to be of a useable form, but this is a relatively easy step. You can divide roles amongst your employees, and ask them to certain documents. For example, the management team is responsible for submitting a final version of all SOPs, and so on.

    ONce you have all information you need, the next step is uploading it to your knowledge management system. Most companies that sell KM tools, offer this service for a fee. If you want to do this task in-house, it is not very difficult. You can follow a series of simple steps to upload documents, add tags, and add roles and permissions, if needed.

  2. Tacit Knowledge:

    This refers to intuitive, experience-based learning that is rarely formally documented.  It is very personal in nature and depends on context, and thus is relatively harder to implement in KMS.  It is regarded as more worthy than explicit information and usually leads to innovations and profits.  It is most commonly seen as the magic of some workers, who can perform certain tasks better than others. How a senior technician can quickly diagnose as well as fix a problem is also counted as tacit knowledge.

    As you may have already guessed, capturing tacit knowledge is very challenging, and also what drives breakthroughs and profits. Toyota is one of the companies who has made this task of capturing tacit knowledge incredibly easily. The biggest problem with Toyota was knowledge retention, as senior employees retired, the years worth of knowledge went un-utilized.

    To combat the issue, Toyota incorporated TPS (Toyota Production System). A part of this system is dedicated to QnA section, in which the expert technicians answer the questions of other employees. In addition to this, the field experts are responsible for creating training videos, in which they assemble and fix, along with explanations. This makes onboarding of new employees fast, and they learn from the best of the best.


Why do you need a Knowledge Management System(KMS)

So far Knowledge Management System sounds promising. But it is not good enough to get you started to use one. This section of the blog is dedicated to making you look at this from a different perspective. There are several advantages of a knowledge management system, and some of them are:

  1. Better And Strong Decision Making Powers

    An organization that focuses on knowledge management helps you build a work environment that promotes knowledge sharing. Such a work environment ensures that the employees use their sound judgment and are able to easily convey important knowledge with each other as well as the customers.

    With the proper aid of a knowledge management system, your organization is able to hold up even if you have to process large amounts of knowledge, various types of assessments, and the varying process of making important decisions for the company. By having access to all knowledge articles, reports, and documents, your employees are able to make quick and sound decisions.

  2. Easy access to Knowledge

    Whenever an employee or executive is confronted with a requirement or need, they usually search for data (for hours!). Knowledge management software is designed to reduce this search time drastically. You could be assisting clients, brainstorming new product/service, filing tax forms, or making any other decision where time is of the essence.

    By creating a knowledge repository of your organizational knowledge, you are creating an easy way for your team members to find what they need, and when they need it. Looking up is easy with the search option in the knowledge base software. With great knowledge programming, you will have the option to perceive how a knowledge management framework helps an association in sparing resources and consequently, setting aside cash.

  3. Faster Training And Onboarding Processes

    A lot of time that is spent by some of your top-paid employees is training the new hires. Precious time is wasted doing the same thing every few months. Nobody likes investing energy accomplishing something over and over again — however, they do so constantly, for a number of reasons. Dodging duplication of exertion sets aside time and cash and keeps the employees’ confidence up and streamlines work. By not investing energy and wasting time, individuals have more opportunities to create something new.

    The training and onboarding process for employees is different from the onboarding processes for the customers. Both of them represent a gap in the profit of your company. Because while these processes are ongoing, there is no productivity and income generation. Companies sometimes try to cut short this period of unproductivity by reducing the time of training or onboarding. Although this will help your company start yielding the benefits earlier, it will be problematic in the longer run.

    But the good news is that knowledge management systems do help in speeding up the training and also the onboarding processes. This is applicable for both the employees as well as the customers of a company.

    If you provide the information that they need in one place, then you will be able to help all the new employees in hitting the ground at a speed. This is coming from an operational perspective. Also, customers who have access to accurate knowledge management systems, they will have smoother transitions. It will also make them more likely to purchase your products or services and make optimum use of the same.

  4. Increased collaboration

    With office politics and a negative workplace, it becomes difficult for all the employees to collaborate with each other. There is a lot of hoarding of knowledge and not enough sharing of it.

    However, if there is a mandatory collaborative knowledge database or a content management system for the entire workplace, then it might help in increasing the collaboration between various teams. This might even enhance communication and make it smoother. When people contribute their knowledge and data to one content management software then they tend to work as a team and not as individuals. This will help them solve most issues internally and without the need of an external party. It will help you save time and resources while ensuring that everyone works in harmony.

  5. Avoid burnout

    Often, the most knowledgeable employees experience a burnout of sorts. This happens due to the extreme levels of pressure on them. When you lose an employee who has been with the company for years on end, it becomes problematic. There are many junior employees who are dependent on the person and it becomes difficult to replace such people. 

    This also costs the company a significant amount financially and there are other problems too. Moreover, whoever replaces the old employee, that person will also take a significant amount of time to adjust to his new position.

    Of course, it is inevitable and unavoidable at times. People will quit but you can reduce the burnout for employees significantly by installing a knowledge management system.

