Knowledge Management in Indian Information Technology (IT) Organizations


By

Mr. P. Aranganathan
Assistant Professor (MBA)
MIET Engineering College
Trichy

Miss. J. Lakshmi
Lecturer (Social Work)
Bharathidasan University Constituent College
Orathanadu, Tanjavur Dt, Tamilnadu
 


ABSTRACT

Nowadays, many companies especially the multinational companies are trying to retain the existing knowledge by managing and controlling it, as knowledge is one of the companies' assets. Knowledge Management is significant in current unstable market conditions particularly in reshaping the product and project lines in tune with the market requirements especially in IT companies. It also plays a crucial role in avoiding the organizations being in a disastrous position of being with the wrong product, at the wrong time and in the wrong place. KM techniques and technologies can also help organizations to examine their processes and improve their services to customers. In the present study, the author had explained the importance, functions and tools used for Knowledge Management system and the challenges faced by the IT companies in its implementation.

Key Words: Tactic knowledge, explicit knowledge, intellectual assets, After Action Reviews, Communities of Practice, Competence Mapping Systems, Exit interviews, Intellectual Capital Audits, Knowledge centers, etc.
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Knowledge is an innately human quality, residing in the living mind because a person must 'identify, interpret and internalize knowledge' (Myers, 1996, p. 2).Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of 'knowers'. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms. (Davenport & Prusak, 1998, p. 5). Knowledge originates and is applied in the minds of knower. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms.

Knowledge is simply actionable information, which allows us to make predictions, casual associations or predictive decisions. Two types of knowledge are used in the organizations, Tactic and Explicit. Tactic knowledge is personal, context specific knowledge that is difficult to formalize, record, or articulate; it is stored in the heads of the people. Explicit knowledge is that component of knowledge that can be codified and transmitted in a systematic and formal language. There are two types of knowledge sources in the organizations, Structured and Unstructured. Some of the structured sources are Data bases, Data marts, Data warehouses, Knowledge base, etc and some of the unstructured sources of knowledge in the organizations are Text document, Graphics, Presentations, Web sites, Tactic knowledge, etc. Nowadays, many companies especially the multinational companies are trying to retain the existing knowledge by managing and controlling it, as knowledge is one of the companies' assets. Companies that focus on knowledge enforce the commercialization of knowledge and innovate or creative knowledge workers. The present study tries to focus on the importance of Knowledge Management system and its challenges in its implementation in the IT companies.

THE CONCEPT OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT

Knowledge management can be discussed in general as the ability to create, communicate, and apply the knowledge to achieve organizational goals. Knowledge management refers to the production, sharing, application, and transformation of knowledge. It can be induced from previous studies that the procedure of knowledge management involves 3 steps, including

(1) Acquisition of knowledge;

(2) Creating the culture of knowledge sharing; and

(3) application of technological facilities (Alavi & Leidner, 2001; Davenport et al., 1998; Wang, 2000; Chang, 2000; Broadbent, 1998; Hansen, 2002).

In other words, "knowledge management" aims to transform personal knowledge into organizational knowledge through innovation, storage, sharing, and exploitation of knowledge, so as to help the organization seek higher performance, and better competitiveness (Zack, 1999; Tsai; 2001). The inventor of knowledge management, Peter F. Drucker, conceived that no matter knowledge management is applied to schools or enterprises, the principles and norms are the same, and the major difference lies in how things are managed.

Knowledge Management is a process where organizations have formulated ways in the attempt to recognize and archive knowledge assets within the organization that are derived from the employees of various departments or faculties and in some cases, even from other organizations that share the similar area of interests or specialization. (Joseph , 2001) Besides, it is defined as the process of transforming information and intellectual assets into enduring value. It also connects people with the knowledge that they need to take action, when they need it (Jillinda J.Kidwell, Karen M Vander Linde, Sanda L. Johnson, 2000) Moreover, KM is concerned with making the right knowledge available to the right processor such as human or computer, at the right time in the right presentations for the right cost. (Holsapple, Joshi, 1999).

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT - COMPONENTS

The vision of the organization coupled together with the knowledge processes and the technology, which acts as an enabler form the three key components of a KM system.

