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Article 16 min read

What is knowledge management? A guide for 2024

Knowledge management is critical for collecting and distributing information efficiently. Create your knowledge management process using these strategies.

Door Harry Wray, Director, Customer Experience

Laatst gewijzigd April 2, 2024

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management (KM) is how businesses gather, organize, update, and share information with customers, employees, and business partners. It’s also the technology that makes it possible to store, access, and update information.

Poor knowledge management slows down workflows and can harm customer relationships. Team members spend precious time muddling through problems while searching for answers, causing customer satisfaction, agent productivity, and company profit to plummet.

That’s why companies must adopt a knowledge management system for collecting and sharing institutional information. But before you can harness the power of knowledge management, you must understand the strategies and processes that can lead to success.

More in this guide:

Types of knowledge management

Five icons represent the five types of knowledge management: explicit, implicit, tacit, declarative, and procedural.

The five types of knowledge management are explicit, implicit, tacit, declarative, and procedural. Each type plays a role in helping your business operate efficiently.

  • Explicit knowledge is structured information that’s easy to document, share, and learn from—like a report containing call center performance metrics.
  • Implicit knowledge is the application of learned (explicit) knowledge, such as watching a webinar about video conferencing software and then trying it out with clients.
  • Tacit knowledge is information gained through experience or intuition, like knowing a customer enjoys chatting about baseball before placing their order.
  • Declarative knowledge is factual information or static principles, such as the date your company was founded.
  • Procedural knowledge is information that describes how to do something, like how-to articles about setting up your email on a new device.

Typically, you’ll want to capture and share these types of knowledge management with your employees and customers.

Knowledge management process overview

Creating a company-wide culture around knowledge management starts with building a formal process. Here are the five key steps:

  • Knowledge creation

  • Organization

  • Sharing

  • Acting

  • Updating

An effective knowledge-sharing process provides all employees equal access to valuable knowledge that can help them perform more efficiently on the job. It also allows everyone to contribute to and continuously improve on the information available across the business.

How to create a knowledge management process

Unless you’re starting a business from scratch, lots of information already exists within your organization. To consolidate it all, you’ll need the right team and a clear definition of what you expect to accomplish with your knowledge management system.

A man in a green jacket walks beside a list of three common knowledge management mistakes.

Businesses can make a few common mistakes when beginning their knowledge management journey, including:

  • Not investing in resources that support the continuous build of knowledge management content

  • Not using data to inform common customer questions or pain points

  • Not investing in AI tools that can automate suggested help center articles

With these common mistakes in mind, here are a few ideas and tips to help you build a knowledge management framework.

Do your research

Knowledge management isn’t a new concept and many businesses already have an effective framework. A great place to start is to identify and connect with other businesses across different industries that have implemented successful knowledge initiatives. Discuss their knowledge management experience and how they got started so you can plan your course of action.

Capturing the attention of another business’s KM team may seem like a tall order, but Zendesk customer stories offer valuable insights into the keys to success. Take, for example, Carousell, an online marketplace whose journey illustrates the power of effective KM processes. Carousell implemented scalable self-service resources to deflect low-level requests, which empowered agents to focus on addressing high-priority customer inquiries. This strategic move significantly reduced agent response times, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

Build a skilled team

Set up a team that’s responsible for updating the knowledge base or delegating to contributors and subject matter experts as needed. Necessary roles include:

  • Project managers to oversee operations and ensure your knowledge management efforts stay on task
  • Content managers to create, manage, and distribute engaging and informative content
  • Technical writers to create clear, concise, and engaging copy for complex topics

This team should also ensure that customer-facing content shared via your help centers, chatbots, and other knowledge management systems aligns with the company’s brand voice and tone.

Lean on AI

AI can help lighten your team’s load while managing your evolving self-service resources as you scale. AI can analyze existing knowledge base content (like bullet points) and automatically generate complete articles with explanations and examples. Additionally, it can adjust the tone of your writing, transforming a formal document into a friendly user guide or vice versa, ensuring your knowledge base caters to diverse audiences.

For example, Veeva uses the AI-powered Knowledge in the Agent Workspace from Zendesk to integrate its ticketing and knowledge management processes. The app’s AI can recommend articles within tickets, flag out-of-date articles, and analyze which articles help solve the most tickets.

Establish a sharing process

Knowledge management works best when everyone at the company contributes. To explain why your business needs knowledge management, create a mission statement describing your purpose and objectives.

Make it easy for people to participate by showing employees how it will benefit their work. Identify different stakeholders within the company and tell them how their knowledge will contribute to the initiative’s success.

Revisit your content

Knowledge management isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it scenario. Your team must periodically review content to make sure it’s still relevant as your product and business evolves. To increase the chances of success, empower agents with tools that allow them to automate and streamline the process.

For example, Zendesk offers unique tools that help you keep your content current. These knowledge management features include:

  • Content Cues: an AI-powered tool that provides insight into trending topics based on customer searches, identifies knowledge gaps, makes suggestions on new content, and flags outdated content in existing articles
  • Team Publishing: a tool that allows you to create workflows to streamline the review, approval, and publishing process
  • Content Blocks: a tool you can add to any relevant articles that allows you to update brief sections of information in one place

The more work you can automate for your team, the more productive they can be throughout the day.

