Defining the Link Between Information Management and Knowledge Management

Information Management and Knowledge ManagementTable 1: A Framework for Information and Knowledge Management

One of the positive aspects of the working arrangements at NuGen was the close working relationship between the information management and the knowledge management roles on the Moorside project.

In NuGen the responsibility for developing the information management (IM) strategy lay with the ‘Configuration and Information Manager’; and knowledge management (KM) responsibilities lay with the ‘Design Knowledge Manager’. Both roles were based within the Design Authority function; and both were recruited early in the Moorside project. This had the added advantage of establishing a close collaboration before one or other sets of working practices became too established to the detriment of the other.

Such arrangements are not altogether typical. On large projects, or indeed in large organisations, the link between information management and knowledge management activities is often not as clear as it could or should be. That lack of clarity can lead to a duplication of processes and systems.  Or it can create problems in the co-ordination of project roles and responsibilities.

The lack of a coherent strategy encompassing both information and knowledge can also lead to a shortfall in capturing and managing the breadth of ‘assets’ required for successful project or programme delivery.  Information assets, in the form of data and documentation, are generated in large amounts through the life of large projects.  Of equal importance are knowledge assets such as the tacit understanding of design assumptions and rationale, of project learning, and knowledge of the important people networks that exist in the organisation and the external supply chain.

Information assets, and the approaches and systems for managing them, are arguably more understood and more established in project and programme management practice.   Large, complex, design and construction projects invest, for example, in databases, document and records management systems and Product Lifecyle Management (PLM) tools.

The purpose and approach for managing knowledge assets, however is not as obvious or as established.

Information Handover and Knowledge Transfer

One of the early project activities at NuGen was directed at defining the relative contributions of IM and KM.  In particular, how were we going to specify our information handover and knowledge transfer requirements to our suppliers?

A firmer understanding of the potential interaction of IM and KM served a number of purposes. It helped us to begin to map out the requirements and scope of respective KM and IM corporate strategies; thereby helping to identify associated requirements for procedures and systems.

This effort also helped in our early discussions with our supply chain. These discussions included how we clearly specify requirements to the prospective nuclear reactor vendor and ‘engineer, procure, construct’ (EPC) organisations.

You only need to look at guidance as Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Guide on ‘New Nuclear Power Plant Information Turnover’ to begin to appreciate that turnover and handover of information from EPC to plant owner-operator are acknowledged as a significant issue in the nuclear industry. Whilst such activity was some way off in the project, we identified consideration of information handover requirements and planning to be an early priority.

At the same time, we wanted to set out our expectations regarding the identification of knowledge assets and the associated requirements and approaches for knowledge transfer.

Essentially, we wanted to be in a better position to communicate the ‘what’ the ‘when’ and the ‘how’ with regards to both information handover and knowledge transfer when dealing with our supply chain.

Devising a simple framework

As part of our considerations we sketched out a simple reference framework.  The main aim of the framework was to aid in communication with the relevant internal and external stakeholders.  The framework was ‘simple’ in that the distinctions made were not ‘black and white’ but were more about where the ‘emphasis’ lay for KM and IM respectively.

The framework considered the following aspects:

  • Typical Assets – the common ‘products’ in terms of knowledge or information that are the focus for and/or output from a knowledge transfer or information handover activity.
  • Strategic Arrangements –the features of knowledge transfer strategy versus information handover. Knowledge transfer arrangements were considered as essentially about establishing suitable collaborative arrangements and in ensuring the KM is managed as a continuous process.  Whilst such collaboration still requires a contractual basis the emphasis should be on collaboration rather than contract. 
  • Strategic Focusthe dimensions of ‘People, Process and Technology’ were used to highlight the main emphasis for knowledge transfer compared with information handover; knowledge transfer being seen to be largely concerned with People and Process activities; information handover focussed more on Process and Technology.
  • Tools, Techniques & Approaches–examples of common tools, techniques and approaches associated with knowledge transfer and information handover.

 Table 1.  (above) sets out the resulting framework.

As a framework it was still ‘work in progress’.  However, spending time to tease out assumptions regarding the boundaries between IM and KM helped us to be more confident and more consistent in our early interactions on the project.  This was in relation to our internal communications of our information and knowledge strategies; in our preliminary discussions with our regulators; and with our dealings with the supply chain.

The next (and final) blog will describe in more detail how we went about defining early knowledge transfer activity .

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Clive Bright,
Knowledge Management Consultant,
https://www.linkedin.com/in/clivebright/

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