What is a Knowledge Management System?

8 min read
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Betsy Anderson
Betsy Anderson

Betsy leads the customer success and implementation teams at Bloomfire. Passionate about the people side of knowledge engagement and knowledge sharing, Betsy shares real-world experience with the challenges faced by companies with a knowledge management problem.

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    Knowledge management systems (KMS) are vital in today’s information-driven business environment. Companies can foster innovation, improve customer service, and enhance decision-making by efficiently managing organizational knowledge. But what is a knowledge management system, and how can it transform your enterprise?

    Defining a Knowledge Management System

    A knowledge management system is a sophisticated, technology-based system designed to enhance how information is captured, organized, and shared across an organization. It acts as a centralized platform, often cloud-based, to streamline access to corporate knowledge, thereby improving collaboration, understanding, and alignment within the company. The definition of a knowledge management system extends beyond just software; it includes the strategies employed to foster knowledge creation, dissemination, and utilization.

    By consolidating critical information into one central hub, a knowledge management system moves away from fragmented systems like emails, locally saved files, and company intranets, becoming the primary repository for shared knowledge. This centralized approach makes it easier for employees to find what they need and supports a culture of continuous learning and knowledge retention. Implementing a KMS is a deliberate strategic decision that aims to harness the organization’s collective intelligence.

    What is the Purpose of a Knowledge Management System?

    The primary purpose of a knowledge management system is to ensure that the right information reaches the right person at the right time, empowering employees to make informed decisions and perform their jobs more effectively. By centralizing knowledge, a KMS enhances company data and expertise access, streamlines processes, and facilitates organizational learning.

    The versatility of knowledge management systems allows for accommodating diverse information types—including documents, videos, presentations, FAQs, and audio files. This flexibility guarantees that employees throughout the organization can contribute to and leverage the system, transcending departmental and role-based boundaries. The strategic integration of a KMS fosters a collaborative environment, promoting a more informed and aligned workforce. 

    What Types of Knowledge Should be Included in a Knowledge Management System?

    All knowledge is valuable, but you can generally categorize knowledge into three main categories. Understanding the three types of knowledge can help you determine the best way to organize and share it within your company.

    Explicit Knowledge

    Explicit knowledge is the most basic form of knowledge. It is easy to articulate, record, store, and share. This typically includes information like white papers, data sheets, research reports, documented processes and policies, product information, and brochures in a business environment.

    Implicit Knowledge

    Implicit knowledge is the practical application of explicit knowledge. It is often gained through experience, context, and incidental activity without the awareness that learning is happening. For example, your company may have documented diagrams and processes (explicit knowledge) for operating a software program. Understanding and using that information to operate the program is an example of implicit knowledge.

    Tacit Knowledge

    Tacit knowledge is information gained from personal experiences that is difficult to write down or articulate. For example, while you may have a bread recipe on paper, only through experience do you understand how the dough should feel when you’ve kneaded it sufficiently, and it’s ready to go in the oven. In a business setting, an example might be a sales rep being able to identify when a prospect is open and ready to hear a pitch or adopting the mannerisms and personalities that engage an audience during a presentation. 

    All three types of knowledge are important, but making all of this knowledge available to employees and customers can be difficult unless you have a comprehensive knowledge management system.

    5 Uses of a Knowledge Management System

    Companies use knowledge management systems in several different ways at the department level and across the entire organization. Below are a few of the most common uses.

    1. Onboarding Employees

    Your company’s onboarding experience matters: managers want their team members to get up to speed as quickly and efficiently as possible, and new hires want to feel confident they have the resources they need to start being as productive as possible. The use of a knowledge management system from day one gives new employees on-demand access to all the resources they need to learn about the company, its products, policies, and everything else they need to do their job. In a study of Bloomfire customers, we found that 93% of our respondents had improved their onboarding time since implementing Bloomfire. 

    2. Sharing Internal Communications and Updates

    Important company updates can get lost when shared in a single email, Slack, or Microsoft Teams channel. A knowledge management system lets businesses share company-wide updates in one central, searchable place. Bloomfire also lets companies add featured content to a customized homepage and automatically send notifications over Slack, Microsoft Teams, or email so that nobody misses timely updates.

    3. Streamlining Customer Service

    Customer service teams can use a knowledge management system to put answers to customers’ questions at their agent’s fingertips. When a customer calls (or chats with) an agent, the agent can perform a quick keyword search in the knowledge management platform to find relevant, approved information they can use to assist the customer. This helps reduce average handle time (AHT), improve first-call resolution, and reduce the number of calls that must be placed on hold or transferred.

