No. 9: March 1997
Is Knowledge Management the same as Information Management?
Watch that Name! (abridged / full)
Year 2000 'Bug' - A reader replies
News from Our Network
Welcome to this issue of I3 UPDATE, a free briefing analysing developments in the networked knowledge economy.
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David J. Skyrme
Is Knowledge Management the same as Information Management?
David J. Skyrme
Apparently not, according to the title. But during research for the forthcoming Business Intelligence report (see News below), we found quite a few cases where people had substituted the word "Knowledge" for "Information", and then carried on just as if nothing was different. This is partly understandable since the Western tendency (as opposed to the Japanese/Eastern one) is to focus on explicit knowledge. Hence many knowledge management programmes seem to be about identifying knowledge, capturing it and putting it in a database!
The use of the word "database" just about sums this perspective. Once knowledge has been encapsulated in this way, it is a long way from the original knowledge from which the database was created.
In reality, the relationship of knowledge management to information management is roughly the same as information management to information management. Did I mis-write something there? No! The point I am making is that we throw away these terms and they are interpreted differently by different people. The definitions task group of the Aslib IRM (Information Resources Management) Network, found many uses of the term 'information management'. Many people use this in the information systems sense. In fact, one of the good books on the subject Information Management - The Organizational Perspective, ed. Michael Earl, Oxford University Press (1996), is really about the activities of the IS (information systems) function. In fact its very first sentence talks about the changes in IT (information technology).
If you take a perspective of information as a resource, then you arrive at a different definition. The Aslib task group defined information management as:
"the applications of conventional management processes to information, with the aim of maximizing its contribution to the achievement of organizational objectives."
Similarly, many definitions abound for knowledge management, but most people agree it is something to do with the systematic management of knowledge to achieve business benefits. Like information, it is a vital resource. Unlike information, there is a large body of 'tacit' knowledge, knowledge that is not codified, is in people's heads and is context dependent. For these reasons some argue that 'knowledge management' is an oxymoron. How can you manage something that is intangible and very personal?
For me, the challenge of knowledge management is as much about know-why, know-who and know-how as it is about the more tangible know-what. It is about experience and skills and making sure that an organization continues to develop its competencies - in individuals and in the organization as a whole. Our research showed that good information management skills and methods (of the IRM type) are an important foundation. Such methods include those of information specialists (of the librarian school), such as thesaurus definition and management, information classification, abstracting and text database management. But knowledge management goes somewhat further. It also needs:
- processes that engage people and helps them apply existing knowledge
- systems that facilitate the flow of knowledge from knower to user
- processes that encourage the development and application of new knowledge
- a culture that stimulates creativity and knowledge sharing
- an understanding of the fundamental economics of knowledge (an increasing not a depleting resource)
- ways of measuring and developing and organization's competencies
For these reasons, the many IT specialist and managers, who are becoming involved in knowledge initiatives (and they probably constitute the largest single and most visible group), must adopt a much broader view than their traditional discipline suggests. For sure, data mining, search engines, intelligent agents, Intranets and groupware are important enablers. But as we found out in the 1970s and 1980s, you just can't put treat knowledge like information and store it in computers, as we did then in expert systems, and think that solves all the problems.
Knowledge management requires new methods and skills, and is a relatively new discipline where the methods have not yet been fully developed. Even IRM, now fairly well established as a discipline, is not yet widely practiced in most organizations. We all have a lot to learn as we enter the knowledge age.
See A Reader Replies
A company's domain name is increasingly becoming a piece of advertising, affecting the corporate image of the company. "Everyone wants to have a short and easily-remembered Internet address, preferably mnemonically related to an established company name, product or service" says Robert Shaw, of the International Telecommunication Union, speaking at a conference at Harvard University last year. "It seems that everyone has suddenly woken up to the intellectual property value of a memorable Internet 'brand name'", he added.
The two issues affecting companies with respect to domain names are:
- Is your trademark being infringed by someone else's domain name?
- Do you wish your domain name to reflect your company's name or trademark?
The domain name you wish to acquire may already have been acquired - either accidentally or speculatively - by another party, and you may have to pay dearly to acquire it from them. "Domain names in themselves are considered as worthy intellectual property assets and are being brokered for increasing amounts of money" explained Robert Shaw, "For example, when Microsoft wanted 'slate.com' for their new WWW-based interactive magazine of politics and culture - they supposedly purchased it for $10,000 ... Undoubtedly greater amounts have been paid to obtain strategic domain names. Sometime the price is too high. An offer of US$ 50,000 is reported to have been rejected for 'television.com'. Supposedly when AT&T wanted to launch their new Internet services, they attempted to purchase the domain name 'worldnet.net' owned by a Paris-based Internet service provider. But even they balked at the reported US$ 500,000 asking price."
