More on KM and IM 2007

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Pete Cranston started with this query on 22 May 2007 on the KM4Dev mailing list:


Effective IM is a necessary condition for KM, and tends to be a low priority issue in organisations big and small. Mike Powell’s ground-breaking book in Information Management (IM) for Development organizations described the importance of IM and outlined practical approaches, and probably remains the best paper resource. However I am have having problems locating online resources that could help small NGOs, telecentres and projects. Even the mighty iTrainonline is richer in KM than IM. Anyone have any ideas?




1. hi pete,

take a look at the free online modules at in addition to training they also provide a great overview of IM and KM for development and contains many key resources on the following subject: Management of Electronic Documents Building Electronic Communities and Networks Investing in Information for Development Digitization and Digital Libraries

kind regards, geraud servin

2. Paul Whiffen Hi Pete,

Out of interest, how are you differentiating between KM and IM? You never stop learning in this game and I'd be interested to know how others are seeing this linkage / relationship.

Many thanks,


3. oh, I love this issue and this is my alternatives (for what it is worth) to a half-page definition: KM deals with what's in your head (people, tacit) while IM deals with what's in books (process, technology, explicit) KM is about learning how to ride a bike with your dad while IM is about reading a 150-page method on "how to ride a bike in 10 lessons" with some illustrations. Data management would be list all the parts that made a bike with their precise metric measurements. geraud

4. Liz Orna says that "information is knowledge made visible". That sums it all up for me!

Frank Ryan, Head of Library & Information Services

5. Hm, not sure about this. Isn't KM is about how to make knowledge of individuals a knowledge of an organization and how to build new knowledge? While IM is about how existing information (which might also include 'explicit' knowledge in form of books, papers tec) is organized and technically made available to an organization?


Johannes Schunter

6. Hi Paul,

From a KM perspective IM is a sub-discipline or more friendly spoken a partner discipline driving a kind of “one-dimensional” KM focusing on knowledge codification/documentation and codified/documented knowledge and its diffusion. Other partner disciplines of that kind are competency management / personnel development / learning & training and process management / organizational development or any kind of “collaboration management”.

Knowledge as I understand it in KM should be regarded in a much wider integrating perspective:

  • individual proficiencies: education, experiences and personal capabilities of the involved persons,
  • organizational capabilities: distributed and/or networked knowledge, which is distributed across various persons, different organization units and information systems. Often it is combining like a puzzle complementary capabilities and information to more complex capabilities as necessary for products, technologies or processes, which cannot be completely understood by any single person,
  • information, i.e. codified, often documented knowledge, e.g. trend reports, experience documents, guidelines, workflows, best practices or rules and regulations, which are connected with the knowledge of individuals and/or organizational knowledge of e.g. teams or communities of practice.

Regards Josef Josef Hofer-Alfeis

7. Hi all,

The difference between IM and KM has been a hot topic on this list in the past. Nancy actually did a brilliant summary for the Community Knowledge wiki:

What I always find intriguing in the assumption that "Effective IM is a necessary condition for KM". How does that relate with with Geraud's definition below?

Best, Lucie

8. Hi Paul

(the old issues bring out the old…).

In my own mind I am clear about the distinction, but it is always hard to write down – which of course, as Geraud says, contains at least half the answer. I have never moved far from the position that Knowledge Management is probably an oxymoron. The conditions can be managed under which people can share Knowledge, or learn, as can the people themselves. Information can be managed – stored, catalogued, amended and developed through formal work-flow processes. However, I think Knowledge is probably entirely personal. People who have knowledge can be interrogated, and have their thoughts recorded variously. But I suspect people listening, viewing or reading those recordings will all learn different things because of course context and personal history is all.

To stay with bikes, I once had an encyclopedic knowledge of North London cycle routes. A lot of what I knew could have been mapped or written down – when it would have been information – but the knowledge that made me rarely late for the school gate had to do with which route when, what traffic in one place meant in another. At bottom decisions on a particular day were judgment calls, based on experience, and maybe that is one of the things that turned the information into knowledge – knowing which information is relevant in which context, and having the confidence to trust judgement.

Oh, and knowledge is a lot more tentative, probably.



9.Dear All,

I understand the interrelationship between KM and IM as follows:

Data --> Information --> Knowledge --> Wisdom

I believe Information management is a prerequisite to Knowledge Management.

