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What is a Knowledge Management System? Analysis of Features, Benefits, Pricing, Issues and Trends

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What is a knowledge management system?
Knowledge management system is a solution used to document, record, and manage information that is produced by organizations in their day-to-day activities. It provides tools to organize, consolidate, and facilitate the indexing and retrieval of a company’s institutional knowledge and information for customer service and internal support, resulting in employee efficiency and productivity.

Your organization is probably sitting on a mountain of data even as you read this and hardly anything is done to leverage the depth of information to be had from it. But who has time to index, sort and catalog the disparate data scattered across different departments? Well, with knowledge management software, the job is not just surmountable, but easy.

What is knowledge management software? It is a computer system or application intended to help organizations manage information and documentation about the company, its policies and procedures, and products or services for the benefit of both external and internal audiences. The system isn’t just for you to tidy up the scattered data; organized data can help companies increase revenues, web traffic and productivity.

In this guide, we’ll explain to you what is knowledge management software – its main benefits, core features, and factors to consider when getting a software solution. This guide is comprehensive, including the knowledge management software trends and other issues that would have had you scouring the internet otherwise—all in one place. Specifically, we’ll zero in on answering questions from the following points:

  1. Examples of knowledge management system
  2. Benefits of knowledge management system
  3. Types of knowledge management system
  4. Features of knowledge management system>
  5. Buying factors to consider
  6. Pricing of knowledge management system
  7. Potential issues
  8. Latest trends

knowledge management system

Knowledge management pertains to the processes involved in collecting, identifying, evaluating, storing, and distributing or sharing all important information that an organization generates in its daily operation. What is knowledge management software but a tool to manage and organize the aforementioned processes.

You may notice that the definition of knowledge management software has certain similarities with business intelligence tools, knowledge base software, and content management systems. Yes, it has, but the aforementioned tools refer to specific functions – data analysis and visualization, customer self-service, and digital content creation and publishing, respectively. These functions and tools fall under the general purview and holistic scope of a knowledge management system, which keeps all valuable information organized, up to date, and easy to find. Think of KMS as a library catalog that keeps a record of each book (title, author, edition, etc), where to find the book (by location, subject, control number), and who accessed it (book borrower, reader).

There are several advantages of knowledge management software and it can help your business in many ways. One survey found out that companies with knowledge management system reported a 47% sales increase and 54% higher web traffic compared when they didn’t have such a system. Knowledge management system here was in the form of knowledge base which exposed the companies to a wider online audience, made them easily searchable, and reinforced their online presence which positively impacted their bottom line. KMS will also make your work processes more efficient. Did you know that businesses experience a 21.3% productivity loss from the time spent by employees searching for information? Knowledge management system under its document management functionality will help you organize and sort all your files for easy information searching. Moreover, the software solution is the engine that powers customer support agents, enabling them to address the following pain points:

Source: eGain.com

A knowledge management system is designed to link people, processes, and information together in one platform to enable seamless customer support operation. With the beneficial business value it brings, this software category is now considered not just peripheral add-on software but a core solution, driving its use and adoption. Experts see the knowledge management industry growing at double-digit figures estimated at 22% and reaching a market value of $1.2 billion by 2025.

What is knowledge management software? In this guide, we’ll answer that as well as other most often asked questions about KMS.

What Are Examples of Knowledge Management System?

The definition of knowledge management software is that it helps organize and manage information. By this, we can consider these solutions as good examples of knowledge management software.

