Friday, October 13, 2006

Content Management vs. Knowledge Management
In a meeting yesterday, I noted that I thought user assistance architecture was evolving to a fusion of content management and knowledge management. Later, I wondered what the heck that meant. What exactly is the difference between the two and what would something act like if it were a fusion of the two?

A somewhat simplistic yet illustrative analogy comes to mind--
Content Management : Knowledge Management :: Food Warehouse : Grocery Store

There are many flaws in this analogy, but let's work it for awhile as if it answers the question. A content management system (CMS) focuses on storing and retrieving content, predominantly in large boxes known as documents. A CMS is essentially a storage and redistribution channel. The main users of CMS are not the end user of the content in many cases, but writers and publishers who create multiple documents by rearranging content or distributing that content in different formats, e.g., PDF, paper, online Help, web pages, etc.

A knowledge management systems (KMS) focuses on creating content and delivering it within the context of specific user needs. There is also a stronger social component in a KMS. What does the grocery store have that a food warehouse does not? Experts like butchers and produce managers. Grocery stores also have fellow shoppers who can help. Another big difference is that warehouses lack user context, Cheerios are as likely to be stored next to ketchup as anything else. Context in a warehouse has more to do with storage size, inventory turns, and the like. In a grocery store, things get stored next to like things for ease of price comparison or next to related things. No food warehouse would ever store bananas and vanilla wafers next to each other, whereas that arrangement is common in grocery stores for obvious reasons.

Next week, I will try to land this analogy home with a more detailed examination of how it applies to user assistance architecture.


Jeff said...

I'm really am enjoying how you are evolving your role over time as you learn more and then sharing. Thank You! So are you as the user assistance architect, the buyer for the grocery store? That is, you meet with butcher to understand which meats are the most popular, or listen to one customer explain why they like one brand of ice cream over the other, and then decide how much of that ice cream to buy from the warehose (CMS) and then appropriately position it (KMS)?

Mike Hughes said...

As the user existence architect, I am like the logistics officer that designs how content gets from suppliers into the warehouse, and from there gets to the grocery store and into the hands of the buyer. I also help lay out the grocery store so that buyers can talk more freely to the butcher and even share recipes with other buyers. That sound you hear is the creaking as I have overloaded this metaphor beyond its breaking point :-)