Got knowledge management challenges?

If you’ve ever saved a document to Google Drive or searched for information on the company intranet, you’ve used a knowledge base. If you follow this train of thought, knowledge management must simply be the act of organizing that knowledge base, right?

Not quite! But if done strategically, knowledge management can be the key to your organization’s efficiency, accuracy, and speed — both internally and for customer service functions.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of knowledge management, its most common challenges, and how to overcome them. By the end, you’ll be set for a smooth transition to the next stage of knowledge management, no matter what stage you’re starting from.

Simply put, knowledge management is the ever-evolving act of developing, capturing, distributing, and using knowledge.

What is Knowledge Management?

First things first. What exactly is knowledge management? As we stated above, it’s more than document naming conventions and filing systems. The most organized, logical knowledge base is useless if employees don’t know it’s available or how to use it.

Knowledge sharing empowers the self-service success of your customers and your employees. Rather than emphasizing value on knowledge hoarding, information is placed where it can be accessed by anyone who needs it.

At Coveo, we use the Technology & Services Industry Association’s (TSIA) four pillars: corporate culture, people, process, and technology.

Each pillar must be integrated for an efficient and successful knowledge management program. Think of them not as sequential steps, but as an iterative process.

  1. Corporate Culture: These are underlying beliefs, values, and assumptions of those within your organization.
  2. People: Your stakeholders, champions, and potential opposition to change.
  3. Process: Management and information system, governance frameworks, and best practices.
  4. Technology: Hardware, software, information technology infrastructure, and so on.

Simply put, knowledge management is the ever-evolving act of developing, capturing, distributing, and using knowledge. 

A Process, Not a Destination

When determining where to start, you’ll want to determine the level and quality of your existing system. The TSIA Enterprise Knowledge Management Maturity Model is a handy quick assessment of the maturity of your knowledge management initiatives based on the four pillars, and can guide internal conversations about your next steps for improvement.

A chart shows the TSIA Enterprise Knowledge Maturity Model

A common fatal flaw to implementing a successful knowledge management system is in assuming there is one single final destination, or ideal metric to reach. Benchmarking the process is useful, but don’t get bogged down with following frameworks from other organizations. Your path needs to be as unique as the data you’re working with, and the process is ongoing.

As soon as you have a system up and running, start measuring and actioning insights as soon as possible. If your efforts result in tangible benefits, keep doing what you’re doing, and look for additional areas of impact to pursue.

Avoid customer and agent disapoointment
Ebook: 5 Best Practices for Multichannel Knowledge Management

Bringing Artificial Intelligence into the Picture

What makes AI so critical to knowledge sharing?

In a word: personalization. With a regular knowledge management system, a person from human resources or sales or IT or even an external customer could put in the same query and receive the same result. With Coveo’s AI, users are proactively given knowledge and content recommendations based on their personal profile, commonly searched terms, and even location.

In fact, Salesforce has found that agents using Coveo technology find the answer they’re looking for 75% of the time.

On the customer side, AI personalized search is extremely effective in lowering case counts.

On the customer side, AI personalized search is extremely effective in lowering case counts. With AI-powered knowledge management, employers can provide a self-service portal, internal help desk forms, and even chatbots — all eliminating the need to contact the IT team, create an internal ticket, and wait for a response.

All of this leads to improved employee and customer experience.

Solutions to 5 Common Knowledge Management Challenges

1. Obsolete Technology

If you’re gathering knowledge but it’s not being shared widely or efficiently, you’re missing out on a ton of potential value. 

Unfortunately, older systems usually rely on a decentralized architecture, where content is kept in various repositories. Even if you already have a wealth of internal knowledge within reach, it’s probably insufficiently indexed for company-wide search.

Departments and teams tend to find their own preferred methods for data sharing and storing, such as Google Drives, Dropboxes, or even just their Outlook email archives. This can feel more convenient within teams, but quickly becomes a frustrating problem when collaborating with other departments. Not to mention, sometimes you don’t actually know who has the best solution to your problem — so how would you know where to look?

Knowledge management systems ensure that all data within the organizations is searchable and accessible to all employees. And the best part is that you don’t need to start from scratch. Even if your existing data is messy or badly structured, Coveo can integrate with legacy systems and map meta-datafields by indexing the content and delivering it elsewhere. 

There’ll be no disruption to existing knowledge sharing habits. Your employees (or customers) will be able to use smart search without noticing the difference. Best of all, they won’t need to memorize a new host of search terms or jumpwords; artificial intelligence can deliver relevant search results from any search. That’s because as more and more search data is collected, the AI will learn which synonyms or typos can be associated with certain content.

