The work of Knowledge Mgmt vs Information Mgmt

Another way (see previous post Knowledge Management vs Information Management – Same Difference?) to understand the difference between Knowledge Management and Information Management is to consider the typical Objectives and Activities of each. KM and IM are both organisational functions. Both can be constructed as programmes of initiatives – though with different expected outcomes. From an enterprise view, here is how I think they differ.

Knowledge Management

Typical Objectives

  • Adaptability and agility to quickly achieve competitive advantage
  • Retention, growth and circulation of institutional memory
  • Creativity generating innovation
  • Organisational effectiveness in collaboration and coordination
  • Liveability and credibility of organisation for insiders

Typical Activities

  • Establish, facilitate and promote Communities of Practice
  • Conduct Knowledge Audits to identify knowledge that is needed to do work, and is difficult to replace or replicate
  • Establish and facilitate Lessons Learned approaches to capture after-the-fact knowledge from particular process, project or event
  • Establish and facilitate Storytelling approaches to transfer context-rich knowledge
  • Facilitate Mentoring and Apprenticeship programs to leverage subject matter experts tacit knowledge
  • Enhance and facilitate integrated knowledge transfer practices within employment life cycle, e.g. Induction program, professional development, exit interviews
  • Facilitate and promote enterprise knowledge transfer events, e.g. Knowledge Fairs (“look what we know or did”)
  • Facilitate and promote enterprise knowledge sharing and retention tools, e.g. Human Yellow Pages, Lessons Learned logs, Handoff/handover documents
  • Define and teach best practice for knowledge transfer and retention
  • Facilitate extraction of subject-matter-expertise knowledge and integrating this into targeted learning programs and tools

NB: I haven’t explicitly mentioned technology … On purpose! I think too many KM programs get focused on intranets, social computing and virtual collaboration tools at the expense of the people connecting, sharing and conversing activity.

Information Management

Typical Objectives

  • Compliance with regulations and standards (internal and external)
  • Organisational effectiveness in collaboration and coordination
  • Preservation of critical institutional information
  • Minimised organisational risk with non-repudiable evidence of activity
  • Better quality responsive decision-making

Typical Activities

  • Define and manage enterprise Information Architecture and meta-data to organise information and data
  • Define sources and destinations of information
  • Develop and implement new and upgraded IM systems (systems = people, process and tools)
  • Develop and manage integration of multiple IM systems
  • Manage interfaces for users to search and create data, content and information
  • Develop and implement data and content administration Manage retention, revision and retirement of enterprise information
  • Define and manage security and accessibility of information
  • Extract, aggregate and analyse data and information to provide business intelligence
  • Define and teach best practice for information capture, organisation and disposal

And both functions have activities in common like other organisational functions e.g. financial management, human resources. For example:

  • Understand the KM or IM needs for executing corporate business strategy
  • Define enterprise KM or IM strategy, policies and standards
  • Assess the KM or IM implications of new technologies
  • Define stewardship and responsibilities for KM or IM
  • Maintain KM or IM services and solutions including managing risk, compliance, funding, etc

Do they seem the same to you?

One reason for confusion about the difference may be that IM and KM both involve people, both exist for people, and should be designed for and with people. However KM addresses the tacit knowledge that is inside people that isn’t, and sometimes can’t or shouldn’t be, documented. KM’s focus is on retention and transfer of knowledge between and within people, rather than between people and information systems or within information systems.

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and ways to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.


3 thoughts on “The work of Knowledge Mgmt vs Information Mgmt

  1. Excellent article. I have struggled for a little while with the Tacit/Explicit model of knowledge, feeling it was incomplete. Recently I came across Uriarte’s book from 2008 which adds the concept of Implicit knowledge. Implicit knowledge is basically “remembered facts”. ie: Internal knowledge that is possible to be written down or made explicit. Likewise, the “Internalisation” part of SECI turns explicit knowledge in to implicit knowledge but not tacit, which comes from the personal embodiment of decision, behaviour and action.
    It seems the Tacit-Implicit-Explicit may also help when drawing a line between IT and KM, allowing for a slightly clearer look at the interface between the two, especially when it comes to learning, capturing expertise, following workflows, etc.

    • Thanks Stuart for your thoughts. I’ve found great utility in the distinction of Implicit knowledge as stuff I might have inside my head (or as a friend calls it, my necktop computer) which is ready or possible to relatively easily convert to Explicit knowledge. Maybe because I’ve reflected, take notes, taught others, etc the knowledge is in a form that, with a little bit of work might be written down or spoken in a structured way that is presented or recorded. I know I have Tacit knowledge that isn’t Implicit also when I find myself inarticulate about a subject on which I know I have substantial knowledge or experience. Writing SQL queries or doing business intelligence/data analysis is a classic dilemma for me. So be sure not to ask me to teach you this. Though I have spent some time transforming my knowledge about Pivot tables, so I could potentially get very Explicit about that!

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