How to Build Effective Knowledge Management Systems

Last verified Apr 26, 2021

A knowledge management system is a tool your company can use to capture, organize, and analyze information pertinent to your business. An effective knowledge management system enables improved collaboration, decision making, problem solving, communication, innovation, and time management among employees and translates to a more efficient and satisfactory customer experience. 

Information captured within your knowledge management system may include company documents; data related to product development, presentation decks, product feature breakdowns, case studies, and best practices. A content management system can also be used as a historical library that captures personnel information, org-wide company news, branding updates, IT changes, and so on. 

Intuitively-designed knowledge management system software can integrate with the tools your company already uses, captures all of your company’s information and expertise, and creates a single source of truth, transforming that information into employee knowledge seamlessly accessible within their workflows. Used properly, this will set up a knowledge driven culture that can help boost effectiveness, improve customer experiences, and give your team back time they have previously had to spend hunting down the information they need to do their job.


Features of a Good Knowledge Management System

When choosing a knowledge management system, you want a software that captures the information you need from a wide variety of sources and ensures fast, accurate, relevant search results for your users. Your ideal knowledge management system should also allow you to easily migrate existing knowledge and content, add and update content as needed.  

Even when your team members are working remotely, spread throughout the country or the globe, your knowledge management system should be able to deliver the knowledge each employee needs — wherever they are working, without the need for a time-consuming and complicated search process. The most effective knowledge management systems can also be customized based on your users’ needs and include features that encourage interaction and collaboration. 

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Here is a helpful key features checklist that may make choosing the right system for your company a little easier:

  • Ease of use/adoption – Minimize disruption by choosing a knowledge management system that shows users its value from the start. Your ideal system should allow team members to easily import and format content or data, or write information from scratch. 

  • Intelligent integration – Look for a system that can capture your team’s knowledge and expertise, as well as the knowledge they seek, from every important interaction and web search. Additionally, the ability to integrate with the tools your teams already use and to sync content means your internal- and external-facing content will be easily stored, verified, and accessed in one place. 

  • Organization – Collections, groups, tags, and other organizational features can help you determine who sees what and sort content for simpler, more intuitive searches.

  • Accessibility – Employees should have easy access to the knowledge they need to do their jobs, no matter where – or on what device or browser – they are working. 

  • Customization – Look for a system that allows you to customize specific knowledge suggestions that will appear based on a user’s field or content focus. 

  • Smart suggestions – Knowledge should be surfaced for employees in real-time as they have conversations with customers or fellow team members on calls or chat tools. Utilizing a knowledge sharing tool that will suggest specific information will encourage adoption and bring teams the information they need, before they even know that they need it. 

  • Collaborative features – Connecting teams and people to one another so they can share their expertise is essential to effective collaboration, as is delivering knowledge to those people at the right moment in the right place. By making knowledge management a collaborative process, you can utilize your subject matter experts to get everyone in your org on the same page.

  • Content verification/insights – Expert verification, flagging of out-of-date or inaccurate content, duplicate content alerts, suggested tags, and deep insights to track and improve knowledge through artificial intelligence (AI)-integration are all powerful knowledge management features.

Knowledge Management System Challenges

Trying to create a “culture of knowledge” requires choosing a knowledge management solution that is user-friendly, encourages easy adoption, aligns with your existing company culture and is cost-effective in terms of time and budget. Some knowledge management tools of the past were too complex for employees to use effectively; too costly and time-consuming for companies to maintain; and lacked clear and easily communicated benefits for the company as a whole — not to mention for individual teams, employees, and customers. Here’s a closer look at some of these challenges:

  • Complicated or confusing information storage and search features – If finding the information they need – or trying to add or update expertise in a collective knowledge base – takes too much time or effort, employees will rarely or never use a knowledge management system.

  • Lack of communication about knowledge management benefits – How will this stored, shared, searchable knowledge improve employee collaboration, productivity, customer interactions, and your business as a whole? Can you show measurable progress and examples of success? Employees need to see value to buy into the knowledge management system you choose. 

  • Cost-benefit disparities – If your knowledge management system is too costly, especially if you don’t get the buy-in and participation of your team members, you will not see a clear business benefit. Cost-effective, user-friendly, easily-integrated and accessible tools are a must for knowledge management system adoption. 

Investing in a knowledge management system can help you build better customer experiences, internal and external relationships, products and processes. It can also help make it easier to share expert-verified knowledge with your team on-demand, whenever they need it.

How to Build a Knowledge Management System

When choosing the right knowledge management tools for your team and building your knowledge management system, there are many aspects to consider, including who will lead and participate in your knowledge management process and what specific goals your company has for this new knowledge management strategy. 

Assess where you are, where you want to go, what technology you need to get there, and which of your employees will regularly contribute to your company’s collective knowledge. Setting up this type of knowledge governance can make your knowledge management system more effective for those who interact with it on a regular basis. Keeping these principles in mind, you can determine how to customize a system that makes those contributions and interactions beneficial to your employees and business as a whole. Let’s break it down step by step on how to build out a successful KM system.


