Talk:Difference between IM and KM

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IM vs KM: what’s the difference?

Keywords Information management, knowledge management, IM, KM

Introduction [A general introduction to the topic – no more than 1-2 paragraphs] Eiko Ikegaya wrote: Hello. I'm with the Peacekeeping Best Practices Section of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) at the UN I have a question regarding Knowledge Management and Information Management. DPKO is working on an information management strategy. At the same time, we have a number of KM initiatives (e.g. developing COPs, rolling out a KM toolbox including how-to guides on AARs, etc.) and we're coming up with a KM policy that would tie these projects together. As we were working on the KM policy, our team became a bit lost in terms of how KM relates to IM. Is KM a component of IM, or is it the other way around? How does knowledge sharing (KS) fit in? Do other organizations have any experience developing both an IM and KM strategy? If so, how do the two relate? Does one come before the other? Any experiences and sample IM/KM strategies would be most welcome. Thanks! Best regards, Eiko

Detailed Description with an example [the meat of the topic – clearly, crisply communicated summary of the topic. Where relevant, a brief story – no more than 1-2 paragraphs - of how this topic has been turned into practice, ideally from the KM4Dev archives? ]

Debates and Discussions [a brief summary of (i) the KM4Dev debates which provided source material, where possible linked to (ii) broader debates and points of contention relating to the topic ]

Further Information [A set of resources to find out more, including key texts, websites and KM4Dev folk (not consultants!). No more than 3-7 sources…]

KM4Dev, February 2004, October 2005, March 2003 Books & Papers:

  • Of Cathedrals and Bazaars (E. Raymond)-- on the power of open source in creating productive communities, an analogy for KM activities
  • The Mystery of Capital (H. De Soto) -- on the power of property (ideas) when duly recorded (codified) in creating wealth (knowledge).
  • In Good Company (L. Prushak) -- light reading on the power of social capital
  • EGDI (The Expert Group On Development Issues) has a very interesting part

about Organizational Learning in Development Co-operation:

  • Interesting studies of two professors (Professor Kenneth King, which I mentioned already and Simon McGrathof) who did research for the Centre of African Studies of the University of Edinburgh. Here you can find their working papers:
  • a usefull study of both professors about 'Knowledge sharing in development agencies: lessons from four cases', which was presented at the KM4DEV workshop in The Hague, last November. Look at There you find the workshop outputs. Just click on Kenneth King's name and you find his study.

  • Kim Forss et al, "Organisational learning in development co-operation: how knwoledge is generated and used", 1998, This is published by the Ministry of Foreigh Affairs, Sweden (you kan find this at the EGDI site: see above). It;'s an excellent research. Regards, Joke van Veen
  • For a good general KM article, I really like Margaret Wheatley's "The Real Work of Knowledge Management", which you can find on the website in the Strategy sub-section of the Web Links: or here:

  • "The Social Life of Information" by J.S. Brown and P. Duguid.
  • Information Specialist Cor Dietvorst ( made a document that collects and categorises major issues and recommendations related to information and knowledge management (IM/KM) that have appeared in recent international conferences and meetings both in the water sector: - Streams e-conference - 3rd World Water Forum - 6th Water Information Summit and in the broader development sector: - Making Knowledge Networks Work for the Poor workshop
  • the World Summit on the Information Society To view the complete document, surf to
  • Nick Milton's brilliant book "Knowledge Management for Teams and Projects

I've always wondered if an organization can/should attempt KM if they have no IM. If an organization doesn't understand the flow and management of information can it be successful at managing the flow of knowledge?

It's obvious that this boundary between IM/KM interests a lot of us. Even though there have been some excellent interventions already, I'm afraid I can't resist adding my halfpennyworth.... In this reply, I’m referring to an earlier discussion on IM/KM which took place on KM4Dev (Feb. 2004) and some working definitions of IM/KM which I put together with help from these discussions. Finally, I’m asking for help to try to improve these definitions...

In February 2004, I asked a similar question to the one Eiko has so recently posed: We are currently having an internal debate on the differences between information management (IM) and knowledge management (KM) for a non-profit and development organization. To feed into this debate, I'm looking for interesting references or useful definitions which reflect the difference between these two, very much related concepts. Any suggestions?

