Monday, July 2, 2007

What is meant by Collaboration? How is it different from Knowledge Management?

What is Collaboration? How is it different from Knowledge Management? There are so many terms like knowledge management, wikis, blogs, project management that we use when we talk about collaboration, knowledge sharing, team engagement. The priority of terms keep changing and new business terms keep evolving that make users even more confusing. I am one of them who has been working in this area for sometime but feels that I am still a novice and a starter. I am not surprised if there are many who thinks same as me.

Till the last year wikis and blogs were hot in web 2.0 and were go to tools for collaboration. Many organization were talking about how wikis and blogs would change the way we collaborate or share over the web. In less than a year, it seems wikis and blogs fell short of expectation of the users. Now vendors are working on integrating more features like project management, activity management, instant messaging and chat rooms in wikis. The list does stop here. Now wiki products are also calling them selves as knowledge management tools.

Is Collaboration same as Knowledge Management?

I am afraid not. There are multiple vendors who provides collaboration/knowledge suites like Microsoft SharePoint, Lotus Connection, Intel SuiteTwo, Jive Clearspace etc. Every vendor has its own theme and story to explain collaboration and knowledge management. But if you see, they all follow 80-20 rule. All the products have about 80% of common components and 20% differentiating functions. The key differentiator of Microsoft SharePoint is integrating with its Outlook and Project Management tools. For Lotus Connection, it is building Community of Practice (COP). For Intel SuiteTwo, it is integrating best of breed software. For Jive Clearspace, it is providing simple to use tool and additional plugins for instant communication. But truly, none of them fit both collaboration and knowledge management space.

How does Knowledge Management fit here? What is difference between Knowledge Management and Collaboration? Who wraps whom?

My 2 cents, Knowledge Management is a process by which companies organize themselves to generate value from their intellectual and knowledge based assets. Collaboration is process by which company's employees, partners and customers create, manage and share intellectual and knowledge based assets. They are related to each other from dependency perspective. The key is that both add value to each other. Collaboration is one of the components of Knowledge Management. Knowledge Management adds value to the assets generated using Collaboration. Can Knowledge Management and Collaboration exits with one another? Yes, for sure. Knowledge Management utilizes assets not created using Collaboration and assets created using Collaboration may not used in Knowledge Management. But organizations generate more value if they are used in conjunction.

Why are these vendors confusing user community with so many terms here? Why can't we setup a forum for standardization of specification that solves and cater to all user needs and differentiate products?

My next question now is "what would you call wikis and blogs as; collaboration, knowledge management or none?". They were front runners in collaboration and knowledge management space a year back, but seems to lack in functionality to support them now. How do they plan to compete with collaboration and knowledge management tools? Are wikis and blogs going to stay or ultimately merge with other collaboration tools?

How do you classify Google Apps? Since Google provides tools for collaboration and team sharing.

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