  1. Zendesk – This software comes with a Zendesk Guide knowledge management solution that lets you develop institutional knowledge gathered by your support team through the years. With organized information, you can build a customer portal, help center, and online community. It can automatically link FAQs to the portal and integrate queries to relevant articles in your knowledge base. These are all intended to enhance customer self-service, boost agent productivity, and deliver improved customer service and satisfaction. From information capture and consolidation, you’ll be able to provide smooth customer engagement and continually build up new and updated content for your knowledge base from every client interaction. Zendesk’s KMS is AI-powered, provides permission controls for viewing and publishing, features intuitive search, and has unlimited capacity on the size of database or data records.
  2. Bitrix24 – The software offers dozens of tools to manage documents, communication, collaboration, tasks and projects, CRM, and contact center. It is an integrated platform for all your business information whether they are sourced from files, chat messages, tasks, projects or from interactions with your contacts. It enables your team to keep track of assignments, tasks, and project progress and collaborate effectively through organization-wide workgroups, document sharing, and file management. Other tools and capabilities include pipeline and lead management, social networks, calendar and planning, sales team management, email marketing, telephony, website builder, and HR management. It has an activity stream for a unified and interactive information feed as well as secure and centralized online file storage.
  3. Zoho Desk – The cloud-hosted customer support platform lets you create knowledge bases that serve as easy access information hubs for all the answers to FAQs and issues related to your products and services. It enables your customers to submit tickets directly from the knowledge base help center and allows them to rate your knowledge base articles and let you find out where to make improvements. With the solution, you can build online forums where your customers can converge and help each one out by sharing ideas, solutions, and experiences. Zoho Desk is designed for customer self-service, lightening the load on your support team. It is multi-brand capable which means it is able to support various knowledge base articles for every brand you carry. You can customize your portal with branding elements and integrate the software with Google Analytics to get insights on customer engagement rates.
  4. ProProfs KnowledgeBase – The solution gives you tools to create an online help center, FAQs, documentation, and manuals for your customers and the general public or for your private team and employees. It is ideal for businesses looking for a platform that can optimize the organization’s collective knowledge and experiences and consolidate them in an accessible knowledge base or resource center. The web-based software is compatible with all kinds of files and document formats and can be accessed through any connected device. It allows for an easy search to useful information and other customer service-related data, fast sharing of knowledge, and deeper collaboration among different teams in the organization. It offers data security, analytics and reporting, roles and permissions to control knowledge base access, and over 100 settings and configuration options.
  5. Atlassian Confluence – Basically a shared workspace platform, Atlassian Confluence is intended to help teams plan, meet, create, and collaborate on projects in one place. You can engage everyone involved in the project, collect feedback, spur discussion, make notes, and tap into your organization’s collective knowledge by utilizing features such as threaded comments, mentions, and likes. The tool also allows you to work together with your team and create all that your team needs like knowledge base articles, product documentation, and meeting notes, among others. It lets you gather data you need which are spread among email inboxes and other apps you use, and give your employees and teams their own space to store work. The software keeps all information and data accessible and organized. It offers a robust search engine and structured hierarchy for quickly finding work information.
  6. Auros – Built to help users leverage the knowledge buried beneath passive documents, Auros simplifies the way you and your team unearth, discover, secure, and manage all company knowledge. With this platform, everyone in your organization is able to preserve and share all knowledge in a centralized location, communicate and track issues among multiple departments, and review historical data for insight-driven decision making. Because Auros neatly stores all essential company knowledge inside a unified environment, all users can effortlessly procure the information that they need to make smarter plans and actions.

Zendesk puts vital operational knowledge and information at your fingertips.

Why Use Knowledge Management System?

The purpose of knowledge management software is to keep your organization’s documentation up-to-date and properly organized. It is an effective tool in storing, keeping a tab, and delivering information to those who need it – from customers and employees to management and other stakeholders. Why use knowledge management software? Because of its many significant benefits. These include:

  1. Consistent and accurate information. The quality and integrity of information are improved many times over when everyone concerned is able to access, contribute, and update an organization’s knowledge repository, information hub, or resource center.
  2. Efficient data discovery. Knowledge management system offers sophisticated search tools powered by machine learning, AI, context-aware capabilities, and smart filters for the fast and intelligent discovery of relevant data.
  3. Easy knowledge distribution and access. No more hidden information siloed in departments across the company. Information from sales, finance, marketing, customer support, HR and other functional units are centralized for easy access and sharing when needed. It democratizes valuable information when everyone in the organization is able to access it.
  4. Cost-effective customer self-service. You use fewer resources on your help desk facilities – live chat, phone, emails, and tickets – when customers are able to quickly find answers to queries by themselves 24/7 through your knowledge base, reducing resolution times and unburdening your support team.
  5. Extend information in various forms. Knowledge management system is able to pull and bring together different types of media to provide more detailed help to your customers. Information can be extended through videos, images or text, giving customers multiple options to consume your materials.
  6. Get customer feedback. A knowledge management system gives you the tools to collect customer suggestions and feedback. You can put a rating or survey tool in your knowledge base portal to get the pulse of customers regarding articles and if the information is still relevant and helpful.
  7. Speed up new employee onboarding. Readily accessible and organized information about company policies and procedures, job responsibilities, work benefits, and other related matters will help new hires quickly familiarize and acclimatize themselves to the company.
  8. Effectively scale teams and operation. Having an internal knowledge management system available to employees or accessible to specific employee groups helps scale your people vis-à-vis their functions. For example, a detailed troubleshooting guide that can be swiftly accessed by technicians wherever they are will improve efficiency and lessen work and completion times.
  9. Maintain organizational continuity. Whether there is new management, a new set of employees, or a new group of customers to serve, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Your organization’s collective body of knowledge and information for internal and external users is safely stored and organized, and constantly updated. People come and go but your institutional knowledge stays current and in place.
  10. Increase employee satisfaction. Some knowledge management systems carry gamification features which allow companies to recognize and distinguish employees that are leading knowledge contributors.

