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Last week I attended a Knowledge and Content Management conference in London. There were over 200 delegates and two streams of papers covering, funnily enough, Knowledge Management and Content Management.
What surprised me was the bias in numbers attending the two streams, with far more attendees in the KM room than the CM room. I wasn’t sure why it surprised me which made me ponder on it some more….
I think that after many years working in the world of information management, and dipping my toes into knowledge management on some occasions, I’d come round to thinking that KM was a bit old hat. I’d thought it was a term which had been labelled as one of those management consultants’ theories and was almost gone. I’d worked in blue chip companies where KM was definitely a no-no term to use, where eyes drifted up to the ceiling at its mere mention. I’d personally moved on into intranet management using good, solid information management skills; organising content for the user, managing content though proper life cycles etc.
But here was a conference full of people wanting to make KM work for them and their organisations, still discussing ways in which people’s tacit knowledge (the stuff in their heads) could be captured before they leave a company, how it could be shared and reused.
To start with I seemed to be hearing the same conversations I was involved with nearly 10 years ago – about how to make KM work. But I soon realised that it had then been a problem then without a technology solution to make it EASY to solve. Some intranets, along with other huge non web-based databases had been developed to ‘share knowledge’ in the past and had so often failed because the technology was just too difficult to use. Very few companies really got KM to work for them.
Now, in the newer era of Web 2.0, with wikis, blogs, discussion forums, photo sharing on Flickr, networking through FaceBook and Myspace, and all things ‘sharing and communicating’ online, Knowledge Management has become a real possibility again.
These web based tools, adapted for use within corporate firewalls, integrated with everyone’s intranet to be part of normal working web environment, now offer easy to use solutions to information and knowledge sharing. But are we ready for the free-for-all inside the corporate firewall, how many rules do we need to have around the ‘networking’ and will the rules just stifle the sharing again?
It seemed from last week that there’s a real mix out there now, still some stayed intranet based databases of ‘knowledge’ that no one really looks at, plus some very active communities sharing knowledge over geographic and functional boundaries. Maybe KM hasn’t drifted away at all, but is finally becoming something useable and real. My gut feel is still that good KM is just good ‘Information Management’ really (I would say that, I’m an information professional!), but I’m open to being convinced that it’s more than that now.