Knowledge Management Tools - A Comprehensive Guide

Organize company data into a supercenter of communication, information, and creation with investment in the right knowledge management tools.

A comprehensive guide for knowledge management tools

Keeping everyone in your company on the same page is a monumental task in the digital world. With hundreds of employees and thousands (if not millions) of customers, it’s easy for information to get lost in the cracks. And with remote work rates skyrocketing in the last two years, those cracks are only widening.

Customers notice when your company gives them conflicting information. A recent study revealed that highly aligned companies grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable than their unaligned competitors. These companies also outpaced the competition in customer retention, customer satisfaction, leadership, and employee engagement.

The difference between these successful businesses and their underperforming counterparts? Knowledge management.

Knowledge management (KM) is the process of collecting, sorting, managing, and distributing your company’s information. With the right tools, a well-implemented KM strategy can boost performance, encourage innovation, and enable organizational learning.

In this piece, we’ll discuss:

What are knowledge management tools?

Knowledge management tools are any tools used to effectively gather and distribute both internal and external knowledge for your business. While available individually, most knowledge management tools are included as features in knowledge management software.

Knowledge management tools consolidate and align the information all of your employees have access to. Ideally, you want everyone in your company to be working from the same information. This knowledge isn’t just training materials and product breakdowns. It can also include:

  • Company history
  • Product and industry research
  • Case studies
  • Fact sheets
  • KPI reports
  • Handbooks
  • Guides
  • Sales scripts
  • Marketing graphics
  • And more

When you systematically organize company information using knowledge management tools, you establish ease of access and consistency across various departments.

What is the purpose of KM tools?

KM tools facilitate the process of knowledge management — gathering and developing relevant institutional knowledge and strategically using it to expand your company’s reach.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, every decision made in your company is based on previous, recorded company knowledge. Every time your company adjusts its sales pipeline, develops new customer engagement strategies, or creates fresh marketing content, institutional knowledge is the foundation of innovation and improvement.

KM tools simplify the process of finding and organizing this knowledge so that your teams have access to as much accurate information as possible.

Who uses knowledge management tools?

Knowledge management tools are primarily used by employees of a company, but some (like an external knowledge base) can also be utilized by customers.

Certain KM tools may be used more frequently by particular departments. For example, your customer service department will spend more time on a customer relationship system than your product manufacturing department. But all departments can benefit from access to all of your company’s KM tools.

What are different types of knowledge management tools?

Great knowledge management is all about putting the right tools to work. Here are some of the top KM tools your company should be using.

Knowledge base

A knowledge base is a searchable directory of content about your products and how they are used. This knowledge management tool might include technical content about how to troubleshoot your software, answers to commonly asked questions, and other information that will provide your customers with a better experience using your software or product.

Knowledge bases are unique KM tools because they are equally important to both your employees and your customers. Knowledge bases are a centralized hub of product, process, and training knowledge that can be accessed to solve problems and retrieve important information.

Customer relationship systems

These systems help marketing, sales, and customer service teams track prospect and customer information over the course of the customer relationship.

By using a CRM, you can track first contact with a prospect to understand how they came to you, and what information they've consumed on your website. You can then track the interactions that your sales team has with them over the course of the buying cycle, and continue to track interactions such as repeated purchases.

Storing all of this customer data in a knowledge management tool enables your entire team to understand the context of the customer relationship, so you can offer a more informed response to any issues that may arise. You can also use customer relationship systems to identify and track consistent problems and create a plan to address those problems within the company.

Learning management systems

Many enterprise companies use LMS tools as a way to manage the employee training and education process. Companies can use LMS technology to share online training modules and job-related educational resources that will help their teams optimize processes and improve performance.

LMS courses are also frequently used to address compliance issues, ensuring that employees are aware of new regulations that may impact the way they do their jobs. LMS systems don’t replace verbal communication or meetings, but they do ensure that your employees are always on the same page regarding company policy.

Automation systems

Automation systems are the future of time management and productivity. Many companies already utilize automation in multiple departments and company processes. Especially in sales and customer service, automated emails and chatbots significantly cut down on busy work and allow reps more time with their customers.

Knowledge management automation works similarly. Small automations (like notifying the team when a task is marked done) save time, seamlessly communicate information, and ultimately streamline the workday.

Inventory management systems

Inventory management systems are vital to every team in your company. Tracking inventory affects your sales, customer service, marketing, and product management. If prices are changing because of supply chain issues or certain products are out of stock, everyone in your company needs to know so that your customers always get clear, consistent information.

Tracking your inventory with an inventory management system is simple and keeps everyone on the same page.

