If someone asks you about the difference between knowledge management and information management, you could be forgiven for thinking they were asking about the difference between knowledge and information. And you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.
The terms “knowledge” and “information” are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle distinction between the two. Knowledge management and information management are two unique functions in an organization, each important to achieving business goals. Companies store and collect a ton of valuable information which has led to the need of information management and data management specialists.
Knowledge management (on the other hand), is a completely separate but important discipline that impacts both the customer and employee experience.
In this post, we’ll dive deeper by defining and comparing knowledge management vs. information management so you can better understand how each can benefit your business.
What is information management?
Information management is the process of collecting, organizing, storing, and accessing information. This can be done manually or electronically.
Historically information management has involved paper documents—inefficient and time-consuming, especially if the information is not well organized.
In the modern world, electronic information management methods can make the process much easier and more efficient. Electronic information management is collecting, organizing, storing, and accessing information using electronic means such as computers and databases.
This type of information management is more efficient than manual information management because it can be done more quickly and easily. In addition, electronic information management can be more secure because it is less likely to be lost or stolen.
Many different electronic information management methods exist, such as document management systems, customer relationship management systems, and enterprise resource planning systems. Each system has its advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the right system for your needs is important.
Information management aims to ensure that the right information is available to the right people at the right time. This can help businesses save time and money, avoid duplication of effort, and make better decisions.
Information management includes the following activities:
- Collecting information: Collecting can be done through primary research (such as surveys and interviews) or secondary research (such as reading articles and reports).
- Organizing information: Organization involves sorting and categorizing information so it can be easily found and used.
- Storing information: Storage can be done electronically (such as in a database) or physically (such as in filing cabinets).
- Accessing information: Access involves making sure the right people have the ability to find and use the information when they need it.
Information management is important for businesses of all sizes and can help you keep track of customer data, product information, financial records, and more. In essence, information is structured data with context or meaning that is unknown to someone.
Knowledge management vs information management
Knowledge management involves capturing, processing, and organizing practical information gleaned from a person’s understanding or awareness of a subject. Information management, on the other hand, applies context and structure to random data points. Information can be created as part of research, study, or communication.
In essence, all knowledge is information, but not all information is knowledge.
There are a few key ways that knowledge management and information management differ in businesses:
- Information management is focused on data and IT, while knowledge management is focused on people and processes.
- Information management is collecting, storing, and accessing information, while knowledge management is creating, sharing, using, and managing knowledge.
- Information management is about making sure the right people have the ability to find and use information, while knowledge management is about applying knowledge to solve problems or make decisions.
The goal of knowledge management
For companies, knowledge management aims to extract valuable knowledge from existing information that employees can use to do their jobs and customers need to solve their problems. Knowledge-related content can take many forms, including best practices and tutorials, how-to-guides, and policies and procedures.
Knowledge management includes the following activities:
- Creating knowledge: knowledge creation can involve writing articles, creating training materials, or documenting processes.
- Sharing knowledge: sharing can be done through knowledge-sharing platforms, social media, or face-to-face interactions.
- Using knowledge: applying knowledge to solve problems or make decisions.
- Managing knowledge: creating systems and processes to store, categorize, and retrieve knowledge.Knowledge management and the human component
Your company’s knowledge management process should ensure information you store as knowledge stays valuable and usable.
Whereas information management systems collect and store structured data based on best practices, a knowledge management system must involve processes and technology that monitor usability and accuracy.
The knowledge age vs. information age
The knowledge age is the period in which knowledge has become more important than other resources, such as land or labor. This shift began around the end of the 20th century and is still ongoing.
Businesses must focus on creating and managing knowledge to succeed in the knowledge age. This requires new ways of thinking, new organizational structures, and new technologies.
The term “knowledge age” is used to describe our current era, in contrast with the “information age,” which began around the mid-20th century and was defined by an increased dependence on information technology, like computers and the internet. During the latter half of the last century, a wealth of information from across the globe was gathered together and made accessible, and data was stored both internally and externally. However, much of that data sat dormant and was not used to its maximum potential.
Nowadays, tons of information is available at our fingertips, and it’s difficult to organize information so it can be useful. Since humans can only do so much with all this knowledge, you need to leverage a knowledge base or knowledge management platform that can automate knowledge work—more than just storing knowledge.
If you’re not already utilizing modern KM technology in your company, you’re likely missing out on some serious benefits. Here are 5 ways your organization can benefit from knowledge management and big data. The knowledge age is still ongoing, and businesses must adapt to stay ahead of the competition.
To see where knowledge management is headed in the future, get your copy of Knowledge Management for the Enterprise, an annual report by DMG Consulting to explore the latest trends and challenges.
Dive deeper into knowledge management
Knowledge is information with a human component—it’s highly usable and can be helpful or useless, depending on how it’s applied. Information must be processes or interpreted to be useful as knowledge, and organizations must have a knowledge infrastructure to make knowledge available.
At the end of the day, an effective knowledge management strategy requires three components work together—people, process and technology—the basis of knowledge management.
Since answers can be relevant one day and useless the next, you should follow a comprehensive knowledge management strategy to stay competitive.