  • I was trying to set up were working definitions of IM and KM for my colleagues, based on work within information services, for people who did not have much familiarity with KM.
  • I wanted to refer to tools and approaches that would make it clearer for my colleagues by including the following elements in each definition: the intellectual tradition(s) from which it is derived; its main foci; its material forms; what practitioners are ‘doing’ (selecting, describing, classifying, indexing, abstracting, editing, synthesis, ranking, value judging, contextualization etc) in information services and libraries; some distinguishing, fundamental concepts; some particular reference to ‘development’; and engagement with the field (not only based on a ‘book’ definition but also on discussion with others i.e. the KM4Dev community).

Based on examples from KM4Dev-ers and the literature, I looked at various products and services we were producing in terms of what was done ('actions') with the information/knowledge: editing, synthesis, ranking, value judging, contextualization, exchange, summarizing, abstracting (informative or descriptive), storing, indexing, classification, description, and selection. This was in order from editing (with the most reliance on tacit knowledge) to selection (which seemed to have the most reliance on rules). Based on this matrix of products/services and different 'actions', two different distributions of knowledge-related and information-related products/services were identified, characterized by 'connection' and 'collection' respectively. Based on this, I came up with two practice-oriented definitions:

Information management (IM) is an interdisciplinary field with its roots in librarianship and information science, information technology, records management, archives and general management. Its focus is on information as a resource with an emphasis on collection. The material form in which this information occurs includes book, journals, and databases. Practitioners select, describe, classify, index, and abstract this information to make it more accessible to a target audience, either within or outside their organization. Fundamental concepts include thesauri (controlled vocabulary) and classification systems based on rules which provide the architecture for accessing information. Libraries and resources centres are generally the focus of IM activities. In a development context, IM is concerned to provide transparent and standardized access to information both within and outside the organization.

Knowledge management (KM) is an interdisciplinary field with its roots in business management, psychology, librarianship and information science and information technology. It is founded on IM which provides the architecture of knowledge. Its focus is on knowledge as a resource with an emphasis on connection. The development of new ICTs has facilitated the development of this area of work.

Practitioners summarize, contextualize, value-judge, rank, synthesize, edit and facilitate to make information and knowledge accessible to a target audience, either within or outside their organization. Fundamental concepts include social learning, organizational learning and best practices, largely based on tacit interpretation and less on rules. Networks, online communities, yellow pages, intranets and extranets, and websites are KM tools. Techniques commonly used by KM practitioners include After Action Reviews, story telling, and Open Space. In a development context, KM is concerned to facilitate exchange and cross-fertilization by providing access to knowledge both within and outside the organization. It is synonymous with knowledge sharing.

Visually, IM was represented as the core (and foundation) and KM as the outer circle.

So, I now have some questions. Do you think these are useful working definitions of the two fields - bearing in mind that they are designed for people not familiar with KM? Do you have any idea how I could improve them? With hindsight, I’m not really happy with them. In the KM definition, I wanted to include KM techniques, such as AAR, but am not sure which others would be appropriate. Sarah

Most attention so far has gone to three main issues:

  • Improving access to information and knowledge - covering the availability, accessibility and affordability of information (especially of scientific information in developing countries)
  • Promoting knowledge sharing, through learning circles and vertical/horizontal coalitions, peer-to-peer technology, communities of practice, "infomediaries", help-desks, e-learning and better interaction/mutual learning with target groups (the poor).
  • Networking: international and regional cooperation - covering networking models, "digital solidarity", collaboration tools like portals and common terminology (thesaurus), network effectiveness, strengthening existing structures and Resource Centres.

Other issues such as the development of local content in local languages and dissemination channels besides Internet, capacity building, and quality control/standards were also mentioned several times. Surprisingly little attention was given to new or innovative ICT tools, user needs, impact measurement, and the enabling environment (policies).Not mentioned at all were advocacy for the promotion of IM/KM and ethical dimensions.

