Key features and benefits of knowledge management systems

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Using an effective knowledge management system can help any company improve the way in which it stores information and shares resources with employees or clients. Systems of this type make it easier for members of a company to access specific data, which simplifies communication and may increase workplace productivity. Understanding how these systems work is helpful when you're responsible for choosing which system may work best for your employer's needs and requirements. In this article, we discuss knowledge management systems, explain their key features and list five types of KMS tools.

What are knowledge management systems?

Knowledge management systems (KMS) are software tools that companies use to store and share information that their employees and clients can use to enhance their knowledge or learn more about specific company offerings. Many organisations also use a KMS system as a training tool. Doing this simplifies onboarding and enables them to offer their employees professional advancement opportunities within the same system that they use at work.

Depending on the specific goals that a company has, there are many uses for a KMS. For example, members of management may use knowledge management to handle human resources-related information, while employees may use the same system to discover information about standard business operations. Some content that many KMS tools include is step-by-step tutorials, glossaries or frequently asked questions about a specific topic.

Related: What is ITSM? (With key benefits and popular frameworks)

Key features of knowledge management systems

The type of management system that executives might choose for their business often depends on the size of the company and the industry in which it operates. Regardless of this, there are some key functionalities that most knowledge management software has, including:

Search tool

Searching for and gathering information is a significant part of many employees' workdays. Knowledge management tools help companies reduce this time by offering them a search tool as a part of the system. As a result, employees can spend less time researching information because they have better access to the important queries and documents, which they can quickly look up using intuitive tags or word searches. For example, a marketing specialist can use the KMS to find all the press releases that the company's marketing team created as a part of their latest product launch.

Q&A tool

A Q&A tool is another key feature of a good KMS software. Asking questions is an important part of any employee's professional development, as it allows them to gain knowledge of the specifics of their job through asking more experienced colleagues or supervisors for help. Most importantly, it's common for one manager to regularly answer the same questions that multiple subordinates ask them.

Thanks to the Q&A tool, employees can ask questions within the system. Managers can then answer them and share their answers with the rest of the organisation. This way, whenever a new employee wants to ask a question, they can simply refer to the company's FAQs guide or look up a specific phrase in the system.

Analytics

Reporting is an important part of every workplace, as it allows members of management to better understand what's happening with the organisation, both internally and externally. Most KMS tools offer companies the possibility to analyse their workforce productivity, measure customer satisfaction or determine the frequency of search terms that employees use on a day-to-day basis. Typically, executives use these analytics to optimise processes within the company and set more realistic, measurable objectives for organisations.

Accessibility

Accessibility is especially important for larger organisations and remote-first companies with employees located in different parts of the world. Thanks to this feature, members of the organisation can easily access the company's knowledge system using any device and at any time. This way, freelancers and suppliers from other time zones can automatically access information that's important to them without asking someone who works at the company to share it with them first.

Third-party app integrations

A good knowledge management can simplify work in many areas, including allowing the company to integrate many third-party apps into the system. This way, employees can check their messages, access project guidelines, send emails, respond to customer complaints and ask questions from their managers within the same system. As a result, they're effectively able to reduce distractions and spend less time switching from one platform to another.

Customisation

When choosing a new knowledge management tool, it's important that the employees spend some time testing it before the company decides on the final version to implement. This way, they can try out different dashboards, plug-ins and solutions and choose the ones that are highly likely to encourage employee productivity. It's also helpful to choose a group of employees whose responsibility would be to test a few systems and share their thoughts with management and the IT department to see which KMS can be best for the organisation.

Scalability

Purchasing and maintaining a KMS can be expensive, which is why it's important to use a scalable tool. Using a system that can grow with the organisation also eliminates the need for switching to a new software once the organisation enters a new market or launches several new products. If you're looking for an effective KMS tool to implement at the company, consider options that allow your employer to pay for each team or employee that uses the system. This way, smaller teams can pay less for the same functionalities that large organisations have available.

5 types of knowledge management systems

Knowledge is a valuable asset for any company, regardless of its industry, specialisation or market focus. Each organisation may want to share information with different people through using various methods, which means that there are many knowledge management tools available, including:

1. Customer support systems

Customer support systems provide valuable information to customers and clients. Using a system of this type, customers can learn about the products they've purchased and understand different company procedures. For example, a standard element of a customer support system is a FAQ tool, which they can use to find answers to questions that other people who use the same product have asked about it. This way, it's easier and quicker for people to find solutions without having to contact a company representative. Other types of content that this system often contains include product tutorials or video demonstrations.

Related: What is customer satisfaction?

2. Content management systems (CMS)

Content management is the process of creating, storing and organising various types of digital content, including written documents, photos, audio or video files. Companies often use systems of this type to organise their documentation, publish graphics and images online or post blog articles. A good CMS is also an important element of optimising onboarding and training, as it makes it possible for managers to use various teaching techniques to make training documents more accessible for employees.

Related: How to become a content manager: 7 steps to get the job

3. Expert knowledge systems

Expert systems are tools that contain highly specialised knowledge on various topics, to which usually only specific departments or teams within the organisation have access. This happens because, in most instances, they include information that is applicable only to those departments. For example, a sales department may have expert knowledge tools that contain specialised information on product details, sales strategies and common sales challenges. Making sure this knowledge isn't publicly available is important for the sales department, as it keeps their competitors away from the delicate information that they use to win over customers.

4. Document management systems

A document management system is a tool that companies use to reduce the use of paper and securely store their important documents, including employment and other types of contracts. Good document management tools give users access to the different versions of each document, which is how they can see who made important changes to guidelines or files. Because these systems allow businesses to store highly sensitive data, it's a priority to make sure the tool offers regular safety updates.

5. Database management systems

Database systems store and distribute information about specific products or operations. For example, they can serve as a tool for inputting and processing new customer information quickly. The employee who creates a new user profile for a client can then automatically share this information with the rest of the team and add the profile to the company's general customer database.

Related: How to become a database administrator (with steps and tips)

Benefits of using a knowledge management system

Using knowledge management tools is standard practice for companies that want to improve their management style and store information more securely. Here are some key benefits of using these systems:

  • Better SEO: A good KMS tool helps companies develop content marketing campaigns by researching effective keywords. As a result, they can better optimise their search engine presence.

  • Increased employee independence: Through using a KMS, employees become more independent because they can easily access information and documents that they want to use to perform their tasks.

  • Simplified employee training: Knowledge management tools are highly effective when it comes to storing and processing training materials for new employees. As a result, new hires can easily complete their onboarding using the same system that they'd later use in their day-to-day work.

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