We witnessed the passing of each of the eras and I am sure Wisdom Management will someday be a hot subject (my personal forcast).

rgds gopi pradhan Bhutan

10. Jaap Pels

IRCDOC Search Results

Sorted by relevancy (Sort by entry date)

Results 1 - 20 of 4675 for 'information management' .

  * BibliographicThe information architecture guide (2001)
  * Bibliographic Information ecology : mastering the information

and knowledge environment (1997)

  * Bibliographic A joint vision on water information : report on

the foundation meeting of the FID water information special interest group (2000)

  * Bibliographic Information in the water and sanitation sector (1994)
  * Bibliographic Information, capacity development, and

environmental policy-making : report from a Consultation on Information Capacities and the Management of National Environmental Policy Agendas, Maastricht, 22-24 May 1995 (1995)

  * Bibliographic Where there is no librarian : an information

management manual (1992)

  * Bibliographic Management and information systems for the water

industry in Sri Lanka (1993)

  * Bibliographic Informatieplanning bij Waterleidingmaatschappij

Oost-Brabant (1995)

  * Bibliographic Information management in the water and sanitation

sector : lessons learned from field assignments in Africa and Asia (1993)

  * Bibliographic Information and communication technology in

development : cases from India (2000)

  * Bibliographic Information management for development organisations (2003)
  * Bibliographic Monitoring tailor-made II : information strategies

in water management : proceedings (1997)

  * Bibliographic Electronic Library : the international journal for

the applications of technology in information environments

  * Bibliographic Management and marketing of information services

in Africa (1993)

  * Bibliographic Système d'information géographique et gestion des

projets au sein du réseau CREPA. (2002)

  * Bibliographic IIMI review
  * Bibliographic Annual report of the Natural Resources Information

Clearinghouse : October 2002 - September 2003 (2003)

  * Bibliographic Integrated information management : paper no. 8 (1998)
  * Bibliographic Wastewater management for coastal cities : the

ocean disposal option (1988)

  * Bibliographic Application of geographic information systems in

hydrology and water resources management : proceedings of an international conference (1993)

Next » 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ...234

11. Steve Song Ah the old debates are the best debates. If you are interested, there is a raging debate on ACTKM right now on the "definition of knowledge". Not for the faint of heart :-)

For me, two things are often left out of these definitions are 1) the contextual nature of knowledge (and consequently information) and 2) the dimension of time which changes that context (sometimes paradigmatically)

An organic metaphor does actually address some of this. If you think of knowledge as flowers growing in a garden it is easy to see knowledge as a living, changing, dynamic thing conditioned by its environment.

We might then think of information as cut flowers, a report as a bouquet of cut flowers... beautifully arranged and used for a specific purpose. However, like information, the brightness and utility of the cut flowers often fades with time as the context changes and new flowers grow in the garden etc.

Although it has some obvious limitations, I am quite taken with this metaphor as I feel it actually puts information in the appropriate context to knowledge i.e. information is a bouquet of knowledge cut from its source and linked to a particular context.

I no longer believe in a linear relationship between data, information and knowledge (let alone wisdom whatever that is).

Cheers... Steve

12. Rodolfo Siles Hi Paul

Here is a definition I always like and use:

"Knowledge is Experience, everything else is just information" Albert Einstein


13. I like the notion of a “knowledge object”. The management of knowledge objects is what we really do. A knowledge object is a description/representation of knowledge or an agent (human or machine) that possesses knowledge. To possess knowledge means to be able to take action, solve problems, answer questions, etc. In short, an agent is able to absorb/internalize knowledge communicated by another agent or description. We do not manage knowledge directly. In the end it is a state of human mind or machine. An example of the latter could be a computer playing chess.

Zbigniew Mikolajuk

14. I'm not sure I have the right quote, but I am drawn to a comment in Brown's book on the Social Life of Information, which says something to the effect that information is the answer to the last question, while knowledge answers the next question. (I think I butchered that! Anybody remember the quote?).

But the key element is sort of like the tree falling in a forest - "knowledge" refers to how information is used; "knowledge" is not intrinsic to the report/book/quote; it's how the reader/listener/doer TAKES that info and uses it that makes it into knowledge. What I like about this is that it focuses "knowledge" on the receiver not the giver - it's not a question of passing a magic bullet that is miraculously understood and used. I send out 3,000 copies of a brilliant book; does it make a difference? Not by itself - if it's not understood, if it doesn't meet a need from the perspective of the reader (and NOT just the writer) to me it's not "knowledge".