What Are the Types of Knowledge Management System?

Knowledge management system types are classified as follows:

  1. Groupware Systems. These involve technology for helping connect and link people in their work and projects. Three types of tools for managing collective activities, supporting knowledge management, and enabling knowledge creation process are included under groupware. These are collaboration tools (file sharing, shared workspaces, online forums), conferencing tools (video/audio conferencing), and communication tools (emails, sending files, instant messaging, chat).
  2. Document Management Systems. Knowledge and information are usually stored and contained in documents and files. These DMS solutions are designed for capturing information from paper-based documents as well as storing, indexing, classifying and backing up documents.
  3. Content Management Systems. CMS is used for creating, managing, and distributing content online making it closely associated with knowledge management software especially in the content creation and distribution aspect. Knowledge in whatever content form is distributed, shared, and published using CMS solutions that also carry knowledge management system functionalities like editing tools, version control, and metadata/content tag.
  4. Intranet & Extranet. Intranets serve as small scale versions of the Internet but for use within the organization. They are useful tools that support knowledge management systems and processes, serving as a repository and distribution hub of the company’s embedded knowledge including news, key information, policies, etc. The company’s external network of suppliers, vendors, and other partners is handled by an Extranet. It makes available selected company information to external users.
  5. Warehousing Data/Data Mining. Extracting usable knowledge and information from big data is done through warehousing data or data mining tools. These apply statistical analysis and similar methods to extract, filter, and transform large databases into information summaries to discover hidden knowledge and insights.

Bitrix24 brings together people, conversation, documents, and information in one place for easier collaboration and communication.

What Does Knowledge Management System Do?

Knowledge management software is designed to organize and centralize knowledge, providing a single repository where knowledge and information in whatever form and format can be created, managed and distributed through search, sharing, and access tools. Exactly what does knowledge management software do? To know that we have to go over knowledge management system characteristics. These are standard features carried by the software. As we learn about KMS tools and capabilities, we also answer the key question – how does knowledge management software work?

