posted 1 Feb 2000 in Volume 3 Issue 5
Part 2: Document Management vs Knowledge Management
Some document management (DM) vendors label their solutions as knowledge management (KM). This month's Your Say looks at why DM is not KM and briefly discusses the intersection of these two disciplines.
Document Management and Knowledge Management: an Interdependency
Knowledge management is a collection of systems that are designed to channel information to the most useful point within an organisation. It's no coincidence that many of the technologies and companies offering knowledge management strategies come directly, or with little modification, from the world of document management. Document management and knowledge management are dependent on each other; good document management increases knowledge and empowers the recipient of that knowledge. This, in turn, builds up the 'knowledge worker', or the employee who is an asset due to the knowledge they have, not just the processes they know. A significant proportion of that knowledge will be embodied in documents.
Documents and information are on the increase; one estimate is that the amount of information in offices is doubling every three to four years. The technologies that allow us to customise, edit, select and read documents without printing them is continuing to drive up the volume of information that is contained in office documents. Various versions of one document exist which may be annotated or designed for different readers. Increasingly, the document has become just one facet of the knowledge enterprise, but it does remain central.
Consider that the office of today is organised around documents - companies could not function without them, in whatever form. Much of the hype that surrounds e-commerce ignores the fact that it is enabled by document technology. Integrating internet-based systems with legacy information systems and financial control systems is basically a document management problem. The ability to transact business with virtual documents is what enables e-commerce. In fact, the WWW is fundamentally a network of intelligent documents. A document does not necessarily imply paper. It can be a CD-ROM, a video segment, a hologram, or web image.
Documents in the future, whether on the Internet or a promotional mailing piece, will increasingly address the needs and demands of the recipient. The notion of the interactive document with the power of access, content customisation and message transferal means that new document management strategies will result from the adoption of 1:1 communications.
The traditional paper-based document still has a central role to play. Until electronic bill presentment and payment takes off in the consumer marketplace, bills and statements will still be the primary method of invoicing. And in spite of the digitising of documents, the amount of paper in the average office continues to grow at a rate of 10 to 15 percent each year.
However, knowledge management changes the form and role of the document. If marketing and billing departments share knowledge, the invoice can become a marketing tool. Information from quotation requests can be used to design new service offerings, making a request for a proposal a marketing tool. Knowledge management includes tracking the purchasing habits of customers, enabling companies to develop personalised, targeted mailing campaigns.
The document becomes the vehicle for communicating the personalised message, developed from shared, expanding knowledge. Effective use of it increases knowledge and increases the need for knowledge management.
Dr Keith T Davidson is President of Xplor International. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Technology and Culture
The difference between document management and knowledge management is the difference between technology and culture. They are different concepts - yet they are already working together in modern organisations to improve business operations because despite the momentum of the digital age, much of an organisation's original materials and output remain in a paper-based format. It's the ability to manage the creation, capture, routing, searching, use 'in fact the whole life cycle of this material' that is so very crucial to the knowledge management operation. Document management in this context is a significant building block in an unpredictable and ever-changing market. It's basically an essential enabling tool that starts the whole knowledge management process.
Used in isolation, document management as a solution can and will deliver some impressive and tangible business benefits. But, on occasion, the pain of delivery, the cost and implementation, and lengthy completion times scales are unacceptable. Without radically changing the work environment and business processes within an organisation, true knowledge sharing cannot begin to work.
And some product vendors aren't making life any easier. By confusing end users with the latest buzzwords and jargon, there's a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding in the market place. Many software vendors are even re-packaging and selling themselves as knowledge management suppliers when they clearly aren't. So, it's no surprise that users are finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between document management and knowledge management.
There's no denying that document management products have matured significantly, having moved through image processing to the paperless office, from image viewing to image management and document management. The new generation of document management tools is even designed with knowledge management in mind. They've expanded to include images, process management, the Web and digital documents and have been scaled up to serve the whole enterprise, as opposed to a single department or internal function. And of course, they are compatible with intranet and Internet technologies including browser clients and e-commerce support.
Managing knowledge will be different things to different people - depending on the scale and nature of their business and IT projects. And this means applying different technologies and solutions in accordance to requirements. This will, I believe, add credibility to specialist knowledge management consultants who command the expertise first and foremost, but are able to contract in a variety of technologies as knowledge management enablers as required. This will invariably start with and involve document management as a foundation on which to build with any number of other technologies - such as data capture, information retrieval, data mining, email, push technology, web browsers, intelligent agents and visualisation.
Data of all types has a role to play in knowledge management because gathering information, by whatever means, for storage in the heart of an organisation is the key to successfully pleasing customers and operating efficiently. A flexible approach and infrastructure, bringing in different technologies, such as document management under the supervision of expert knowledge management consultants is the route an increasing number of organisations take.
Stuart Mail is a Senior Technical Consultant at Edo. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
Leveraging Document Management to deliver Knowledge Management
Knowledge has relatively little value to the enterprise if it is exclusively contained within the head of an individual (i.e. tacit knowledge). So called explicit knowledge is knowledge contained in a document - a container of information. Electronic Document Management (EDM) systems are now transforming the creation, retrieval, maintenance, re-use and secure management of documents - from a liability into an asset. As content disseminated on the web becomes as increasingly as important as traditional documents, so the division between EDM, content management and their contribution to overall knowledge management has become blurred. What is not blurred is the realisation by corporations that the knowledge contained in documents and content fuels products, processes and profitability.
One area where organisations are now exploiting the power of managing knowledge through their EDM systems is that of their inherent innovation processes. These are usually instantiated through project based teams.
Projects are the key producers of explicit knowledge within companies. (A modern view of companies is that they are an aggregation of parallel and serial projects.) Most product and process innovations are project team efforts, where the project is the basic unit of work. Three out of four of all knowledge workers are involved in team-oriented structured projects. As many as eight out of ten projects have been done before. The re-use of best practices, know-how and processes across projects is critical. The criticality is often primarily one of time saving, but secondary considerations of cost savings through re-use and consistent quality cannot be ignored. Applications such as Documentum's iTeam allow organisations to create corporate portals that bring together distributed teams on demand for rapid project execution. By linking team members to project knowledge and subject matter, experts over the Web can shrink project timelines leading to increased success rates of projects. More importantly, projects which should be canned will be identified more easily. An example might be a pharmaceutical company who spends millions of dollars on a team to investigate the efficacy of a drug. They discover, after a few years, that a similar project was undertaken in another part of the world that ultimately failed. Had the knowledge been captured and made available, a decision to pull out of further investment thus potentially saving millions of dollars could have been made early on.
Using the basic building blocks that EDM delivers, organisations can connect distributed work teams on demand over the Web, so that their knowledge workers can collaborate on project deliverables, share resources, discuss relevant project issues, track team progress, and make better decisions. Knowledge can be delivered in context so every team member knows the discussions, issues, dependencies, and resources that exist for each project deliverable. Knowledge, hard-won from past experience, is captured and put to work, not only on existing projects but also on new projects going forward. As key decisions are made, the EDM system and associated applications can capture which approaches work and which failed. To deliver the reusability of project information, to coordinate the people, process and content seamlessly and to ensure security and compliance requires a robust and scalable repository. This is one example of where business process-centric EDM is finding a pivotal role in the world of knowledge management.
David Gingell is Head of European Marketing in Documentum. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org