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A complete guide to knowledge management software

All of us at monday.com

    A knowledge management system can bring real value to employees and customers alike. But, you may be wondering how an internal tool can actually affect the customer experience.

    By providing easy access to helpful information, knowledge management systems can help employees work more efficiently, and customers get the answers they need fast.

    Creating a well-organized knowledge base isn’t an easy process. Fortunately, that’s where knowledge management software can help. We’re here to cover the basics of what knowledge management software is, the benefits of using it, and the best practices you should follow when putting it into action.

    What is knowledge management software?

    Knowledge management software specializes in the collection, organization, storage, and access to information.

    Put simply, it helps businesses manage company knowledge and information.

    You can use knowledge management software for internal and external use.

    • Internal: an internal knowledge base is like a help center for employees. It provides them with all the organizational knowledge they need regarding business processes and procedures to help them overcome any challenges or hurdles. It should make their day-to-day work more efficient.

    No one outside the company can access the information, so it’s more of a private knowledge base.

    • External: an external knowledge base is for customers and clients. It hosts all the information customers need to properly use your product or service, ranging from how-to guides to FAQs and troubleshooting support.

    Most of the time, anyone can access an external knowledge base online. But some companies restrict access to paying customers only.

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    The landscape of knowledge management in 2021

    Spending on cloud infrastructure services amounted to almost $130 billion in 2020.

    Yes, you read that right; $130 billion. That is an increase of over 34% from the previous year.

    With the onset of the pandemic, businesses were forced to share knowledge virtually and asynchronously like they never had before.

    2020 had an incredible impact on the way we share and store knowledge. With so many businesses forced to work remotely, business owners turned to software to keep communication flow and keep their businesses running.

    In 2021, businesses continue to use these platforms to support a hybrid workforce.

    Let’s take a look at this in more detail.

    Knowledge management for businesses

    The number of remote workers is set to almost double over the next 5 years.

    As a result, 72% of businesses plan to increase investment in tools for virtual collaboration.

    PWC graph showing how 72% US executives plan to invest in virtual collaboration tools to support hybrid working.

    (Image Source)

    Businesses are focusing on how to support a remote or hybrid workforce in 2021.

    Using an internal knowledge management system is one of the ways to do that.

    Remote teams need an asynchronous way to resolve any issues and overcome unexpected challenges, especially if everyone is working in different time zones.

    With easy access to online support, a knowledge management tool will help businesses support their remote workforces.

    Knowledge management for customers

    People spent more time online in 2020 than ever before.

    So, to cater to the needs of this new tech-savvy consumer, businesses need to provide easy online access to valuable information.

    Enter KM, or knowledge management, software.

    By creating a solid knowledge base of helpful information, consumers can find all the information they need online.

    Not only does this provide consumers with easy access to valuable information, but it also improves overall customer satisfaction. And research shows consumers value customer satisfaction and experience now more than ever.

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    What are the benefits of knowledge management software?

    Tackling your organization’s knowledge base, whether it’s starting from scratch or trying to organize what you’ve already created, can be a daunting task.

    Let’s take a look at some of the benefits so you can see for yourself what a good knowledge base has to offer.

    Benefits of knowledge management software for internal use

    As we’ve already mentioned, an internal knowledge management platform supports employees and internal teams.

    It can increase productivity, align company processes, and provide teams with easy access to the information they need.

    Let’s take a look at these benefits in more detail.

    • Align company processes: using knowledge management software aligns your company processes and keeps everyone on the same page.

    Because everyone is using the same information and processes to inform their work, your teams are much more aligned and the end result is consistent high-quality work.

    • Easy access to information: 81% of employees are frustrated when they can’t access the information they need to do their job.

    Panopto chart showing that 81% of employees get frustrated when they can't access the information they need to do their job.

    (Image Source)

    But with a knowledge management system, teams can easily access the helpful information they need to get work done. The key is to have a unified, central, and well-structured place for all of this (more on this later).

    • Instant access to information: employees spend over 5 hours every week waiting for information.

    Panopto pie chart showing that employees spend 5.3 hours a week waiting for information

    (Image Source)

    But with knowledge management software, they don’t have to wait. The information is ready and waiting for them to use whenever they need it.

    Benefits of knowledge management software for external use

    Modern customers prefer a knowledge base over all other self-service channels.

    Not to mention, 88% of U.S. consumers expect brands to have some form of self-service support.

    Image of Statista bar chart showing that 88% of consumers expect self-service support from brands

    (Image Source)

    So why are consumers so keen for businesses to have a knowledge base in place?

    Let’s take a look.

