Wednesday, 3 August 2016

5 points of difference between Knowledge Management and Information/Content management

Still the confusion remains between Information Management/Enterprise Content Management and Knowledge Management. Here are 5 points of difference and 1 point of overlap. 

In fact these pictures only have one point of similarlity.
Much like KM and IM/EMC
I have covered the difference between KM and IM many times on this blog (see here, here, here, here and here for example). There is an enduring confusion between the two, partly caused by a deficiency in the English language, and partly by a lot of bandwaggoning when KM was a trendy term. 

The confusion is exemplified by a conversation I had yesterday:
  • (Me) "What are you trying to achieve through your KM program?"
  • (Other party) "Well, our records are in a mess, we have mislabelled data, and nobody can find information".
  • (Me) "It seems to me that you need better data and information management, as well as knowledge management".
  • (Other party) "What's the difference? What is knowledge management anyway?"

Despite the confusion, there are definite differences between KM and IM, and 5 of these are explored below.

5 different focus areas

Our 2104 survey of world KM identified six main areas of focus for Knowledge Management, explained in detail in my blog post "what do practitioners understand KM to include". Only only one of these six overlaps with the IM/ECM discipline; the others are unique to Knowledge Management, and are  described below.
  1. Connecting people in communities of practice. This represents a focus on creating knowledge-sharing networks which act as reservoirs of tacit knowledge, which can be shared, combined and built collectively. This tacit knowledge may never be codified, and much of the knowledge transfer happens through conversation rather than content. A series of posts on this blog, and the Knoco website CoP page, provide a whole set of guidance on communities of practice, which remains knowledge management's Number 1 core tool, at least for larger organisations. CoPs are not an information management discipline.

  2. Learning from Experience. This represents a focus on discussing and assimilating knowledge from activity and from projects. It focuses as much on the creation and application/embedding of the lessons as on their management as content. Again, much transfer of lessons can be through conversations in contexts such as Peer Assist and Knowledge Handover. A series of posts on this blog, and the Knoco website Lesson Learned page, provide a whole set of guidance on effective lesson learning, which remains knowledge management's Number 2 core tool, at least for project based organisations. This is not an information management discipline either.

  3. Knowledge retention. This represents a focus on retaining, and transferring to others, tacit knowledge from experts which might otherwise be at risk of loss. The tacit knowledge should be documented, although some of the knowledge transfer may happen through conversational processes such as mentoring and coaching. Several posts on this blog, and the Knoco website Retention page, provide a whole set of guidance on knowledge retention, which remains a core tool for knowledge management, at least for organisations with mature workforces. Knowledge Retention is also not an information management discipline.

  4. Collection and provision of "Best Practice" (or Best Design). This represents a focus on comparing knowledge from many sources, and synthesising the best possible knowledge for given contexts, which can then be standardised across the organisation. This may be a best practice approach to a task, or a best design for a product component. Think of the Pilot's Checklist - in use in all airlines - as an example of such "Best Practice". This blog, and the Knoco website Knowledge Asset page, provides a whole set of guidance on knowledge synthesis and best practices, which remain core tools for KM. This is definitely not an information management discipline.

  5. Innovation. This focuses on the creation of new knowledge, when old knowledge is not longer sufficient. This blog contains guidance on Innovation, which is a KM tool and not an IM tool.

1 point of similarity. 

Like the "spot the difference" picture above, there is really only one similarity to find among the 5 differences, and only one focus area where KM and IM/ECM overlap.

That is the focus on provision of better access to documented knowledge. This approach requires techniques and solutions common to Information/Content management, which focuses on provision of better access to documented content, whether that content is codified knowledge or some other form of document.  Unfortunately this one point of similarity seems to be enough to create a massive confusion between the two disciplines. 

Don't let this one similarity blind you to the 5 differences


Adam Pope said...

Surely 'documented knowledge' is a merely a sub-set of 'information'? As such there should be no cross-over between KM and IM. It's like me calling knowledge 'undocumented information', then we'd have complete cross-over!

Nick Milton said...

Yes, it's a subset of information, but a special subset of information, in that humans can convert it back into tacit knowledge through internalisation. It still needs to be managed as part of the KM system.

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