There are a lot of knowledge management tools out there, and it can be tough to decide which one is right for your organization.
But picking the right suite of tools is vital. Regardless of your industry—whether it’s retail, education, healthcare, finance, or tech—every organization needs to distribute knowledge and information to different groups of people. Whether it’s sharing product information to your sales team, alerting students about an enrollment deadline, or connecting disperse franchises to corporate goals, knowledge management tools are the most efficient way to make sure everyone is aligned, while building stronger relationships with your employees and customers.
Notice that we mentioned a scenario with students? That’s because today’s best knowledge management tools are not just exclusive to internal staff. With the right knowledge management software, you can also reach customers, patients, students, board members, and partners, with a dedicated portal packed with information that matters to them. All in the same platform you use to connect with employees.
Using one platform to communicate, engage, and share information with customers and employees has always been important, but perhaps now more than ever, it’s imperative. In today’s business landscape, more and more employees work remotely or in hybrid environments. Organizations are faced with a unique challenge to manage and distribute knowledge, while maintaining a sense of community amongst scattered teams. Studies show that highly aligned companies grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable than their unaligned competitors.
Knowledge management tools can be an invaluable asset because they keep employees connected with up-to-date company information. Staff receives knowledge specific to their roles in a place where they will see it. Managers can also keep track of projects and ensure that everyone is on the same page. As a result, employees are more productive, which directly impacts the support they give customers and the contributions they make to your organization.
What are knowledge management tools?
Knowledge management tools are software programs that help organizations store, distribute, and analyze knowledge. With the right solution, you are able to reach specific groups of people, including an entire company, leadership teams, departments, customers, and external audiences, with information relevant to their needs.
Common features of knowledge management tools include document repositories, file sync and sharing, search and discovery, and social networking. But the list doesn’t end there. Different knowledge management tools focus on different areas in a business. For instance, some tools facilitate collaboration, others track customer queries, and others support content creation. Although these features support different actions and user experiences, the ultimate purpose is to collect, store, evaluate, and share knowledge.
Let’s take a look at why you need knowledge management tools and essential features to look out for.
Why you need knowledge management tools.
You know the saying, “knowledge is power”? This definitely holds true for employees. For any business to thrive, teams need an easy way to connect to company information and values. It’s how you elevate employee performance, drive smarter business decisions, and provide customers with the best support and experience.
By not having strong knowledge management software tools in place, you could be hurting profits and overall success. According to the International Data Corporation, Fortune 500 companies lose an estimated $31 billion a year by not adequately sharing knowledge within their organization. This is why it’s imperative to make internal information easily accessible. With the right solution, you can securely organize and share a variety of assets, like announcements, documents, databases, calendars, or expertise, and also distribute this information in numerous ways.
A built-in bonus to improving knowledge management is you also implement a stronger internal communication plan. When employees have the proper tools to communicate and share knowledge, they inherently become more aligned, collaborative, and informed. You reduce the risk of duplicated efforts on projects and improve the overall quality of performance.
What are the benefits of knowledge management tools?
Knowledge management tools are essential for day-to-day operations and a company’s success. Every person in your organization needs access to internal knowledge, whether it’s industry research, sales reports, or documentation about a new release. It’s how teams stay organized, on track, and can predict market changes.
Some benefits of knowledge management tools include:
- The ability to share knowledge internally and with customers
- A central repository for documents
- The promotion of employee productivity
- Integration with other systems
- Improved communication and collaboration within teams
- Improved knowledge retention
- Greater customer satisfaction
- Reduced time to market for new products
- Increased sales and revenue
- Decreased costs associated with onboarding, training, and development
By using knowledge management tools, businesses improve communication and online collaboration within teams. Choose the best knowledge management software tools for your business needs to get the most out of your team’s knowledge and help your entire organization work smarter.
How to choose the best knowledge management tools.
When choosing knowledge management tools, it is important to consider the specific needs of your team. Some knowledge management tools are better suited for certain tasks than others, so you need to carefully select a tool that will fit well with your team’s workflows. Additionally, you should consider scalability, whether it will be able to grow with your business, and compare features and prices before making a decision.
Here are factors to consider when selecting knowledge management tools:
- Do you need to share information internally or do you also need to distribute knowledge to customers or people outside of your organization?
- Do you need to integrate with other systems?
- Are there specific privacy requirements and does your potential vendor support them?