Project management systems

Project management is a frequent problem area for many companies. Large projects require input from a variety of different stakeholders with different schedules and different timelines. They also require cross-departmental access to any number of documents and reports, which may cause delays if they are difficult to share or open.

Project management systems work to unify all aspects of a project so that everyone is communicating in the same space. These systems provide clear task management and timeline management to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page. PM systems also include automation alert features so that anyone waiting on a document can be instantly notified when it's uploaded.

Content and document management systems

Content and/or document management systems compile multi-use documents into a single database for simplified access. These systems allow for document sharing to large groups without the stress of individually granting permission. They also keep a succinct record of previous documents — a crucial capability for departments like sales and marketing who may need to reference outdated policies or materials.

Content and document management systems also allow users to sort content by topic. If new marketing plans need to be in place for a specific project, marketing can look up all content previously referencing that product and make the necessary adjustments.

What are the benefits of KM tools?

Knowledge management tools are essential to any company’s success. These tools work individually and as a group to smooth employee activities and improve customer experience. Key benefits of knowledge management tools include:

  • Faster decision-making due to increased access to data and reports: with more access to data and faster report generation, sales leaders gain the tools they need to make quick, informed decisions about the company’s future.
  • Better team alignment due to document and data consistency: with all your data in one, central system, all employees can work off of the same information, so no wires get crossed when speaking with customers.
  • Increased knowledge security due to strong encryption tools: with strong security software, your data stays safe in one system — not exposed to hackers in Google Drive.
  • Stronger and more accurate knowledge history and retention due to centralized, cloud-based systems: with endless backups of company data, there’s no need to struggle to find sales metrics from ten years ago — they’re right there in your cloud system. Additionally, the cloud allows constant data updates from the office and the field, so your data is always the most up-to-date.
  • Ongoing business growth as knowledge clarity inspires innovation: with so much time saved due to data automation, your team has time to be creative and develop ground-breaking new strategies.
  • Increased productivity due to easy knowledge access and sharing tools: with easy access to all company knowledge, employees can cut down on hours spent tracking down the data they need.
  • Better product and/or service development: accurate customer feedback means your company can make fast improvements on products and services to give customers what they truly want.
  • Reuse or restructure existing skills and knowledge: rather than reinventing the wheel everytime your team needs a new strategy, a central knowledge base lets your team build on previous successes.
  • Increase your value chain against your competitors: understanding the specifics of your company’s strengths and weaknesses lets you plan more efficient improvements.
  • More effectively budget for trainings and product briefings: full budget breakdowns and reports combined with customer feedback let you plan the trainings you need without wasting resources on the ones you don’t.

All of these benefits directly impact a company’s productivity, communication, alignment, customer experience, and bottom line. Investing in knowledge management tools isn’t just convenient — it can reframe your company process.

Knowledge management tools aren’t just there to create a database, they’re there to create a well-oiled system of communication for your company. When knowledge management is done correctly, it fosters a greater culture of communication between your workers, departments, and customers.

Perhaps most importantly, knowledge management tools give your teams the creative freedom to move the company forward. When your company doesn’t have to stress about remembering every single detail of its 20-year history, it has the chance to breathe and use that knowledge to develop new strategies and try new tactics.

What are the features of knowledge management tools?

Not all knowledge management tools come with the exact same features, but there are six features that all KM tools should have:

  1. Extensive search capabilities

    The average knowledge worker spends around 20% of their day searching for information. When you look at a five day workweek, that means an entire day every week is lost to searching and gathering information, usually through inefficient methods.

    Knowledge management tools should speed up and simplify the search process so that your workers can easily find the information they need. A great KM tool will include deep-indexing solutions that tag your content with searchable keywords.

  2. FAQ database

    Once your company has been around for long enough, it’s irrational to expect your employees to remember every single policy or product fact. However, three quarters of customers expect an educated response to their questions in under five minutes. This means your CS team needs instant access to detailed answers when an SME (subject matter expert) isn’t available. Knowledge management bridges that gap.

    By documenting common FAQs in one database, CS workers can quickly access accurate information without keeping the customer waiting.

  3. Analytics reporting

    Every KM tool needs analytics reporting. Without reporting features, it becomes tedious to compile company knowledge into information that can shape decisions. Reporting can also help inspire future training. If multiple workers are constantly searching for the same keywords, it could be an indication that more development is needed for the team.

  4. Full device access

    With remote and hybrid work becoming more commonplace, all of your knowledge management tools should be equally accessible on all devices. This includes phones, laptops, desktops, tablets, and any other work-designated electronics. In addition to unifying employees working from different locations, full device access also streamlines field work and cuts down on information transfer.

