Selecting a knowledge management tool can be an extremely complicated process. As we mentioned in our previous blog, Knowledge Management Tool Selection: 7 Critical Questions, there are organizational issues to determine if there is a compelling business case for implementing knowledge management tools. Assuming there is, and that a cross-functional team has been charted, then a critical part of the project will be defining the key features that the knowledge management Tools must have in order to make employees more productive and efficient. Here are six features that we consider extremely important.
1. Appropriate for the Job
Knowledge management is a very broad subject which covers many industries and functions. KM tools must be selected based on knowledge area or job function. For example, knowledge management may be required for HR management, Sales CRM, project management, help desk, or supply chain management. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) applications such as SharePoint can also be configured and tailored, but may require third-party plugins to be effective.
2. Knowledge Management
The lifecycle of knowledge management includes identification, capture, development, sharing, and effective use. One of the main features that every KM tool must have is the ability to manage content and documents. This capability has been the core of KM tools since its inception. While a majority of content is in the form of documents, audio and video data is growing exponentially and must be managed effectively to avoid expensive storage and minimize broadband costs. Search capabilities such as Google, Bing and FireFox are necessary in order to find information as quickly as possible versus attempting to navigate vast complex hierarchical structures.
3. Collaboration and Communication
Collaboration and communication among employees is a must-have feature. The capability to support both asynchronous and synchronous activities is vital. The emergence of social media has influenced KM tool providers to mimic many of their most popular features such as groups, profiles, forums, blogs, and instant messaging.
Synchronous capabilities must foster natural communication such as live communication, simultaneous presence of participants, and chat rooms, as well as group and private messaging. Hosting and recording online meetings for seminars and presentations is very effective in sharing knowledge when it is difficult to have 100% participation.
Asynchronous capabilities include blogs, discussion forums, wikis, workgroups, news, and announcements. Blogs allow for comments, multiple authoring, subscription to post and updates, and aggregation from other relevant blogs. LinkedIn-like capabilities enable employees to grow their network and connect with the appropriate knowledge experts.
Collaboration for team projects is a highly-sought-after feature given the realities of a global workforce. Effective KM technology capabilities can facilitate and accelerate team forming, storming, norming, and performing (a.k.a. Tuckman Model) stages. Team based features facilitate project team activities such as decision-making, meeting schedules, action item tracking, and document management.
Personalization allows the employee to configure and customize the user interface to his or her preference. This also means information can be accessed on any hardware platform (desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone), as well as on private or public networks. Many web-based applications are device aware. This means they display content based on the type of hardware platform being used.
5. Integration and interoperability
KM tools are often required to integrate or interoperate with other mission-critical applications such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Management (ERP), and Enterprise Content Management (ECM). Looking for information across multiple IT applications and systems can be very inefficient and frustrating for employees.
In addition, IT infrastructure considerations such as hosting, security, single sign-on, and technical support must be addressed. Integration may or may not drive up the cost of implementing KM tools, depending on complexity of the applications. Having in-house IT experts working with KM tool vendors during the requirements gathering stage is critical.
6. Total Cost of Ownership
While the benefits of implementing KM Tools take precedence over costs, organizational budgets are more limited than ever, so the cost of KM tool options must be weighed against the priority of features required by the organization. Total cost of ownership (TCO) includes project implementation, software acquisition, maintenance, technical training and support, and hosting.
In reality, decision-makers must weigh the strategic value of knowledge lost, employee productivity, and improved organization capability against the cost of keeping the status quo.
Are you evaluating Knowledge Management Solutions?
If you are evaluating knowledge management solutions, then contact us for a free consultation. Our KM technology, RapidMapper, can be used at an enterprise level or a functional level such as human capital, project management, or any other process that needs employees to readily access information. For the last decade, we have helped Fortune 1000 companies create a smarter and more effective workforce. We do this by helping clients increase their effectiveness in integrated process design and delivery, people development and engagement, and talent management.
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