- Is branding and customization a priority?
- What are the specific needs and objectives of your team?
- What does the scalability look like for the tool?
- Does the price fit your budget?
- Is the the tool easy to use?
- What kind of level of customer support do you receive?
- What are the security features and do they fit your requirements?
- Is the tool cloud-based or on-premise?
By considering these factors, you can narrow down your options and choose the best knowledge management tool for your organization. Choose a tool that offers the features you need at a price you can afford and designed with the latest knowledge management and communication tools.
To help you get started, here is a list of the best knowledge management tools, the value they bring to your users, and how you can leverage the right solution to meet the needs of your teams and goals.
- Discussions and ideation forums
- Drag and drop file sync and sharing
- Direct chat
- Self help desks with cases and ticketing
- Manuals and documentation
- Policies and procedures
- Learning resources
- Media streaming
- Document management and repositories
- Collaborative governance
- Federated search and discovery
- Publishing tools
- Content services platform
- Destination sites
- Approval workflows
- Roles and permissions
- Browse content functionality
- Third party app integration
- Sort and filter functionality
- Employee communities and team workspaces
- Activity streams
- Mobile apps
- Comments, likes, and ratings
A single source of truth for employees and customers.
It doesn’t matter who your target audience is. The number one benefit of knowledge management tools is the ability to provide your people with one single source of truth for all information. Surprisingly, many workplaces still struggle to efficiently organize internal data for their employees. If you type into Google, “How much time do employees spending looking for information?” you will see a lot of startling numbers. Here’s just a few:
- “The average employee spends 3.6 hours daily searching for information.” – Coveo
- “Employees spend 1.8 hours every day—9.3 hours per week, on average—searching and gathering information.” – McKinsey
- “Employees spend, on average, at least two hours a day (25% of their work week) looking for the documents, information or people they need to do their jobs.” – The Harris Poll
These studies indicate that many employees do not know where to find the information they need to do their jobs. Chances are, many employers are relying on numerous platforms and emails to distribute information, while not having a clearly defined knowledge management strategy. This miscommunication makes the day-to-day for staff confusing and frustrating, which other studies show, are top drivers for employee stress and turnover. It also impacts customer support and relations. How can employees help customers if they cannot help themselves?
Today’s knowledge management tools decrease time spent searching for information, increase knowledge sharing, and makes your entire organization more productive. Here’s how.
Knowledge management tools promote knowledge sharing.
Your people are your greatest asset because they possess firsthand knowledge about your organization. Knowledge management tools not only allow you to get information out to your target groups, but they empower users to engage with the information you are delivering and contribute their own expertise. With the best knowledge management tools, you can tap into the minds of your staff and customers to create a knowledge base, while instilling a culture that is open, direct, trusting, and engaging. Let’s take a look some of these specific tools and the value they offer.
- Discussions and ideation forums.
Discussions and ideation forums are great ways to promote knowledge sharing between employees. Discussions allow you to initiate conversations about any topic, collect feedback, and have responses tracked and searchable in your knowledge base system. Use discussions to gather product ideas from customers, ask the sales team about commonly asked questions from prospects, or collect company retreat ideas from your entire staff.
If you’re focused on crowdsourcing ideas, ideation forums are a great option to give users the ability to upvote and downvote on different topics. By giving employees and customers a space to voice their thoughts, you can gain better insight about market trends and amplify idea sharing on a larger scale.
- Drag and drop file sharing.
Make sharing information easy. The ability to drag-and-drop files allows users to intuitively share documents with each other, on the spot. Did a coworker just message you for the Q3 sales report? Simply drop it into your chat, without shuffling between apps, and move on to the next task.
- Direct chat.
Email has its place, but in most day-to-day tasks, directly talking with a person is a quicker and more efficient way to get an answer. Consider enabling direct chats so staff can easily track the right person to get the right answers.
Simplify access to information with one platform.
For knowledge management to be effective, the tools you rely on needs to work for your managers and for your employees and users, too. The key is using tools that are familiar to your user base and to centralize your information, so there is no confusion where documents live. Federated search pulls results instantly, and custom tags and filters helps categorize content in your knowledge base in a way that works for your people. Even if you need a third party system for document storage, the right knowledge management tool will integrate, so you can still locate the right files from one platform.
Improve employee productivity.
