Knowledge management systems (KMS) are any technology solutions, combined with processes and people, that store and organize knowledge so teams can collaborate, stay aligned, and do their best work. This is clearly a broad definition, and there are many examples of knowledge management system types, including:
- Organization- or department-wide knowledge management platforms
- Research and insights libraries
- Customer service knowledge bases
- Learning management systems
- Online community forums
While these knowledge management systems serve different purposes, they have several things in common. They all serve as centralized, go-to locations for different audiences to find the information they need. They provide platforms to publish and organize company, departmental, or product user knowledge so that important information isn’t siloed or lost. And while technology is at the core of KMS, these systems require the input of people to continually grow and leverage the company’s knowledge base. The best knowledge management systems will make it simple for users to not just access but engage with knowledge, turning it into a renewable resource.
What Is a Knowledge Management System?
Before we take a closer look at different examples of knowledge management systems, let’s review our KMS definition. A knowledge management system combines technology, processes, and people to centralize and organize information with the goal of improving understanding, collaboration, productivity, and alignment. Common uses for knowledge management systems may include:
- Onboarding and ongoing training. A KMS may house training materials, including videos, learning series, and checkpoint quizzes, that employees can access on demand. This on-demand access allows new hires to get up to speed faster and helps all employees stay informed and grow professionally.
- Sharing the knowledge of subject matter experts. A KMS gives subject matter experts a central, highly visible place to share their knowledge so that they don’t have to answer the same questions over and over again. This makes it easier to connect employees with expertise and preserves the knowledge of SMEs when they leave the organization.
- Organizing research and final documents for easy access. In many organizations, there is research and documentation that may benefit a broad audience but that is only shared within one department or line of business. A KMS democratizes this content to maximize its value to the company.
- Answering the questions of employees and customers. Chances are that if an employee or customer has a question, they’re not the only one. A knowledge management system with a Q&A component allows users to publish questions and get answers from across the organization. That information then becomes searchable so that other users can benefit from it. This type of KMS can be used internally (for employees) or externally (for customers).
Examples of Different Types of Knowledge Management Systems
Different types of knowledge management systems can be used for different purposes. Below are examples of knowledge management systems you may come across as you begin researching KM solutions.
Online Community Forums
An online community forum is a website where visitors with a shared interest or area of expertise can ask and answer one another’s questions and share feedback or recommendations. In some cases, brands will create an online forum for their customers or fans to network and provide peer-to-peer support. Good examples of branded community forums include Underlined, Penguin Random House’s platform for writers and book lovers, and Community Center, Airbnb’s forum for verified hosts to share knowledge, get inspired, and network.
Online community forums can help businesses keep customers engaged and happy, generate content from their biggest advocates, conduct market research, and innovate on their products based on user feedback.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
Like the name suggests, learning management systems are wholly focused on housing, distributing, and tracking engagement with learning and training materials. An LMS is designed to allow employees to access learning materials from anywhere, on demand. Functionality may include interactive quizzes, engagement analytics, customizable learning paths, and course creation and management tools. Examples of LMS software solutions include Lessonly and Moodle.
Benefits of an LMS include allowing organizations to efficiently upskill employees, onboard new hires faster, hold employees accountable for staying up-to-date with training, and increasing job satisfaction.
Customer Service Knowledge Bases
Customer service knowledge bases consolidate customer-facing information and FAQs and makes them easy to access. These knowledge bases can be either internal or external. In other words, they can be employee-only systems that allow service representatives to quickly search for and find information to assist customers, or they can be customer-facing websites that empower customers to help themselves by finding answers to common questions. Bloomfire is an example of a platform that can be used as an internal and external knowledge base: you can read about how businesses like Orvis use Bloomfire to connect their associates with product and customer knowledge, and you can check out our Help Center for an external knowledge base example.
Customer service knowledge bases provide a wide range of benefits, including increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty, reducing the average time to resolve customer issues, and enabling customer-facing associates to work more efficiently.
Research and Insights Libraries
Research and insights libraries are cloud-based platforms that house market research and consumer insights materials. These might include research reports, slide decks, industry news, customer interview recordings, and secondary vendor research. Some companies will create one research library for finalized content to share with stakeholders and another library to make raw video recordings and other materials easier for research teams to parse through. For example, Bloomfire customer Capital One has one library that they use to share reports and insights across stakeholder teams and another where they house raw video interview content. Because Bloomfire makes words spoken in videos searchable, users can quickly find and navigate to key moments in the customer interviews to uncover noteworthy trends.
Research libraries can help increase the impact of customer insights across the organization by making it easy for stakeholders to access research materials and apply relevant findings to their decision-making. These platforms can also help reduce redundant research by allowing all teams to see what already exists, increase communication around and engagement with insights, and provide one place to search across all research sources.
Enterprise-Wide Knowledge Management Systems
Companies possess a vast trove of knowledge and insights, but all too often, it becomes siloed within teams or departments. Enterprise-wide knowledge management systems are designed to democratize knowledge across an entire organization so everyone has one place to go to find the information to do their jobs. Because these platforms contain large volumes of knowledge in many different formats, they must have:
- A powerful search engine
- The ability to customize the way information is structured (e.g., creating custom categories and sub-categories)
- The ability to easily create and update content (with no coding required)
- Permissioning to control who has access to sensitive or department-specific content
- The ability to automate maintenance processes and make updates to content in bulk
Due to the customizable and scalable nature of Bloomfire, our platform supports cross-department or enterprise-wide knowledge management for many of our customers, including Insperity, Asure Software, and Olive.
One of the biggest benefits of an enterprise-wide knowledge management system is that it allows an organization to maximize the value of its collective intelligence. It can reduce the time employees spend searching for information, prevent knowledge loss, amplify subject matter expertise, keep teams aligned, and empower everyone to do impactful work.