Saturday 10 March 2007

I say Knowledge Management, you say Enterprise 2.0 - but that's wrong

Is it me or just the feeds I'm reading, but the word "knowledge management" (KM) is appearing more frequently (and not just as a tag), particularly in the context of Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0). In fact I just noticed that a Technorati WTF on KM has appeared this week.

The E2.0 debate about adoption looks like the catalyst, but also I suspect the talk about IBM Lotus' new software announcements (and to a lesser extent MS) in this space has also fueled interest.

Its great to see people talking about the links between experiences with KM adoption with E2.0. In fact, the speed at which we are traveling along the hype curve to get to this point is quite amazing. But, before we get too carried away and find ourselves in the same position of confusing knowledge management and information management I suggest we all read Wilson's case against KM again, and also my own take on this issue.

Just as social software does not equal wisdom, E2.0 does not equal knowledge management. E2.0 simply provides KM with some new tools that can help with the KM problem of participation, including but not limited to social media (and that's great!). In fact, while James Robertson suggests we abandon the term "Knowledge Management System" from a planning perspective, I actually like the fact that the term is vague - a KMS should be any kind of information system you use to achieve a KM objective (I should add that I agree with James' central theme about buying branded KM systems). On the other hand, E2.0 represents a cross over between a KMS and just a part of a wider Web 2.0 trend that is also moving inside the firewall at the same time. Inside the firewall, Web 2.0 will provide:

  • New ways to support collaboration both inside and between organisations (also a benefit for KM, but not limited to KM);
  • A new approach for developing and deploying enterprise applications, and access to enterprise data (hmm, starting to get away from KM here) - for example, see Why "Super Users" are the new programmers; and
  • Better techniques for providing rich user environments that make software easier to use.
  • ...and there are probably more.

More importantly, KM is alive and well and for next generation KM the addiction to information technology is under control:

  • Concepts like Communities of Practice (CoPs) and Storytelling can all work without information technology; and
  • Social Network Analysis (SNA) uses computing power as a means to an end.

E2.0 ("enterprise social software") is different from KM because:

  • It is all about information technology - it does not and can not exist without it; and
  • It appears to have the power to change the shape of organisations, while KM typically tried to improve what was there or provide a way to tap into the back channel.

So, if you you are trying adopt E2.0 the question is are you trying to change the organisation for E2.0 or do you want E2.0 to change your organisation? I'll leave the final word to Euan.


  1. Anonymous9:31 pm

    "It appears to have the power to change the shape of organisations"

    What does this mean James?

    Coz I want to be able to comment on this but you need to give me a little more here...

  2. Matt - Very briefly, what I mean is the flattening and decentralising effect E2.0 has on organisations that have previously used information technology to increase the span of control through centralisation.

  3. Anonymous9:58 pm

    Except that I have yet to hear of it actually doing that in most organisations.

    It provides opportunities for that to happen but only to the extent senior management encourage this or at least do not actively prevent it.

    I would argue that KM when practiced properly changes the connections between people and thus the shape of the organisation.

    I would also state that there is nothing to prevent E2.0 tech being used for centralising purposes in practice.

  4. That one reason why I say "appears". In respect to the support of senior management, you might find Ross' comments to Euan's and my post of interest... link


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