We already established the long standing issue of employees spending far too much time tracking down information and people. With knowledge management tools, you can severely cut down on wasted time—a massive return on investment. Wasted time for employees can mean many different things: wasted time locating a file, wasted time working on the wrong project, wasted time completing a project with the wrong information. Keeping internal workflows organized, content up-to-date, and centralizing knowledge in one platform, accelerates tasks and reduces miscommunication.
Self help desks with cases and ticketing for employees and customer relationship management.
These days, people expect answers immediately. The same goes for your employees and customers. A self-serve help desk is a great way for companies to quickly troubleshoot internal issues and questions. Give your employees a place to find frequently asked questions, submit cases to specific departments, or find resources for their projects.
Your knowledge management tools can also do this for your customers, too. (Here’s how one of our customers saves six figures on hiring costs by leveraging Axero as a self help desk for their clients.) By providing a space for customers to find answers or even ask other customers in forums, you reduce the number of support requests by empowering customers to help themselves. It’s an opportunity to bring customers closer to your brand and increase satisfaction and loyalty.
Knowledge management tools that actually manage your knowledge.
Today’s knowledge management trends and tools help you do exactly what the name implies: manage your knowledge. Company processes is one of the most important pieces of information your employees need. From documentation and procedures, to learning resources and media streaming, you can get your whole team aligned to corporate initiatives and support development by giving them a place to access internal guidelines.
Manuals and documentation.
Manuals and documentation play an important role for employee productivity. By centralizing this information and making it front-and-center, employees know where to find what they need and can easily access it. Let’s say you’re a manufacturer and need to connect salespeople to product information. Use your knowledge management tool to consolidate product details so sales managers can easily access the information to efficiently guide customers.
Policies and procedures.
Employees need to know your organization’s policies and procedures so they understand their own expectations. Items like the employee handbook, security compliances, and legal documentation can be stored, easily updated, and accessible for your entire company. Create a tab on your homepage so users can click into these company-critical items, while making this information front-and-center.
When we talk about knowledge and content, you may be envisioning files, articles, and spreadsheets. While you’re right, modern knowledge management tools also allows you to create entire spaces dedicated to important initiatives. Have an onboarding center for new hires, a career development space, or an internal networking hub. Reimagine how you want to display information and what the user experience will be like.
Video is one of the most engaging pieces of content you can use. According to Melcrum, “93% of internal communication professionals believe that video has become essential.” Stream videos anywhere within your knowledge management software tools. Set aside space for a video resource library for employees or customers, or take your content to the next level by embedding videos into your articles, blogs, and wikis. Videos are an effective way improve communication and share knowledge.
One document management system for all files.
Document management is one of the most important functions for any knowledge management tool. By centralizing all of your data in one secure platform, everyone has a designated location to find, share, and upload content. You increase productivity by expediting the time it takes to find files, while decreasing the likelihood of lost or misplaced documents. All file types can be stored securely, from PDFs and images to videos and audio recordings. Your team will be able to work more efficiently when they know where everything is.
Document management and repositories.
Document repositories give an extra level of organization for your users. With document repositories, you can segment files, documents, and knowledge into designated spaces. Create document repositories for your marketing team, product releases, or employee data. It is a great way to keep track of everything in one place. By storing files on department or team levels, everyone can easily access what they need and directors can easily upload new documents as needed.
File sync and sharing.
The actual act of sharing and uploading knowledge needs to be simple so all users, regardless of tech savviness, can do it. Easy-to-use features like dragging-and-dropping to upload documents makes sharing content a straightforward process and increases user adoption. You can also set permissions for specific files to protect confidential information and ensure the right people have visibility to the right files.
To truly manage your content, collaborative governance allows you to set specific permissions and workflows to keep documents up-to-date. Managers can set expiration dates on files to automatically notify authors to update content. Make sure the right people can see private files—and others cannot. It’s always best to keep knowledge management systems up to date, accurate, and fresh.
Search and discovery.
Experts say that too many tech options creates “a confused and disgruntled workplace“. The beauty of knowledge management tools is you can unite your apps into one searchable place. If you need to use a third party app, like Sharepoint, DropBox, or Google Drive, you can consolidate these systems by integrating into one app to support smoother workdays and workflows for your users.
Knowledge management tools for content management.
