Various knowledge management systems can help your business gain and make the best use of knowledge.
Some of the systems can be complex to set up and time-consuming to maintain. You need to choose systems that fit with your business and that will improve it without becoming a burden. You may find it useful to consult an IT specialist.
At the very least, you should carry out an IT needs assessment before making any IT purchases. Your systems will deliver greatest value for your business if you align them with your IT strategy. Read more about developing an IT strategy.
The main types of IT systems used in knowledge management are described below.
Databases organise information so it can be easily accessed, managed and updated. For instance, you might have a database of customers containing their contact information, their orders and preferences. See benefits of databases.
A data warehouse is a central storage area you might use if you have a variety of business systems, or a range of information in different digital formats. Many businesses now use digital asset management to store, manage and retrieve information, and this can be particularly helpful if you sell online. It is, however, a complex area technically and in task management, so you may wish to seek specialist advice from an IT consultant.
Data mining is a process in which all the data you collect is sorted to determine patterns. For instance, data mining can tell you which products are most popular and whether one type of customer is likely to buy a particular item.
Reporting and querying tools let you create reports interpreting data in a particular way. How many of your sales have been handled by one particular employee, for instance?
Business intelligence portals are websites that bring together all sorts of potentially useful information, such as legal issues or details of new research.
The internet and search engines can be a powerful source of knowledge, although be certain to check the credibility of your information source. Internet newsgroups can be specific sources of business information, but check the authors' other postings before deciding how to view their opinions and claimed facts.
Intranets and extranets can be powerful platforms for knowledge sharing and management. An intranet is a secure internal network for the sole use of your business. An extranet is similar to an intranet but you can extend it to customers and suppliers. Read about the benefits of intranets and extranets.
Social tools, such as social media channels and blogs can also be useful when it comes to sharing knowledge. Find an overview of social media in business.
Customer analysis tools
Customer relationship management software helps you build up a profile of your customer database and enables you to target them through your website, email, telephone or other marketing activities. See customer relationship management.
Website analytics eg Google Analytics helps you to analyse how customers use your website so you can improve its effectiveness and work out better ways to target your customers.
If you decide to invest in a new information management system, it is essential that you consider the needs of your business, the different technology options, and the implementation - each task is likely to present challenges and opportunities for your business.
See how to plan your business IT systems.