    • Quickly resolve issues: customers can resolve problems quickly with a knowledge base system. All they have to do is head to your website, find the knowledge base, and search for the relevant information.

    • Centralize information: using a knowledge management system gives customers one location to get all the necessary information. This is far more efficient than having to trawl through the internet to find an answer.

    • Provide the right information at the right time: with a knowledge management software solution, customers can choose which information to view and when they want to view it. Plus, they have 24/7 access, so they can resolve problems whenever it suits them.

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    8 knowledge management best practices

    If you’re thinking about using knowledge management software, you need to understand the best practices before you jump into the deep end.

    We’ve outlined 8 knowledge management best practices to give you the best chance of success when you create your knowledge base.

    1. Outline a clear knowledge management process

    When creating an internal knowledge base, you need to be clear about the knowledge management process.

    Why?

    Because the knowledge management process tells your team:

    • How to share knowledge
    • How and when to update the knowledge base
    • How to identify gaps in the knowledge you’ve outlined

    If you’re not sure where to start, we’d suggest creating a knowledge management map to standardize the process.

    If you’ve not made a knowledge map before, here’s a useful outline you can follow.

    Visual of a knowledge map flow chart by ScienceSoft

    (Image Source)

    2. Make it easy to share knowledge

    Being able to share information is a crucial part of knowledge management.

    So if you’re going to use knowledge management software, you need to make sure all the knowledge is easy to share — both internally and externally.

    Imagine that some members of a marketing team are struggling to use an analytical tool. The marketing manager heads to the knowledge base and quickly finds a how-to guide.

    Unfortunately, they have no way of sharing it with the team.

    This means that every team member has to find the guide themselves, taking up more time than necessary to solve the problem.

    But if the marketing manager could quickly share the guide with their team, they can quickly resolve the issue and get back to work.

    Whether you allow end users to tag each other in a comment or to copy the link and send it to someone directly, make sure information is easy to share.

    Here’s an example of knowledge sharing to give you an idea of what we mean. Take a look at the far left corner to see how users can share the URL.

    Screenshot of monday.com's support page which allows users to easily copy the link and share it with other people

    3. Define ownership of knowledge management

    When you start using a knowledge management solution, it’s always a good idea to put people in charge of explicit knowledge areas.

    For example, you might want to assign the head of products to the upkeep of product guides and FAQs.

    They can assign certain tasks and subsections to their team members, but you need someone to take charge of each category and make sure things run smoothly.

    This provides a sense of accountability and makes sure that the information stays as up-to-date as possible.

    Depending on the software you use, you can even assign owners to specific tasks or functions, so it’s clear who’s managing which areas.

    Screenshot of monday.com's user access screen

    4. Think about navigation

    The structure of your knowledge base is important.

    If it’s too complex, users won’t be able to find what they’re looking for. If it’s too simple, users will see too much information at once.

    That’s why you need to make it easy to navigate.

    If users can easily navigate your knowledge base, they’re more likely to find what they need. And that’s the entire point of having a knowledge base in the first place, right?

    So think about how you want to structure your information and if users will be able to find what they need quickly.

    If you’re not sure where to start, having a search bar is a great way to help users navigate your content. Or you can take a look at these navigation options from monday.com for more inspiration.

    Screenshot of monday.com's quick search function

    5. Make knowledge easy to digest

    People usually go to a knowledge base for answers.

    The last thing they want is to find themselves struggling to understand the content that’s supposed to be helping them.

    Make sure to keep your knowledge articles and how-to guides as easy to understand as possible.

    If your content is too complicated, your knowledge base is redundant. Your customers won’t get the answers they need, and they’ll have no choice but to contact you directly.

    Not only will this take up more of their time, but it’ll take up more of your time, too.

    6. Keep information up to date

    Keeping your knowledge base updated is easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important.

    If the information in your knowledge base is no longer correct or relevant, you’re feeding the wrong information to users.

    As you can imagine, this is pretty counterproductive and can cause problems in the long run.

    Fortunately, using knowledge management software can help keep your information up-to-date.

    With the right platform, there’s no need for it to be a big, time-consuming task. You can easily update existing content. Simply log in to the software, make the changes you need, and publish them.

    7. Archive old information

    To stop your knowledge base from becoming overcrowded, you need to clear old information.

    This is where archiving can help.

    By archiving old and irrelevant information, your knowledge base is less cluttered.

    This makes it easier for users to find what they’re looking for, and they can be confident that the information they’re using isn’t out of date.

    But why would you bother archiving it when you could just delete it?

    Archiving your content saves you from that dreaded “oh no, did I delete that?” moment.