I am currently on leave from ADB and working on knowledge management (KM) at UNESCAP for the past few months...At ADB I was directly involved in the preparation of both the IT Strategy and the KM Strategy. Back then it was clear to the organization that KM is much more encompassing than information management (IM) and that KM covered more components in addition to IM....hence all supporting elements or components had to be put in place.. How was it done in ADB? It was just the proper timing...during the past 3-4 years the following initiatives were ongoing in ADB: IT Strategy, KM Strategy, Human Resources Strategy and Performance Management System, Public Communications Plan, Results-Based Management (RBM)..then prior to all these interrelated strategic initiatives, I was also already managing the development of what we called a Knowledge Management Application and a map-based/GIS application...both are geared for the use of Communities of Practice or CoP (the formal Sector and Thematic Committees and the less formal Sector and Thematic Networks). Of course the CoP came about as a support to the need of the reorganization of ADB and ensure a cross-pollination and trans-departmental sharing of information.

There was concerted effort to coordinate with all the staff involved in these parallel ongoing strategic KM group organized a workshop and invited all the lead persons of these initiatives; HR group worked with the KM group to identify key staff behavioral changes or competencies relative to knowledge-sharing and which was linked to staff performance assessment; the IT Strategy document included the already ongoing KM Applications and GIS-based applications as support to the CoP- an important component too of the KM Strategy, the Public Communications Plan ensured that member countries and clients are getting the information and knowledge from ADB on time; RBM and KM reinforce each other as what is shared should have national or regional impacts....The KM Strategy itself ensured that its coverage are consistent with the other initiatives....daunting? Yes...very daunting... but the need to anchor the KM strategy to the overall- strategic direction and vision of ADB was needed to ensure coherence and that programmes and projects are not to be implemented in silos but rather in parallel mode to support and reinforce all other initiatives..Efforts on change management to address the mind shift of staff are part of both the training programme of the IT group and the HR group.

Note however that even with these key strategies in place in any organization, KM may remain to be a slow process as it is really human-based, a personal decision to share (e.g. "why should share what I know?") ...when the human to human sharing becomes the norm in an organization,,,,then it becomes easier to implement the human to machine translation of knowledge (e.g." I want my other colleagues to learn from my experience so I will submit a lessons learned entry into the database")...the World Bank (WB) took 7-8 years to become a consistent Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise/s (MAKE) winner...but WB had the money and the political will to move KM-as its President was the lead change catalyst and prime-mover of KM. ADB also had budget and a VP for KM and Sustainable Development and it is still struggling but moving forward....also both organizations have a KM Unit....

The above method done by ADB is not just daunting but may sound lofty to smaller what is realistic...plan ahead on paper (to future proof your KM programme) and then design and start small but flexible IT-based projects (include in your IT Strategy) that you can expand or build upon later....not to forget too some form of monitoring and evaluation for any initiative to assess success or failure.....I hope the above helped clarify that KM is much- bigger than IT...just keep in mind that IT is an enabler of KM and not the other way around.... Connie

I have always like Steve Denning's description of KM as being "a different way of doing the organisation's business". For me KM is a different order of magnitude of problem as compared with IM. Embracing KM means recognizing that the vast majority of critical knowledge in your organisation is locked up in people's heads and while it may find its way into other people's heads in the organisation, most of it is either too complex to write down or too hard to find in written format. To use the old metaphor of the iceberg where explicit or written knowledge is the tip of the iceberg, IM is management of the tip whereas KM is thinking about the whole berg and how to get more of it above water :-)

KM is about facilitating head-to-head(s) knowledge flow as well as head-to-paper knowledge flow. (I use paper as a metaphor for anything KM is a paradigm shift in thinking. IM is a better filing system. -Steve

I see IM as one enabler of KM.

Knowledge only can be managed, it must be. The future of the world depends on it!

To me, Knowledge only exists inside peoples' heads - as soon as you write it down the resource produced is information. I know that's simplistic but, for all practical purposes, it works.

The aim therefore is to get knowledge from head to head as and when the organisation needs it to deliver their key activities. This requires things like clear mission and values, clear targets, knowledge of what the key activities are, defined processes at which people exchange knowledge through facilitated question and answer dialogue and effective IM.

Before I go any further I should stress I didn't invent this way of looking at KM. But I can vouch for the fact that it works.

In recent months I have been consulting for a large multinational company. KM has been coming in and they love it. Already it's saving time, money and adding huge value. It's gone so well they have offered me a full time job!

