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May 18, 2022

What are the 3 types of knowledge management systems?

Knowledge management systems vary in how they collect and disseminate information. Here’s a breakdown.
types of knowledge management systems
Article updated June 2024.

Knowledge management includes processes that create, store, transfer, and apply tacit knowledge within an organization. It’s typically used to allow a company’s employees to learn from the business environment and continuously incorporate knowledge into its processes. At one time, knowledge management was analog – files, card catalogs, binders of records, and the like. Like every other business process, digital technology now enhances knowledge management.

So what is knowledge management, and what are the main types of knowledge management systems in use today? Let’s answer these questions and explore knowledge management in healthcare as well as pharma knowledge management.

What are the main components of knowledge management?

Before diving into knowledge management, let’s explore the types of knowledge that include:

  • Tacit knowledge
  • Implicit knowledge or explicit knowledge
  • Codified knowledge
  • Organizational knowledge
  • Internal knowledge
  • Existing knowledge
  • Institutional knowledge

With many different types of knowledge, it can be difficult to find the best knowledge management system. Generally, the knowledge management process includes four components:

  • Acquisition. Knowledge is acquired through document repositories, data analysis, systematic data, and data from external sources.
  • Storage. Typically, organizations store this information in a knowledge base or document management systems. In the past, a filing system or physical catalog would have been considered knowledge storage systems.
  • Dissemination. Sharing knowledge with the right people is also critical. Within organizations, knowledge may be transferred from managers and employees via portals, emails, collaborative platforms, training programs, and other means.
  • Application. New knowledge is integrated into business procedures, organizational processes, and systems that later become a part of the decision-making process.

What are the three types of knowledge management systems?

At an organizational level, knowledge management systems should be championed and managed to provide the most value. Some companies even create a chief knowledge officer role or form committees to ensure their upkeep and correct use.

Different types of businesses will use various types of knowledge management systems. These include:

  1. Enterprise-wide knowledge management systems suit general-purpose knowledge management requirements and prioritize organizational productivity. They are geared towards cost reduction and simplifying access to information to support processes and decision-making. Subtypes of enterprise-wide systems include structured knowledge systems, semi-structured knowledge systems, and knowledge network systems.
  2. Knowledge work systems. These specialized workstations and systems enable scientists, engineers, and other knowledge workers to create and discover new knowledge. These might include computer-aided design, 3D visualization, virtual reality, or investment workstations like a Bloomberg terminal.
  3. Intelligent techniques are tools used to discover patterns and apply knowledge to discrete decisions and knowledge domains. These could include data mining, neural networks, and genetic algorithms, among other tools.

How to implement a knowledge management system

Like any technology platform or digital tool, knowledge management systems require company-wide adoption and use to be successful. Therefore, organizations must make a plan to ensure the system is implemented correctly, evangelized, and maintained. Here are some recommended steps for successfully implementing a knowledge management system.

  • Establish goals and objectives, including both short-term and long-term goals, to understand what you want to achieve with a knowledge management tool.
  • Create a change management strategy that incorporates employee feedback.
  • Identify gaps between the current and desired state and develop recommendations for reaching the desired state. This is especially important to improve the team’s knowledge retention.
  • Build an implementation roadmap that illustrates the project’s scope and phases and key milestones.
  • Implement the system.
  • At a reasonable point in time, assess the effectiveness of the system.
  • Make a plan for continuous improvement and further assessments.

What is the difference between knowledge management and insights management?

Knowledge management systems broadly apply to many industries and are typically accessible by anyone within the organization. While some systems can preserve confidentiality, encourage user interaction, and passively inform decisions, none are knowledge management’s primary focus. Furthermore, some knowledge management systems are highly specialized to specific roles, which limits their use.

Insights management can also be used in different companies, but recently, life science and healthcare organizations have gravitated to insights management platforms built specifically for their unique requirements. Insights management platforms work for life science organizations’ unique needs because they focus on compliance, support thoughtful and informative discussions, and provide directional information that directly drives decisions. Insights management platforms also include virtual discussion venues designed for ease of use across any level of tech knowledge, so internal teams can use these venues to gather everything from in-depth patient perspectives to more scientific HCP insights. These qualities make insights management more suited for pharma knowledge management applications.

While a pharmaceutical or healthcare organization may use an enterprise-wide knowledge management system alongside an insights management platform, these two tools provide different benefits for different parts of the business. If it helps, think of effective knowledge management as an exclusive, employee-only system and insights management as a more flexible, multi-purpose tool that can be used in many project phases.

Learn more about the basics of insights management in our blog series.


Study guide. The Knowledge Management Landscape.

Easyvista. Ten tips for implementing a knowledge management system.

Investopedia. What is a Bloomberg Terminal?

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