What is a Knowledge Management System (KMS)?
A knowledge management system (KMS) is defined as an IT system that includes content, search, guidance, and insight. Experts say it should also include process, practices, people, and culture. Business and IT leaders agree that a knowledge management system, sometimes abbreviated as KMS, is critical to their success. However, only a small percentage of them say they’re ready to tackle this imperative for customer service and business performance overall. In the interest of bridging that gap, we want to answer some questions about knowledge management systems.
- Knowledge Management vs. Knowledge Management System
- Types of Knowledge
- Why Use a Knowledge Management System?
- Who Uses a Knowledge Management System?
- What are essential features of a Knowledge Management System
- Knowledge management system versus content management system: What is the difference?
- Knowledge management system versus AI: What is the difference?
- What are the top knowledge management systems?
- What are examples of thought leadership on knowledge management systems?
- What are examples of best practices in knowledge management systems?
Knowledge Management and Knowledge Management System: What is the Difference?
Knowledge Management is a business process. It’s the process of capturing, storing, sharing, and managing an organization’s collective knowledge: explicit, implicit, and tacit. The main goal of Knowledge Management is to retain information that’s important to a business or organization, thus improving efficiency and productivity. Knowledge Management includes the management of informational assets such as what may be in a document management system or database, customer information (probably in a CRM system), the processes through which information is processed, stored, leveraged, and shared, and most importantly, the people who use, share, and maintain that information.
Knowledge Management System (KMS)
A Knowledge Management System (KMS) is an IT system, through which an organization implements Knowledge Management. The system organizes, stores, and retrieves the collective knowledge of an organization. Ultimately, a Knowledge Management System ensures that necessary information is available on demand, eliminating the need to rediscover knowledge. Increasingly, knowledge management systems use Artificial Intelligence technology for better efficiency. The system can be used within a company, though today they are often used as external-facing customer service tools.
Analyst overview of the KMS market
Download the Gartner Market Guide for Customer Service Knowledge Management Systems, Sep 2022
Thought Leadership Best Practices Article
Seven Best Practices for Knowledge Management from Gartner
What types of knowledge should be included in a knowledge management system?
To fully capitalize on a Knowledge Management System, an organization needs to gather three types of information.
This is knowledge that is easily documented, shared, and deployed. Examples might include company policy, contract entitlements, blogposts, how-to videos, user’s guides, troubleshooting manuals, and industry regulations.
Tacit Knowledge is gained from personal traits and experience and could be more difficult to capture and disseminate. Per Gartner, it even includes intuition and judgment. Sophisticated Knowledge Management Systems that can leverage AI and reasoning fare better in their ability to do it.
Implicit knowledge is not consciously accessible, for example, knowing how to ride a bicycle or swim. Another way is to look at Amnesia. When someone is affected by it, they forget explicit and even tacit knowledge in many instances, but not implicit.
What are the components of a knowledge management system?
A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole (Source: Freedictionary.com). A modern knowledge management system includes content, profiled access to content, AI capabilities such as Machine Learning, natural language processing, and reasoning for intent inference, conversational AI guidance, and process guidance and analytics, and connectors to third-party systems at the minimum. Some experts say that KMS should go beyond technology to include best practices, knowledge elicitation methods, knowledge maintenance, and knowledge governance, as well as softer issues such as incentivizing and fostering a knowledge sharing culture.
Why Use a Knowledge Management System: The Benefits
While knowledge management systems have broad applicability across the enterprise, customer service has been a sweet spot. At eGain, we’ve worked on knowledge implementations for hundreds of organizations, from fashion retailers to international telecom firms and large government agencies. Despite their widely varied products and missions, they have surprisingly similar reasons for deploying a Knowledge Management System.
Reduce the cost of customer service
By making it easier for contact center agents to find accurate information, a Knowledge Management System reduces their average handling time of resolving customer service issues. Faster resolution translates to happier customers and efficient and happier employees.
Help customers self-serve
An AI-powered Knowledge Management System can help customers find answers to their questions, even outside of normal business hours and without having to wait for an agent.
Speed up employee training and onboarding
By providing relevant knowledge on demand, knowledge management systems can reduce the need for training and protracted onboarding and speed up employee time to competency.
Faster information findability and problem-solving
Whether it’s solving customer service issues and providing expert advice to customers in the case of contact centers, or answering employee questions in the case of HR, a Knowledge Management System offers fast, accurate, and consistent answers, and offers it proactively. It can also give detailed data on how (or if!) information is being used.
