Gone are the days of cluttered email inboxes, sifting through thousands of files to find that one document you need, wasting hours of each work week searching for information, and desperately tracking down information as people leave the company.
More and more organizations are turning to knowledge management solutions to promote collaboration and productivity in the workplace, but research must be done to ensure you choose the right software to serve your business needs.
Purchasing a knowledge management solution is a lot like skydiving for the first time. You’re not going to reach for any old parachute without triple-checking that each piece is present and functioning and making sure the harness fits. Choosing a knowledge sharing solution that’s the perfect fit for your company should be approached with the same level of care and priority.
If you’re just beginning your search for a knowledge management solution, the limitless sea of possible features can be overwhelming. But fear not, we have your back. We’ve compiled a list of seven key knowledge management features that, regardless of your goals, should be present in your solution to maximize your return on investment.
1. Robust Search
The average knowledge worker spends about 20 percent of their day searching for and gathering information, according to McKinsey. That’s a full day every week diverted from their job-specific tasks and collaborative activities.
One of the primary goals of many organizations searching for a knowledge management solution is to improve productivity by reducing the time employees spend searching for information.
The best knowledge management solutions offer robust search capabilities similar to Google so users can quickly find what they’re looking for, even if they don’t know the exact title or tags of the content they need. As you evaluate your options, look for solutions that deep-index all content across all file types (including videos) so that 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, new hires can easily revisit training material, and the list goes on.
2. A Powerful Q&A Engine
Most questions employees ask have been asked before, will be asked again, and will continue to be asked until the end of time. Answering the same question repeatedly wastes not only your employee’s time, but the valuable time of your customers. This can be especially damaging in a customer service environment, considering over three quarters of customers expect a response in five minutes or less both over the phone and through online chat.
So why not find a way to answer the question one time, and one time only?
When evaluating knowledge management solutions, look for a platform that allows employees to post questions, essentially 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 it through a keyword search (and saving SMEs from answering the same questions over and over again).
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 grow your collective knowledge base over time.
3. Reporting And Analytics
Looking to understand what questions customers ask the most? Which pieces of content enable employees to increase productivity and quality of work? Which employees are actively collaborating and sharing knowledge with others? Easy-to-understand analytics can help leaders answer these questions and optimize their knowledge management system. For example, reporting on the frequency of search terms used in the platform can help leaders understand what employees are searching for most often and whether new content is needed to better meet the searchers’ intent.
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 hold employees accountable for staying up-to-date with the knowledge they need to do their jobs. 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
Like it or not, work-life boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred, and knowledge workers frequently access information they need to do their jobs on their phone. In fact, the average American spends over five hours a day on their phone.
With remote and flexible work becoming the norm as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees now want or need to access work materials on a range of devices, from desktops to laptops to tablets to phones.
A good knowledge management solution is optimized for all device types, so that employees can navigate and easily digest information regardless of screen size. This functionality will only grow more important as “work from anywhere” policies become common in some industries, and it’s critical in industries where field workers need to access company knowledge onsite.
5. Knowledge In the Flow of Work
From file storage drives to CRMs to real-time chat platforms, your team members likely already have a core set of tools that they use on a daily basis. You need a knowledge management solution that integrates with the platforms your team members are already using, allowing them to access knowledge in the 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 than they are to embrace a completely unknown entity. The best knowledge management solutions offer custom branding options so that the interface can be tailored to your brand and company culture.
It’s also important to look for a knowledge management solution that lets you control the structure of content in the platform. While people may turn to the search bar first, they may then want to narrow down their search results using filters, and a good knowledge management solution will allow you to customize those filters in a way that makes sense for your business. For instance, you could create different categories for each department or product line, quickly allowing users to drill down to the knowledge that’s most relevant to them.
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.
Trendy features will come and go, but these seven key capabilities will never go out of style. As you continue your search for the perfect knowledge management platform for your organization, make sure you’re vetting solutions for these features. Happy knowledge sharing!
This post was originally published on February 27, 2018. It was most recently updated and expanded on January 18, 2021 to incorporate new information and best practices.