Most of this is written up in Nick Milton's brilliant book "Knowledge Management for Teams and Projects." I carry this book with me at all times. Nick is a genius, he's taken this subject and made it real. KM is not easy to bring in because the culture change aspects are challenging (ie you have to be determined and brave) but when it happens everyone loves it and say things like "of course, this is so obvious, why haven't we always been working in this way?"

One key thing that's clarified for me lately is the concept of a Knowledge Economy. Knowledge (ie what people know) is an asset that we need to manage and value. But putting in place a KM system (processes and systems) alone won't make it happen. You have to clarify to people at all levels how to stimulate this economy much like the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer has to stimulate the UK economy. You have to assess the knowledge marketplace in the organisation and who the K suppliers and customers are. This language may jar with the non-profits out there but I've worked in the humanitarian aid sector and the concept is just as valid.

Thinking about this Knowledge Economy idea gives hugely powerful insights. Just the other day I was talking to a part of the company mentioned above where it is recognised that, in financial terms relatively little money comes in. But in Knowledge Economy terms it's fundamental and is a hub for the entire rest of the org. People now understand this so I now have permission to hold a 2 Day Knowledge Exchange in a few weeks which will help to bind the company much better in future, communicate knowledge where and when it needs to be and help it to perform better.

A last example from the company. An Engineer there has written to the Chief Engineer telling him that she learned more in 24 hours through KM about Engineering than she did in several months working on Engineering on a project! This to me says a lot about KM of course - it's because the people - people processes being installed are fantastic at a) emerging the knowledge that we didn't know we didn't know and b) getting it flowing round the org. Best to all, Paul.

I guess what I find interesting in this thread is how there are so many definitions of what knowledge management is, while the definition of information management largely seems to be understood without the need for much discussion.

But in so many lists about KM, the main subtext always seems to boil down to "What is KM?." I have long since come to the conclusion that the term knowledge management is inappropriate and that knowledge can not be managed.

That's not to say that the work most KM practitioners are doing is wrong. But all the work eventually comes down to how people get the information they need (in other words some sort of infromation management.) It could be improved access to information (search, RSS feeds, blogs), connecting people who seek information to those who have it (expertise directories, mapping, CoPs), creating environments (both physically and virtually) that facilitate the exhange and sharing of information (CoPs, meetings, collaborative workspaces, discussion lists, coffee breaks, Wikis), ensuring the information in available for policy or decision making (mapping, translation), etc. The knowledge is what happens when people get the information in their head. When they pass it on, in whatever form, it becomes more information.

I think it belittles information management a bit to say it is at the beck and call of KM. KM may help direct the appropriate use of IM tools in particular situations. I would venture to say that techologies like Wikis, RSS feeds, blogs, collaborate workspaces, let alone email and web pages were not products of nor created by KM practitioners, though they have been taken up by them. There certainly needs to be more synergy and respect between the IT professionals and the KM practitioners. That is hard work. It's harder if you automatically have the mind set that information management is a subset of KM.Marc Lippman

Can others inform me whether "3rd generation KM" has been defined anywhere, and whether my perspective could be relevant? Of course we are not nearly done with understanding 2nd generation KM....!

From my understanding and a bit of searching, David Snowden is the person who has defined the "Third Generation KM." Interestingly, it is quite linked to the David Weinberger article I sent to the group Here are a few references

Book excerpt where Snowden sets up his definitions of third generation KM

Discussion springboard and summary where a lot of this was hashed out in a community interested in KM: Third Generation KM: Separating Content, Narrative, Context (Jerry Ash of AOK of the subesequent discussion The first generation of knowledge management is the period prior to 1995. Here "knowledge" as a word is not problematic, it is used without conscious thought and the focus is on information flow to support decision makers. Executive Information Systems, Data Warehousing and Process re-engineering dominate this period.

In 1995 Nonaka and Takeuchi publish the Knowledge Creating Company and for the first time on common business language the words tacit and explicit are introduced, although Polanyi had explored the subject in more depth in the 1940's. This publication with its SECI model defining four transition states of tacit-to-tacit, tacit-to-explicit, explicit-to-explicit and explicit-to-tacit proved decisive and was broadly taken up by consultants and software vendors, both groups seeking to drive revenue through the rapid growth of collaborative technologies.

