Software Vendor Positions that Future of KM is (only) Information & Data at our Fingertips!

Step Right Up!A well known software vendor makes this claim: “Employees do not need to do one single thing for 10 years to have it be second nature. They don’t need process flows. Knowledge is acquired from the combination of information and data that is at our fingertips, and relevant to our context. This is the future of knowledge management and access.” And in response, well I think that I’m going to go ahead and have to disagree. Yeah, going to have to disagree. Here’s why….


So here I was culling through my inbox, checking out my KM and Innovation search feed results and there was this article, “The Future of Knowledge Management and Access.” Based on the title alone I nearly gave this a pass. Yes, it sounded very much like it was going to be something crafted by someone with their KM head in the sand. And when I scanned down to the bottom and realized that it was written by a well known software vendor I said to myself, “Let me guess – it’s a ‘Our Software Saves the World’ story, right?” And at that point I should have let it go. Just moved on. But it’s kind of like a car wreck that is unfolding before your eyes in that you watch, glad it’s not you, hoping that everyone will be okay. But this doesn’t turn out well.

As a long-time KM’er, I have to say that when I read an article like this I’m reminded **why** many organizations still seem to struggle with what KM is and how to successfully implement it. Warning, beginning my rant now: KM is NOT about Software. Yeah, I know — I don’t feel better for having said that, but if just one person stumbles along and reads that declaration and considers its implications…well, our KM world is then just a little bit better.

Sure, great article title — sounds intriguing for sure, but then there is this statement that really caught my attention (especially since it was the closing paragraph!): “Employees do not need to do one single thing for 10 years to have it be second nature. They don’t need process flows. Knowledge is acquired from the combination of information and data that is at our fingertips, and relevant to our context. This is the future of knowledge management and access.”

Okay, pop quiz — the above statement was written by:
A) Malcolm Gladwell
B) KM Manager (or similar title)
C) Software Vendor trying to sell your boss (or boss’s boss) on their software solution to save your world!

Let’s check the answer! Nope, not “A” Malcolm Gladwell (bonus points though if you picked up on the fact that this author seems to be in disagreement with Malcolm Gladwell — let’s bring out the popcorn and give this one a watch!). Nope, not a KM Manager struggling with how to best address organizational gaps and seeking to stimulate Knowledge Flows (which would certainly be a part of “process flows”).

So if you picked “C” — Software Vendor, you can pat yourself on the back for a moment for guessing the “who’s got a dog in the race” and give yourself the credit due for reading between the vendor hype.

What I’m hearing from this software vendor (who according to Wikipedia “offers text search technology to enterprises”) is that there is no need in an organization for employees to be “especially proficient at a skill”, and that organizations don’t need to utilize any “knowledge flows” within their projects. They simply need to only utilize “information and data that is at our fingertips, and relevant to our context.” And that would of course be existing information and data. Yup, no need to concern ourselves with new knowledge! Or knowledge capture, knowledge flow, knowledge utilization, and on and on. And certainly let’s be careful to ensure that innovation doesn’t get in the way of information and data.

Wow…..

Dr. Dan's Daily Dose:
If you find yourself discussing how the world spins on information and data at your fingertips…you’re probably discussing Information Management or Content Management or Data Management….but certainly NOT Knowledge Management. KM is so very much more than that and I’m pretty sure that this (fixation upon only information and data) is not the “future of knowledge management.”
About Dr. Dan Kirsch