Re: Some more thoughts on knowledge management

Subject: Re: Some more thoughts on knowledge management
From: SIANNON -at- VISUS -dot- JNJ -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 8:20:57

Lisa> [...]what you've described sounds more like an analytic
Lisa> or business intelligence application [...]

I suspect it is because I gave an example of one possible use, without
sufficiently conveying the essence and scope of the factors involved in the
system. :) (I was seeking to illustrate a use of a KM system not solely
focusing on the document repository facet, so I left a lot out.) Bill
described what I was thinking about much better:

Bill> To most effectively improve the acquisition, management
Bill> and use of this intellectual capital (i.e., to manage its
Bill> knowledge), the company needs to improve its management
Bill> of three pillars: organisational culture, systems
Bill> infrastructure, and processes.

One thing I failed to convey was that I was including all three of these
puppies as part of the picture, and the "data sources" I referenced were
only part of the information captured. The logic and algorithms used to
convert the data into information aren't always a matter of converting
standardized, uniform data--sometimes it is the translation needed to
bridge knowledge gaps that are organizational in nature; e.g., one business
area may not understand how something in another area affects them, or is
affected by them. Usually, they have no interest in learning too much
about the other area's function--they only want to know how it affects
them. To the defense of some critics of KM, this is where some of the KM
efforts can turn into "navel-gazing exercises", if they work too hard at
collecting the info, and then don't make it _usable_ as knowledge.

Lisa> One of the articles I just read about knowledge management
Lisa> said that one important distinction for KM projects was that
Lisa> they do distinguish knowledge from data.

Agreed! Good article, by the way--addresses gray areas nicely, without
being too philosophical. I especially appreciated its description of
knowledge-vs-information in the context of a structured repository (what
many of us will be working with, directly) as a continuum instead of a
dichotomy, and its provision of practical, tangible examples of this.

Bill> Good knowledge management systems will work to discover,
Bill> assimilate, document, and facilitate the retrieval and
Bill> use of knowledge currently in peoples heads. Easy to say
Bill> but not easy to do as any tech writer will tell you.

Very well said!

This is especially hard when the information is ephemeral (e.g.,
hand-written comments on a shift log), or is relegated to documentation
that is "never read" (the bane of a TW's existence). The article's
discussion of how companies deal with "tacit" knowledge like this overlaps
several topics I've seen discussed on this list: the role of
"communications" in technical communications, the production of training
materials, distinctions between types and subject areas of writing (e.g.
marcomm vs. techcomm).

I expect that knowledge management, under whatever buzzword(s), will appear
more and more often in our work, since the two are tied together in several
places. Many of the more elaborate document repository efforts I've seen
people describe on the list here are steps toward addressing one or more
elements of a company's knowledge management issues.

I look forward to seeing other posts on this thread!


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