The Knowledge Management - An Overview


By

N. Kavitha
MBA, M.Phil, (Ph.D)
Lecturer in MBA Department
SSM College of Engineering
Komarapalayam-638 183, Namakkal-Dist.

N. Krishna Veni
M.com, M.Phil, PGDCA, (MBA)
Lecturer in Commerce Department
Cherran's Arts Science College
Kangayam, Erode-Dist.
 


Introduction

Knowledge Management (KM) refers to a range of practices used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness and learning across the organization. Knowledge Management programs are typically tied to organizational objectives and are intended to lead to the achievement of specific business outcomes such as shared business intelligence, improved performance, competitive advantage, or higher levels of innovation.

While knowledge transfer (an aspect of Knowledge Management) has always existed in one form or another, for example through on-the-job discussions with peers, formally through apprenticeship, through the maintenance of corporate libraries, through professional training and mentoring programmes, and since the late twentieth century technologically through knowledge bases, expert systems, and other knowledge repositories, Knowledge Management programs attempt to explicitly evaluate and manage the process of creation or identification, accumulation, and application of knowledge or intellectual capital across an organization.

Knowledge Management, therefore, attempts to bring under one set of practices various strands of thought and practice relating to:

* intellectual capital and the knowledge worker in the knowledge economy
* the idea of the learning organization;
* various enabling organizational practices such as Communities of Practice and corporate Yellow Page directories for accessing key personnel and expertise;
* various enabling technologies such as knowledge bases and expert systems, help desks, corporate intranets and extranets, Content Management, wikis, and Document Management.

While Knowledge Management programs are closely related to Organizational Learning initiatives, Knowledge Management may be distinguished from Organizational Learning by its greater focus on the management of specific knowledge assets and development and cultivation of the channels through which knowledge flows.

The emergence of knowledge management has generated new organizational roles and responsibilities an early example of which was the Chief Knowledge Officer. In recent years, Personal knowledge management (PKM) practice has arisen in which individuals apply KM practice to themselves, their role in the organisation and their career development.

Knowledge Management is a continually evolving discipline, with a wide range of contributions and a wide range of views on what represents good practice in Knowledge Management.

Definition of Knowledge Management

There are as many definitions for knowledge management as there are people who are working on this subject. Given below, are some of the most commonly used definitions KM is to understand, focus on, and manage systematic, explicit, and deliberate knowledge building, renewal, and application that is, manage effective knowledge processes (EKP). Knowledge management is knowledge creation followed by interpretation, knowledge dissemination and use, and knowledge retention and refinement

De Jarnett
Powerful environmental forces are reshaping the world of the manager of the 21st century. These forces call for a fundamental shift in organisation process and hr strategy. This is knowledge management

Taylor
Knowledge management is the process of critically managing knowledge to meet existing needs, to identify and exploit existing and acquired knowledge assets and to develop new opportunities

Quintas
The crux of the issue is not information, information technology. the answer turns out to lie more with psychology and marketing of knowledge within the family than bits and bytes

Peters
Knowledge management is the activity, which is concerned with strategy and tactics to manage human centered assets.

Brooking
"Knowledge management is about enhancing the use of organisational knowledge through sound practices of information management and organisational learning."

Knowledge Management Diagram


Diagram Description

For people with vision impairments, this is a description of the diagram. It represents the key elements of knowledge management in the third sector.

The left column includes the following elements:

Information Processes

Information processes include explict knowledge, documented and undocumented, replicable in all media. Knowledge is broken up into the following areas:

  • Information for accountability, minimising risk
  • Information for awareness, maximizing opportunity
  • Information for Pleasure, or information for the enhancement of living.

All these elements occur in the environment of information systems (software and hardware)

Knowledge Processes

These elements or functions interact with the right hand column, knowledge processes, which includes the tacit, undocumented knowledge, often 'whitewater', in people's minds and workplace cultures.

The latter take place in the needs, knowledge, skills, and processes in organisaitons, service networks, and with clients, and the environment includes information communities or communities of practice.

People Systems Transfers of Knowledge

The interaction between the information management functions and the knowledge management functions takes place within the context of People-Systems transfers of knowledge.

Roots of knowledge management

Learning organisation :

If an organisation conforms to the required norms and can be termed as a learning organisation, then it becomes one of the start point of knowledge management.

Intellectual assets :

The intellectual assets in an organisation is in the people have gained expertise through years of work experience and is tacit in nature. This knowledge has to made explicit and managed in order to leverage on it and gain competitive advantage.

Knowledge based systems

The systems that are evolved in an organization to facilitate the smooth functioning of the organization should facilitate harnessing the existing knowledge in the organization. These systems could be a basis of knowledge management.

Information management

Information is the core of knowledge management, since information combined with experience and intuition leads to knowledge. Hence, proper information management systems can result in an effective knowledge management system.

Innovation

Creativity and innovation are methods by which new knowledge is created. Innovation comes out of increment changes to existing products or processes and a radical change, which is different from the original process or product. Radical changes give a new dimension to the existing knowledge base and incremental changes result in changes in perceptions and line of thinking leading to new knowledge insights.

Business transformation

Business transformation acts as another catalyst for knowledge management. Organisations respond to the various changes in the market place through transformation processes like business process re-engineering.

