Knowledge is one of the most valuable assets for your business because it keeps your teams aligned, working efficiently, and successfully serving your customers. And instead of sifting through email inboxes, searching through file folders, or messaging a coworker for help finding answers, organizations are increasingly turning to knowledge management solutions to organize their information and make it readily available to every team member. But not all of these platforms are made equal, and when choosing one, there are certain knowledge management features you should look for.
Knowledge sharing through knowledge management software can be incredibly powerful for businesses because it democratizes information, reduces time spent searching, and keeps teams moving (among other things). But the key is finding the right platform that solves your team’s knowledge management challenges by ensuring the solution you choose has certain features. These might include a robust search engine, a powerful Q&A engine, and reporting & analytics features.
What is a Knowledge Management Solution?
Knowledge management solutions are platforms where your business can create, store, and share the knowledge that team members use to inform decisions and get their work done. They solve the issue of how to preserve information, share it, and find it within your organization. They’re used by many types of organizations and departments, including by customer service teams that need access to customer-facing information, insights teams that need to share their research with business stakeholders, and training managers who want to centralize knowledge for onboarding and ongoing training. Some companies also use organization-wide knowledge management solutions to improve cross-functional collaboration, ensure alignment around goals, and increase employee engagement.
Benefits of Knowledge Management Solutions
There are many benefits to using knowledge management solutions in your business, including:
Reduced time spent searching
If it seems like your team members spend a lot of time searching for information and answers, that’s probably because they do. In fact, the average knowledge worker spends about 20% percent of their day searching for and gathering information, according to McKinsey. When employees are spending their valuable time searching for answers to crucial questions, they have less time to spend making progress on their most meaningful work. But when you deploy a knowledge management solution, employees can swiftly find the answers they’re looking for, and they can spend more of their time on impactful work.
Keeping teams connected and aligned
Whether your team members are a desk apart, a state apart, or working across the world from each other, knowledge management solutions can help keep them connected and aligned around the same goals. When you use knowledge management software, everyone has on-demand access to the same information and can see new or updated information in real time.
Making knowledge a strategic business advantage
In your business, knowledge is power. That’s because democratizing knowledge enables everyone to access the information they need in order to make well-informed decisions. This means smarter employees, who are making better decisions for your business, backed by the best information your company has available.
So, how exactly can you find the perfect knowledge management solution for your business? Here are 10 knowledge management features to look for:
1. Robust Search
First and foremost, one of the most important knowledge management features you should look for is robust search functionality. Time spent looking for information can quickly add up, leading to many wasted hours across the board.
When organizations are searching for a knowledge management solution, they’re often looking for ways to improve productivity and reduce the time that employees spend looking for information. Incredible search capabilities can help with that.
The best knowledge management solutions offer search capabilities across all content (even audio or video files) so users can quickly find what they’re looking for. As you evaluate your options, look for solutions that deep-index content across all file types so everything becomes searchable, not just document titles and descriptions. Ideally, your solution should weigh different factors, such as the number of times a keyword appears and where it appears on a page, to deliver the most relevant search results first.
A robust internal search engine benefits every single department in your organization. Sales can unearth marketing content immediately, customer support can provide more timely assistance, senior leaders can find the market research they need to make informed decisions, and new hires can easily revisit training material.
2. A Powerful Q&A Engine
Most questions employees ask have been asked before, will be asked again, and will continue to be asked if not documented and made accessible to the rest of the organization. Answering the same question repeatedly wastes not only your employees’ time, but the valuable time of your customers. This can be especially damaging in a customer service environment, considering 75% of customers expect a response in five minutes or less, both over the phone and through online chat.
A powerful Q&A engine enables you to answer questions one time, and ensure that employees can easily find the answer to that question.
When evaluating knowledge management solutions, look for a platform that allows employees to post questions, enabling them to crowdsource answers from subject matter experts (SMEs) across your organization. The platform should deep-index questions and answers so that they become searchable, allowing other employees who have the same question to quickly find them through a keyword search.
A Q&A component within your knowledge management system allows you to not only centralize the subject matter expertise that currently exists across your organization, but to identify knowledge gaps that need to be filled. This can help your organization prioritize new content creation and can help grow your collective knowledge base over time.
3. Reporting and Analytics
Knowledge management solutions are rich sources of data, and this data can be translated into actionable insights in solutions that include reporting and analytics features. For example, you can look at what questions your customer service agents reference the most, identify the keywords employees are searching for frequently, and determine which employees are the most engaged in the platform.