  1. Search engine & search tools. Knowledge management system provides automation, artificial intelligence capabilities, and smart filters for accurate and precise searching of information, document, files, and content in the repository whether these are knowledge base, company employee portal, online community and forum, and information hub, or even an online product catalog.
  2. Information aggregation from external & external sources. Knowledge management system offers the ability to capture, collect, and consolidate data from various sources which can be from tickets and queries, phone calls, emails, social media, financial reports, and company news, to mention some. This is why knowledge management system or similar tools like knowledge base software are normally integrated into help desk, contact center, and customer support solutions for easy aggregation of knowledge and information from multiple channels.
  3. Information sharing & collaboration. This intrinsic feature of knowledge management system makes for easy sharing and sending of files and documents. It also allows for real-time document editing and commenting for deeper collaboration.
  4. Content classification. This includes taxonomy capability, content tagging, and metadata tools for categorizing content according to the variables you set. Similar to the library catalog, you can tag files and content with details such as title, author/owner, date created, subject, etc. It facilitates easy searching and organizing.
  5. Analytics & reporting. Through this feature you’ll be able to know, for instance, how many visitors accessed and viewed particular articles in your knowledge base, allowing you to determine which are most relevant or effective. You can get a summary of visitors and views or a report of who accessed or searched what item.
  6. Version control. You have control over who accessed, contributed, edited, or revised content and information in your knowledge base. The latest version will always be reflected in real-time but you also get access to previous, revised, or original version.
  7. Roles & access permissions. You also get to control who can access your knowledge center and set roles and access levels for administrators, managers, and employees. You can likewise set your knowledge site or portals to public or private such as a group of selected individuals. Content can likewise be programmed to be locked or unlocked and editable only by certain individuals that have been granted permission.
  8. Online storage. Cloud-hosted knowledge management systems normally come with a secure and centralized online storage for your files, data, and documents. Storage size may differ depending on the vendor and the plan you subscribe to. See if the vendor allows you to upgrade or get bigger storage anytime you need to.
  9. Customization. This is a useful feature if you are looking to maintain consistent branding across all of your online knowledge centers. A knowledge management software will let you integrate company and brand elements like logos and color scheme to come up with a customized look that users and visitors will see when they go to your knowledge portal.
  10. Scalability & flexibility. A knowledge management system is able to scale to accommodate your growing number of knowledge articles and content. It should be able to handle multiple file types and content like documents, pdf, video, audio, images, graphics, and web links, among others. It also must have multi-lingual support for international audiences.
  11. Integration. To extend its functionality, KMS must be compatible and able to work with external systems and apps. Most knowledge management systems can integrate with help desk, email clients, customer support software, online storage systems, CMS like WordPress, live chat, analytics tools, and even CRM and e-commerce platforms.

What Should You Consider When Buying a Knowledge Management System?

There are many knowledge management systems available in the market. You would want to pick the right one for your investment. So how do you choose the knowledge management software for you? There are factors to consider such as the following:

  1. Your company requirements. Will you be using knowledge management software for your employees or for maintaining internal knowledge? Is it primarily for your customer support and help desk team? Will it be for knowledge base and customer self-service? Do you need a cloud-based solution, an on-premise system or a mix of both? A full-featured knowledge management system can help you with all of the aforementioned. But if your focus is self-service, you can do with dedicated knowledge base software. If your business is into field service, you can have one designed to help remote service technicians have instant access to a private repository of troubleshooting information through an online knowledge management system. You have many options and there is a knowledge management software for your particular requirement.
  2. Features you need. We’ve listed the knowledge management software features in the preceding section. Other vendors may provide additional features like native mobile apps, unlimited storage, unlimited users, pre-built reporting templates, configurable forms and workflows, and customizable databases. You can contact the vendor to know more about their product and if they can tailor a custom package of features for your specific company needs.
  3. Ease of use. There’s no point in getting software that lacks usability. Knowledge management software features and tools must be robust but intuitive and easy to use. It must have a simple interface, clean menu and layout, easy navigation, and modern uncluttered design.
  4. Vendor support. Does the product vendor offer round-the-clock assistance? Can they be reached on various channels – phone, chat, email, tickets, website, and social media? Does the software come with free updates and feature rollouts? Do they themselves have an easily accessible and searchable customer resource and knowledge center? These are important support elements the vendor must be able to provide.
  5. Price. How much is the cost of the software? Are there flexible pricing plans and packages you can choose from? Do they offer free trials and demos? Cost remains a major consideration especially for small business so this is a crucial area you should factor in. The next section will give you an idea about the cost of knowledge management software.

ProProfs gives you the tools to create a knowledge base for customer self-service.

What Is the Cost of a Knowledge Management System?

Pricing for knowledge management system is usually per user or per agent basis. Other knowledge management systems are offered with quote-based prices depending on the custom package or features that you get. Below is the cost for selected knowledge management systems.