Again, I tend to think of knowledge not as an archival concept but as a contextual flow, and one focused on the point of CONSUMPTION, and not on the point of PRODUCTION (so to speak).

For me this is important in that it gives me a way to think about the impact of the loss of experience and expertise in the workforce (be it a factory, a farm or a donor) due to retirement, AIDs or out-migration. Doesn't it matter that the number of people doesn't change but the experience level drops? Can you just package the experience from the older and more experienced and pass it on as "knowledge" to the less experienced? I don't think so, not by itself. To use another analogy, "knowledge" isn't like a Word file; passing along someone's experience and "answers" only is helpful if the person at the receiving end has the right "EXE" file....

This then means supporting the transfer of approaches, experience and skills for tackling questions, not just the last set of answers, and CERTAINLY not just by developing slicker and more powerful archival systems.

Tony Pryor

15. Pete Cranston (header changes to "Knowledge") "Knowledge is like light information is water" Steve's flowers perfect.

Thanks to Jaap for the IRC link (from which that article title came), and to Servin for the IMARK reminder: the materials are excellent, though I am still looking for more basic materials - for very small organisations. I think what I want is Mike Powell's book - a primer - online.



16. Richard Sleight Hi Everyone              
      For your interest Mike Powell's book is online for free from the     
      publishers site - Oxfam GB. It can also be bought in print from this 
      site as well. Hope this helps.                                       
      Mike Powell also guest edited the 16(6) issue of the journal         
      Development in Practice which was focused on Knowledge Management. I 
      am sure quite a few members of this email list contributed to it.    
      Please visit the website for more      

17. Sarah Cummings Dear All

I, too, love this debate on the differences between IM and KM. Based on the 2004 discussion on KM4Dev (plus a review of the literature and some reflection on development practice), I produced an internal document on the differences between IM and KM. If anyone is interested I'm very happy to share. In fact, the definitions on the Wiki look very familiar... Also interesting to see that many of the people who contributed to the debate in 2004 are still around and still interested in this subject!

I see Mike Powell's book as the textbook on IM for development - and I also recommend it very highly. IMARC is also a very important source. I'd also like to recommend Kingo Mchombu's 'Sharing knowledge handbook' which may be more suitable for smaller organizations - so this may be exactly what you are looking for, Pete. Just realised that this is also an Oxfam publication! And is also free fulltext online.

Best wishes

Sarah Cummings

18. I'm a little concerned in all this debate on the differences between Information Management and Knowledge Management. There seems to be a bit of one-upmanship: "knowledge" is somehow superior to mere "information", so Knowledge Management must be better than Information Management. Surely both are important? And rely on each other? Best wishes from Iran.

Paul Mundy

19. Of course we've had this in the past with "information science" sounding superior to "librarianship" and “information management” superior to “information science” .

Andrew Buxton

20. Pete Cranston Hi I agree, hence my “effective IM is a necessary condition for KM” (and why I like the Knowledge as Light and Information as Water metaphor: both are essential to life and are transformative in very different ways). To answer Lucie, for organizations I think IM is essential in the same way as, at bottom, even the most emergent of people have eventually to at least re-sort, if not tidy, their desks (or floors). If the ‘housekeeping’ information isn’t well sorted then it is hard for people and organizations to relax into learning, to have the space to be reflective. I think the difficult trick for organisations is in keeping them separate: so that monthly management reports aren’t expected to function as learning documents, when well archived information – generally hierarchically classified –is is seen as only a starting point for learning from mistakes.

I think this is one of the potentially most significant opportunities from all the, excuse me, Web 2.0 tools. It’d be interesting to see how people are managing to combine the newer and older tools – such as the discussion recently on Blogging tools as a public conversation space – and indeed the excellent KM4Dev Wiki. Who else is using Blogging in the same way, for example (sorry if that is already in the archives)? Who has succeeded in bringing to any but the geeks or neo-geeks? What about video or photo sharing or archiving in YouTube or PhotoBucket?


21. Hi Paul,

When I look at my own experience with IM and KM, I think aversion against IM has to do with so many organizations aiming to encourage knowledge creation and sharing, while in fact creating nothing but complex information repositories. Databases that are time consuming to keep updated and therefore mostly outdated. The aversion is not really caused by information or information management itself, but rather by all those examples of an extreme focus on IM.