As time passes, your organization will grow, the market will change, and you will accumulate more information. It’s not enough to focus on existing knowledge, but to also prepare for the future with a knowledge management tool that can support content creation and document management.
Publishing tools help you create different kinds of content from your knowledge management system. Publish a variety of content, such as knowledge base articles and announcements, without having to rely on IT. This creates a more seamless experience for content creation by bringing together the tools you need to create shareable knowledge, in the same portal where users will see it. You can co-edit documents and create preexisting templates so the look and feel of new content is uniform for content creators and matches your company brand.
Content services platform.
After you create your message, know your people will see it. With key features, like push notifications, email digests, and activity streams, you can directly alert employees and users through various channels in a way that does not disrupt the workday.
Distributing content is how you share knowledge with target audiences. But how they receive it and what that interaction looks like matters too. Knowledge management tools allow you to set up destination sites, or homepages, for different users. Create an employee experience hub for your entire company to access internal resources and information, set up an announcements center for board members, or a student portal.
If the information in your database is not current, how valuable will it be? With approval workflows, you can ensure your knowledge is relevant by setting up a series moderated steps that will only publish content until it is approved by a specific user. Set future publishing dates so you can reach specific groups of people with content at a later time and add expiration dates to notify authors to update information.
Governance with roles and permissions.
To securely manage your content, roles and permissions allow the right users to have the ability to create, audit, and oversee new content. This allows directors and managers to delegate projects, approve content before publish, and view prior versions of a file.
An essential knowledge management tool: enterprise search.
Remember those stats about the amount of time employees waste finding information? To make the workday more productive, the search capabilities of a knowledge management tool is one of the most important features. The ability to browse content, locate a document quickly, and categorize information custom to your organization, simplifies knowledge discovery and connects users to what they need.
With federated search, you can pull documents and specific pieces of content from one place, regardless if information is natively stored in another system. Your knowledge management tools will connect your entire enterprise database with other important apps, so you have a full fledged company knowledge base.
A global search bar will yield results regardless if they are also stored in specific document repositories. But you can also browse through files in specific workspaces and preview digital documents without having to download them, too. Saving time, even if it’s a few minutes per search, adds up and gives more time back into your day.
Launch into third party apps.
Centralizing information also includes other apps your users need. With a launchpad, you can bring all of your tools together, like Slack, your CRM, payroll systems, email service providers, or any external site.
Sort and filter.
Extensive filters and deep-indexing allows users to drill down and sort through content to find the right document. Oversee what the search experience looks like by creating custom filter options and tags.
Manage your knowledge and the user experience.
Last but not least, engagement and social interactions is a way to capture expertise and add it to your searchable knowledge base. By enabling social tools, like comments and ratings, you make knowledge sharing a collaborative and conversational experience. Why not collect feedback and ideas from different divisions in your organization?
Employee communities and team workspaces.
Managing your knowledge also means managing where your teams and customers will receive information and contribute their own thoughts. Social communities, workspaces, and employee intranets give different groups of people, like your IT department, bank branches, volunteer groups, or frontline workers, their own homebase to collaborate, connect, and access pertinent resources. Drive faster problem resolution and innovation by giving people the power to self-organize. Conduct polls and forums to gather ideas and create a sense of community.
See what other people are doing and when new documents are posted. Activity streams are real-time feeds of activity happening within your knowledge management software tools. Users can still receive push notifications and email alerts, but access to activity—whether it’s on an enterprise, department, or individual level—gives a bird’s-eye-view of what is going on in your organization and more opportunities for other users to engage and react.
Reach your users on any smart device. Mobile access brings your workplace to frontline workers and any users in your database, from any device. According to the Pew Research Center, more than eight-in-ten Americans get news from digital devices. Why not connect your users to knowledge in a similar fashion?
Comments, likes, and ratings.
When users are able to comment, like, and rate different pieces of content, this activity creates a more engaging and collaborative environment. Sharing feedback allows users to see what others think about certain items or discussions—and contribute their own ideas. Content engagement analytics and sentiment analysis helps knowledge management teams understand how employees and customers are interacting and what they feel about it.
Strong knowledge management tools improve employee productivity and customer experience by reducing wasted time with quick and easy access to company knowledge. They empower users to troubleshoot issues with access to internal documents and people and strategize future projects, while keeping your entire organization aligned and informed. Every organization has its own insights and knowledge. Optimize your greatest asset with knowledge management tools.