    You can still access the information should you need it in the future. Of course, you might never need it. But do you want to take that risk? We certainly wouldn’t.

    Find out more about archiving documents and document management in our blog, Project document management: how to do it well in 2021

    8. Continually review progress

    Once your knowledge base tool is up and running, the work doesn’t stop.

    You need to continually review progress to make sure your knowledge base is as helpful as possible for those using it.

    So how can you review how things are going?

    Let’s break it down by user.

    • External users: ask your customers for feedback. If there’s any room for improvement, they’re the ones who’ll know where it is. You can also keep track of when customers reach out for more support (this shows gaps in your knowledge base).

    Using analytics to measure the traffic to certain pages will also indicate which topics are popular and which aren’t. This shows you what areas you might need to add more information to and if there are any topics you can remove.

    • Internal users: similar to external users, ask your employees for feedback. They’ll be able to tell you what works well and what could be better.

    Using their feedback, you can identify areas of improvement and make the system work better for everyone.

    If you don’t have the time to get detailed feedback from all of the users — whether internal or external — you could also consider allowing users to give direct feedback on the page itself.

    This thumbs up/thumbs down approach gives a good indication of whether certain articles are helpful, and it doesn’t take long for the user to select which one they prefer. All it takes is one click.

    Image of monday.com thumbs up and thumbs down feedback request

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    What would you look for in knowledge management software?

    Now that we’ve covered the best practices, let’s talk about the core functionalities you should look out for in knowledge management software.

    Collaborative by nature

    For your organization’s internal knowledge base content, the ability to collaborate across teams and in real-time on a piece of content is a must. The knowledge base team needs to easily sync with product, CS, and sales to ensure everyone is aligned and understands the newest updates, and that the content is always accurate.

    Connected to your greater workflows

    When the platform you use to write your knowledge base content is the same platform you and your team use to do your work — you can rest easy that all of your data and insights are directly reflective of the most up-to-date work.

    What does this look like in practice? monday workdocs enable anyone to embed live elements from the monday.com Work OS. That means within an internal knowledge base article about company goals, you can embed a dashboard from within your Work OS that will auto-update, so the content is always relevant.

    Execute real work from your documents

    The main goal of knowledge base content is to have resources available to share information at a moment’s notice. However, being able to take that knowledge and implement it into your workflows, share it with others in the organization, and create actionable work can turn your content into a valuable resource for the whole organization.

    Create automations

    Automations allow you to streamline the management of your knowledge base software. As a result, they save you time, preventing you from doing repetitive and mundane tasks.

    For example, you could create an automation to notify other users as soon as a new piece of content has been added or updated.

    Whenever an update is made to an article or FAQ, your knowledge base software notifies the relevant people. This means whoever made the change won’t have to let everyone know manually.

    Example of a monday.com automation

    So when you’re on the lookout for knowledge management software, make sure you look for a platform that provides automations — like monday.com, for example.

    We have a selection of pre-made automations to choose from, or you can create your own from scratch.

    Image of monday.com's custom automation

    Add a search bar

    A search function makes your knowledge base much easier to navigate, which is especially helpful if you store a large amount of information.

    It allows users to find relevant content without having to look through everything on the system.

    But not every knowledge management software offers a search bar, so do your research to find a platform that offers this feature.

    Take a look at monday.com’s knowledge base as an example.

    Image of monday.com's support page with a search bar

    Upload multimedia files

    Let’s say you use a knowledge management system that only allows you to upload documents.

    Your customers are finding it difficult to read through how-to guides. They’ve asked if you can create a step-by-step video instead.

    You’d love to oblige, but your software won’t let you upload videos.

    Now you have a problem.

    That’s why you need a platform that allows you to upload different file types.

    This will give you the flexibility you need to provide users with the best experience possible.

    Image of monday.com's software allowing users to upload an image to the platform

    Customize the structure

    Every business needs a slightly different structure for its knowledge base.

    If you can’t customize your knowledge base software, you might not be able to provide users with the best possible structure for their needs.

    Put simply, you need the flexibility to create a system that’s easy to navigate.

    So make sure you find a platform that offers the customizations you need to create the perfect knowledge base.

    Take monday.com, for example. With our software, you can customize the way you view your boards, add new columns, and control access levels.

    Image of monday.com's knowledge base library template

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    Start planning your knowledge base

    If you’re looking for a unified workspace to manage all of your knowledge base content — both creation, planning, and implementing — we’d recommend starting with our content calendar template to get things off the ground.

    Or, if you’re looking to dive into the content itself, you can get started straight from a monday workdoc to start collaboring and executing work from day one.

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