Evolution of Knowledge management

Historic developments may be portrayed by the following stages of dominant economic activities and foci leading to the evolution of knowledge management.Agrarian economics creating products for consumption and exchange Natural resource economics natural resource exploitation dominate while customer intimacy was pursued separately by expert tradesmen and guilds. Product revolution Continued focus on operational excellence and product leadership. Knowledge revolution New focus on customer intimacy

Approaches to knowledge management

There is a broad range of thought on knowledge management with no agreed definition current or likely. The approaches vary by author and school. For example, knowledge management may be viewed from each of the following perspectives:

  • Techno-centric: Focus on technologies, ideally those that enhance knowledge sharing / growth, frequently any technology that does fancy stuff with information.
  • Organizational: How does the organization need to be designed to facilitate knowledge processes? Which organizations work best with what processes?
  • Ecological: seeing the interaction of people, identity, knowledge and environmental factors as a complex adaptive system.
  • Combinatory: Combining more than one of the above approaches where possible without contradiction.

In addition as the discipline is maturing we see an increasing presence of academic debates within epistemology emerging in both the theory and practice of knowledge management. UK and Australian Standards Bodies have both produced documents which attempt to bound and scope the field but these have received limited take up or awareness.

Drivers of knowledge management

There are a number of 'drivers', or motivations, leading to organizations undertaking a knowledge management program.

Perhaps first among these is to gain the competitive advantage that comes with improved or faster learning and new knowledge creation. Knowledge management programs may lead to greater innovation, better customer experiences, consistency in good practices and knowledge access across a global organization, as well as many other benefits, and knowledge management programs may be driven with these goals in mind.

Considerations driving a knowledge management program might include:

* making available increased knowledge content in the development and provision of products and services
* achieving shorter new product development cycles
* facilitating and managing organisational innovation
* leverage the expertise of people across the organization
* Benefiting from 'network effects' as the number of productive connections between employees in the organization increases and the quality of information shared increases
* managing the proliferation of data and information in complex business environments and allowing employees to rapidly access useful and relevant knowledge resources and best practice guidelines
* facilitate organizational learning
* managing intellectual capital and intellectual assets in the workforce (such as the expertise and know-how possessed by key individuals) as individuals retire and new workers are hired
* a convincing sales pitch from one of the many consulting firms pushing Knowledge Management as a solution to virtually any business problem, such as loss of market share, declining profits, or employee inefficiency.

Knowledge Management Life Cycle:

It emphasize the need for integrating a 6 stage KM life cycle with organizational-level, group-level, and individual-level systems and practices; KM as a component of organizational strategy is largely a work-in-progress:

KM Life Cycle Stages:

Create

Organize

Formalize

Distribute

Apply

Evolve


As described by Herschel and Nemati, the Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) is a recent creation whose purpose is the management of intellectual capital, a unique organizational asset.

Obstacles to KM Implementation

Lack of business purpose

Most organisations look at implementation of knowledge management program as an end in itself. Organisations need to look beyond implementation and to define ways of dealing with the pressing problems of the organisation using knowledge management.

Poor planning and inadequate resources

Many companies focus their attention on the KM pilot project and forget about the roll out. Organisations need to make the plan the rollout and the pilot plant simultaneously to avoid loss of focus on the mail roll out.

Lack of accountability

Knowledge management initiatives peter out if accountability is not fixed on persons to implement the initiatives and see the end of it. Typically, knowledge management programs could be implemented by a core team dedicated for the purpose.

Lack of customization

Knowledge management is not a one-size-fit-all program. It works best when individual programs are tailored to the need of the individual users. It should also fit into the organisation culture.

Conclusion

The decision on whether or not an organization should outsource a part of their business is a complicated one, and should not be taken lightly. Searching for short-term cost savings is not a bad idea, but choosing outsourcing based solely on cost reduction or tactical problems is a short-term solution and will undermine a company's potential for long term success. The organization should have sufficient management skills and the ability to adapt new behaviors and processes to successfully manage an external part of their business. These skills should include knowledge management abilities and a willingness to apply them to a new and more challenging situation. Tacit knowledge must specifically be considered when planning an outsourcing strategy, particularly if the component of the business to be outsourced already exists internally and valuable institutional knowledge will be lost. The transfer of tacit knowledge can have a profound effect on quality and overall strategic business value. Cultural and language barriers add challenges to the already difficult process of transferring tacit knowledge and are of particular concern in cases of cross-border outsourcing. Finally, once a decision has been made to outsource aspects of a business, specific knowledge management strategies can be implemented that will maximize the benefits that are available from a decentralized business model.

References

1. Laurance Prusak , "Principles of knowledge management, Journal of knowledge management, Volume 1 Number 1 September 1997
2. Source cwlcub.com/nickolsarticle.htm
3. http://www.dmreview.com/master_sponsor.cfm?NavID=68&EdID=2784
4. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1991), 'The knowledge creating company'
5. Davenport and Prusak (1998), 'Working knowledge, Harvard Business School Press
6. Jennifer Rowley, Library Management, Volume 20 Number 8 1999
7. Laurence Prusak, Principles of Knowledge Management
8. Fred Nickols, The Knowledge in Knowledge Management
9. Mike Bagshaw, 'Why Knowledge management is here to stay', Industrial and commercial training, volume 32- Number 5 2000
10. Atefeh SadriMcCampbell et all ,'Knowledge Management : the new challenge for the 21st century', Journal of Knowledge Management Volume 3 Number 3 1999
11. Rodney Mcadam Sandra McCreedy - Critical review of knowledge management models
12. http://www.fis.utoronto.ca/kmi/primer/A-define.htm
13. http://www.destinationcrm.com/km/dcrm_km_article.asp?id=818&ed=4%2F1%2F01
 


N. Kavitha
MBA, M.Phil, (Ph.D)
Lecturer in MBA Department
SSM College of Engineering
Komarapalayam-638 183, Namakkal-Dist.

N. Krishna Veni
M.com, M.Phil, PGDCA, (MBA)
Lecturer in Commerce Department
Cherran's Arts Science College
Kangayam, Erode-Dist.
 

Source: E-mail March 30, 2007

       

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