What are knowledge management (KM) tools? They are pieces of software that help organizations create and maintain a constantly-evolving knowledge database for use in achieving its goals. While of the utmost importance, it is equally vital to create engaging, encouraging ways for a company’s talent to share their knowledge to databases. All of the currently available knowledge management tools, to their credit, have the best intentions in mind for their users. However, are they really the best they can be?
When judging the best KM solution for your company, it’s important to consider your office workflow. For example, what kind of information does your talent take note of? How is it organized — in one trusted program or scattered throughout several? Is your talent satisfied with your current knowledge management solution, or do they find it lacking?
Below we review some of the most renowned knowledge management tools available on the market today. We analyze their key features and potential use cases, while adding our two cents about what could make these tools the best they can be.
# Evernote Spaces | Everyone’s favorite personal KM tool
In our last post about knowledge management, we touched on the popularity of Evernote, a widely-used note organization system. Evernote is used by many in the business world without having an explicit business version of its services. A couple years back, Evernote released a solution called Spaces to capitalize on a niche they had been neglecting while answering demand for collaborative features in their services.
With Spaces, some of Evernote’s most trusted functions have been brought into the business world. It allows for the creation of “notebooks” and documents, as well as the sharing of media. Information is easy to organize using the app — a wide array of templates are available for any sort of document imaginable. All data relevant to a project is saved conveniently in one place and divided as you see fit. If this sounds like the original Evernote, well, that’s because it kind of is.
One thing that sets Spaces apart from its parent product is its permissions function, which allows users to set roles for who can view or edit its notebooks. And like the OG Evernote, you can write text within the app with access to a plethora of Markdown features. To answer the clamor for collaboration, there are major features that could be included. For one, embedded media is limited to photos. If there were more possibilities to embed media, such as YouTube videos, Spaces-made documents could be more dynamic than ever.
For another, document composition in Spaces lacks comments or track changes features, which are essential in any collaborative pursuit. The ability to comment allows your team to discuss changes and other selected parts, while the ability to track changes effectively gives you versioning capabilities. Imagine how much more engaged everyone would be in those Monday morning scrum sessions with the ability to work quickly and having the entire history of a document at your fingertips. Through Spaces’ selection of templates, worksheets are tailor-made for knowledge creation processes. Collaborative editing would take a load off the scrum master’s back by letting everyone in on the action, allowing teams to work on different sections of a document at once.
# Atlassian Confluence | Unique wiki-making software
Evernote has released different tools to supplement its main software over the years, such as Scannable. Atlassian, however, has a full-fledged suite of tools for use in CMS, CRM, document management, and yes, knowledge management, for which they have released Confluence. In contrast, it contains a WYSIWYG editor that gives its users a finished-looking product, whether the work involves marketing plans, technical documentation, or knowledge base creation. The end result is a web page or internal site that’s ready with a click of the touchpad. Confluence also uses emojis and dynamic content in its WYSIWYG editor, and Atlassian provides its own marketplace for apps to supplement its functions.
Confluence would be especially useful for administrative divisions. Making new knowledge bases can be challenging; compliance with standards like ISO 9001 and 14001 can require an inconvenient amount of documents, which knowledge management tools are designed to ease. Real-time collaboration for a task such as this could get disparate teams and employees on the same page. Working together, they can establish online documentation showing proof of compliance. Confluence has an impressive list of Markdown features. It comes closer to real-time collaboration than Spaces through their use of @mentions, comments, and track changes features. While it recognizes that collaboration is about “a sense of shared purpose”, it does not encourage using these features in real-time.
A hybrid knowledge management tool and CRM system, Helpjuice allows e-commerce firms to quickly create knowledge bases for web-based storefronts. These knowledge bases can also be used for internal knowledge management. The UI is beginner-friendly, clean, and easy to use. One glance at the toolbar yields a lot of information about the features on offer. From basic styles like text alignment and paragraph formatting, to block content like tables and media embedding, there’s a lot of ways to present a knowledge base that’s clean, tidy, and chock-full of information. It even formats text that’s uploaded from other file formats, like .pdf and .docx
The thing about out-of-the-box solutions, though, is that sometimes you just don’t need all of those features. Helpjuice seems to provide a bare-bones toolbar for beginners, but that doesn’t mean every single feature there is useful for your line of work. If your firm publishes literature, for example, it could make use of features like block quotes and lists in its in-house solution. Yet they might not have a use for embedding web-based media such as videos from YouTube.
The key to implementing an effective knowledge management system is customizing it to your users’ needs. That means making sure your text editor includes only the features your talent makes the most use of and leaving the rest to the side. If your company’s rich-text editing needs don’t require specialized features like math-equation formatting or space for custom widgets, then it shouldn’t be in your software solution.
# Zendesk Guide | Helpjuice’s rival tool
Even though customer relationship management requires a different kind of tool than knowledge management, good CRM ultimately depends on good KM. For their Guide solution (stylized “guide”), Zendesk uses artificial intelligence technology to answer customer problems. In their demo video, they stress the importance of “unlocking the full potential of your know-how”. Finally, someone agrees with us.
Jokes aside, we admire Zendesk’s dedication to building a knowledge base where customer correspondence can be published as articles online. Information can stay organized and up to date. Moreover, crucial data about your company can be retained and accessed, which is especially important when long-standing talent leaves your firm.
That data is especially important for new hires. If your firm has an uneven onboarding process, Guide is an excellent tool for giving newbies a one-stop shop for storing all the most vital processes and policies. What’s more, Guide can serve as a platform for storing info from training sessions, allowing it to be accessed long after the breakouts are over.
To be a good knowledge base, a program needs to stand on its own. Zendesk has an entire suite of CRM software, of which Guide is a part. Additionally, the cost of this knowledge management tool may be a bit too high for new startups.
# Google Docs | The go-to word processing application
Google Docs, or GDocs for short, is one of the most common knowledge management tools — heck, your talent probably uses it already to keep track of their data and ideas. And why wouldn’t they? Google Docs is a word processor packed with the capability to create beautiful image-laden documents. In fact, up to fifty people can work on a document at once with commenting capabilities. Suggesting mode allows users to suggest changes without stepping on toes.
If your company engages in research and needs to crank out white papers on a regular basis, GDocs is a wonderful piece of SaaS. Likewise, if you’re an entry-level worker at a startup, there’s a good chance this software has been a part of your life since your first year of university. In any case, you’ve likely become so familiar with GDocs that you trust it with any idea or scrap of information.
In many companies, GDocs is used along with other applications to create collaborative content, which is then copy-pasted to the final application. This makes the whole process complicated and increases the possibility of mistakes, as the content often gets destroyed afterwards due to different data formatting. The ultimate collaborative solution is to have it ready to go in your own knowledge management tool without a need for third-party solutions like GDocs.
# BUT WAIT!
If Google Docs is free, why even bother with any of the above, paid solutions? Well, GDocs is free…to a point. Of course, Google gives users 15GB for free to start for use across their entire suite. That’s not enough, no matter how small your operation is. Paid plans for business start at $12 per user per month, and come with unlimited storage with added security features. Atlassian is the only other knowledge management tool mentioned here that provides endless space.
# In conclusion
Our assessments of the knowledge management tools of the day are what we see here at CKEditor when we get to work creating our rich-text editing solutions every day. We see ways in which our real-time collaborative writing technology can make their solutions the best that they can be. If you’re curious, check out the features of our newest CKEditor 5, and read the testimonials of the companies who have implemented our solutions in their software. Then look at your solution, imagine what we could do for you, and get in touch!