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Knowledge management tools: what do businesses need and why?

By: Jill Huettich

If you’ve been thinking about developing a knowledge management framework for your organization, you’re probably wondering what knowledge management tools should be considered essential to your success. While every company is different, there are specific types of knowledge management tools that larger organizations commonly rely on.

In this article, we’ll explore what those knowledge management tools are, as well as provide some relevant examples of where in the knowledge management process these tools might be used.

To begin, let’s take a look at the various stages of the knowledge management process. In doing so, we can see the steps that an organization developing a framework of knowledge management might follow.


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Stages of the knowledge management process

The stages of the knowledge management process consist of:

  • Step 1: Collecting – During the initial collection phase, management determines what data will be collected and how. This is also the stage where companies plan out where they will store the data that they’re gathering.
  • Step 2: Organizing – The information being stored is only valuable if people can actually find what they’re looking for when they need it. As a result, this step is critical to a successful knowledge management initiative. During the organizing stage of the knowledge management process, data is logically arranged using rules that are established by the organization. So, for instance, all customer-related data may be in one database table, sales data in another database table, etc.
  • Step 3: Summarizing – In this stage, information is summarized. Rather than relying on individual bits and pieces of data, information might appear in a table, pie chart, or other type of graph. This visual summary makes it easy for data to be reviewed quickly.
  • Step 4: Analyzing – At this point in the knowledge management process, information is analyzed so correlations and patterns can be uncovered. This is where some of the biggest gains from knowledge management begin to be realized.
  • Step 5: Synthesizing – Once information has been analyzed, it’s no longer just a collection of disparate data. It has actual true value to an organization and can be used to improve overall operations. This is referred to as the synthesizing stage, and it’s where collected information actually becomes knowledge that can be used throughout the entire organization.
  • Step 6: Decision Making – In the final stage in the knowledge management process, decision making occurs when stakeholders use the collective knowledge that’s been gathered to make decisions about how to move forward as a company.

Now that we’ve defined the knowledge management process, let’s take a look at some of the most popular tool types that a corporation uses when establishing a knowledge management framework.

Types of knowledge management tools

There are a number of commonly used knowledge management tools, particularly among enterprise corporations. These tools include such things as:

1. Content Repository

A content repository makes it easier to organize the data you collect. A good example here is a content management system or CMS. CMS refers to software that’s used to manage digital content, like WordPress, for example.

2. Knowledge Search

Once information has been stored, you need a way to access it. A good knowledge search tool is critical for this purpose. Some organizations even opt to invest in knowledge search tools that can search across multiple sources of data.

3. Communication

Communication tools are used to capture and store organizational information. So, this tool type includes things like email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and collaboration tools like MindManager.

4. Social Software

Social software tools make it easier for organizations to share relevant knowledge. A good example here is customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce, which allows companies to track every customer interaction and share that information throughout their organization. As you might imagine, this easily accessible customer data not only improves the management of customer relationships, but also facilitates decision making.

5. Knowledge Visualization

Oftentimes, the information that companies collect can be understood and analyzed more quickly when its displayed using visual mapping, rather than reams of text or the digital equivalent.

Take MindManager for example. With the software’s visual mapping capabilities, it’s easy for organizations to accomplish many of the important tasks that occur throughout the knowledge management process.

For instance, MindManager can be used to visually map out which information will be collected and how it will be stored. Plus, with its virtual whiteboard, companies can seamlessly move information around, creating a clear, easy-to-navigate map, simplifying the knowledge management process.

Additionally, thanks to MindManager’s linking and attachment capabilities, maps can be transformed from data collected and visualization platforms into centralized dashboards that store actionable tasks and information. This allows teams to have all of their important information in one centralized location, and easily transition from planning to action.

Here is an example of a MindManager dashboard that can be used to manage a project from iteration to completion. Important project information, tasks, costs, and so on, can be pulled into this dashboard either manually, or using links and attachments. Once all of this information is centralized, the project manager can use this dashboard for the duration of the workflow.

For these reasons, most companies, regardless of size, find a good knowledge visualization tool to be key.

6. Decision Support

When you’re collecting large sums of data, you need a good way to analyze it. That’s where decision support tools come in. Decision support tools include such things as analytics and reporting software, and as you might imagine, are used during the analyzing stage of the knowledge management process.

7. Big Data

Big data is exactly what it sounds like … high volumes of data. Since the 1970s, businesses have tripled the amount of data they storeannually. Where once those companies could rely on relational databases, enterprises no longer have that option—there is just far too much data to manage.

For instance, can you imagine the vast amounts of data that a company like Google needs to keep track of? That’s a good way to visualize what we mean by high volumes of data. And, when we speak of big data, we’re talking about the approach we’ll actually use to manage that huge amount of data.

As you can see, there are a number of different knowledge management tools that make capturing, storing, and retrieving data much easier. However, with so many to choose from, the thought of creating or revising your knowledge management process might seem overwhelming. And this is one of core the challenges of knowledge management. With all of this data and options for managing it, where do you begin?

We suggest that the easiest place to start is with MindManager. Using MindManager’s visual mapping capabilities, you can brainstorm ways to improve how knowledge is managed at your workplace, then use the software to keep track of your knowledge management project as it goes forward. Even better, you can start using MindManager risk-free right now.

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