By simple definition, knowledge management is the practice of organizing information in a central repository, representing the best practices of an organization, and serving up that information in a timely fashion to those who need it. For some types of knowledge and some types of work, however, it is best to focus on supporting group interactions rather than structuring knowledge into databases and documents. This highlights the two sometimes divergent views of knowledge management: the “content” perspective and the “community” perspective. Ideally, both are applied in various combinations suitable to each particular context.
In contrast, some have described learning content management systems as the convergence between traditional e-learning and knowledge management. This oversimplifies the issue. We see this convergence as just starting to take place for the following reasons:
- Both learning content management and knowledge management share a similar purpose, namely to increase knowledge, learning and skills within the organization.
- Both share similar technologies. The database technology for both knowledge management and LCMSs are fundamentally the same. Both allow for advanced searching of content. The primary difference is that learning content generally includes opportunities for measuring performance through tests, quizzes and interactions such as simulations, while a knowledge base generally serves up only critical information needed to perform one’s job.
- Both represent expert knowledge and best practice information to achieve organizational goals.
... On the other hand, there are some significant barriers to this convergence. The obstacles are more structural and historical than they are technological barriers:
- Structurally, the management of learning almost always resides within the training department as part of human resources. Knowledge management, however, in most cases does not reside within the training department.
- Knowledge management often resides at a very high level in the organization, sometimes directly below the executive level or is dispersed among several departments. Very often, knowledge management is married to the establishment of the corporate intranet.
- Complex and ambiguous concepts: Knowledge management concepts are among the most ambiguous and misunderstood. There is only partial agreement on definitions of knowledge, content, intellectual capital and other basic concepts, leading to confusion and missed opportunities for collaboration.
- Divergent communities of practice: While this has begun to change, knowledge management and e-learning/training people rarely attend or speak at the same conferences.
- Divergent technologies: Knowledge management and e-learning have spawned totally different software sub-industries, with very few firms trying to serve both markets. Content and document management systems include virtually no learning or competency management functions, and learning management systems offer little support for content which is not structured training.