Tuesday 11 October 2011

A Question, or short rant

If, as many people claim, Knowledge Management is "getting the right information to the right people at the right time"  then what on earth do they think Information Management is?

Management of X is not concerned with delivery of Y.

It's like saying "Our grocery delivery service is about getting the right letters to the right people at the right time", or "The postal service is about delivering the correct aeroplanes to the correct addresses", or "Air traffic control is about ensuring the right groceries arrive at the right airports."

Unless you think that Knowledge and Information are the same, of course, but even then, why not call it Information Management?


Stephanie Barnes said...

Information Management is largely a compliance activity, concerned with meeting regulatory requirements, it looks backwards not forwards. Knowledge management looks forwards, it is a growth/learning/process improvement activity. They may be concerned with some of the same knowledge/information when it is documented, e.g. the lessons learned repository. Information management would be concerned about how it is organized and when it is removed from the repository and that it follows a proper records retention schedule, so that the organization is protected from a legal perspective. Knowledge Management is also concerned about how it is organized and removed from the repository but from a perspective of being able to find and reuse it, and removing it when it is no longer useful.

There is an overlap/competing intentions between the two, but they are not the same thing. A lot of people don't recognize the subtleties between the two.

Nick Milton said...

Thanks Stephanie

apologies for the rant by the way - I shouldn't post when I'm tired

I agree with you, and I recall a quote from someone wise (I can't remember who at the moment) who said that "Information Management is about organising things. Knowledge management isn't"

Stephanie Barnes said...

No worries Nick, I didn't completely understand the difference myself until I took an Information Management course this summer ;)

It is a very common misunderstanding; I have spoken to several librarians who think what they do is knowledge management, and not to take away from the important service they provide, but it's generally not knowledge management.

Stephen Bounds said...

Personally, I think that defining Information Management as Stephanie does is retrospectively putting it into a box for the sake of an intellectual distinction.

I certainly don't agree that IM is primarily backwards looking; the use of BI tools like Cognos et al are squarely IM but they are just as useful for forecasting as analysis.

I would define the difference this way: KM is practised through activities that support better decision-making. IM is practised by improving the systems that store, capture, transmit etc information.

So the act of library cataloguing is in the domain of IM, but the transaction by which a person approaches a librarian and leaves with a relevant set of data to make a better decision is KM.

The two disciplines are distinct but intrinsically entwined, since almost all decision making in our Western rational mindset is determined by the external information gathered and processed.

Nick Milton said...


"all decision making in our Western rational mindset is determined by the external information gathered and processed" - or is it determined by our experience and knowledge? Or both?

I could give you a whole stack of information about the rocks below the North Sea - seismic sections, maps, core samples - but could you make an effective decision about where to site an oil well?

Not without knowledge and experience, I would say, and as you suggest from your description of KM practice. Knowledge and experience is what you add to information in order to make an effective decision - it is not information alone. That's why provision of information (information management) is not enough. We need also to address the analysis, sharing and re-use of experience (knowledge management).

Howver based on the first clause of your last sentence, I suspect we are in agreement here.

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