Most top level domain names are national, reflecting the ISO code for the country concerned. This brings legal matters under the jurisdiction of individual countries. However, there are a handful of international top level domain names (often assumed to be US), namely: 'com', 'org', 'net' and 'int'. Most commercial companies will be interested in the 'com' top level domain name. This introduces complex legal questions in litigation, should a company feel that its trademark has been infringed. The trademark may be protected in one country, but not in another. Who's law should apply in litigation?
There is a proposal to extend these international top level domain names, essentially by breaking up the 'com' name into industry-specific domain names, such as 'chem', 'paint', 'soap'. This could create a field-day for legal experts. On the other hand, the industry may settle for country-specific domain names, such as 'chem.uk', 'paint.uk', 'soap.uk'.
See the full article - "What's in a name".
David J. Skyrme
The UK Government's Information Society Initiative (ISI) is one year old. At the anniversary event in March, attended by over 100 business partners, IT Minister Ian Taylor reported progress and announced various extensions to existing activities. This initiative, believed to be one of the most developed in Europe, has three main strands:
- IT for All - making IT accessible and using by the average person
- ISI Business Programme - especially targeted at small businesses
- IT for Schools - giving children and teachers access to the Internet
There are several activities, all aimed at increasing awareness and uptake of new information and communications technologies:
- Awareness campaigns e.g. multimedia, videconferencing
- Awards and Challenges e.g. Trade Association's Challenge
- Local IT Support Centres - some 20 now; 50 planned by year end
- An ISI Information Line
- Simple to understand literature e.g. "How you can benefit from X", where X is email, the Internet, videconferencing etc.
Perhaps the most interesting development was the announcement of TradeUK, (http://www.tradeuk.com), billed as "a global electronic market place for British business". This is a product and services directory of over 12,500 British exporters. While we have some reservations about its effectiveness, it seems a worthwhile venture, and one to watch (we hope to analyse its effectiveness in a future briefing).
Also announced in early March was the government's response to the consultation exercise on its White Paper Government.Direct. Its aim is to get government departments working effectively online. A limited number of pilots have been introduced such as local kisks, and simplification of forms for small businesses. One area where government most visibly interfaces with the citizen is at Local Government level, and I was pleased to be invited to address SOCITM (the society for IT managers in IT) at their Spring conference on the challenges of the Information Society.
Local Government Online
A lot of progress has been made during the past year in making local government more accessible online, but my analysis reported to the SOCITM conference shows that there is still a long way to go. I saw evidence of the good and the not so good.
On the plus side:
- About a third of all UK local authorities (over 150) now have their own Web site
- Several have comprehensive departmental information
- A few have really helpful guides (e.g. Brent's How to Make a Planning Application)
- There were some good community networks with council support (e.g. Surrey Web)
- There was evidence of public-private partnership e.g. with local newspapers
- Some gave direct email contact to the chief executive (e.g. South Hams)
On the down side:
- Still too many 'under construction' signs
- Some Web sites are clearly left to the enthusiastic amateurs, rather than professionals
- Only 10 per cent of departments had hypertext links
- Some just gave phone contact details, with these lines open only from 9am to 4pm week-days
(Really - how accessible is a service that is only available for about 30 per cent of the time)
- Only a minority allowed direct email access to officials
- Too many were inward and strategically focussed, rather than on information needed by the general public.
It seems there is a long way to go to reach the projection that 25 per cent of transactions between government and citizen should be online within five years.
One talk of particular interest at the conference was about a pilot project - UK Citizen's Online Democracy. This is a web site (http://www.democracy.org.uk) which allow citizens to discuss policy issues and policy makers to sound out views on potential policies. An insightful experiment, but we suspect widespread online democracy is even further away than online services.
See also information on strategic Internet services and 'The Good Web Guide'.
From John Turnbull, The National Computing Centre, Manchester (NCC)
"Just received No. 8 of I3 UPDATE. Informative as ever - keep up the good work.
A point of observation: 'bug' is generally reckoned as an unhelpful when referred to the Year 2000 issue. Recent discussion with Task Force 2000 people highlighted that both 'bug' and 'bomb' can mislead in terms of the problem and the methods of tackling it.
As you might guess 'Year 2000' is high on the agenda here with briefings, health checks and a couple (with more to come) of membership groups."
Web Site - http://www.ncc.co.uk - includes Year2000 information.
International Congress on Knowledge Management, 2-5 June 1997, London.
ICBI, Tel: +44 171 915 5103 (No email address given!)
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