Selecting a knowledge management solution for a company is an important decision. The trick is to find the right features and good usability while keeping in mind acquisition and operating costs, support, and choosing a manufacturer that will still be around 20 years later to support you and release updates. The number of vendors on the market is staggering. With an incredible amount of IT software vendors worldwide and numerous knowledge management tools, how do you find the right one? Which questions should you ask? And what do you do once you’ve selected the best knowledge management software?
Why knowledge management is important
At many companies, knowledge is scattered across the organization, stuck inside email programs, wikis, and intranets. An online knowledge management solution, however, can efficiently manage a company’s knowledge before the problem of unclear information becomes too severe. At SABIO, our experience is that customers are able to react up to 73% faster to customer inquiries after implementing a knowledge management solution because the system allows employees to access the company’s knowledge in a structured and efficient manner. Knowledge management solutions differ from other tools by maintaining a clear distinction between authors and users. Trained authors contribute knowledge content and manage it whereas users access this knowledge to carry out their work, providing feedback to the authors. This aids the process of collecting structured and consistent knowledge. But you have to select the right tool first.
Step 1: Manage requirements
The first step you take should be to — together with stakeholders if appropriate — determine how you want to enhance the use of knowledge at your company and what your objectives are. Software for knowledge management can greatly simplify the work of employees. In order to gain an accurate understanding of what you’re looking to achieve, it’s best to define your requirements for the software as precisely as possible. This process is known as requirements engineering.
Specify your requirements as clearly and thoroughly as possible (for instance by generating a requirements specification document), because small details are often crucial for a software’s success. The following items are essential information:
Step 2: Long list,short list
After specifying your requirements, create a list including all knowledge management software vendors that may be able to satisfy your requirements. Use review platforms such as www.capterra.com or www.G2Crowd.com to conduct research or search the web for “knowledge management solutions” or “knowledge management software.” Many software vendors describe in detail their solution’s functionality, interfaces, and special features. Some even offer a free trial. Testing the software will give you a good idea of its capabilities.
Create a simple checklist with yes/no criteria. This simplifies the task of paring your list down to anywhere from three to five vendors. The following questions may be useful for your checklist:
Step 3: To request or not to request
The next step is normally to solicit quotes from vendors. Your purchasing department could also issue a request for proposal (RFP). Consult with your procurement department — in many cases, the departments themselves are capable of making decisions on smaller initiatives or pilot projects.
The best way to really get to know a piece of software, however, is to take advantage of a free trial. You can often get a test version up and running by yourself, which is possible with SABIO, for instance. The trial should show you all the basic features of the software and offer you an introduction to the system. Have the onboarding team give you a tour of the system — this way, you will learn additional tips and tricks about its core functionality. If possible, invite a few key users to test the system alongside you.
If you are planning on calling for bids on a knowledge management system, work together with your procurement department to create a list of questions (such as a requirements specification) and consider in advance how you will evaluate the answers to ensure you’ll be able to compare the offers you receive.
Total cost of ownership (TCO) – are free solutions an alternative?
Many software platforms offer free versions that make it easy to get started. These often come as light versions that only include limited functionality. During the selection process, you should consider that free software can end up costing more in total than a paid solution that is properly deployed from the start. Always consider all the applicable direct and indirect costs, including the following:
This way, you’re not basing the decision on sticker price alone. Instead, you’ll be taking a holistic view of all the costs incurred over the long term. Free CMS solutions that include knowledge management functionality, for instance, do not include integrations with your company’s existing systems. They also don’t focus on structuring your organization’s knowledge. Dedicated knowledge management platforms, on the other hand, are often capable of providing that functionality.
You’ve already decided on a knowledge management solution? Perhaps you have already downloaded a free trial and started adding content to the system. That’s the first step.
In our next blog entry, we’ll show you how to properly structure and cleanse your data. What are the current best practices? How do our consultants handle large projects? And what do experts recommend for editorial processes, change management, and communications?
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