Quite often the digital workspace (or modern workplace as it is sometimes called) is confused with an intranet, which in turn is often treated and used as a document management or knowledge management system.

What many organisations fail to realise is that a true digital workspace is a combination of all three and it is the integration of these platforms, and indeed many other systems such as your CRM and public-facing website, that collectively become a digital workspace.

We define the digital workspace as a collection of evolving technologies designed around your user’s needs that will give them the space and freedom to work securely anywhere and on any device. It optimises their experience and engagement with the tools and resources they need to help them be more effective and productive.

In this blog post we aim to unravel the differences between a document management system (DM), a knowledge management system (KM), and an intranet to demonstrate the strengths of each when starting your journey to an enhanced digital workspace.

Let’s begin with DM and KM. It’s quite easy to get the two confused. And the fact that both these solutions can be surfaced from an intranet adds another layer of complexity. To understand the difference between them, it’s first important to understand exactly what knowledge is.


Knowledge Management

Knowledge can be described as the understanding of something which is acquired through experience or education.

A great metaphor for the difference between information and knowledge is the use of a map of a city to navigate (document containing information) compared to what a London taxi driver possesses (knowledge). If we think about London’s black cabs, ‘The Knowledge’ is a phrase that represents the hard work and hours of learning put in to memorising the ins and outs of London’s streets. In contrast, maps, route plans and landmark descriptions are the information that help the cab drivers accrue that knowledge.  

So, we can therefore state that most documents are not knowledge as they don’t fully capture the insight and experience that a person can hold. Documents are usually written as a version of events that meet the requirement of organisational procedures and policies, rather than what happened. Knowledge can only be volunteered, and is a very social and collaborative thing, and so the way it is captured and handled needs to reflect this.

Knowledge can come in many forms and assets from written accounts to videos to pictures which can be shared, and more importantly, edited and improved upon, so that knowledge grows and develops as your organisation does.

How this knowledge is stored is only one part of the puzzle. The real challenge lies in extracting knowledge from your teams and then using the right technology to surface the right information at the right time to the right people. 

Typically it is used as a reference system and so there is a big emphasis on how content is surfaced. It may therefore require additional taxonomy to a DM system, possibly on multiple dimensions in order to be able to configure search appropriately. There is an emphasis here on noting the owners of pieces of knowledge with review workflows typically on 6 to 24 month periods.

ClearPeople has a tried and tested knowledge management approach that incorporates a lot of discovery and planning that allows you to reduce complexity and risk at defined milestones, and incorporate feedback in an agile way.
Document Management

Document Management on the other hand, is the way in which electronic documents are stored, managed and tracked within an organisation. A document management system organises documents into easy-to-find electronic formats allowing users to:

  • search by different criteria, which is achieved through the metadata stored within the documents
  • keep a record of various versions created and modified (history tracking)
  • retrieve a previous version of an edited document
  • restrict access to certain (confidential) content
  • monitor who is viewing documents and when
  • edit and collaborate on document versions
The fundamental purpose of a DM system is to improve the efficiency and productivity of the workforce by allowing them to store, manage and find documents, files and emails in a systematic, user-friendly way. The information architecture is usually planned around teams or work-related activities and promotes a culture of sharing in an organisation. A typical example is having project areas within specific client areas. In the legal sector for instance, we will see Matter areas within client areas. Within an effective DM system, search is key, and quite often it will also be supported third-party plug-ins that enable users to browse through different areas. It is also common to include custom functionality to facilitate the creation of new working areas based on templates as well as default metadata on documents to facilitate daily usage.

ClearPeople’s experience in optimising findability, internal workflows and processes means that your document management requirements are in safe hands.


Both knowledge and document management can be integrated into a company’s intranet, but the intranet itself shouldn’t be confused with the two. An intranet can be described as an interactive and inclusive collaboration and communications gateway, providing easy access to latest news, content, workflow, documents and applications from whatever device you are on, wherever you are. Its main goals are to streamline business processes and increase operational efficiency whilst improving communication and collaboration between employees and management. 

So far, so similar, but what are the main differences between these to help you make the right decision for your organisation when investing in the tools to reach your digital workspace objectives? 


Communications Intranet

  • Key focus is on communication and employee engagement
  • Can be used to drive cultural change
  • Can also be used to enable knowledge-based activities such as communities and social networks
  • Contributors normally limited to the Communications and HR team. Staff may contribute if there is the facility available to do this

Knowledge Management System

  • Key focus is on enhancing and retaining organisational knowledge
  • Knowledge has a shelf life and so needs to be reviewed and updated frequently
  • Contributors are more likely to be wider – employees, partner and perhaps even customers

Document Management System

  • Primary use is for publishing, storing and retrieving documents
  • More of a long-term archive
  • Used to transform work from paper-based documentation to paperless
  • Compliance and governance is high 

If you would like to know more about how this technology threesome can work together to help your organisation retain knowledge, store information and provide greater collaboration and communication amongst your workforce, we’d be happy to discuss with you the right approach to take


Call us today on 0203 376 9500 to speak to one of our consultants.


Author bio

Ricky Wallace
Ricky Wallace
Marketing Manager
I manage the delivery of ClearPeople’s marketing strategy. When I’m not getting excited about delighting customers with exceptional experiences, researching the latest tech trends or analysing data to glean insight, I’m often seen dancing to Little Mix or watching Emmerdale.


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