Transitioning Knowledge Management from Enterprise Solutions to SaaS

What’s special about a product that combines a text editor, a dropbox, and a search?

It changes the way you think about large amounts of information. All the sudden, these three components become the nicest working documentation and knowledge management tool in the world.

We know from years of experience working with large enterprises that knowledge management is paramount to any business — to save time, resources, nerves, money. Lots of it.

So we decided to build that product. Something that runs on the web and is ubiquitous. Something that works how our brain works, so managing knowledge doesn’t become a chore, but helps you in your day-to-day of asking questions about how something works and being asked where something is, and so on.

We’re just a few weeks away from launching Matterial, a new knowledge management platform that’s basically an editor with a storage system and a fast search, running in a browser. We believe that simple can go a long way.

Where we come from: how is the intranet still a thing?

For those large enterprises, we built intranets. You know, that stuff that’s only on-premises, heavy, custom, inaccessible, with the price of a new Ferrari. (Do you need a company Ferrari?) We decided we didn’t want this anymore. We wanted knowledge management to do good to everyone, from the blogger to the student, to hospital departments, to co-ops or small businesses.

So now we use our expertise that we gathered from 10 years observing the way people record, process, and share information.

SaaS changes everything

A software that runs in your browser and is accessible from any device connected to the internet changes everything, because it’s accessible to everyone. Custom software is heavy and slow and gated. But it also means that it has to work equally well for everyone, that custom changes are basically impossible. That’s why we use our experience and expertise to find only those features that are essential to everyone, build them rock-solid and take it from there.
Forward compatibility of knowledge

A user interface has to fulfill two main purposes: define and separate functions, and make it clear what process follows. Every button must communicate clearly what it does and how this relates to the task the user wants to fulfill. A newbie should be shown quickly how to make his first steps, while a pro should be able to master the system instantly.

The first analyses showed one central problem of the enterprise solution: Users spent more time structuring existing knowledge than recording new knowledge. They use different functions to build complex tables, hierarchies, and abstract layouts — this could be handled by modern search concepts or automatizations. In other words: Users invest their time and energy in all the wrong places.

The software should structure extensive knowledge databases comprehensively, categorize them and make them easily findable. So how can you record and create knowledge to structure and distribute it through an intelligent software?

Scale knowledge

A knowledge database must be timeless. Co-workers come and go, taking their expertise and experience with them, or departments miss out on new processes, because they haven’t been communicated transparently. Technologies, trends, and personal preferences change while knowledge has to persist.

Information comes in many different forms. We take notes on ideas on our smartphones, flesh them out on a PC and send them via email to a colleague who hacks them into web interface. All those steps use different technologies, many of which will become obsolete or unusable over the next years.

Everyone knows this problem: we copy a text from one application and paste it into another — many times, this creates strange fragments, formats get lost and the whole text is different from the original.

This change in technologies forces us to create knowledge in a way that is independent from time and culture. The more abstract information is bundled and transported, the greater the chance it can’t be decoded in the future.

Simplicity

So a software must be simple in presentation and usability of functions, as well as in recording knowledge. We want to offer our customers a long-term solution that enables them to collect and access knowledge over years to come, independent of changing structures or technology.


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