  6. Avoid recreation of existing knowledge

    Many times, we create a document with some data and forget to update it. After some time, it feels outdated and we set out to recreate the same data in a new format. Employees spend a lot of their valuable time recreating resources rather than creating new ones. This is a wast of many resources like time, people, and others.

    To avoid this from happening, you need to install a good knowledge base management system in your company. With the help of a knowledge management system in place, you will be able to divert your resources to better tasks such as customer support, upselling, adding new information to the knowledge, and much more. This will help you get ahead instead of being stuck in the same loop.


Tips for Choosing the Right Knowledge Management System

  1. Understand your needs

    At this point, it is very clear that the small topic of knowledge management systems is a vast ocean. There are hundreds of products and software solutions available in the market, and each one of those solutions has something unique to offer. It is easy to get lost in this sea of features, and before you know it, you are looking at paying a huge amount of money for the knowledge management system. So, before you start looking at options, the first thing you need to ask yourself is why did you want to invest in a knowledge management system in the first place.

    Did you want to retain more customers, and create a self-serving help center that can be used by both your customers and employees for some commonly asked questions? Did your employees collaborate on a lot of documents, and you want to make that collaboration a bit more easier and efficient with a document management system? All different needs have special systems that address each requirement of the knowledge management system.

  2. Google-like search function

    Once you implement a knowledge management system in your organization, you will notice that within no time there is a huge amount of knowledge added to your knowledge base, and your organizational knowledge continues to grow at an exponential rate. Due to this, you want your knowledge management system to have a search function that is lightning fast.

    Having a search function makes looking for the right information extremely fast. Your employees do not lose their workflow momentum while looking through the knowledge management system, and productivity is increased. Additionally, if the search function can detect spelling errors, and still provide the right results, it will be the icing on the cake.

  3. Easily integrates with your existing workflows

    The next thins a decent knowledge management system should do, is to not interrupt your existing workflows. If most of your documents are in Google Docs, then you should easily import all that data, without any hassle. If your employees are accustomed to working with Microsoft Office Suite applications, then the Knowledge Management System should not hinder that flow in any way possible.

    A knowledge management system is not a universal solution, and you will need to use external software like QuickBooks, Excel, Slack, etc. If you can easily share data between your knowledge management system and any other third-party app, then the knowledge management system is definitely a great solution.

  4. Data and Security Compliance

    The last thing you want is your secure company knowledge to get in the wrong hands. All your organizational knowledge has been attained through years of blood, sweat, and tears. You do not want this knowledge to be hacked and stolen by absolutely anyone. So it is very critical that the knowledge management system is completely secure.

    In addition to the delicate organizational knowledge, your knowledge management system has client information. There are a lot of laws regarding the confidentiality of client information. To avoid any legal issues on your hands, it is best that the knowledge management system meets all security compliances.

  5. Customizations

    The last thing that you need to look for in the knowledge management system is the room for customizations. This point does not need any explanation as it is fairly obvious. since the knowledge management solution is youing to be YOUR knowledge management system, you should be able to customize it to match your brand logo and brand colors. In addition, if you have all your videos on a youtube channel, then you need to add those videos either as a link or as a thumbnail- your choice. The software should be able to meet all these needs and allow you to share information in more than one way.  


Examples of Knowledge Management Systems

Knowledge Management System Examples
  1. HelpJuice

    An all-in-one knowledge base software, HelpJuice is a knowledge management system that is designed from the ground up to meet all your customer support needs and allows you to collaborate better with your team. This easy-to-use knowledge base software offers 2 primary services: A self-service customer support and an internal knowledge base to work better with your team.

    The self-service help center automates most of your support process, and your customers can find instant help through the google-like search function. You can publish your help articles easily by adding the content to the pre-designed and saved formats. Some features to note about this knowledge management system are;

    • Publish multiple versions of the articles easily within the same editor
    • Structure and organize with unlimited categories
    • Control who sees what, and set custom roles and permissions
    • Get analytics in the articles, to measure the impact

    HelpJuice has simplified the process of creating articles, and it is one of the tools that deliver great satisfaction to its customers. You can customize your knowledge base with the theme colors and logo. With great third-party integrations, HelpJuice is definitely a great knowledge base to consider. The only downside of this knowledge base is its pricing, which is very expensive. The most basic plan costs you $120 per month, allows only 4 users, and it can go up to $999 per month, for unlimited users.

  2. Document360.io

    Document360 is a knowledge base software designed for growing companies, providing you options to create a self-service customer service portal, a Private internal knowledge base for your employees, and a module to create Standard operating procedures (SOPs) easily.

    You can create a knowledge-based portal where the editors & reviewers can create help articles and a knowledge base site, where your employees and customers can view that content. This knowledge management system has the following features that are loved by its users:

    • A category manager to manage all your categories, and organize your knowledge base
    • 2 editor options- to create a word-like document editor or a code-heavy document creator
    • Easy see all versions and rollback to any version
    • Get different types of analytics like user metrics, search analytics, user feedback, etc., similar to google analytics

    In terms of pricing, Document360 runs a bit cheaper than HelpJuice and starts at $49 per month and lets you have 2 team accounts. The pricing goes all the way up to $499 per month and is ideal for enterprise-level organizations.

