What's in a name? The Information Worker, The Knowledge Worker and The Structured Task Worker

The other day I was explaining to a customer about the different types of Information Worker.  Doing a web search afterwards I found very little information available about a bunch of terms we tend to bandy about quite freely without ever really explaining: Information Worker, Knowledge Worker, Structured Task Worker and Data Entry Worker.  I don't think I have ever seen a concrete definition of these terms myself, so here's the way I understand them.  Feel free to shoot me down if you think I have any of this stuff wrong…



When we use the term Information Worker, this isn't simply another name for Knowledge Worker.  Information Worker is the superset of 3 classes of worker with different information and technology usage characteristics.


  • The Knowledge Worker
    • Works with ideas and manages teams
    • Wants to be able to develop and improve processes and forms; encourage collaboration; create workspace environments
    • Needs to create, consume, transform and analyse data
    • Works in an unstructured, free-form way, maybe starting with a set of ideas which are collaborated on and built into a new document/report/form/business process.
    • Examples of this type of worker include middle/senior managers, consultants, marketing execs.


  • The Structured Task Worker
    • Unlike the Knowledge Worker they tend to work only with data and information, not ideas.
    • Create and consume, but don't transform or manage information
    • Needs to be able to find facts quickly; create documents; Edit, write & process information
    • According to some reports this category of Information Worker makes up 80% of the user base in most organisations.
    • Examples of this type of user include bank clerk, call centre operator, nurse and people in supervisor roles: Shop Manager, Bank Manager, Nursing Supervisor.


  • The Data Entry Worker
    • Create and consume, but don't transform or manage information
    • Wants easy access to information; Standardised process and forms; list management
    • Doesn't tend to do free-form document creation
    • This type of user typically works in some kind of administrative, secretarial or receptionist role.



Why is this stuff important?  Most custom-built solutions to date are aimed at the KW category, yet ~80% of the typical user population falls into the STW category.  If you are working in a large organisation and are looking for productivity gains in your business why not go figure out who the STWs in your organisation are and look at what they do on a daily basis.  It's very common to find these people still doing lots of work with paper: filling in paper forms, using post-it notes, sending faxes.  Go look at how you can use SharePoint, InfoPath, Word and the other Office products to build solutions that will improve their productivity and your organisation's agility and data quality.