Step 1: Identify and define the goals of your knowledge management system 

To implement a knowledge management system that works for your company, and one that is supported by your employees, you need to clearly identify your company’s needs, goals, objectives, and business case for knowledge management. Here are a few examples of what these goals and objectives might look like: 

  • Giving customer support teams what they need to solve problems, up-sell, and enhance customer experiences

  • Empowering your sales teams with accessible, actionable knowledge they can use to shorten sales cycles, keep up with a fast-paced product, and turn prospects into satisfied customers

  • Enabling efficient, user-friendly workflows for remote employees, no matter where or when they work

  • Giving marketing teams a shared language and collective knowledge and messaging resources so they can focus on telling your story and building your brand

  • Enabling your employees to spend more time building your business and less time answering questions and searching for internal information

Step 2: Evaluate and choose knowledge management platform

When you are ready to choose a knowledge management platform, you should evaluate who will be using it and how, ensuring it will be accessible to employees working remotely. To foster acceptance and use by your teams, it’s important to choose a platform that is easy to use — in its search, content creation, and editing features. 

The platform you choose should also be able to be integrated with your existing tools and workflows to make it more adaptable to what your team already knows and works with. Look for organizational features that make sense for your teams, customization abilities, smart suggestions, and collaborative features that make knowledge actionable, as well-as AI-aided verification and insight.

Step 3: Inventory existing information and identify gaps

To implement an effective knowledge management system and strategy, you need to identify what knowledge is most important to your business. That means inventorying your content and identifying gaps in knowledge and how that knowledge is created, updated, shared, and used within your organization. 

Working with team leaders and other key employees, you can create knowledge maps that show what knowledge your teams already have and what they need to know related to job roles, products and processes, training, competencies, and organizational strategic priorities. 

Asking employees for feedback about frequent issues is another helpful strategy in making sure your knowledge management system is well-maintained and offers the most value to your team. Additionally, you’ll want to regularly take a closer look at what topics and keywords your employees are regularly searching, and analyze your competitors’ knowledge management structure, if possible.

Step 4: Organize information and create net new content

Organizing your existing content — and the content and data you will add over time — is an important step to creating a knowledge management system that functions well for your company. Your ideal organization structure will depend on your employees’ most important needs and expectations, as well as those of your customers, and how they will use the content. 

You can organize your content into topic categories, adding relevant links within content based on what your users most frequently need to access, or related content that they might logically search for next. Your organizational structure should also clearly feature a search function, a tool for feedback, and supplementary resources. 

Another best practice for further organizing your content within a knowledge management system is to put it into collections, boards, or groups. This allows the right people to be able to access the right content at the right time. Look for intuitive editing features that give users the option to create new content without leaving their regular workflows. This can save time and preserve productivity. Plus, easy-to-use features ensure there isn’t a steep learning curve. This can encourage wider adoption among your team and make it easy to update and actually use your knowledge management system.

Step 5: Implement the knowledge management system

To ensure a successful launch, and company-wide adoption of your knowledge management system, you should take the following steps:

  • Explain your company-wide objectives and your motivations for establishing a knowledge management strategy in terms of the challenges you seek to address and opportunities for specific teams, from sales to product development to customer support.

  • Communicate regularly about knowledge management updates and successes, ideally with data, and recognize frequent contributors. 

  • Ask for employee feedback so they stay engaged and you ensure continuous improvement. Find ways to fix issues quickly so your users know their input matters. 

  • Take advantage of AI-driven functions like expert verification; flagging of out-of-date, inaccurate, or duplicate content; and insights that illustrate user trends and behaviors.

  • Incentivize content creation and updating among employees, and reward employees for especially helpful feedback. 

  • Make refresher sessions and trainings a regular occurrence so that your team is aware of how to use your knowledge management system. This not only helps onboard new employees and familiarizes them with your system, but it keeps updating your knowledge management system top-of-mind for long-time employees, as well.

Step 6: Evaluate & optimize KMS performance post-launch

Your work isn’t over once you have implemented a knowledge management system. As mentioned above, you need to communicate regularly with users to ensure your system is working, that employees are – and are motivated to continue – using it, and to identify any pain points that require a fix for continuous improvements. 

Regular check-ins and surveys can help assess how your teams have been using the system and what features and functions could improve their experience. AI-powered analysis of their behaviors can further illuminate how your knowledge management system is performing for different segments of your company. With this information, you can make improvements in quality, value, performance, and compliance for each of your users, as needed. 

Step 7: Continue to improve and update the knowledge management system

After your knowledge management system is up and running, continued evaluation and improvement will be necessary as part of your knowledge management implementation roadmap. Internal changes to your organization’s processes or products, economic and other external factors, changes in your teams or organizational structure, and lessons learned from employee interactions with your knowledge management system will all change your company’s informational needs and influence the evolution of your knowledge management strategy. 

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