  3. Zendesk

    A great customer support tool, Zendesk is designed to provide unparalleled customer experience. This user-friendly software is designed to make support easy, sales increase, while providing a great customer experience. This knowledge management system is quick to implement, easy to use, and scalable to meet your needs.

    Zendesk offers 2 solutions: Sales and Support. The support side of the knowledge base is designed to make the customer experience great with a user-friendly ticketing system, a FAQ site, and live chat to aid customer support. The sales suite is designed to make sales communications faster and standard, and drive up conversion. Some features of Zendesk are:

    • Live chat to provide faster customer support
    • Customer support via voice and SMS to enhance customer experience
    • Automated outreach emails to increase sales
    • Multilingual support

    In terms of pricing, the Support suite starts at $5 per month per agent and goes up to $199 per month per agent. The sales suite offers 2 plans: professional for $79 per month per rep, and $125 per rep per month for the enterprise plan. Both suites offer a free trial to get you started.

  4. Tettra

    An internal knowledge base and a company wiki software, Tettra is a knowledge management software that helps you to create smart workflows and stop answering repetitive questions. This knowledge-base software helps you to provide customer support using knowledge that you know while managing knowledge simultaneously.

    Knowledge is scattered, and you can create a knowledge base comprised of help articles and frequently asked questions to help your employees and your customers. You can centralize and organize all your team’s resources, and create a central knowledge repository for your company. Some of the features of this knowledge base software are:

    • Integrate Tettra with the tools you are already using
    • Save time and standardize by creating templates
    • Give roles to people with full or limited access
    • Get analytics on the performance of pages

    Tettra believes in “Reference it, Don’t recreate it”. Tettra offers 3 pricing plans: Starting, Scaling, and Enterprise. The starting plan is free- for the first 5 users. The Scaling plan costs you $99 per month for the next 10 users, and for larger teams, you need custom pricing offered by the enterprise package.

  5. Intercom

    Great customer service and relationship manager, and not so much of an internal knowledge base, Intercom is ideal for companies who need a knowledge base more focussed on customer service, and do not require an internal knowledge base. If you want to create a FAQ site and have live chat support for your customers, then Intercom is a good choice to consider.

    A knowledge management system in its own way dedicated to providing exceptional customer support, Intercom increases the conversion rate of your customers with the help of targetted messages, bots, and real-time chat. Some of the features of this software are:

    • Automate messaging with chatbots
    • Create a beautiful FAQ site for some common questions
    • Activity reports of your agents

    Intercom does not specify prices on its website. If you want to look at the prices, you need to get in touch with the Intercom team and get a demo of the package that best suits your needs.

  6. The Cloud Tutorial

    The last one on this list is The Cloud Tutorial. You can call us a FAQ creation site or a knowledge base site- the choice is yours. With the Cloud Tutorial, you can create an internal knowledge base for your employees and an external knowledge base for your clients and customers. You can create an article for each and every topic you can think of – make it interesting by adding graphics, images, and videos.

    With the Cloud Tutorial, you can create a help site for anyone and everyone, add users, give them pre-defined roles, or create a custom role depending on your needs. With unlimited room for customizations, you get the following features in your help site/knowledge base:

    • 6 different options for your knowledge base – make it visible to Google, hide it from search results, make it available only via a link, securely share it with a password, the choice is yours
    • Create a smart contact form, that shows relevant help articles
    • Lighting fast search that works even with incorrect spellings
    • Give different roles to the same person in different projects
    • Customize with brand colors and brand logo

    There are so many more features for you to explore, and you can read in detail about them here. For now, let’s discuss the pricing and plans. You can get started with a free version, no commitments required. You can manage 2 sites under this free plan. There are 3 plans Bronze, Silver, and Gold for organizations with larger needs.


FAQs

The answer to this question is both yes and no. Yes there different types of knowledge management systems like:

  • Document management systems
  • Learning management systems
  • Internal Knowledge management system
  • External Knowledge Management system
  • Digital knowledge management system
  • and much more

But, the reason why you can generalize knowledge management systems into types is that they perform more than one function. Solutions like the Cloud tutorial are internal and external knowledge management systems, whereas Intercom is a customer support cum External knowledge management system.

Document management tools are systems designed for employees to collaborate and work together on creating documents. The process of creating a piece of document together with your co-workers can be extremely challenging, and a Document management system is designed to make this task a bit simple and managed.

Indeed there is a Knowledge management process that makes the process of creating knowledge extremely simple with KM tools. There are 6 steps that you need to keep in mind while using tools for managing knowledge. You can read in detail about them here.


Conclusion

We hope that after reading this guide on knowledge management systems, you have a better understanding of the basics of knowledge management systems and the primary role of such systems. At this point you can clearly differentiate between the types of knowledge and select the right tools based on your needs.

The KM tools have a lot of different features, and the benefits vary from tool to tool. The examples we mentioned covered every single type of knowledge management system available in the market, so you can make a better choice. If you have any more questions in mind or would like to get in touch with us, please contact us and we will be happy to hear from you.

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