Know the story of the bank that became #1 bank in customer satisfaction surveys in 18 months, even as it completed its expansion across 11 countries within a year, with the help of an omnichannel knowledge base and a knowledge management system.
Easily share expert knowledge
How do you get knowledge from a business leader or veteran customer service agent to others who need it? A Knowledge Management System provides the repository for that knowledge and the mechanism through which it can be authored and efficiently delivered across channels and touchpoints.
Capture expertise from the best agents
The real-world experience of the best customer service agents is immeasurably valuable. A mature Knowledge Management System also includes good content management capabilities. It facilitates the capture and dissemination of expert knowledge and knowhow at the point of need, across channels and touchpoints. The system can thus make all your agents as good as the best ones and deliver transformational benefits for the customer, the agent, and the business! Know what we mean by cloning your best agents.
Who Uses a Knowledge Management System?
Customer service agents and customer-facing staff use KMS
A Knowledge Management System serves as the primary source of knowledge for customer service agents. A good Knowledge Management System can federate knowledge from various content and legacy systems and proactively offer accurate information to the user for the customer issue they are trying to resolve. The AI technology embedded in the knowledge system guides agents and other staff through dialogs that are best practices- and compliance-driven, to the right answer or process. The automation has become even more essential as agents can no longer simply walk over to the “next cube” for guidance.
Customers use KMS
Customers prefer self-service to calling the contact center. Knowledge management systems can provide online customers the same quick, accurate, and consistent answers that they offer agents. When backed by AI, they automate conversations and offer intelligent guidance that improves self-service success.
Other employees use KMS
Employees spend upwards of 20% of their time just searching for information.
A knowledge management system can be used across the enterprise to speed up information findability and employee productivity. It can also be used to enforce process compliance at scale, whether it is with industry regulations or organizational best practices.
What are essential features of a knowledge management system?
A good knowledge base
A centralized, omnichannel knowledge base (or content base) is central to a good KMS. The Wissensdatenbank-Software (KB) includes robust content management capabilities for collaborative creation and single-sourced publishing. Apart from using the centralized knowledge base, the KMS enables migration of content from other knowledge bases and federation of content from other CRM and legacy sources. Our Knowledge Management implementation methodology includes sound content advice, including what to federate, what to bring into our knowledge base, and when.
Can a Knowledge Management System house more information as your organization acquires it? Can it scale across thousands of users? A scalable Knowledge Management System is important to supporting growth in the enterprise.
Supporting multiple languages is a necessity in the modern marketplace. The best knowledge management software are multilingual allowing an organization to present content in multiple languages using a single content base. A best practice is to leverage the same core content with localization where needed. Granular language controls and easy configurations allow an organization to precisely control where different languages should be applied.
Knowledge Management System needs to be highly dynamic and leverage data and context from other systems. Many of our customers integrate their systems with existing systems.
- CRM systems
- Document management systems
- Content management systems
- Contact center systems
- Order management systems
- And more
Knowledge reporting and analytics
Robust reporting and analytics within your software let you know how many people are using your knowledge, which information is most helpful, and if your customer service employees in the contact center or stores have the information they need to answer customer questions. Knowledge analytics is critical to optimizing the knowledge base and sustain its effectiveness over time.
A Knowledge Management System that collects feedback not only helps measure customer satisfaction, but it also helps employees report (often in realtime) which information is helpful and where updates need to be made. Feedback can be implicit, e.g., customer did not escalate to an agent, after seeing an answer, or explicit, that is, collected through surveys.
Can customer service agents update the knowledge base or publish new knowledge? Do their managers or subject matter experts need to review those maintenance updates? Best practices include not only implementing permission controls but also a robust workflow for knowledge review and approval, especially in regulated industries.
Subject matter experts, customer service agents, managers, and customers all need to access different sets of information. Permission controls make sure that the right information is available to the right audience.
Many of our customers have recognizable brands that garner significant customer trust. They’ve repeatedly told us that having consistent branding in their knowledge system interface and delivering brand-aligned experiences is key to reinforcing that trust and build on their brand equity even more.
Knowledge management system versus content management system
There is some confusion as to whether a content management system is also a knowledge management and vice-versa. Knowledge management is a broader concept that includes content management and much more—access, conversational guidance, process guidance, analytics, and much more. Read to learn more!
Knowledge management system versus AI
Is an AI system the same as KMS and vice-versa? The two are very closely related. AI is more of a technology and KMS is more of a system that leverages that technology at the right place and at the right time
What are the top knowledge management systems?
Knowledge management is a big area and vendors come at it from different angles. Here is a sample listing of vendors.