  1. Zendesk. The Zendesk Guide KMS has four plans – Lite, Professional, Enterprise, and Answer Bot. Lite is free while Professional goes for $19/agent per month while Enterprise is pegged at $34/agent per month. Answer Bot, an add-on option at $50 per month, gives you automated replies to customers using knowledge base content.
  2. ProPofs Knowledge Base. Pro Profs takes a different pricing approach; it is based on the number of pages that users get when they create their knowledge base. For the Business Plan, the first 20 pages are free while 40 pages start at $9/month. The price goes up for 100 to 10,000 pages. The Enterprise Plan starts at $10/month for 20 pages. Both plans come with unlimited authors, sites, and users.
  3. Guru. This knowledge management software is available in four packages starting with a Base Plan at $6/user per month. Included are 100 GB data storage, content import, roles and groups, browser extension, and tags and categories.
  4. Tettra. It is offered in three editions with the lowest priced plan at $50/month for up to 25 users. You pay extra of $25/month if you want to add 25 new users. Packed with this starter plan are 300 GB file storage and unlimited version history.
  5. KnowledgeOwl. This comes with only one plan at $49/month which is good for one knowledge base, one user, and unlimited readers. You can add another knowledge base at $30/month or an additional user at $20/month.

What Are Potential Issues When Using Knowledge Management System?

Knowledge management system is not without its key issues and challenges, all of which fall under three general categories – technology, information, and management.

  1. Technology. Knowledge management system, as with any technology tool, is subject to continuous innovation. The features that the software has now may have diminished functions or relevance in the future. Be sure that your knowledge management system is future-proof and capable of accommodating new feature updates. You have also to ensure that your company’s computing infrastructure and application environment are in place and properly set up. Security is also a concern especially with important data and information stored in cloud locations. You have to check that the knowledge management software comes with stringent security measures and authentication protocols.
  2. Information. The aphorism “garbage in, garbage out” holds true in knowledge and information management. With vast amounts of data accumulated by organizations every day, there is always the possibility of old, wrong, and unnecessary data being fed into the system. Naturally, the resulting information will be unusable. Knowledge management software is built to reduce or eliminate these I/O lapses using automated data capturing and intelligent analysis and filtering in order to churn out data or information in a usable form as well as keeping versions and content current.
  3. Management. First-time implementers of knowledge management system should brace for resistance from people within and outside of the organization. Change management is required to soften the impact of changes in workflows and operational processes. The whole organization must be convinced of the benefits and value that knowledge management software brings in terms of efficiency, productivity, and cost savings. Management can resort to gamification and recognition in order to get departments and units to share knowledge and for individual employees to volunteer knowledge.
  1. Social media. People share their experiences and businesses market their products and services through social media, making it a rich source of knowledge and information. Knowledge management software will be deeply integrated with social media to mine these platforms for usable knowledge and to leverage them for communication, promotion, and content distribution.
  2. Digital workplace. The digital workplace connects people on their preferred environment and selected platform. The smartphone, for instance, is a popular device for connecting colleagues and employees and finding information fast. The platform that bonds people together in the performance of their job could be a messaging, chat, video conferencing, or email app embedded in their mobile devices. The digital workplace unifies many areas of knowledge management system including collaboration and communication.
  3. Business intelligence. Organizations that harness BI tools for their knowledge management strategies are likely to make better business decisions and achieve more operational efficiencies. BI technologies like AI, cognitive computing, and machine learning are able to handle huge amounts of data and process them to discover patterns, insights, and useful information that can guide decision making and next step actions.
  4. Mobile knowledge. It’s like having your organization’s collective body of knowledge with you while on the go. That is made possible in two ways. First is with high capacity memory cards on your tablet or smartphone that can carry encyclopedic information about anything and everything relating to your company, product, manuals, documentation, contacts, customers, etc. Second is with cloud-based knowledge management system and data storage that you can instantly access anytime, anywhere for files, documents, and information that you need. Mobile technology will be at the forefront of knowledge management.

Do You Need Knowledge Management Software Now?

Yes, you do, more than ever. In this age of big data and the tons of information that need to be sorted, organized, and made easy to find for your audiences, knowledge management system becomes an invaluable tool. You can even say it’s a critical part of a customer experience strategy, that is, making sure customers’ concerns are always and quickly addressed. It will serve not only your internal requirements (for management and employees) but also your external needs (for customers and partners). Finding information is a time-consuming and costly activity for organizations, taking its toll on resources, productivity, and efficiency. Knowledge management system will put order and proficiency in how you manage and use knowledge and information in whatever form. You can test for yourself the top knowledge management software in our database to see how it works and what it can do. For starters, simply sign up for Zendesk free trial here.

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

Best Knowledge Management Software of 2019

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