Knowledge bases, knowledge repositories, knowledge management platforms, knowledge modules…confused yet?
The list of knowledge management tools ideally designed to help an organization find and manage helpful information can be overwhelming.
You probably can think of a handful of active software subscriptions in your company with some kind knowledge management component; these tools may be siloed off, hard to access.
In this post, you’ll learn 7 types of knowledge tools out there and how to categorize and think about each one.
The purpose of knowledge management tools
At the end of the day—employees should be able to easily access and store knowledge no matter the KM tool. For example, project management software (while it contains project-specific knowledge) may not need to surface this information elsewhere.
A knowledge management platform, on the other hand, serves as a company’s source of truth; this solution contains knowledge that may be needed in different channels—on a website portal, in a chat environment, embedded inside contact center software.
If you’ve checked out our post on knowledge management systems, we break down where tools fit in the overall system—whether that be the simplest of knowledge bases or an enterprise platform.
What are some different types of knowledge management tools?
Now that you know what knowledge management tools are, let’s dive into a few different examples on the market today—it goes without saying but all knowledge tools in today’s world are software tools, most operating under a subscription model.
The best knowledge management tools for your business will depend on the size of your business and how sophisticated your KM system; knowledge is needed for many different types of products, in many different contexts.
A knowledge base at its core is any solution that can store and maintain a library of information.
Knowledge bases are usually thought of as standalone products, software with storage and retrieval capabilities and articles (or cards) as the primary content type.
Companies often use knowledge bases internally to compile important information related to business operations into a central location. Knowledge bases can also be considered modules of larger enterprise systems.
A knowledge base generally allows users to add knowledge in the form of cards, and attach documents to those cards as needed. Check out our Guide to Knowledge Base Software for a more in-depth overview.
Knowledge sharing platform
A knowledge-sharing platform is another knowledge management tool specifically designed to facilitate internal knowledge collaboration and documenting information. Bloomfire or Notion are examples of products in the ‘knowledge sharing’ category.
Since companies often desire to capture and share knowledge internally, they will choose a solution in the knowledge base category designed around sharing; often these products are branded as knowledge sharing platforms, or workforce management platforms.
Knowledge sharing platforms help small companies collaborate and develop operating procedures, training manuals, and customer support materials they need to further growth.
Learning management system software
A learning management system—commonly referred to as learning management system (LMS) software helps organizations develop and store knowledge related to:
- Educational courses
- Employee training and onboarding
- Talent development
LMS vs. knowledge base software
Learning management systems differ from a knowledge base software because an LMS is purpose built to house learning content used to create exams or courses. An LMS comes with content types like quizzes, videos, and SCORM files—a standard specific to e-learning. A knowledge base, on the other hand, is content agnostic, focused on storage and findability.
Many companies use learning management system software to onboard, upskill, and reskill employees. A learning management platform can automatically administer, document, track, and deliver educational materials based on pre-selected criteria.
Document management software
Document management system software exclusively stores, manages, and tracks electronic documents, including scanned images of paper documents. Document management systems are typically stand-alone software, but can be included as a feature of a broader knowledge management platform.
Document management systems make it easy to share documents among large groups without having to grant individual permissions. They also provide access for auditing purposes and keep a history of changes if you need to access previous versions.
For companies that rely heavily on documentation, document management systems can provide:
- Security and access control
- Version control
- Audit trails
- Monitored access
- Document lockdown
Companies that require document management in addition to more robust knowledge management features commonly use a knowledge management platform.
Project management software
Most project management software on the market is card-based—like dedicated knowledge base software, PM software can store a few basic knowledge types, but not designed to serve as a company’s knowledge infrastructure.
Project management systems improve communication and efficiency among teams and may serve as a company’s internal knowledge base.
Decision support software
Decision support tools are another category of knowledge management tools specifically designed to help break down complex processes involving decision points. Decision tree software is commonly used exclusively for process mapping, but some products can handle tasks like agent scripting or conversational workflows.
Decision trees can exist as a content type of enterprise knowledge management platforms; since KM platforms house existing knowledge, process flows are easier to build out deploy to integrated environments.
Decision trees (as an example) are commonly used in a contact center environment because they are helpful for guiding agents through complex processes.
Knowledge management platforms
A knowledge management platform is an enterprise knowledge tool that offers additional features that knowledge bases do not, and can surface knowledge to many internal and external environments.
Unlike knowledge management tools that serve one specific purpose, a knowledge management platform generally includes multiple knowledge-specific features within the platform—like the ability to use decision trees as a content type.
A knowledge management platform is the best source of truth a company can use because knowledge can be integrated and surfaced within a contact center platform, CRM, and many other environments.
Select the right tool to serve as your knowledge infrastructure
Think about your company’s overall knowledge management system (and strategy) before you select a KM tool. Assess what will best allow you to create a main knowledge hub based on your company size…but think about the future state as well.
At some point, you will realize you need a single source of truth—especially if you already have products like SharePoint, Confluence or any other knowledge-related products deployed.
Tired of juggling 5 knowledge-related tools at once? Think of knowledge as an infrastructure, choose a solution that can surface great knowledge where you need it to be.