- SharePoint (Microsoft)
- Others (you can find these on various vendor listings on the web)
KMS vendor groups
KMS vendors fall into the following groups.
1. Do-it-all vendors
These vendors say they can do everything from A to Z to fulfill the need for enterprise business automation—knowledge management, CRM, ERP, etc. Examples include Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM. Knowledge management is not their focus and is only a part of what they do.
2. CRM vendors
These vendors are more focused on customer relationship management than the first group and they are looking to expand to other areas as well. Again, knowledge management is only a small part of what they do. Examples include Salesforce, Infor, SugarCRM, etc.
3. Contact center vendors
These vendors provide voice infrastructure for contact centers and are looking to expand into other areas such as digital interaction management and knowledge management. Though most of them claim to have knowledge management in their marketing collateral, they often OEM or integrate with a knowledge management provider.
4. Content management vendors
While they claim their solution includes knowledge management, their tools are focused on content lifecycle management, i.e., collaborative creation of content—mainly documents—and their publication. Some of them have features for profiled content access and very limited search capabilities. Examples include SharePoint (from Microsoft), which is evolving into more of a document storage application, and Documentum.
5. Non-KMS providers with embedded OEM
These vendors do not have their own knowledge management tools. They OEM other vendor tools. The issue here is that the overall solution then depends on version compatibility and ongoing integration between the two vendors.
6. Non-KMS providers with partner add-ons
These vendors rely on partners for knowledge management capabilities. Again, the issue here is that the overall solution then depends on version compatibility and ongoing integration between the two vendors.
7. Brochureware vendors
You know who they are. We are not going to elaborate!
8. KMS-focused vendors
These vendors are mainly focused on providing knowledge management tools to augment and automate business processes and functions. While they may have some bells and whistles in a few areas, most—if not all–of them do not offer a seamless, rich, end-to-end solution that includes content management, multiple search methods, conversational guidance, process guidance, and knowledge analytics in a seamless hub, as well as related implementation services, best practice guidance, and track record of at-scale success. The one exception is clearly eGain!
The top-rated knowledge management system: eGain Knowledge Hub™
The Knowledge Hub™, a concept conceived by eGain in the context of enterprise knowledge management, is a unified, one-stop approach that combines all the essential ingredients of knowledge management into one solution. Combined with rich, out-of-the-box functionality, the vendor’s domain expertise, and proven success, it can help you avoid deterrents to knowledge success and create transformational business value.
eGain Knowledge Hub includes the following KMS capabilities.
- Content management: Features to create and organize information.
- Authoring tools: Comprehensive editor, robust workflows for collaborative content creation, single-sourced publishing, and compliance.
- Knowledge bases: A knowledge base is a centralized repository of knowledge in your enterprise.
- Connectors for integration: Two-way integrations with “systems of record” providers—call center infrastructure, CRM, and content management solutions.
- Search: Multiple search methods, including federated, faceted, and guided search.
- AI: Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Learning (ML), reasoning.
- Analytics: Dashboards, real-time and historical reports, and insights to monitor how the knowledge management system is performing and manage it accordingly.
Moreover, eGain offers a one-of-a-kind knowledge management adoption method called “Innovation in 30 days for knowledge”, which is a no-charge production pilot with best-practice guidance for success.
What are thought leadership and best practices in knowledge management systems?
There have been many KMS best practice books, articles, and papers, written by thought leaders from IT analyst firms, academia, and solution providers. Here are some examples.
Per Gartner, “knowledge management (KM) is the No. 1 technology for enhancing the three main customer service perspectives of operational performance, CX and employee experience.” Here are some recent articles from them.
- Delivering Relevant Content and Knowledge to Customers Is Key to Great Customer Service
- Managing the Customer Service Experience
- Rapidly Deploy a Knowledge Management Program to Support Work-From-Home Customer Service (Article ID G00725849)
- Improve Customer Self-Service Adoption by Automating Knowledge Capture and Curation (Article ID G00737384)
KMS thought leadership: Professors/authors
- Thomas Davenport: Working knowledge
- Laurence Prusak: Knowledge in organizations
- Ian Watson: Case-based reasoning
KMS thought leadership: Consulting firms
KMS best practices library from eGain
- What is knowledge management?
- Forbes on knowledge management system: The Missing Ingredient In Digital Transformation Targeting Customer Engagement
- What is knowledge automation?
- Knowledge Management ROI: Examples from the Global 1000
- Modern Knowledge Management Systems For Contact Center Agents: The Benefits And How To Choose One
- Knowledge management tools
- Knowledge management platform
- Examples of great knowledge management systems
- Conversational AI Explained—What is it and Why is it Important