Defining the difference between IM and KM

UPDATE Nov 2015: If you are interested in an ongoing conversation about Knowledge Management and how to apply it, please check out our newly launched online magazine RealKM!

Also known as: the debate that just won't die. Nick Milton writes:

If, as many people claim, Knowledge Management is "getting the right information to the right people at the right time" then what on earth do they think Information Management is?

Management of X is not concerned with delivery of Y ...

Unless you think that Knowledge and Information are the same, of course, but even then, why not call it Information Management?

To which Stephanie Barnes commented:

Information Management is largely a compliance activity, concerned with meeting regulatory requirements, it looks backwards not forwards. Knowledge management looks forwards, it is a growth/learning/process improvement activity.

But defining Information Management as Stephanie does is retrospectively putting it into a box for the sake of an intellectual distinction. It also gives existing practitioners of IM a "get out of jail free" card so that they don't have to address the performance problems caused by their outdated IM practices which damage decision-making capability.

I don't agree that Information Management should be primarily backwards looking. The use of BI tools like Cognos et al are squarely IM but they are just as useful for forecasting as analysis. More generally, effective IM should always be done with a view to enabling KM process improvements.

I define the difference in this way: Knowledge Management is practised through activities that support better decision-making. IM is practised by improving the systems that store, capture, transmit etc information.

In this sense, a librarian neatly captures both sides of the coin. The act of building and making a library catalogue available is covered by IM. But the transaction by which a person can approach a librarian and leave with a relevant set of data to make a better decision is covered by KM.

The two disciplines of IM and KM are distinct but intrinsically entwined. Particularly so in our Western rational mindset where almost all conscious decision making is determined by the external information gathered and processed. Other cultures may have less trouble identifying the difference!

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Peter C (not verified) — Thu, 27/10/2011 - 16:34

I would say that Stephanie Barnes is defining Records Management as IM has much more than compliance as a focus ... such as business intelligence and analytics.

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