Nothing throws up roadblocks like a lack of information.

You know what it’s like: You’re chugging along, ideas are flowing, and then suddenly, you hit a wall. The design has to stop until you dig up your brand style guide. Or you’re caught in the middle of a data breach, and your customer service team can’t remember how to lock accounts. You’re talking to a client on the phone, and you have to pause the conversation until you can find a copy of the contract.

Those situations aren’t just frustrating for workers and customers. No matter how bright and creative employees are, they can’t do their best work without access to information.

The Hidden Cost of Poor Knowledge Management

Democratizing access to information is a key part of knowledge management, but it’s only part of the story. The real value of knowledge management appears during periods of turnover.

Someone who’s been doing a job for 30 years can’t possibly share everything she’s learned with her replacement in three weeks. Anything she forgets to share is likely to be lost forever.

What does that new employee do when she hits an undiscussed issue? Exactly what she’s supposed to do: Figure out a solution herself, spending more time and money that could have been saved with a good knowledge management system. No wonder Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5 billion per year due to a failure to share knowledge.

That’s the real value of knowledge management: Company knowledge stays with the company — no matter who on the team does.

Smart Picks for Knowledge Management

If you’re looking for a better way to store, share, and protect company information, three solutions stand out:

1. Guru

It’s people who build and refine knowledge, but the best way to store and share it is through using artificial intelligence. That’s the thinking behind Guru, a knowledge management platform with a feature it calls AI Suggest to recommend relevant information based on context.

Guru works by capturing information through automated and manual entries. It then transforms those details into knowledge by prompting experts on the team for verification. Guru’s AI Suggest presents that knowledge to team members when and where they need it.

Although Guru lets companies start their knowledge library from scratch, it offers a series of customizable frameworks to help them get started. Key to that are Guru’s integrations, including Slack, Gmail, Dropbox, Salesforce, and more. Guru can spot contracts stored in Dropbox, for example, and suggest them when someone types a phrase like “your contract” in a client email.

It’s not just sales or customer service that can benefit from Guru, though. Engineering teams at Spotify, Slack, Square, and more use Guru to speed workflows by suggesting snippets of code. Their content marketers rely on Guru to provide consistent information across blog content.

Although Guru is flexible, be sure to understand what its different plans include. If you want content tracking, for instance, you’ll need an expert or enterprise subscription. Custom AI integrations and a dedicated success manager are only available on the enterprise plan.

Guru is also cost-effective for smaller teams. Teams of up to 10 people can use it for free, while experts pay $24 per user per month. Enterprise plans are customized to the client’s needs.

2. Document360

Document360 is one of the best ways to keep everyone on the same page. This knowledge management system can be used for internal and external purposes and supports rich media, as well as standard text files.

A key feature of Document360 is its search engine. You don’t have to spend hours sifting through the database to find what you need. As long as knowledge is labeled well, the search tool will call up what you’re looking for. Automated tagging and suggestions would strengthen the system.

One thing Document360 does well is access management. Employee accounts can be permissioned with different levels of access. Some users can see all stored documents, others can find only some, and still others may be able to review but not edit documents. To ensure nobody accidentally deletes that investor agreement for good, Document360 comes with a backup-and-restore tool.

Despite its strong search and access controls, Document360 users do point to some downsides. For one, the system doesn’t have a library of templates to choose from. Others suggest the user interface could use a fresh coat of paint.

Document360 is available in four pricing tiers, starting at $49 per project per month for two team accounts. Enterprise clients pay $499 per project per month for 30 accounts. Beware, though, that paying month to month costs 20 percent more than paying annually.

3. Bloomfire

Another top knowledge management system is Bloomfire. Like Guru and Document 360, Bloomfire stores and shares company information. Its Scarlet AI tool can automate content tagging, though its recommendation feature isn’t quite as smart as Guru’s AI Suggest.

Where Bloomfire shines is its social networking approach. In addition to files and documents, Bloomfire encourages employees to record snippets of their culture — think group photos and memes — to improve team bonds.

Bloomfire is also known for its security. It provides role-based permissions and a backup and recovery system. Its single sign-on feature is best-in-class, enabling users to navigate between linked applications without entering a new password each time. It’s GDPR-compliant and HIPAA-ready, making it a good pick for EU-based companies and healthcare providers.

Bloomfire, which can be set up to give customers a self-service knowledge center, is a favorite of customer support teams. Internally, an agent database can decrease onboarding time with on-demand access to FAQs and training materials.

Unfortunately, Bloomfire is cost-prohibitive for smaller teams: Packages start at $15,000 per year for 50 or fewer users, and agreements must be paid in increments of one year or more.

Gone are the days of thumbing through filing cabinets or calling up retirees in a panic. To keep productivity high, knowledge management must be digital and proactive. When someone has a customer on the phone or a deadline looming, he doesn’t have time to put his work on hold. Anything less than always-on, AI-driven knowledge management is just another roadblock.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.