Knowledge management strategies

There are three main knowledge management strategies: collecting and recording information (codification), spreading it (dissemination), and tailoring it to specific audiences (personalization). Most businesses use a blend of these strategies.

Watch a quick knowledge management solution demo

See how a smart knowledge base can help you improve self‑service and empower agents.

Benefits of knowledge management

Internally, companies use knowledge management practices to share expertise and important information across departments. Externally, it provides self-service options for customers to accomplish basic tasks independently, such as changing a password or printing a return label.

Five icons represent the primary knowledge management benefits: saves time, improves training, streamlines onboarding, reduces costs, and provides 24/7 support.

When done well, self-service can improve the employee and customer experience. Here are some benefits of knowledge management.

  • Saves agents time: Self-service allows customers to perform simple tasks, which deflects potential tickets. It also helps agents find the information they need quickly, resulting in faster issue resolutions.
  • Improves employee training and onboarding: All team members can access the knowledge base to find the internal information they need without relying on a specific team member or department.
  • Streamlines customer onboarding: Knowledge management tools empower customers to unlock a product or service’s full potential, thereby enhancing the value they derive from it, particularly during the customer onboarding phase.
  • Scales support while reducing costs: You can offer the same great customer experience with the same number of employees by deflecting support tickets with self-service resources, reducing the number of requests in the queue.
  • Provides 24/7 customer support: Customers can access self-service support 24/7 through chatbots, FAQ pages, and help centers, so they can get answers without waiting on an agent.

The exact benefits your business experiences depend on the scope of your knowledge management initiatives and how you implement them.

Knowledge management use cases

Knowledge management has diverse applications across various industries and situations. Here’s a glimpse into some use cases:

  • Customer support: Empower customers with a self-service portal containing FAQ pages, troubleshooting guides, and product manuals, reducing support ticket volume.
  • Skill development: Offer bite-sized learning modules and training resources accessible to all employees, promoting continuous learning and development.
  • Product innovation: Facilitate knowledge exchange and co-creation among engineers, designers, and other stakeholders, fostering innovation and faster product cycles.
  • Problem-solving: Share proven solutions and successful approaches to similar challenges across departments, enabling knowledge reuse and informed decision-making.

Find the best use cases for your knowledge management system by identifying areas where knowledge sharing and collaboration will impact your performance the most.

Knowledge management tools

Your knowledge management platform and tools should provide customers and employees with the information they need in a scalable, efficient way. Here are a few knowledge management examples that allow you to quickly and accurately gather, organize, and store information.

Five icons represent the primary knowledge management benefits: saves time, improves training, streamlines onboarding, reduces costs, and provides 24/7 support.

Knowledge base

Knowledge base software can be used for internal and external purposes and can reach large numbers of users at once. It operates similarly to a wiki or search engine, optimized for employees or customers to find the answers they need. As your business evolves, team members can draft new articles on the fly, flag outdated content, and share article recommendations with customers via support tickets.

For example, Zendesk offers knowledge base software that allows your business to share knowledge in many ways. These include:

Community forum

Community forums are online spaces where customers and businesses can interact, share information, ask questions, and offer insights and support.

As frequent users of your product, customers can offer insights, address questions, and troubleshoot issues just as well as your support agents. Online communities allow customers to ask and answer questions, taking some of the burden off your support team. Businesses can assign moderators to ensure conversations are appropriate and accurate.

Chatbots

Chatbots play a pivotal role in swiftly addressing frequently asked questions and sharing relevant information with customers and employees. Bots can also recommend knowledge base articles and help customers complete tasks. Leveraging a knowledge base expedites chatbot development by providing readily available content that can be directly incorporated into conversation flows.

Intranet

Intranets help employees capture customer data, gain insights, and improve the customer experience. An intranet is only accessible to employees and helps manage and organize digital content. Businesses can also use it as an internal social platform, allowing employees to collaborate and share their expertise across departments.

Why does knowledge management fail?

While KM has the potential to be incredibly beneficial, many initiatives stumble and fall short of expectations. Here are the most common reasons why KM fails.

  • Resistance to change: People may hesitate to adopt new systems or processes, especially if they don’t understand the benefits.
  • Lack of leadership support: Without buy-in from the top, KM initiatives won’t have the resources or authority needed to succeed.
  • Inadequate technology: Unintuitive knowledge bases or clunky search functions frustrate users.
  • Unclear ownership: If someone isn’t responsible for maintaining and updating the knowledge base, the content quickly becomes stagnant.
  • No feedback loop: Continuous improvement requires user feedback and adjustments to the system.

By understanding these potential pitfalls and abiding by knowledge management best practices, you can increase your organization’s chances of successfully implementing a system that benefits everyone.

Frequently asked questions

Improve your knowledge management with Zendesk

Scaling customer support teams don’t have time to reinvent the wheel. Instead, lean on AI-powered knowledge management resources to help you keep up with your growth. By leveraging Zendesk features like Content Cues and generative AI, you can efficiently handle increasing needs as you expand.

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