The basics of knowledge sharing & knowledge management systems

Learn the basics of knowledge management systems

Companies who are interested in creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of their organizations turn to knowledge management systems.

What is knowledge management?

Efficient handling of information and resources within a commercial organization is a common knowledge management definition.[1] For most organizations a knowledge management solution is required in order to capture the known but undocumented knowledge of their workforce. Especially from key, senior talent who are often called on by their coworkers for their expertise. Creating a knowledge management system saves time, money and accelerates the productivity of the entire team, not just senior members.

So...What is a knowledge management system?

Why is a knowledge management system important for effective knowledge sharing?

Knowledge management systems or software have many things in common and a few components which set them apart from other information sharing systems. Unlike communication and collaboration tools, knowledge management systems create a repository of key insights and make them easily accessible and include key features like:

  • Repository management and database of best practices
  • Create and store documents in an easily accessible place
  • Search capabilities reinforced with tag cataloging
  • Deep and open communication between teams
  • Share information in real-time and in an asynchronous way with colleagues
  • Content management tools in many formats
  • Discussion boards to share ideas

Some knowledge management system examples

  • Internal Knowledge Management is the most common example of knowledge management systems. These systems create an environment for internal employees to share information, documents, knowledge and company information.
  • External knowledge management is another example of knowledge management systems, where companies wish to create a community for their customers to share tips, ask questions, and share other types of information.
  • Lastly, there are a few Hybrid systems available which combine both knowledge management system examples.

In 2021, announced Stack Overflow for Teams in the leaders quadrant for Knowledge Management Software. Giving recognition to Stack Overflow’s customer satisfaction, customer reviews, and market presence.

We think of things differently - we think of Knowledge Reuse

Companies have tried to show the ROI of knowledge management, knowledge sharing and collaboration platforms. Their first instinct is to look at time and cost savings from bringing these types of systems. But we discovered that many clients didn’t have tools or metrics to track increases to productivity, decreases to cycle times, acceleration in time to market, or if they were protecting institutional knowledge. They didn’t have the systems in place to measure this or they were relying on flawed things like the number of commits or bugs caught.

So we flipped it - what’s the input required to get the output of increased productivity, decreased cycle times, accelerated time to market, and protected institutional knowledge? Knowledge Reuse.

Knowledge Reuse means reusing what others have already learned, created, and proven. It minimizes risk by making standardized information available to everyone and increases effectiveness by reducing repeat work and reducing interruptions. All of which impacts productivity and efficiency, and has protecting institutional knowledge at the core.

Our Knowledge Reuse metric measures the people who come to Stack Overflow for Teams, but don’t ask a question. They found what they needed, in other words, reused existing information from the knowledge base.

We find this is a critical metric for companies because knowledge reuse scales over time - the more information available, the more it’s reused.

And it’s a more tangible outcome than looking at time or cost savings.

Like us, you know that people cost is already a sunk cost. And not all time in an 8 hour day returns equal value to a company.

The real need is to increase the focus, or flow time, of your employees.

  • The more flow time, the more aha moments are possible.
  • More aha moments relate to more problems or challenges being solved
  • More problems or challenges being solved increases innovation, productivity, revenue

This results in more knowledge that can be reused by others in the organization and the cycle starts again. Reusing knowledge is the only scalable way to improve technical skills, increase problem-solving capabilities to drive innovation, and bridge communication gaps.

Taken all together Knowledge Reuse leads to a natural outcome of increased productivity, decreased cycle times, accelerated time to market, and protected institutional knowledge - everything that Stack Overflow for Teams is built for.

[1] 2021 Oxford University Press definitions