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Content Management vs. Knowledge Management
A Summary of Key Differences

In today’s knowledge economy, companies differentiate themselves by how well they deliver the right information to the right person at the right time, and by how well they act on that information to improve the services, sales and productivity of the organization. While the capture and distribution of knowledge has traditionally been a strictly controlled process, this new market environment calls for more flexibility and greater collaboration, both within an organization and external to it with customers and partners. To foster this collaboration, organizations need new ways of producing, authoring, capturing, disseminating and assessing knowledge.

Companies today often use Web-based content management systems (CMS) to manage knowledge-based processes and sites. However, CMS were not designed for knowledge management—and because of several critical gaps in product capabilities, many organizations are failing in their efforts to foster greater collaboration. This article identifies the key differences between CMS and KMS, and makes the case for why a KMS platform is the preferred choice for managing knowledge-driven websites.

At first glance, it might seem the fundamental characteristics of CMS and KMS are essentially the same, given that both deal with creating, managing and publishing information. However, there are several fundamental differences between a typical CMS and a KMS, specifically with regard to how information flows through the development and publishing processes. Understanding these differences will help inform which type of solution best fits your organization’s needs.

Elements of KM vs. CM
Daily work depends on granular snippets of knowledge.
The absence of discrete pieces of unstructured information—essentially snippets of knowledge—are often what stops us from completing the task at hand. The kind of how-to information varies based on industry or type of job. For example, an accountant may ask, "What account should I post a chargeback to?" A software administrator may ask, "What is the sequence of patches to apply in delivering this workaround?" A consumer may ask, "How do I set the alarm clock on my iPod?" These pieces of information are not likely to be easily found in product or training manuals, assuming someone would actually even take the trouble to dig through the documentation in the first place. CMS are geared toward managing projects, Web pages, and websites, information that is typically not granular in nature. KMS, on the other hand, are geared toward efficiently managing snippets of information, such as how-tos, procedures and solutions, which are inherently more granular, and more directly relevant to the tasks at hand.

Knowledge has a shelf life.
Today’s knowledge is dynamic and has a shelf life. For example, the account to which a chargeback should be posted might change over time. Or, when a new software release is delivered, the information about applying patches becomes moot. Or, as a new iPod becomes available, the old information is outdated. So today’s business-critical knowledge needs to be captured, reviewed and published quickly, and updated and culled frequently.

People don’t and won’t take the time to document what they know.
The kind of information discussed here is tacit knowledge, i.e. knowledge that is in people’s heads but is rarely documented. In fact, this is knowledge that is written down only when someone is asked a question about that particular topic, on a phone call, over a cubicle wall, in an email or on a forum/blog post. To capture this tacit information, it is critical to make knowledge-capture easy. Further, this knowledge-capture needs to be done as part of the work process and not as a separate document or content publishing task that an employee might engage in some day.

Expertise is distributed.
Tacit knowledge is not restricted to a few in-house experts. For example, customers might develop greater expertise for a particular product than the company representatives with whom they interact. This means that the notion of authorship expands to a much wider variety of people, from dedicated authors and publishers to product experts, rank and file employees and even customers participating on blogs and forums. In fact, to extract tacit knowledge, it makes more sense to involve more people than less.

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