The pioneering work of practitioners such as Buckman, Edvinsson, Lank, Saint-Onge and Ward amongst others, provided legitimacy and the second generation with its emphasis on conversation of tacit to explicit was born. For second generation thinkers and practitioners, most notably in central Europe, Probst and his collaborators, the function of knowledge management is to convert private assets into public assets, though the extraction of that knowledge into codified form. I have argued elsewhere (Snowden 2000a) that this approach unnecessarily focuses on the container rather than the thing contained, and this view has been strengthened by the increasing recognition by practitioners that there is much tacit knowledge that either cannot, or should not, be made explicit.

As we move into the third millennium we see a new approach emerging in which we focus not on the management of knowledge as a "thing" which can be identified and catalogued, but on the management of the ecology of knowledge. Here the emphasis is not on the organisation as a machine with the manager occupying the role of Engineer, but on the organisation as a complex ecology in which the manager is a gardener, able to direct and influence, but not fully control the evolution of his or her environment. We are also seeing a refreshing move away from programmes which seem to manage knowledge for its own sake, to those that tightly couple knowledge management with both strategic and, critically, operational priorities.

"I always know more than I can say, even after I have said it, and I can always say more than I can write down."

This is one of the basic operating principles of knowledge management, regrettably not fully understood in the second generation. The process of moving from my head, to my mouth to my hands inevitably involves some loss of content, and frequently involves a massive loss of context. Once we recognise this we can start to rethink the nature of knowledge management. Most second-generation approaches are to all intents and purposes content management; they focus on documents containing structured and reflective knowledge that is disconnected from the knowledge holder, diffuses easily and is formal structured.

What we can say and what we know are respectively covered by Narrative and Context Management. Context management in contrast focuses on connecting and linking people through, for example, expertise location, social network simulation, apprentice models of knowledge transfer and the retention strategies for key staff. Managing context involves the recognition that knowledge cannot be disembodied from human agency either as giver or receiver, content is the exact opposite. Context Management takes control of what we know, but cannot fully say or write down. Content Management organises that which can be written.

Narrative Management lies somewhere between the two and is the focus of this chapter, it manages what we can say in conversation and in declamation, it is also cheaper and less onerous as task to capture than written knowledge and its use is closer to the natural patterns of knowledge acquisition in organisations because:

  • it is easier and less onerous to capture, because I can record to a video camera in ten minutes what it will otherwise take two weeks to get round to spending a hour or so writing up;
  • it is a natural process, in that when we face a new task, or encounter a problem we go and find people to talk to, to ask questions to provide context sensitive answers and advice that cannot be provided by past project reviews and idealised statements of best practice.

The separation of context, narrative and content management in third generation approaches in turn makes each more effective. By understanding the imitations and capabilities of each medium -- head, mouth and hands -- we make each more effective and the combination of the whole is accordingly greater than the sum of the parts. Here is an article that comes at KM from a slightly different perspective and made me rethink what I thought about the distinctions between IM and KM. ;-) It reminds me I should always be happy to revisit my assumptions! I'm not sure I quickly agree with all David says in this essay, but it is provocative "food for thought!" And if you agreed with his proposition, it could radically change one's approach to KM. David Weinberger Knowledge in the age of abundance Here are a few snippets: "The new abundance has its own logic, its own physics, and its own benefits. But it's hard for KM to shake off its old impulse to manage that which is unmanaged. You can see this attitude in the comforting phrase "Delivering the right information to the right people at the right time," a line that is used with surprising frequency by people in the KM industry. "Delivering the right pizzas to the right people at the right time" makes total sense for your local Italian restaurant. But it is highly misleading when it comes to knowledge. It actually gets it backward. For the truly difficult decisions - the ones where you need knowledge not just some facts and stats - the information that is delivered to the decision-maker does not determine the decision. Rather, in making the decision, the person decides which information counts, and how much it counts. Should you open up a new office? Should you agree to the terms of a partnership? Should you change your product focus? These are all questions that are not decided by information so much as by the decision about which information to count. A KM system can't deliver the right information to the right person because the right person's main value is in deciding which is the right information. The KM system does its job in part by delivering lots and lots of possibilities and open ways to explore the never-ending sea of ideas and information.This means that in many circumstances we have to give up the idea that there is such a thing as the best information. In an age of abundance, it becomes easier to get good enough information and harder to get the best. But good information is, well, good enough. We don't have time to get the absolute best information. Besides, with so much information available, how could we ever know that we're getting the best information? The concept makes less and less sense."and towards the end...

