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Information Management vs Knowledge Management


What is the difference between Information Management (IM) and Knowledge Management (KM)? The terms are often (mistakenly) used interchangeably.

Understanding the distinctions is critical to implementing effective programs that provide your workforce with reliable and authoritative answers they need to drive the business forward. And now, with the advent of AI advantages, understanding how to implement and leverage these intelligent technologies has never been more important to organizational success. 

This blog discusses each of the various concepts and then it describes how effective business knowledge management directly affects your organization's productivity and ability to create value. 

Information Management (IM) vs Knowledge Management (KM)

Many organizations still struggle with knowledge management, despite data deluge. The key lies in understanding the difference between data, information, and knowledge and being able to transform each into business value. While managing information is relatively straightforward, managing knowledge requires a systematic, strategic approach. 

In this blog you will learn: 

Data, information and knowledge

Since information signals being informed, it is ironic that the term ‘information’ itself is ambiguous. Similar terms such as data, information, and knowledge are often used interchangeably, although each has a specific and distinct meaning, especially when related to organizational operations.  

Here is a brief summary of the distinction between the terms. 

Data refers to raw symbols or facts that represent properties of objects, events, and their environments. It lacks context or meaning on its own. As defined by Prof. of Management Science, Russell L. Ackoff, data are symbols that represent properties of objects, events, and their environments. 

Information consists of data that has been processed, organized, and presented in a way that answers basic questions like who, what, where, when, and how many. Ackoff notes that "information is contained in descriptions, answers to questions that begin with such words as who, what, where, when, and how many." As such, information provides context and meaning to data. 

Knowledge goes a step further than information. It represents an understanding of how something works or how to accomplish something. Ackoff defines knowledge as "knowhow”, for example how a system or process works... Knowledge can be gained through transmission from others or through direct experience and learning. (Ackoff, 1989, pp. 3-4) 

Knowledge typically falls into one of the three following categories: 

  • Tacit: “know-how”, knowledge based on skills, experience, intuition. It sits in peoples’ minds and it is not easily transferable.
  • Explicit: “know-what”, knowledge found in e.g. books, manuals, videos, etc. that can be expressed verbally or in writing, and can thusly be shared with others.
  • Embedded: knowledge within the organization's processes, rules, products and culture, such as found in organizational policies, codes or conduct, as well as in informal routines. 

Another important distinction is that information is usually self-contained and independent, whereas knowledge usually assumes a “knower” (e.g. expert). (Brown and Duguid, 2002, pp. 119-120) 

In essence, data is raw material, information is meaningful data, and knowledge is the integrated understanding that allows effective action and control over systems and processes. Knowledge builds upon information, which in turn is derived from data.  

Information management definition

Information management is about data and information. Its focus is on collecting, organizing, protecting, storing and retrieving information.

Information management as a field is growing in popularity. It revolves around:

  • The infrastructure used to collect, manage, preserve, store and deliver information
  • The guiding principles that allow information to be available to the right people at the right time
  • The view that all information, both digital and physical, is an asset that requires proper management
  • The organizational and social contexts in which information exists

Information management requires three elements:
1. Enterprise policies and guidelines for retention, disposal and ownership of information assets. These policies and guidelines rely on legal and critical business requirements to set guidance on what is retained and disposed, who the owner/s are and identifying the "authoritative source".

2. IT policies and data storage. IT policies help to define business owners of information, naming conventions, archiving and disposal techniques. 

3. Broader access to information. The issues with information overload are that people cannot find what they need, and when they give up the search , they either recreate the information or they get others involved in looking for it.

Why is information management important?

All companies use information to set strategies and accomplish business objectives. Information is therefore key to any business or organization but how many of these companies would say they are getting maximum value from information? Our guess is not many. 

Effective information management results in:

  • Improved leverage of the organization's technology investments
  • Improved ROI of information across the whole organization
  • Increased efficiency 
  • Improved effectiveness and performance
  • Sustained responsiveness and competitiveness
  • Enhanced creativity and innovation
  • Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements
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Knowledge management definition

Gartner defines knowledge management as "a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets.” Assets include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and as well as expertise and experience. Knowledge management represents the sum of skills, experiences, capabilities and expert insight, which an organization collectively creates and maintains to run their operations.  

Knowledge management is the control and organization of knowledge. "It is a sum of skills, experiences, capabilities and expert insight, which you collectively create and rely on in your business. As a shared resource, knowledge shapes and affects all the activities in and around your business". (

The practice of knowledge management is applicable within any business. The context to which the knowledge is applied however is very specific to an organization's needs, and differs from business to business. Knowledge Management is therefore about knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Its focus is on finding, gathering, assessing, and sharing information and knowledge.

Knowledge falls into three categories:

  • Tacit: “know-how”, knowledge based on skills, experience, intuition. It sits in people’s mind and it is not easily transferable.
  • Explicit: “know-what”, knowledge found in e.g. books, manuals, videos, etc. that can be expressed verbally or in writing so can be easily shared with others.
  • Embedded: knowledge within the organization's processes, rules, products and culture. This is found in policies, codes or conduct, organizational ethics and informal routines.
Some of the forms knowledge takes include: the data you've gained about your industry and/or market; the experience, expertise and competence of your people; your files and documents; customer data and i deas for new products or services. All of these have value for your business. 

Why is knowledge management important?

Each organization's knowledge is unique: it's what sets one apart from its competitors, it drives business activity and affects productivity. Knowledge management in business is a systematic approach to capturing and utilizing your organization's collective expertise to create value. And good knowledge management results in the coherent and productive creation, sharing and application of knowledge at all levels of the business.

What happens when business knowledge management is lacking? Knowledge is an asset and has a measurable monetary value. Where knowledge accumulates only in employees' heads and stagnates across disconnected systems, its value is diminished. Once knowledge is valued as an asset like people, customers, brand and cash, the importance of business knowledge management becomes clear.

