Knowledge Management software is a broad category of business software that includes knowledge bases, wikis, help desk software, collaboration tools, chatbots, and document management tools.
They can provide increasing value in an environment where companies are overwhelmed with data, information, and knowledge, and a desire to provide even more outstanding levels of customer service. There is also an intense focus on cracking the code for improving productivity for knowledge workers.
According to Peter Drucker:
“The most valuable assets of the 20th-century company were production equipment. The most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.”
It turns out Mr Drucker wasn’t wrong. People and what they know are now more valuable than ever, they are the lifeblood of modern business success. So with this in mind, what trends are we now seeing in the field?
Knowledge Management in 2018
In 2018, Knowledge Management practices were defined by many of the same trends that we’re going to see in 2019. Further developments are more of a continuation of this trajectory than anything brand new. Search functionality and Artificial Intelligence have been integral so far, and 2018 saw their roles continue to grow in prominence.
Artificial Intelligence was predicted to help us manage large amounts of data, providing Business Intelligence and enabling widespread adoption of Big Data analytics. To some extent, this has come true.
Content Management strategies and more effective collaboration were also a strong focus in 2018, as many organisations made valiant efforts to manage ever-increasing amounts of content. Often, companies had the content there, but they didn’t know what to do with it.
Throughout the year, there was also a growing movement towards mobile-first platforms and a stronger emphasis on the Internet of Things, with content readily available on a variety of devices such as mobile and tablet.
Challenges Ahead for Knowledge Management
Hopes were high in 2018, but Knowledge Management has always struggled with effective implementation. Often, technologies did not quite keep pace with the trends we were seeing in the workplace.
The average length of employment for those aged 25–34 is now at 3.2 years. Higher employee turnover and the final erosion of the concept of a “job for life” places increasing pressure on Knowledge Management technologies to fill the gaps. The trend towards remote work also means that creating online shared repositories of knowledge is absolutely essential for fostering effective collaboration in existing teams.
Knowledge is no longer stored only in the minds of your employees but must be captured and curated externally. Many Baby Boomers in the workforce are retiring and Generation X and Millennials are becoming the dominant demographics. These users are comfortable with and embrace digital technologies that get the job done, and would rather send an instant message to a coworker than make a phone call. The first members of Generation Y are entering the workforce, and these digital natives expect a mobile-first experience.
If software is not up to scratch, then employees are increasingly opting for unauthorised “shadow IT” (using their own devices and software), which compromises IT security. With the widespread failure of traditional Knowledge Management programs, legacy Knowledge Management systems will not cut it and Knowledge Management solutions much catch up to current User Experience expectations.
Knowledge Management in 2019
Knowledge sharing is characterised by effective relationship building and collaboration between employees, and this is what the software must facilitate. But how has the way those relationships operate changed in 2019?
In 2019, the Knowledge Management landscape has changed as those essential relationships evolve, and we see new advances in the available technologies.
Read on for a list of the main trends we are going to see in KM business software in the next year.
Social Networking and Collaboration
Knowledge Management software is now focused on fostering more effective collaboration between team members.
Social networking has become much more important. Teams are more distributed and even small teams can be operating globally. Productivity and collaboration tools like Slack and Confluence are becoming the norm, and these will integrate with other Knowledge Management tools. Employees now expect to communicate digitally and to share important content online and have access to it within their digital workspaces.
With collaboration in mind, there will be more of a merger between knowledge base software and collaboration tools. For example, software offering a more robust authoring, editing and publishing process in your knowledge base CMS.
Software User Interfaces have improved vastly in recent years. To promote user adoption, Knowledge Management software has to be as easy to use as the products that employees are using for fun. Trends include more visual interfaces replacing clunky lists, and easier drag and drop functionality becoming the norm.
Part of improving the User Experience involves better software integrations so that software works well alongside other vendors. Users don’t want to context-switch or manage so many different tools, and if they are forced to do so then their unused software can become a graveyard.
Especially within the enterprise market, the same software must also offer different service views for a variety of customer personas. A senior team leader doesn’t need the same view of the software as an administrator, for example. A customised account view for a range of users will become more prevalent, and this is known as “content services”.
On top of all that, mobile has exploded as one of the dominant ways that users access digital services, and users now expect to access their software on the go. A mobile application version is becoming essential for Knowledge Management software so users can author, search, edit and chat from anywhere.
AI, Blockchain and Search
Helping users find relevant content has always been one of the prime objectives – and challenges – for Knowledge Management initiatives. Another trend we will see is better search indexing and intelligent search recommending content much faster than a human can search for it.
For example, chatbots can start serving relevant content to users based on previous search history, or the relevant context, without requiring them to manually search for words and phrases that may not match.
Here are more AI trends that will emerge in 2019:
- AI-augmented analytics (Automated Discovery) will provide more meaningful insights for business analysts trying to understand trends within their content.
- AI knowledge graphs may result in digital immortality, and intelligent chatbots can simulate a specific person and answer user questions.
- Blockchain technology will provide more security for a user’s digital identity, removing some roadblocks for transactional processes.
- The fusion of AI and Robotic Process Automation means businesses can be more productive in new ways, with some more advanced tasks automated within the enterprise business.
- AI can begin assisting with translation and localisation of content to lower the costs of these efforts.
The Importance of Knowledge Base Software
Some Knowledge Management software categories may be merging, but there is still an important place for dedicated knowledge base software. More companies are seeking the services of a knowledge base solution rather than struggling with traditional enterprise Help Authoring Tools, or compromising with add-on knowledge bases.
Knowledge base software must consequently offer the user experience of any standard Content Management System, and a completely customisable front-end that reflects a customer’s branding and styling.
Knowledge bases can be simple without compromising on functionality. They don’t need to offer a wide range of features if you can integrate them with other essential tools, reducing the need for users to to context-switch. More dedicated solutions like Document360 do just that, and are available at a very affordable price point.
The Future of Knowledge Management
Overall, Knowledge Management software in 2019 is going to continue along a very similar trajectory to 2018. There will be even more of a focus on Artificial Intelligence to overcome many of the core challenges associated with Knowledge Management programs and User Experience will still be an important differentiator for buyers when choosing their KM software.
Some of the more distinct Knowledge Management software categories will be merging, with hybrids of knowledge base and collaboration tools appearing. But knowledge base software will continue to carve out a unique niche with customers who want to improve their Knowledge Management efforts.