The traditional tools of KM all have their place, from advanced search engines, to taxonomies and controlled vocabularies, to skill matching systems, to conceptual analysis, and all the rest. But they are without real value if they aim first at individuals, rather than at building a culture abuzz with talk. They are of negative value if they aim at primarily limiting vision rather than opening possibilities.Knowledge is the loam of possibility.

I am working with the Hygiene Improvement Project (HIP), a USAID program run by the Academy for Educational Development. Jaap Pels from IRC and I have been developing a knowledge management strategy for the project. Here is how we have tried to define the three generations or iterations of KM:

"The concept of KM has evolved over time and can be characterized by three distinct iterations:

  • The 1st iteration, the 'stock' approach, focuses on delivering the right information to the right place at the right time. Information is central and is "pushed" (explicit knowledge) to potential users and knowledge is perceived as a thing or object.
  • A 2nd iteration, the 'flow' approach, recognizes that knowledge flows between people, be it explicit (information) or implicit (socialization/internalization ). Knowledge sharing here requires actors to seek out information proactively and to use it rather than waiting for it to appear. Thus the flow approach emphasizes the need for both "push" and "pull" processes.
  • In the 3rd iteration , knowledge is organic*a fluid, almost living, thing; and is closely related to its context. Because knowledge created through dialogue is best, knowledge management that deliberately challenges existing structures and information flows helps new patterns, insights and new knowledge to emerge. " wrote: Liz Orna describes information as "knowledge made visible" which I suppose is another way of saying information is explicit knowledge! Yes but in her last book she shows that this is accomplished (or spoiled) through information products, that is the tangible containers and/or vehicles. Michel

Dear Eiko I have compiled for our purposes a quick summary which might not be totally adequate, but should give some indication of the key differences between these concepts. Perhaps others can help to refine this very skeletal summary?First generation knowledge management

Using IT systems in work processes - concept during the 1990s when knowledge management emerged as field of practice. Focused on capturing data, information and experience to be easily accessible. Rooted in, and usually driven by, technology. Tended to deal with the development of sophisticated data sets and retrieval systems without a primary focus on their use.

Heavy investments made in technological fixes with little impact on way in which knowledge was used.

Second generation knowledge management

Evolved from understanding of the theoretical and practical failure of first generation knowledge management. Based on a clearer understanding of how knowledge is created and shared.

Gives priority to the way in which people construct and use knowledge, which is closely related to organizational learning.

Key issues in current knowledge management practice therefore include measuring and accelerating culture shifts, integrating knowledge sharing with learning, streamlining organizational structures to launch knowledge sharing programmes, strengthening communities of practice and improving technology tools for these purposes.

Information management

Not to be confused with knowledge management.

Subcomponent of knowledge management that focuses on establishing hardware and software systems to create, store, organize and share digital data, information and explicit knowledge resources.

Then there is the issue of "Third generation knowledge management", which I believe is emerging and which in addition to the foci of 2nd generation, also includes a major emphasis on engaging clients/target audiences/stakeholders as early in the knowledge cycle as possible. I am not sure if you have seen Steve Waddell's recent book on Societal Learning and Change, but I believe this is the way development agencies should move, and has an emphasis on this element.

Can others inform me whether "3rd generation KM" has been defined anywhere, and whether my perspective could be relevant? Of course we are not nearly done with understanding 2nd generation KM....!Zenda

It is now very clear that what we are trying to do in our KM projects (trying to capture and convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge) is very different in scope from IM. There are quite a few people in our Department who have argued that KM is a component of IM, but now I am armed with the arguments for why that is not the case. We will most likely develop separate strategies for IM and KM, but will make sure that the IM contributes as a lubricant of our KM efforts. Eiko

I have always like Steve Denning's description of KM as being "a different way of doing the organisation's business". For me KM is a different order of magnitude of problem as compared with IM. Embracing KM means recognizing that the vast majority of critical knowledge in your organisation is locked up in people's heads and while it may find its way into other people's heads in the organisation, most of it is either too complex to write down or too hard to find in written format.

