Before we can dive into the definition of a knowledge management system — it’s essential to understand the fundamentals of knowledge management. The simplest way to think of knowledge management is as a bank — a collection of relevant information concerning a business.
This information is organized, utilized, and analyzed by internal and external users and is continuously improved and optimized to best reflect the current state of the business. But such a repository would be ineffective if it weren’t easily accessible — and that’s where a knowledge management system comes in.
What is a knowledge management system?
Information is vital to all organizations and delivering that information in concise and easy-to-understand formats to the appropriate people is the primary role of a knowledge management system (KMS). Think of it as a virtual apparatus that allows users to access all the information stored in a knowledge management repository. The information is already compiled, but it’s the KMS that simplifies the retrieval process.
This is extremely useful for everyone within a company as well as those looking to join. It makes learning the latest processes, understanding new technology, and studying company values a breeze for new employees — simplifying and streamlining the onboarding process significantly — and even allows current employees to effortlessly stay up to date with the latest procedures.
Delivering the correct information to the right user is the key to an effective KMS, which is why a simple and easily navigable design is incredibly valuable. A good knowledge management system must present the relevant answers and information instantly and mitigate the need for monotonous browsing. The establishment of a solid knowledge management system is built upon three vital pillars — content, governance, and engagement.
Content — keeping it relevant
The first pillar is content— it must be accessible, concise, high-quality, and relevant. There’s no point in being able to locate information promptly if it’s poorly written or irrelevant. So, how do you know what makes up quality content?
- Targeting — The information must be targeted to the right people. Simply put, there must be information that is written for newcomers to the company as well as the veteran employees. Both will need similar information, but the new employees will need an introductory approach whereas an experienced team member would benefit from more detailed information that explores the topic further.
- Simplicity — Keep the formatting simple. Concise, succinct dot points are the best way to go. Visual elements can also help and in some cases be more effective than text, so keep that in mind as all topics are different.
- Location — It is essential that the information be easy to locate. All topics must be tagged and sorted correctly so they can appear during relevant searches whilst also being simple to find should a user prefer to browse through a directory.
- Updating — The information should be effortless to update. Information is constantly changing throughout a business and knowledge management should reflect that — so, being able to easily alter the content is fundamental to a knowledge management system.
Governance is the management aspect of a KMS and concerns who is in charge of what. For example, the governing body will determine who determines what sort of information is able to be accessed and by who. There are three key points to consider when looking at governance for a knowledge management system.
- Roles — It is crucial to establish first and foremost the roles behind a KMS. This includes who is inputting certain information, policies, and processes as well as who is monitoring their performance.
- Flow — The flow of the information is another key point and relates to who is reviewing and approving the information so it can stay relevant and accurate.
- Auditing — Auditing is an often-overlooked part of governing a KMS but is incredibly important, nonetheless. The information within a KMS must stay compliant and be held to a certain standard throughout. Additionally, the core system must be monitored to ensure flexibility when working with future system versions, but also maintain the ability to roll back to a previous version should any issues occur.
It would be fantastic if everyone automatically knew about a business’ knowledge management system, however, that’s rarely ever the case, so, it’s important that a culture and community be built where employees are encouraged to engage the KMS wherever possible. This final pillar is critical to growing the knowledge management system and can be broken down into two parts — feedback and collaboration.
- Feedback is the only way a knowledge management system can grow and improve across the board. Real-world use and review can help those who govern the system to perpetually expand its content, accessibility, and targeting.
- Collaboration is the other side of the engagement coin. A KMS must be seamlessly collaborative for team engagement to be possible. It’s this collaborative culture that will contribute towards the improvement of a knowledge management system’s accessibility. Additionally, there must be a simple, encouraging, and comprehensive way for feedback to be provided through the KMS. After all — the system is for the users, so allowing them to best optimize the information that will help them is crucial to building an effective and solid KMS. This feedback should also be visible so the users are aware of how their feedback is being used.
Are you looking for a comprehensive knowledge management system?
Panviva is a business filled with innovative go-getters that are passionate about quality knowledge management systems. That’s why our KMS is easy to set up, highly customizable — so you can find the right fit for your business — and effortless to use.