The conversation continues, and I put the topic out for further discussion:
From time to time in our interactions with clients and colleagues, there appears to be a sense that some sort of collaborative vibes are at work. We see indications of some level of culture change, particularly with respect to how IT professionals and strategic knowledge professionals think about their work – and about one another – in the workplace.
So we can’t help but wonder if that so-called “great divide” between IT and the content management folks isn’t breaking down. For a couple of decades (perhaps longer) the famous and pretty well-established differences in what we do in IT and KM/knowledge services have been much talked about. Now those differences seem to breaking down and we seem (I don’t have hard-and-fast evidence for this yet) to have companies making serious and very sincere efforts to bring collaboration between IT and KM into the organizational knowledge domain. And into the corporate culture.
The old model, for me, was represented in this photograph from KenTV. I ran across it when I lived in Kenya a few years ago, and I like it because it shows one of the natural steam pipelines in one of Kenya’s famous national parks, places where I went often to see the wildlife. To me the photograph seemed to capture very well the idea that we were hearing a lot, that IT was the medium through which developed knowledge and knowledge to be shared was transmitted, as with a pipeline, or a cable, or some other physical mechanism. Of course we all knew that wasn’t literally true, as a description for what was happening with information and knowledge. But trying to explain it that way – even when we knew it was inaccurate – seemed to make the description of our work a little easier.
It wasn’t a useful explanation, though, because it created confusion, and using the pipeline image eventually made it even harder to explain the difference between what is shared (information and knowledge) and the means used to share it (information management, including IT).
Now all that seems to be changing. Somewhere along the way, in the last three-to-five years I surmise, this difference, this awkward “separation” began to slip, and we started to hear more about the value of collaboration between technology management and knowledge management. We began to learn that there is real value in bringing in what I like to call “strategic learning,” the third element of knowledge services which, when combined with successful information management and knowledge management enables excellence in knowledge development and knowledge sharing.
And one of the best examples of this new collaboration has been the number of companies and organizations moving away from referring to their corporate intranet as such. They are using the phrase “corporate KM system” or “corporate knowledge services system” to describe this important (indeed, even essential) operational tool.
Another part of the current picture is the attention being given in technology management to strategy, to the importance of establishing a corporate technology strategy designed to ensure that decisions relating to technological requirements connect with the company’s needs and priorities and match the larger organizational business strategy. The same thing is happening – as is written about often in this space – with the development of the corporate knowledge strategy. And in many organizations the company’s knowledge strategy and its technology strategy are being developed collaboratively and simultaneously, to ensure that both link to the larger organizational business strategy.
Is it all of a piece? Are we moving (perhaps a little more slowly than some of us would like) to a management scenario in which collaboration between IT and KM/knowledge services will become “natural” as part of how we conduct business? Perhaps. Certainly there are steps in this direction, as I’ve noted here.
At SMR International we would like to hear readers’ comments and experiences about this kind of collaboration. There are also – not to put too fine a point on it – plenty of situations where such collaboration isn’t happening (but in these cases I would simply add optimistically, “not yet”).
Share with our readers your experiences with IT and KM/knowledge services collaboration. We want to learn more about what’s happening with this important topic (and if you so request, no identification or affiliation will be used – at this point we’re just interested in what you have to say).