Far too many of vendors do not believe there is a difference between knowledge management and information management. They recognize only that market hype has shifted public opinion, so they are morphing to catch up and reposition their products. Can you blame them?
Much of what purports to be knowledge management is in reality information management. Just the other day I heard a rep selling scanners as a core KM technology, "essential for knowledge sharing," without which the organization was doomed to be bypassed by every other firm going down the knowledge track.
The distinction I like to make, is working with objects (data or information), is IM and working with people which is KM. Information Management is about documents, CAD drawings, spreadsheets, program code. IM means ensuring access, security, delivery, and storage. It deals exclusively with explicit representations. Creation, use, learning, meaning, understanding, and negotiation are NOT core issues, but efficiency, timeliness, accuracy, veracity, speed, cost, storage space and retrieval ARE central concerns in IM.
Knowledge management recognizes value in originality, innovation, agility, adaptability, intelligence and learning. It seeks to leverage the capacity of the organization in these areas. KM is concerned with critical thinking, innovation, relationships, exposure to ideas, patterns, competencies, and collaboration. It supports communities and individual and group learning. KM strengthens alignment and encourages the sharing of experiences, failures, and best practices. KM may use technology to foster dialog, increase communication, share context or negotiate meaning but this is not the core focus.
A people focus in KM extends to recruitment, rewards, retention, recognition and reification. KM is about intangibles, intellectual capital, competitive advantage and innovation-- NOT objects.
The division between information and knowledge management is not clear cut, take knowledge artifacts with their grounding in information systems, but their value depending on alignment, belief and negotiated meaning. The role and representation of concepts often tend to blur the distinction between inference and intuition. Meta-data plays an increasing a part in supplying context, while subtle differences between data translations and information transformations often help to keep us guessing. Negotiation and social conventions around boundary objects then carry and convey meaning between communities helping learning and understanding.
Knowledge management operates at a more abstract level than IM. This often makes the causal links with benefits and tangible assets difficult to grasp and explain but that does not render them less real or lower the strategic importance of KM.
Not much has changed since I wrote this in 2001.