The Knowledge management process usually involves several of the following stages or sub processes in the use of knowledge:

* Knowledge creation
* Knowledge identification
* Knowledge collection
* Knowledge organization
* Knowledge sharing
* Knowledge adaption
* Knowledge usage


IN FUNCTIONS OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS

The key functions of Knowledge Management are as summarized below:

* Building, renewal and organization of knowledge assets

1. Knowledge creation and sourcing
2. Knowledge compilation and sourcing

* Effective distribution and application of knowledge assets

1. Knowledge dissemination
2. Knowledge application and value realization

The four basic functions of knowledge management are

Externalization: Externalization is capturing knowledge in an external repository and organizing it according to a classification framework or taxonomy. The role of externalization is to make your captured knowledge available to knowledge seekers through internalization or intermediation.

Internalization : Internalization tries to discover bodies of knowledge relevant to a particular user's need. With internalization, we extract knowledge from the external repository and filter it to identify what is relevant to the knowledge seeker. Internalization helps a researcher communicate a problem or point of interest and map that against the bodies of knowledge already captured through externalization. Internalization focuses on the transfer of explicit knowledge.

Intermediation: Intermediation brokers tacit knowledge. It matches a knowledge seeker with the best source of knowledge. By tracking the experience and interests of individuals, intermediation can link people who need to explore certain subjects with people who appear to harbor knowledge in that area

Cognition : Cognition is the application of knowledge that's been exchanged through the preceding three functions and is the ultimate goal of knowledge management.

TOOLS USED FOR KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IN ORGANIZATIONS

Some of the tools used in the organizations for managing knowledge effectively in the organization are summarized as follows:

After Action Reviews (AAR): The structured debriefing of participants by suitably trained person at the conclusion of a project or identifiable event. Actual outcomes are compared to plans in a 'blame-free' environment with the intention of capturing lessons learned for future reference and use.

Ask the expert: A facilitated 'market-place' where requests for 'expert' advice are made, responded to; ideally being stored for reference and use by others.

Communities of Practice (CoP): Support groups of individuals with similar work responsibilities but who are not parts of a formally designated work team.

Competence Mapping Systems: Producing an accessible ontology and directory of deliverable skills i.e. allows 'experts' to be easily found. Helps leverage existing knowledge, reaffirm core-competences, create new "collective competencies" and identify skills gaps and clusters

Exit interviews:  An attempt to capture, organize and make available for re-use some of the explicit knowledge of departing employees that would otherwise be lost to the organization.

Intellectual Capital Audits:  Beyond simply reporting on financial activity, organizations can measure relative performance of that most critical of resources, organizational knowledge or "intellectual capital". When viewed in the context of the corporate goals, these can be taken as indicators of future performance.

Knowledge centers:  Extended (digital) libraries where ideas, views, articles, papers, case studies, best practices, expert interviews etc. can be shared, typically within an organization.

Peer Assists:  Facilitated and structured workshops where one group's knowledge and experience are tapped into by a second. With appropriate guidance, Peer Assists can uncover underlying issues/assumptions, display the issue/problem in a fresh light and enable new ideas leading to effective solutions.

Skunk works:   Where an organization is 'seen' to encourage rather than discourage groups that work outside more normal lines of control i.e. high levels of autonomy - perhaps on advanced technical research projects.

Story-telling:   Past stories can provide context and relationship between bits of information in ways that other 'presentations' are unable.

NEED FOR KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IN IT ORGANIZATIONS

Knowledge Management is significant in current unstable market conditions particularly in reshaping the product and project lines in tune with the market requirements especially in IT companies. It also plays a crucial role in avoiding the organizations being in a disastrous position of being with the wrong product, at the wrong time and in the wrong place. The competitors are no longer limited to a particular location or region as markets are increasingly becoming global and KM lets an individual or an organization lead change as opposed to the other way round. Current scenario in the business environment clearly depicts that only the knowledgeable will survive. Knowledge is the key driver for decision support and enables effective decision by making knowledge about past projects, initiatives, failures, success and efforts readily available and accessible. KM initiatives are on the upswing due to the reason that managers at all levels within organizations face mounting pressure to work smarter and faster while wrestling with the demands of  advance technology and a shrinking work force. KM techniques and technologies can help organizations to examine their processes and improve their services to customers. One of the biggest drivers of the KM movement is the issue of e-governance. The need for KM is to get a better understanding of things such as, who are the recipients of the services, who are the providers and where is the room for improvement and cost control.

