What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management definition: The organization, capture, use, and analysis of the impact of a group's collective knowledge. In the business world, the definition of knowledge management also includes the maintenance of a knowledge base or portal where specific knowledge related to the company is housed. Only a few initiatives are able to truly transform how an organization operates, and knowledge management is one of them.
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Why is knowledge management important?

The knowledge management (KM) category represents solutions that streamline the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge. When an organization is able to easily access, share, and update business knowledge, it can become more productive and cost-efficient. The ability to access the right knowledge at the right time, via a robust knowledge management system, informs accurate decision-making and stimulates collaboration and innovation.

A McKinsey Global Institute Report indicates that a robust knowledge management system can reduce information search time by as much as 35 percent and raise organization-wide productivity by 20 to 25 percent. Findings culled from the International Data Corp also corroborates the value of a knowledge management system, highlighting that Fortune 500 companies lose roughly $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge.

As your enterprise grows, so too will the need to access a reliable knowledge database in order to effectively run your business, serve your clients, and increase revenue. Without a knowledge management system in place, your employees will be forced to learn and relearn processes and information. That’s an inefficient and costly practice. Plus, you may also run the risk of losing those processes or information if a knowledge leader or legacy employee leaves your company.

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What kind of information is captured in knowledge management?

Information captured as part of knowledge management can include:

Knowledge Management Captures Information


Team Data

Organizational Data

Organizational News

example of a knowledge card

Types of knowledge management

Knowledge is one of your organization’s most valuable assets. Storing, growing, and sharing that knowledge is critical to any enterprise.

When looking at it from this perspective, knowledge management's meaning includes the process that helps you acquire, organize, and transfer both explicit knowledge (knowledge that is easy to write down and share), implicit knowledge (applied knowledge), and tacit knowledge (knowledge gained from personal experience) throughout your organization. Learn more about the different types of knowledge management.

Knowledge management system examples

Disseminating information throughout your organization is much easier when you have a reliable knowledge management platform to serve a full range of needs -- both at a departmental level and a holistic, company-wide level. 

Knowledge management platforms (or knowledge bases) are designed with best-in-class features to capture the information you need, verify and organize it, and make it easy to retrieve and share. So, if your definition of “knowledge management” has been limited to formalized assets, chances are your current solution doesn’t account for the knowledge that sits below the surface.

Want to see examples of knowledge management programs in organizations? See how Guru's customers make KM work.

Here are some great examples of knowledge management systems:

Document management: These systems act as centralized digital filing cabinets for company documents. They make retrieving documents easy, support regulatory compliance, and enhance workflow. In addition, when a document management system is enhanced with passwords and backup procedures, document security is enhanced, but not thoroughly protected from outside access. Many typical document management systems have functionality limitations so custom upgrades can increase costs. This type of system does not automatically capture data or analyze it.

Content management: Content management systems are similar to document management systems, but store audio, video, and other media types in addition to documents.

Databases: A database is a computer application that allows people to capture, store, analyze, and interact with data. Databases are indexed in order to make information more accessible. Data stored in databases can be very secure because the system prohibits manipulation. However, they can be volatile and are often costly to design and set up. They also require a high level of skill to use and maintain.

Data warehouses: These enterprise-wide systems pull data from different parts of your organization and can be highly effective for reporting and analysis. They store current, as well as historic data and transform data into meaningful information. However, data warehouses are typically high-maintenance systems which require complex integration in order to provide a unified view of the data.

Intranets: These private computer networks built on searchable platforms can provide an easily accessible resource for information that enhances collaboration and social networking within your enterprise. But intranets do have some risks, including easy access by unauthorized personnel. In addition, they are costly and time-consuming to maintain.

Wikis: These web pages are easy-to-use collaborative tools that allow anyone to publish and store information in a central location. They can be good places to maintain business documents or product catalogues. However, because they can be openly edited, wikis can often include wrong information. In addition, they aren’t optimized to show what information within them is being viewed or used or where knowledge gaps exist.

Social networking: Social networking allows people to connect with each other, join groups, contribute information, and discuss issues they are interested in. Social networking can influence organizational knowledge. Knowledge management systems can apply social networking to identify, document, and transfer knowledge.

knowledge management

Benefits of knowledge management

The more effectively and efficiently a company shares its information with its employees, the better the business will perform. The benefits of knowledge management include:

  • Faster decision-making
  • Efficient access to knowledge and information
  • Increased collaboration and idea generation
  • Enhanced communication throughout your organization
  • Improved quality of information and data
  • More security for intellectual property
  • Optimized training
Knowledge Management Strategy

Learn how to get the knowledge management process started at your company.

A doodle of various shapes representing bits of knowledgeA doodle of pointing arrows

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