  5. Easy integration

    Integrating your various apps and software isn’t just convenient — it saves an enormous amount of time. The average employee takes around 20-30 minutes to refocus after being interrupted. Integration lets your employees stay task-oriented by eliminating the distraction of switching between multiple tabs and programs. It also increases accuracy as documents and knowledge no longer need to be manually transferred between different software.

  6. Customization and scalability

    No two companies are alike, which means no two companies need the exact same knowledge management tools. The best KM tools are scalable to your company size and customizable for your company’s needs. You don’t need a slew of features you aren’t going to use. Your employees will feel more confident with software that’s tailored to match their current systems.

How to choose the right knowledge management tool for your business?

The right knowledge management tool has the features you need at a scalable price you can afford.

Trusted by more than 100,000 businesses, Zendesk knowledge base software makes it easy for customers to solve their own issues without the help of customer service and empowers agents to help customers quickly, with accurate information. By making it simpler for customers to independently seek solutions to their problems, support teams have more resources to handle the more complex issues, meaning everyone gets their problems handled faster no matter how complicated the problem.

Features of Zendesk include:

  • Customizable branding: Full control and flexibility over your look lets you keep your knowledge base on-brand with your marketing materials, ensuring your customers receive a consistent brand experience.
  • Categorization: Simple segmentation lets you categorize problems and streamline solutions. Keeping your CS team organized means customers get the help they need at the speed they expect.
  • SEO: Search engine optimization ensures your team and your customers won’t get lost in a sea of data. Keywords keep them right on track.
  • Content management: Efficient content management software lets you keep your knowledge base up-to-date with your company’s latest information and policies.
  • Full text search: Looking for a specific document is simple with full text search. There’s no need to use keywords and look through multiple documents when smart search tools can easily locate exactly what you want.
  • Self-service portal: Not every problem needs a live agent’s attention. With our self-service portal, customers can help themselves troubleshoot the small things and feel empowered to take control over their products.
  • Customer feedback: Automated customer feedback forms give your teams real-time customer opinions that shape your knowledge base. There’s no need for mass email surveys down the line when your system prompts your customers in the moment.
  • Analytics: Quickly generated reports provide access to the full picture of your system’s day-to-day use. You can easily use customizable metrics to look at customer satisfaction and CS work rates.
  • AI and ML-enabled bots and search: AI tools give your team the freedom to create an automated CS assistant. Bots can answer FAQs with up to 500 pre-set answers so that you know your customers are getting consistent information, 24/7.
  • Community forums: Community forums give customers and agents a shared space to discuss troubleshooting and aid in future issues. They also let your customers know that real people are here to help.

Zendesk is practical for customers, handy for agents, and good for your business. When you use Zendesk, you have the power to reduce your customer support costs and your ticket volume. Not only does this increase customer satisfaction, it also frees your agent up to focus on larger issues that require more hands-on support.

Zendesk combines the must-have features of various KM tools into a single streamlined system. But the knowledge platform is just one of the many robust features built into Zendesk’s Support Suite. In addition to its flexible knowledge management features, the Support Suite offers a full range of customer centric functions, including live chat, SMS messaging, and CRM integration, to help businesses deliver a seamlessly personalized end-to-end customer experience. From omnichannel communication support to sophisticated business tools and automations, Zendesk allows teams to provide every customer with a contextually relevant experience so they can continue elevating customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Frequently asked questions

Why are knowledge management tools important?

Knowledge management tools simplify and unify business knowledge so that companies can make more informed decisions and improve the customer experience. They also increase data accuracy and enhance informational consistency across the company.

How do organizations benefit from KM tools?

When organizations use KM tools, they reduce time wasted, increase cost-efficiency, enable customer self-support, and give companies the information they need to create groundbreaking new strategies. Knowledge is power. An organization with comprehensive and searchable access to its institutional knowledge can eliminate knowledge gaps, get new hires up and running quickly, and bring alignment to teams.

Try a knowledge management tool for free

Zendesk knows that choosing the right knowledge management tool is an important decision. That’s why we offer a free trial of Zendesk —with no credit card required you can get full access to features and the freedom to cancel at any time. With rich features in an easy-to-use platform, we’re confident Zendesk will be the ideal knowledge management tool.

Additionally, if you’re already a Zendesk customer, the Support Suite integrates seamlessly with our other existing tools, adding a deeper layer of possibilities to your customer service operation. Whether you need a flexible and unified agent workspace, an automatic at-a-glance customer view, or an in-depth analysis of your performance metrics, the Support Suite represents the highest standard of ease and simplicity for handling customer needs. Robust features that can solve complex problems are the pride of all Zendesk software, and adding a knowledge base to existing Zendesk software can bring your productivity from great to extraordinary.

View a demo today and build a knowledge database your company can rely on.