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Information Management vs Knowledge Management

25 June 2020
  

What is the difference between Information Management (IM) and Knowledge Management (KM)? 

Information Management (IM) vs Knowledge Management (KM)?

A lot of people are familiar with these terms, but do you know what they actually mean or why this matters in business today?

This article covers:

 

Information Management definition

Information Management is about data and information. Its focus is on organizing, analyzing, and retrieving information.
 
Information management is a field that is growing in more popularity and is concerned with:
  • 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

Why is information management important?

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

The benefits of effective information management are:

  • 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
  • Ensured compliance in relation to legal and regulatory

 

Knowledge Management definition

Before one can begin to talk about knowledge management, it is important that the meaning of "knowledge" be defined. Defining knowledge can be difficult due to the relationship with two other concepts: data and information. 

 

Theirauf (1999) defines the three components as follows: data is
the lowest point, an unstructured collection of facts and figures; information is the
next level, and it is regarded as structured data; finally, knowledge is defined as
"information about information".

 

Data therefore refers mostly to factual information. Knowledge can be defined as the ability or capacity of an individual who has been trained on some subject matter (such as medicine) which allows them then go out into society and share what they know with others so that their skills may benefit everyone around them.

 

Knowledge management is the control and organisation of knowledge. The practice of knowledge management is applicable within any business. The context to which the knowledge is applied however is very specific to an organisation’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.

 

There are different forms of knowledge:

  • 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 written). It can be easily shared with others. 

 

Examples of knowledge management in organizations

  • People directory or expertise locator - The basic function of an expertise locator system is to identify and locate those persons within an organization who have expertise in a particular area.
  • Cross-training programs – Mentoring, shadowing and other training programs allow employees to gain business knowledge by watching others work.
  • Lessons learned - Lessons learned attempts to capture and make accessible knowledge, typically “how to do it” knowledge and normally would not have been explicitly captured.
  • Communities of Practice (CoPs) - CoPs are groups of individuals with shared interests that come together to share and discuss problems and opportunities, discuss best practices, and talk over lessons learned.
  • Collaboration tools – 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.

 

Why is knowledge management important?

The proliferation of different apps used by different teams across companies means that useful information increasingly lives within silos within organizations. And that exacerbates the effects of knowledge not being shared. 

Employees also move on, taking with them company knowledge. 

Effective knowledge management reduces operational costs and improves productivity by:

  • Spending less time recreating existing knowledge
  • Getting the information you need sooner
  • Making fewer mistakes
  • Making informed decisions
  • Standardize processes.

 


You may also be interested in reading:

Should knowledge management software be an investment priority?


 

The process of effective Information Management

Information management enables organisations 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 definition of knowledge management provided by Gartner Group is as follows: "Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers."

 

There are different models available describing the process of knowledge management that have evolved over the years (WIIG 1993, Zack 1996, McElroy 2003). The high-level discipline and process for knowledge management is based on:

  1. Capture – create, collect, classify
  2. Distribute – retrieve, share, manage
  3. Use it – consume, reuse, enhance


 

Key differences between Information Management and Knowledge Management

Let's start with the key differences between information and knowledge:

  • 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. Whereas 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. Knowledge is 
  • 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.

 

Information Management vs Knowledge Management

 

 

Summary

 

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 more about understanding data. It is obtained via experience, education and understanding of information. 

 

Information management can only take you so far.  Putting information in front of programmers or marketers isn’t the same as giving them the knowledge to use it. Businesses and organizations succeed because of knowledge and managing that knowledge.

 

 

References 

 

  • 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 

 

Our other knowledge blogs:

 

Atlas for Information and Knowledge Management 

Atlas is a people-first digital workspace where knowledge, communication and collaboration are beautifully brought together in one place. 

 

Atlas overcomes some of the key challenges organisations face when it comes to:

  • only a small percentage of people contribute knowledge in an organisation
  • information and knowledge is stuck in silos
  • knowledge is often not captured or converted from unstructured data
  • knowledge is hard to find if you don't know what you are looking for. 

 

Learn more about Atlas

 

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