To me it seems that people talking about “KM” are the people that notice these flaws and decide to focus on the end goal again, improving the capacity of their colleagues / the organization as a whole to learn, to innovate. (Of course, there are also many that say KM and still focus on databases only…)

Pete in his first message mentioned “Effective IM is a necessary condition for KM, and tends to be a low priority issue in organisations big and small.” I’m not sure I agree with the latter. To me it seems organizations spend much of their budgets (be it a KM budget or a budget for ‘automation’) on databases, websites, data entry, reporting and so on. We seem to want to be present on the web (e.g. “knowledge portals”), to control all information going on in and around the organization, and overlook the fact that we started to do this so that people would have information at their disposal, right where and when they need it: information they will be able to use, turning it into knowledge as soon as they pick it up.

Maybe one of the problems is just that IM often isn’t that “effective” at all? Knowledge (as was said in the previous emails) is contextual, linked to people, flexible. Trying to capture knowledge is hard if not impossible, and yet many IM projects are aimed at that. Examples of effective IM that I’ve seen have let go of the idea of capturing knowledge, and instead focus on linking people. I guess effective IM should be like a good facilitator in a meeting sometimes is: invisible.

By the way, Anecdote addressed the topic of knowledge/information/data (“what is better”) a while ago: on viewing data, information and knowledge as a system, rather than a pyramid with Knowledge on top.

Best wishes, Dorine

Dorine Rüter ETC Foundation

22. Paul summarizes: his was quite a debate, albeit not a new one as several people have said.

I have been in this KM game for 10 years now, been all through all sorts of ups and downs in various sectors (military, commercial, Govt, Church and Humanitarian Aid). I see IM as quite important, but it’s not at the top of the list in terms of what’s really needed to make a powerfully learning organisation.

Above it I put things like:

CEO commitment to learn; Delivering activities through clearly-defined Projects; A culture that supports openness and sharing; A performance culture; A willingness to invest in KM in a strategic manner.

If you have things like that in place then you have a better chance of producing a learning organisation. By learning, I mean at two distinct levels:

a/. Relatively operational / tactical level of moving this bit knowledge from here to there as and when it’s needed; b/. A deeper and more strategic level which is the organisation starting to see patterns and links in the way it operates internally and how it is positioned in the wider world. This is where it starts to get really exciting to me! It’s a bit like an organisation going to a therapist and transforming itself.

As these two things start to appear, so IM can then be arranged to help support and sustain them. If you lead with IM then you remain at the relatively mechanistic end of the spectrum and it doesn’t really get going.

This is not about putting KM at the top of the tree. Above KM I put the Business strategy and making sure that is clear. (And by the way if it isn’t then KM helps to reveal that through “b” above by the way). Â

Hope this makes sense!


23. Paul Currion I agree with Gopi's point below, but my version of the information cycle has "action" instead of "wisdom". This started me thinking - I don't think that organisations have any use for "wisdom", which is very much an individual thing, so I'm not sure about "wisdom management". However this takes us to the conclusion that as we pass along the chain of information from data to wisdom, what is changing is not the "knowledge object" itself (i.e. data becomes information) but our relationship to that object?

24. I have been thinking about Andrew's comment. I think the reason that people stick to their definitions without appearing to move towards common ground is because people are speaking from different basic positions.

A classical physicist would never be able to agree with a quantum physicist on a definition and use of the word "matter" because their basic framework and fundamental assumptions about the nature of the universe are different. BTW, if you are a physicist on this list, please forgive my oversimplication for the sake of example.

What I am hearing in some of these definitions are fundamentally different assumptions of the whole framework of how understanding happens, how the very process of communication and our brains work. As a result, it is not surprising to see the continued disparity.

I think that until a very few years ago the "normal" definition of knowledge for organisations was not very different from that of information. In fact, the words were used interchangeably. There was little organisational sense of knowledge as largely intangible or tacit. I would say that we STILL live in a world where the dominant paradigm is to only value what we can measure and by extension anything unmeasurable doesn't really exist for practical purposes.

Soo... it is not so much one-upmanship but the sound of paradigms colliding.  :-)

-Steve Song

P.S. This post was triggered by a fascinating discussion thread on paradigms on ACT-KM in reaction to a similar debate.