The purpose of a knowledge management system (KMS) is simple; help people collaborate better. Commercial firms and government agencies have been deploying them for years. Just as cloud technologies have changed almost everything type of application, KMS systems are no exception.
Indeed, there are now cloud-based KMS solutions that can help people publish information, find content, and connect with other people; all without requiring advanced IT skills. OneWindow is an example of a cloud-based KMS, but there are many alternatives out there, including Salesforce and SharePoint Online. These tools are great examples of Software-as-a-Service (Saas) as they do not require any software or hardware purchases and provide capabilities via a web-browser.
As a result new SaaS KMS tools, many small and medium-sized businesses are able to obtain advanced KMS capabilities for the first time. These solutions are also particularly valuable to businesses and government in the developing world, as they don’t require advanced IT capabilities to operate.
When choosing a KMS solution for your organization, it’s important to keep the three following considerations in mind:
Understanding your needs is the key to picking the right KMS solution. Do you need to share documents? Allow users to simultaneously collaborate? Why are you thinking about adopting a KMS in the first place? It’s important to get the answers to these questions clear in your mind so that you know what you’re looking for in a KMS.
If you’re looking for a system that can manage content for you, there are plenty of packaged solutions that can provide that capability, such as OneWindow and Salesforce. Salesforce is primarily a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, but it also offers knowledge management in addition to its core competency. OneWindow is a KMS that delivers the key features that most users need, such as sharing documents and collaborating with others in real time, so it’s worth considering along with other packaged solutions when you start your search for a KMS. Both of these approaches are cloud-based, SaaS solutions.
You can customize your own intranet to do anything you want, but cloud-based knowledge management systems don’t offer the same level of customization. Therefore, you need to work out how much customization you really need and find out if the packaged KMS you’re considering can provide it.
Doing your homework in advance is critical. You don’t want to wait until you have implemented a KMS to find out that it doesn’t do what you need it to do. Define your needs upfront and then look for a solution that meets them.
Most people don’t need very sophisticated customizations from their KMS, so it’s likely that your needs can be accommodated by the newer SaaS solutions. But you will still need to find out in advance whether your KMS candidate solutions can be customized to your specifications, as well as how those customization will cost. Moreover, how much do you need the vendor to do and what can you do yourself?
Many people focus on the cost of a subscription to a packaged KMS; however, there are other costs and savings that you need to consider in your cost-benefit analysis. When you compare the cost of a KMS SaaS subscription to the costs of purchasing software licenses and paying employees to maintain your own KMS, you will likely find that a packaged KMS is a cost-effective solution for your organization. The bottom line is to just remember to factor in all the software, hardware, and staff costs over the same period of time as your SaaS subscription will cover.
Many of the knowledge management solutions out there may seem simple and overly streamlined, but that’s because you’re paying for the features you need and you’ll actually use. Packaged SaaS KMS solutions perform their core capabilities very well and often cost less than maintaining your own KMS. Don’t reject a packaged KMS just because it seems simple, as core capabilities delivered in a simple way could be exactly what you need.