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Your Knowledge Management Should Simplify, Not Complicate

Imagine calling 911 and being greeted by a long, multilayered phone menu system. Ridiculous, right? Whatever distress you’re experiencing needs an immediate response, which is what “911, what’s your emergency?” is designed to address.

In a way, this national system is the model for efficiency. No layers, no distractions, no fancy features you’re forced to confront when you need an answer fast. So when you’re looking for a knowledge management (KM) system for your company, look for efficiency and ease of use, as well as a one that enables employees to make better decisions and improves overall performance.

A knowledge management system is designed to store and retrieve all of your company knowledge. LIU Post Professor of Knowledge Management Michael E. D. Koenig wrote, “KM, historically at least, is primarily about managing the knowledge of and in organizations.” Your employees rely on it to collaborate, to locate information they need to serve customers as well as self-educate, and to mine for hidden knowledge that helps them perform their roles.

But there’s a current trend among some KM developers to overload their systems with features and interfaces you don’t need. What’s worse, they hamper productivity. Pay attention to the solutions you need in a KM system, and don’t be impressed by bells and whistles that will only distract users.

Think about accessing your KM system in the moment of need. Regardless of whether a user is seeking information to help himself or a customer, the process of getting to the right answer – one that’s context-aware – hinges on the system’s functionality, organization of information, and UI. The more complicated and bloated the software, the less effective it will be.

Look for a KM system that addresses your mission-critical steps clearly and without any added ingredients. You don’t have to pay for features you’ll never use. Here are some key features for a knowledge management system:

  • Out-of-the-box readiness. A KM system should be up and running within days and not require customization or heavy IT support. Implementation of some systems, such as those offered by Pegasystems and eGain or Oracle, takes weeks or even months, depending on the size and complexity of the project. Custom building you a KM solution takes time you don’t have.
  • 100% context-sensitive. Users need to access the appropriate information quickly – in as few steps as possible. Reliance on multiple steps can potentially increase handle times. In a recent HBR cover feature, called “Kick-Ass Customer Service,” we’re reminded that by the time customers call service reps, “They’re not calling us because they want to; they’re calling us because they have no other choice.”
  • Can be integrated with multiple technologies. Be wary of knowledge systems that are monolithic, like Salesforce Knowledge, that are most easily integrated with the vendor’s own software. Instead, look for a system that integrates with a host of technologies to move access of knowledge to the point of work, including CRM systems, phone systems, other SaaS or Cloud products. Be careful of nightmare ongoing maintenance and updates.
  • Simple UI. In situations where your employees are fielding customer calls, a clean interface is mission-critical. It ensures that your employees have quicker access to the information they need, and a much faster response time.
The bottom line is a practical one: avoid bells and whistles in a KM system that will cost you time and money, require customization, depend on heavy IT involvement, and bedazzle you with useless UI features that only slow users down. Look instead for a “lean, mean fighting machine” of a system that’s easy to implement and even easier to use.

Stephen Pappas

With more than 20 years experience in enterprise software sales and operations, Stephen Pappas manages all aspects of Panviva’s North American operations. He previously served as a Director of International Sales with Harte-Hanks Trillium Software, where he took their enterprise data management offering to 54 countries. Other roles have included Executive Vice President of a SaaS software start-up and Director of Sales and Business Development at PageFlex.

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