    4. Delivering On-Demand Training

    While there’s still a time and place for formal training sessions, knowledge management systems give employees another (asynchronous) way to learn. When training resources (such as video tutorials, how-to guides, and FAQs) are centralized in a knowledge management system, employees can pull them up whenever they need to refer to them. A knowledge management system also helps break training down into bite-sized components that are easy for employees to digest in the flow of work.

    5. Facilitating Innovation and Collaboration

    A knowledge management system is a dynamic platform for innovation and collaboration, enabling team members to contribute ideas, share insights, and work together on projects across geographical and departmental boundaries. By providing a centralized space where employees can easily access and build upon each other’s knowledge, a KMS fosters an environment of continuous improvement and creativity. This collaborative ecosystem accelerates the development of new products and services and enhances problem-solving capabilities, ensuring the organization remains competitive.

    The Intersection of AI and Knowledge Management

    The synergy between AI and knowledge management marks a significant leap forward in how organizations manage and utilize information. By integrating AI, knowledge management systems can streamline information capture and organization and enhance content delivery through personalized recommendations and automated classification. This greatly enriches user experiences and propels search capabilities to new heights, indicating a future where AI and KM work hand in hand to unlock unprecedented efficiencies and insights.

    Who Uses a Knowledge Management System?

    Knowledge management systems transcend organizational hierarchies. They offer valuable insights and facilitate efficient knowledge sharing across all levels. Whether it’s strategic decision-making or day-to-day operations, a KMS ensures the right information is accessible to the right people at the right time, fostering a culture of informed decision-making and continuous learning.

    Executives

    Executives use a knowledge management system to inform strategic decisions, track industry trends, and monitor organizational performance. Access to comprehensive analytics and reports allows them to identify opportunities for growth and areas of improvement, ensuring that the company’s strategy aligns with its long-term goals.

    Managers

    Managers rely on knowledge management systems to oversee project workflows, facilitate collaboration, and ensure their teams are aligned with organizational objectives. A KMS enables them to distribute resources effectively, share important updates, and oversee their team’s progress and productivity.

    Team Members

    Team members use a knowledge management system to access necessary documents, procedures, and best practices, enabling them to complete tasks more efficiently. The system also allows them to contribute knowledge and learn from their peers’ collective experience, fostering a collaborative work environment.

    Knowledge Management System FAQ’s

    Who should own your knowledge management system?

    In most companies, no clearly defined department or executive leader is responsible for knowledge management. Depending on your organization’s goals with knowledge management, the initiative may be spearheaded by a leader in marketing, CX, learning and development, operations, or strategy. While there’s no right way to structure your knowledge management program, establishing a cross-functional team to oversee your efforts is worthwhile. This will help you tie knowledge management to your organization-wide goals and avoid siloing valuable knowledge within specific departments.

    What is knowledge management’s impact on organizational performance?

    One of the biggest ways knowledge management improves organizational performance is by reducing time spent searching for information and increasing efficiency. 80% of Bloomfire customers report their users save at least one to two hours per week, with 30% reporting that users save three or more hours per week. Because knowledge management frees employees up to spend more time on impactful activities, it directly translates to cost savings.

    You can use our ROI calculator to estimate how much your organization could save.

    How does a knowledge management system help the employee experience?

    Nobody wants to waste time at work searching multiple content repositories or trying to track down the right subject matter expert to get the information they need. With a knowledge management system, employees can quickly self-serve the information they need whenever needed. 90% of Bloomfire users report feeling less frustrated at work since adopting a knowledge management system, with 83% reporting that their quality of work has also increased.

    Secure Your Organization’s Future with Effective Knowledge Management

    Effective use of knowledge management systems is critical for fostering better collaboration, ensuring employees are well-informed, and enhancing the customer experience. You can choose the right knowledge management system for your business with a thorough understanding of the software solutions available and the knowledge critical to your company’s success.

    Explore the ULTIMATE Guide to KM

    Dive deeper into selecting the perfect knowledge management system for your business with our comprehensive guide.

    Learn More
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    About the Author
    Betsy Anderson
    Betsy Anderson

    Betsy leads the customer success and implementation teams at Bloomfire. Passionate about the people side of knowledge engagement and knowledge sharing, Betsy shares real-world experience with the challenges faced by companies with a knowledge management problem.

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