Built-in analytics can also help department and team leaders see which of their team members have viewed and engaged with different pieces of content, ultimately helping leaders hold employees accountable for necessary on-the-job learning. For example, insurance administration company AGIA Affinity runs reports in Bloomfire to determine which customer service associates have reviewed new content in the platform, ensuring everyone has up-to-date knowledge when assisting customers.
4. Access on Any Device
Work from home, hybrid work, and other flexible work policies are the new way of life, and it’s clear that these “work from anywhere” policies are here to stay. This means that your knowledge management solution needs to be accessible from any device, not only from desktops in the office. Many people perform work tasks from their mobile devices, with the average American spending five to six hours a day on their phone.
A good knowledge management solution is optimized for all device types, including mobile devices, so that employees can navigate and easily digest information regardless of screen size or dimension. This functionality is especially crucial for industries where field workers need to access company knowledge onsite.
5. Knowledge That Integrates
From file storage systems to CRM tools, your team members likely already have a core technology set they use on a daily basis. With that in mind, you need a knowledge management solution that integrates with the platforms your team members are already using, allowing them to access knowledge in their flow of work.
The right knowledge management platform will solve this with integrations that allow teams to access knowledge without having to switch apps. Given that it takes employees an average of 23 minutes to refocus after being distracted, the time savings here can be huge.
Sales reps will save time by being able to access content and insights relevant to their deals within their CRM, customer support employees will pull up relevant information faster than ever before to assist customers, and employees across the organization will be able to search for and share knowledge base content directly in chat apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams. With integrations, you get the most out of your entire tech stack.
6. Ability to Tailor Your Solution to Your Company
Your team members are more likely to adopt and continue using a platform that feels familiar and intuitive. The best knowledge management solutions offer custom solutions so that the interface can be tailored to their specific needs.
It’s important to look for a knowledge management solution that lets you control the structure and delivery of content in the platform. For example, you might be able to curate a custom homepage with the latest updates and news, organize evergreen content in a way that suits your company, and send newsletters with relevant content to different groups of employees.
7. Ability to Scale With Your Business
Whether you’re looking for a knowledge management platform for your department or entire organization, you don’t want to get locked into a solution that you will quickly outgrow. As you evaluate knowledge management solutions, look for platforms that are designed to scale with your business. Features to keep in mind include the ability to set different roles for users, which will allow you to control permission levels in the platform, and the ability to create multiple groups or communities, which will allow you to create distinct destinations within the larger platform.
8. Team Collaboration
There are plenty of knowledge management features which encourage and promote team collaboration that you should look for. In general, knowledge management platforms help remove unnecessary information silos and empower individuals to leverage the knowledge of their peers. This means that anyone can find an answer to their question, and knowledgeable subject matter experts can also jump in to supply an answer.
When knowledge is sitting in silos, team members are much more likely to work on their own, which can lead to errors, duplicated work, and missed opportunities for innovation. When team members are able to contribute content, ask questions, and provide answers, they’re far more likely to collaborate with one another.
9. Ability to Easily Edit Content
Whether it’s industry regulations, customer expectations, or technology in the workplace, things change, and quickly. That’s why it’s important to be able to easily edit content after it’s posted. While some traditional knowledge management solutions require IT team members to edit code to make any content updates, many modern solutions have no-code content editors that anyone can use. That way, you can update content as new information comes to light, ensuring that the knowledge that your team is accessing is the most up-to-date, without having to put in a request to your IT team. This means that your content will always be accurate and beneficial to your team.
10. Feedback Functionality
Knowledge management solutions are intended to connect your team members to the knowledge they need. But how are you supposed to know what your team really thinks of the knowledge or insights they’re accessing? A great feature to look out for is the ability to comment on posts. Commenting allows team members to add more context to a post, ask a clarifying question, or let their colleagues know what information they found useful.
Understanding how your team members are using and engaging with content is crucial to ensure the content serves its intended purposes and can help uncover new content needs. When you can receive this sort of feedback, you can make adjustments to ensure that the content is as useful as possible.
Knowledge management platforms can be powerful for your business, especially when they have features designed to make knowledge searchable, shareable, and accessible. When your team is able to leverage its valuable knowledge, it can become your business’ biggest strategic advantage.
This post was originally published on February 27, 2018. It was most recently updated and expanded on August 9, 2022 to incorporate new information and best practices.