Good knowledge management translates into the ability to make decisions and enhance everyday work activities with that distributed knowledge.


Two heads illustrating knowledge management
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The process of effective information management

Information management enables organizations and their teams to work more efficiently and effectively when they can rely on accurate and timely information and data.

The process of information management encompasses a cycle of different activities:

  • Collection - collecting information can be in many different forms such as written, oral, electronic, audio or video. Only collect the information that is needed and can be trusted. 
  • Storage – storing information is important for analysis, legislative requirements, historical trends, etc. Make sure the right people have access to the information, as well as version control, export permissions, back-ups, etc.
  • Curation – the process of gathering and organizing information relevant to a certain topic with the intention to add value.
  • Dissemination – what information needs to be distributed or shared and with who, in what format, how often, under what circumstances, etc. keeping in mind security protocols at the same time.
  • Archiving – based on company policy and judgement, information needs to be archived at a certain time. Make sure to have an effective classification system in place that anticipates future uses.
  • Destruction – destructing or deleting, Corporate Information and data may have an expiry data. It can be important for now but may not have any value in the future. Think of privacy laws that only allows you to store information for a specific period of time.

The process of effective knowledge management

The knowledge management process allows a company to get value from the data it holds by reframing, structuring and storing it. It's a sophisticated discipline that's central to the business because it connects each part of the organization.

The high-level discipline and process for knowledge management is based on:

  • Capture – create, collect, classify
  • Distribute – retrieve, share, manage
  • Utilize – consume, reuse, enhance

Information management and knowledge management: key differences

  • Information is organized data obtained from various sources. Knowledge is understanding of the subject acquired from experience or education.
  • Information comes from data put together in a meaningful way. Information combined with experience and intuition, results in knowledge.
  • Information can be codified and it is easily transferrable using technology. Knowledge is both codified and uncodified but the the most valuable knowledge is often uncodified. The transfer of knowledge is therefore more difficult because it is unarticulated and requires experience or learning.
  • Information can be reproduced easily and at a lower cost. The reproduction of knowledge is more difficult since it is reliant on tacit knowledge.
  • Information is mostly about know-what, i.e. it offers a fact that you can then use to help create useful knowledge.
  • Information alone is not sufficient to make predictions about someone or something. On the contrary, knowledge has the ability to predict or make inferences.
  • Every information is not necessarily knowledge but all knowledge is information.
Taking advantage of existing data, information and knowledge to drive business requires careful management of each of these entities.  But managing data, information and knowledge are not synonymous and require a holistic approach.

Information management and knowledge management are both important

Organizations should develop plans for addressing both information management (IM) and knowledge management (KM) requirements especially since information is growing at an alarming rate. 

Information access is the element that links IM and KM. Knowledge management requires information access to be implemented as well. Ideally, addressing IM issues, processes and systems should be done in parallel with KM.

By providing people access to information and to the knowledge of others, this will then improve decisions and work processes, will enhance learning and, generally, will encourage people to become more creative and innovative. 

How does information and knowledge management benefit the business?

Effective information and knowledge management reduces operational costs and improves productivity. Here are some of the clear benefits of a systematic approach to business knowledge management:

  • Hundreds of work hours are saved as people spend less time recreating existing knowledge and are able instead to apply that knowledge to new situations or solutions.
  • Increased innovation because people are able to benefit from collective experiences and learnings.
  • A governed approach to capturing, storing and surfacing information means people get the information they need faster, measurably saving time.
  • Being able to access information and gain from others' experience means fewer mistakes are made - resulting in significant cost and time savings.
  • Informed and streamlined decision making because information is readily available.  
  • Improved and consistent business processes because information is distributed throughout the organization.

Examples of effective business knowledge management

  • People directory or expertise locator making it quick and easy to identify and locate people with expertise in a particular area.
  • Mentoring, shadowing and other training programs allow employees to acquire business knowledge by watching others work.
  • Lessons learned capture hard-earned knowledge -  typically “how to do it” knowledge that would normally not have been explicitly captured - and make it available to other teams.
  • Communities of Practice (CoPs) are groups of individuals with shared interests that discuss problems and opportunities and share best practices and lessons learned.
  • Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams allow teams to communicate and collaborate in a shared space. But these tools also store historical conversations, allowing employees to search for previously-discussed information.

Signs that your business needs better knowledge management:

  • Do different teams use different apps or software? How easy it for the data within these systems to be exchanged with and utilised by other business teams? With the proliferation of digital tools, having information stuck in silos is a common - and increasing - problem. And it exacerbates the effect on collaboration, efficiency and productivity when information is not able to be easily shared.
  • When an employee leaves the company, is the knowledge they've acquired lost to the company?
  • If an employee is absent, does productivity and decision-making stall?
  • How long does it take for a new starter to be able to start contributing and adding value? Is there an effective process for helping that person learn about the business and their role?
  • Do people feel they're in the dark? That communication is lacking?

Summarizing knowledge management vs information management

Information management refers to management of data (facts and figures) that has been obtained from different sources. This data is structured, organized and processed. Knowledge management is obtained via experience, education and the understanding of information.

Information management can only take you so far. Putting information in front of a person isn’t the same as giving them the knowledge to use it. Knowledge management however does require information and addressing information management issues, processes and systems should be done in parallel with knowledge management.

By providing people access to information and to the knowledge of others, this improves decisions, work processes, enhances learning and innovation - benefitting the entire organization.

Knowledge management resources and references

More blogs about knowledge management


  • Thierauf, R. J. (1999). Knowledge Management Systems
  • Davenport, T.H and Prusak, L. (2000). Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know
  • Wenge, E. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity 

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