To use the old metaphor of the iceberg where explicit or written knowledge is the tip of the iceberg, IM is management of the tip whereas KM is thinking about the whole berg and how to get more of it above water :-)

KM is about facilitating head-to-head(s) knowledge flow as well as head-to-paper knowledge flow. (I use paper as a metaphor for anything written) KM is a paradigm shift in thinking. IM is a better filing system.-Steve

VERY thoughtful analysis, especially of KM concepts. And if I can paraphrase, your primary point is that knowledge management and sharing can and should be thought through separate from, and before, IM issues are brought to bear. This is why having KM seen as a subset or divison of Information (as with segments of the US Govt where the Chief Knowledge Offcier often comes under, or is the equivalent of the Chief Info Officer) can be really misleading, at best.

It also implies that the most important driver relates to human behavior and interchange. Personally, I also think KM for us must also relate to some sort of purpose, not just personal fulfilment. Personal fulfilment, career goals, and other individual drivers are key elements of promoting knowledge sharing, but for me what makes for activities where knowledge is shared and has a true impact is the quality of the underlying strategic vision.

This vision can be individual (increasing rice production, etc.), internal/corporate (making sure that HR or monitoring systems are more effective) or external/corporate (making sure that donor programs meet their objectives more effectively, etc.). But without strategic purpose, and an understanding of what success implies, the best KM/IM effort is a waste of time.

This of course makes cost-benefit of KM a complex concept; first cost is only marginally dependent on IM choice and second benefit can range wildly; a poorly defined result can make a cheap, share-ware driven approach seem highly exorbitant; a costly system that effectively meets a clear need that has high value can be a powerful investment.

Helping KM folk to define the prize, as well as ways to keep one's eye on it, is a topic deserving of considerably more work. Tony Pryor

Usually when people define "Information Management", they use the concepts of "defining, storing, manipulating, evaluating, protecting, distributing, ... data within an organization". This means that you can view IM as one of the tools you use when working on KM. Let's walk on some key concepts of KM:

  • Knowledge Assets
  • Human: People, Interactions, Community
  • Structural: Processes, Systems, Infrastructure
  • Intangible: Culture, Trust, Learning
  • Action-Reflection
  • Stakeholder Analysis: What worked? What did not? Why?
  • Synthesis & Capture: Lessons Learned, Comparative Experiences, Best Practices
  • Content Management
  • Content types and templates (formats)
  • Business process integration: Inputs/Outputs, Content life-cycle
  • Organization and access: Content Management Systems, Taxonomy (classification), Search engines
  • Communities of Practice: Connecting People (CoP):
  • Common interests
  • Complementary experience and expertise
  • Strategic & goal oriented (i.e. Practices)
  • Sharing culture & trust
  • Collaboration tools : Online/e-mail, Face-to-face
  • Storytelling: Communicating experiences
  • Springboard stories
  • Visual and compelling
  • Easy to remember
  • Evocative
  • Resonate
  • Knowledge-enabled Business Processes
  • How you work
  • Standardization & Efficiency
  • Knowledge inputs/outputs
  • Organizational Learning
  • Integrated learning opportunities
  • Learn while doing
  • Learning support systems
  • Incentive structures
  • T-shaped competency profiles

At any of this level, you have information to collect, store and share with other people. IM is then present for you as tool. The best thing may be then that while design your strategy you first select a key concept you want to focus on and what are the benefits for you. According to that concept(s) and to your environment, you have then a variety of IM tools available. In my office, we are working on "Content Management". And we are now in the process of rethinking the way we share information in the office and in the meantime evaluating different software for implementation. As conclusion, IM is a tool for KM.

In my understanding, KM is more comprehensive than IM. If we are talking only about explicit knowledge KM and IM are very similar. Because for storing, searching and sharing knowledge it takes the form of information. And information can be managed by computers and software. However if we consider tacit knowledge, as well; Information Management is not enough for transforming tacit knowledge into explcit, neither for sharing tacit knowledge. Most of those processes occur internally to human brain or in human direct interaction. For managing learning processes, that also occurs internally in human brains, Information Management is not enough.