You might ask; “What is the best software for knowledge management?” A flippant answer could be “there is no best software for knowledge management” A more helpful response would be “It depends on your purpose?”
Knowledge management being such a wide topic, many solutions and approaches might meet your purpose and the challenge is to be clear at the outset about your needs.
Knowledge management ultimately is about the processes, disciplines and tools that allow information to be created, stored and most important retrieved at such time the specific information offer the most helpful insight for the user. As information technology become more sophisticated, the capability of even basic systems such as a PC or a smart-phone increases.
Best Software for Knowledge Management – Individuals
Knowledge management applied to an individual may involve using a suitable cloud service for storing documents, emails and information. Depending on the service, This may then be searched and accessed through multiple devices including smart phones, tablets, PC’s, Laptops and even web browsers. Cloud hosting may be provided by IT vendors, Telecoms Vendors or dedicated cloud sharing vendors such as dropbox.
As an individual, storing is easy, just add the file to your folder. Retrieval is dependent on your ability to recall what you called the document or in some cases paragraphs or passages found in the document. Does this approach work in practice? It certainly can work but relies a lot on the user remembering something about the information that allow it to be retrieved. As the information source grows, the approach become less effective and of course this approach does not address the issues of version control, out of date information or the ability of others to find something you have stored.
To illustrate this point, try ask a colleague to find a specific document on your PC. Then reverse roles, its likely that the way you name and file documents is unique and personal. Herein lies the problem of knowledge management for teams and organisations.
Best Software for Knowledge Management – Teams and Smaller Organisations
Once information need to be shared across a team or a small organisation the challenge is to allow one user to create and share information in a format that allow another user to find it. Traditionally addressed by hierarchical file trees and and agreed naming conventions there are now better tools available. Lotus notes has been the database of choice for sharing in many organisations. More recently Sharepoint, Wiki products and in some cases WordPress have been used as platforms for sharing.
In all cases the tool is only as good as the rules, processes and compliance by the team that uses them. Open platforms like these are versatile but at the same time its challenging to ensure that information is up to date, easy to find and made available in ways that suit the user. Most critically these tool do not offer insights into what information is most sought after or what searches take place where no relevant information is available.
Setting up the tools require attention to content management, taxonomy, work-flow and processes for maintaining the knowledge base. In this sense an enterprise knowledge management solution is no different. The difference is that dedicated knowledge management software offer built in features and capabilities to address these challenges.
Best Software for Knowledge Management – Enterprise and Large Organisations
As the scale of the organisation increase so will the volume and complexity of the knowledge base and information sources users need access to. This applies to internal knowledge management where teams and employees require access to a wide range of information from a variety of sources. It also apply to service organisations where front line service staff require ready access to relevant information in order to respond effectively to service requests. Complexity being the enemy of expediency, service organisations not only require access to relevant knowledge but need this with minimal delay.
At the same time relevant information may be found in many different systems and depositories. It is time and cost prohibitive to re-purpose all the information so it fits into a single system. Information need to be kept up to date and gaps in the knowledge base need to be identified so they can be filled. With these challenges, a dedicated knowledge management solution come into play. When selecting a solution here are some of the features to look for:
Ability to Work with Many Information Sources – Across any enterprise, relevant information will be stored on different platform. A knowledge management solution with the capability to index and present information from multiple sources and form a wide range of depositories will eliminate the need to re-write, move or replace information that already exists.
Natural Language Search – When users are looking for information, they typically are asking a question. By facilitating natural language search and letting the system learn what information is best answering the question, the user experience and effective speed of response will improve. This approach eliminates the need for the user to know anything about the way information is created and stored. Self learning means the responses become more and more accurate with use.
Ability to Report on Knowledge Gaps – As important as the questions that gets good answers are the questions with no answers. Knowledge management solutions that report on queries that are poorly supported by the current content allow content gaps quickly to be filled. By focusing specifically on the gaps as perceived by the users, content generation can be focused and directed towards critical needs.
Ability to Audit Content Sources – Keeping the knowledge base up to date is critical. Presenting out of date and incorrect information leads to service failure and dissatisfaction. Content audits can be extremely time consuming when applied to ALL available content. Using a knowledge management solution with audit functions allow the audit process to focus on the most frequently used content. It also allows content gaps and updates to be implemented form one central point even when contributors of information are distributed across the organisation.
Best Software for Knowledge Management – Summary
Its “horses for courses” when deciding on the best software for knowledge management. Scale and complexity of the user base and information is a key driver for deciding on the best approach. In all cases the way the solution is applied including rules, processes, taxonomy and training has a big impact on the potential success. What are your own experiences of choosing software for knowledge management? How did you make your choice and how did you approach implementation?