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KMS vs CMS: What Are The Differences?

October 29, 2010

What is the difference between a Content Management System (CMS), like Plone, and a Knowledge Management System (KMS), such as Quaive or KARL (the tool built by OSF)?

While KMS and CMS both offer tools to manage and share information, they differ in many ways.

Information vs. Knowledge

A CMS is a system that allows contributors to manage information, defined as factual data that does not necessarily engage consumers. A knowledge management product aims at managing content, content interpretation, and relationships (e.g. “Fred also worked on these projects...”) KMS are by nature highly collaborative and participative.

Push vs Exchange

Traditionally, CMS are based on a push strategy to disseminate information. In contrast, KMS aim at providing an exchange platform for the critical knowledge that people need in order to perform their jobs.

Editing Tools

In CMS, control over the display of the content is key, therefore CMS offer a wide array of editing tools. In KMS, the message is key. The open source Quaive KMS strives to get out of the way and offer simple and straight-forward editing tools.


In CMS, authors are limited to specific groups of content contributors and content reviewers. In contrast, KMS engage all members of an organization, as well as external members and partners.

Frequency of Updates

A CMS-based website or intranet is updated periodically as part of a dedicated process (create/manage/publish flow). Business-critical knowledge is constantly captured in a KMS as a by-product of daily work interactions (users of a KMS can post blog content via email).


CMS tend to power public websites. The instances of a KMS oftentimes are all private with invitation-based access.

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