And when we say relevant search results, we really mean it. AI has moved beyond creating user segments to deliver a more precise and scalable solution. Instead of digging through pages of results, users will receive personalized search results based on their profiles, past search history, and more. 

2. Lack of Employee Buy-in

A knowledge management platform only works when there is strong employee participation. 

According to McKinsey, 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. Even worse, an AI platform depends on search data to learn and grow. Without employee use, it will not perform to its best potential.

Firstly, do we need to encourage employees to go along with a major tech shift? Technology fatigue is a common challenge, especially in a post-pandemic world. To employees, a new knowledge management process may feel like just another platform they need to learn, leading to low adoption and morale. 

With a platform like Coveo, there’s no need to overwhelm staff with a new platform. Instead, integrate smart search into the content sources they already use.

A knowledge management platform only works when there is strong employee participation.

Another issue is that companies with knowledge management systems still in the recognition phase (that is, phase 1) tend to reward subject matter experts for being the only person to know something. This creates a culture of knowledge hoarding rather than collaboration. 

Make a shift by leaning on “knowledge champions” to drive excitement. Have managers encourage knowledge sharing within and across business units and create processes and procedures to facilitate unselfish knowledge creation.

And finally, use data to your advantage. Track analytics like case solve times or search result speed and accuracy. You might be surprised how quickly employees will take up the new system once they realize how much easier it makes their daily work.

Going hybrid?
Blog: 4 Building Blocks for Knowledge Management in the Hybrid Workplace

3. Lack of Leadership Buy-in

Before you can work on employee participation, you’ll need management to support and drive the knowledge management initiative. There should be one person spearheading the change, supported by senior leadership and managers who will champion the project in their respective departments.

Unfortunately, according to a recent report, only 49 percent of organizations have employees responsible for facilitating knowledge sharing. Make it every manager’s responsibility to support their team through the change and communicate the ROI upwards. 

4. Creating Consistent Organizational Change

Knowledge management is all about getting existing knowledge out of people’s heads and into a content format that’s accessible to those that need it. But how can you build this process consistently into everyday life at your organization? How do you ensure your plan aligns with your business goals?

Try knowledge centered service, a way of integrating knowledge sharing into the service process.

Knowledge centered service is based on the idea that you should solve a problem once and share the solution as often as there is a demand for it. This approach allows you to realize huge gains in operational efficiency, employee morale, and customer satisfaction. Follow these steps:

  1. Set your goals
  2. Determine your process
  3. Make it easy for your team
  4. Set up your knowledge service software
  5. Train your team

A good knowledge management strategy can extend organizational knowledge to many channels including chatbots, in-product support, and customer communities. What you choose to focus on first should be directed by your company’s priorities.

Don’t wait to construct a “perfect” knowledge base before you start putting knowledge into the hands of customers and agents. Distribution and use is what shows you what works and where the knowledge gaps are. 

Your team will be delighted to have a fast, relevant search engine at their fingertips. 

KM can have a huge impact on your customer service
Blog: Is Knowledge Centered Service Right for My Organization?

5. Making Up-to-date Information Easy to Find

If your customer service agents are accustomed to a knowledge management tool that’s clunky or unreliable, they are probably relying on tacit knowledge (that is, information in their head) over explicit knowledge (aka, information available for sharing). 

Unfortunately, this creates problems when it comes to providing consistent information to customers. In fact, 21% of customers complain that they receive conflicting information from different customer service reps.

Having everyone use the same knowledge sharing platform will help avoid this issue, but you’ll need to help users trust that your new system is the quickest way to find relevant, up to date information.

And if the information can’t be found, make it easy for users to create and index new articles for the knowledge base. 

Search isn’t a magic wand for badly structured source data. But with good tools and smart strategy, this problem can be overcome. AI-powered search is your hero here. Prioritize bridging knowledge gaps by serving the right information at the right time, and both your customer support team and your customers will have better experiences. 

Bringing it all together

Knowledge is an organizational problem, not a departmental one. Keep your eye on the four pillars of knowledge management: corporate culture, people, process, and technology.

Focus on creating a search experience that works for customers and users, and deploy it everywhere for a seamless experience. They’ll be thrilled by your new, fast, and relevant search tool.

Dig Deeper

Looking for a real world example of an organization that used AI-powered search to overcome their knowledge management challenges? Read Manulife’s story, and learn how AI-powered search enabled them to connect different knowledge repositories and create an intelligent backbone of information available to all employees.

A people-first approach that connects the dots
Case Study: Searching for a better way to stay connected globally