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Relections on KM
Monday, November 01, 2004
All or nothing, the bi-polar rant of extremists, is alive and well in the world of KM.

"The knowledge management industry (if you can call it that) has always taken a pretty high-falutin' attitude about 'the enterprise,' and it's possible that its well-documented image problems stem from that strategic flaw," writes Andy Moore, editorial director at KM World in the ironically named Best Practices in Enterprise Knowledge Management.* He continues, "KM has long been touted as an all-or-nothing proposition.... The evidence is mounting that the famous 'departmental point solutions' that many of us thought were mere baby steps to a greater goal, are, in fact, the end game."

Makes sense to me. Rather than try to boil the ocean, KM needs to apply the 80/20 rule and focus on things that make a difference. Most of these thngs are bottom-up. Many of the vendors at this year's KM World Conference don't see it that way. Commissions on enterprise deals pay off a salesperson's mortgage; departmental sales cover a month's car payments.

On the all-or-nothing spectrum, the next author in Best Practices in Enterprise Knowledge Management is in the all camp. He tells us "...total knowledge management is driven by the need for organizations to have a unified access and view to all business content across an enterprise.... The ultimate goal of the total knowledge strategy is to enable an organization to have one single version of the truth; unified access to all enterprise content...." It's all or nothing.

This raises some thorny issues. First of all, the only organizations that have a single version of the truth are sole proprietorships, and even one-man shops change their interpretations of reality on the spur of the moment.

The third writer in this pamphlet says "...the primary difference between information and knowledge is relevance." Presumably, the all-or-nothing guy (who in real life markets "a state-of-the-art integrated enterprise content management platform") would have us index and store irrelevant information alongside knowledge.

At least our brethren in KM are consistent. I don't need to change my definition of KM in the Internet Time Glossary.

Knowledge Management. Whatever you want it to be. Also, whatever I have to sell you.

*Best Practices is online.


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