Challenges faced by the IT organization in implementing KM

According to many experts in-charge of KM initiatives in IT companies, creating a culture of knowledge sharing is the prime challenge that most of the IT companies face in implementing KM. Most people in the organizations think that knowledge is power they tend to hoard; hence making them share it within the organization becomes a very difficult task.

The effective way to transfer knowledge for people is to find others who have it and talk to them. This, however, becomes difficult when companies grow large or where knowledge content of tasks is high. Various formal mechanisms are thus needed to make this sharing happen. This can be through people to people sharing and those that capture expertise to be tapped asynchronously when needed.

KM practices in Wipro, Infosys and Accenture

Knowledge Management systems, to be effective should have easy-to-use interface, solid reliability, accessibility throughout the target segment and utilities to mine relevant information. The target segment (like employees, customers, investors) needs to be taken into account before creating KM systems. The full commitment to KM from the top management is very critical in its implementation.

Full fledged KM initiatives at Wipro Technologies, started over two years ago. Wipro Technologies had created virtual communities to help employees having common interest to share their views and opinions. They also maintain a directory of people who have knowledge base in specific technologies like wireless or Java for instance. This helps knowledge seekers within the company to tap the right resource for their queries. Expertise sharing in Wipro Infotech happens through moderated group discussion, chat and discussion forums.

To promote and publicize KM initiative internally, Wipro InfoTech for instance has a `saint and thief' award concept, under which both the saint (person who contributes the maximum knowledge) and the thief (the one who steals the most from the knowledge repository and deploys them) are rewarded.

Another major IT giant, Infosys maintains a company-wide body of knowledge which enshrines experiential learning gained by past projects. A review mechanism screens the contribution made by Infoscions. Only a small proportion of employees will distill and write on their experiences, as-is project deliverables must be captured too. In order to capture the assets into an intranet-based repository, a process assets system had been developed in the organization. Infosys has a company-wide intranet called Sparsh which acts as a central information portal. The intranet consists of about 5000 nodes, spread throughout the various India-based development centers and the US-based marketing offices. Infosys has created a proprietary KMM (knowledge management maturity) model which draws upon the SEI's capability maturity model. Infosys has also created Knowledge Currency Units which employees can earn for contribution towards knowledge sharing, accumulate and encase them for contribution to knowledge sharing.

Accenture is the former Andersen Consulting: its strengths have long been in the area of information technology management, so it is no surprise to find 'knowledge management' equated mainly with information technology. For example, Lotus Software is identified as a partner and the description reads: This Knowledge Management solution provider enables workers to capture, manage and share information throughout their organizations. (http://www.accenture.com/)  which neatly demonstrates the use of 'knowledge' as a synonym for 'information'. Elsewhere on the site, 'knowledge management' is defined as: …ensuring that the right information is available in an easily digestible format to employees across the organization at the point of need so they can leverage experiences and make more effective business decisions. (http://www.accenture.com/)

CONCLUSION

The IT industry is resource -oriented and it becomes quite important to ensure that knowledge in the minds of resources is safeguarded. It is found that, while 26 per cent of knowledge in the average organization is stored on paper and 20 percent digitally, an amazing 42 per cent is stored in employees' heads. There have been many instances where the learning and knowledge is lost when resources move to newer roles, or leave the organization. IT organizations' major assets are not plants, buildings, or expensive machines but its intellectual capital. The major problem with intellectual capital is that it has legs and walks home every day. At the same rate, experience walks out the door, inexperience walks in the door. Whether or not many IT organizations admit it, they face the challenge of sustaining the level of competence needed to win contracts and fulfill undertakings.

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Mr. P. Aranganathan
Assistant Professor (MBA)
MIET Engineering College
Trichy

Miss. J. Lakshmi
Lecturer (Social Work)
Bharathidasan University Constituent College
Orathanadu, Tanjavur Dt, Tamilnadu
 

Source: E-mail March 15, 2010

          

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