Knowledge Management: Important Tips

What do IT managers need to know about ‘knowledge management’ in our days?

The unprecedented growth of knowledge in the 20th and now in the 21th century has brought about the necessity to manage knowledge. The new world order, though far from being fully defined and agreed to, is beginning to already point at some of the strategic threats and opportunities that would be determining factors in our ability to help shape a new century that we can look back as symbolic of the human spirit and its collective accomplishment at its best and most current stage in the evolution. As knowledge increasingly becomes the key strategic resource of the future our need to develop comprehensive understanding of knowledge processes for the creation, transfer and deployment of this unique asset are becoming critical. In the face of a globally expanding and highly competitive knowledge-based economy, the traditional organizations are urgently seeking fundamental insights to help them nurture, harvest and manage the immense potential of their knowledge assets for capability to excel at the leading edge of innovation. Hence, the management of knowledge has become extremely important to the business world. This has brought about the rise of knowledge management. This article tries to ascertain the areas that managers should know in order to deal with knowledge management and knowledge management systems in organizations.

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In order to understand knowledge management and its importance to today’s business, we need to understand what knowledge management actually means. Knowledge can be defined as the understanding managers gain which is attained through the process of experience or appropriate study. Before we try to define knowledge management, it is important to understand what knowledge is. Knowledge has been described by many as “information combined with experience, context, interpretation, reflection and is highly contextual” (Barnes, 2001). Hence, according to this definition knowledge is considered to be information plus something more. Knowledge can be of two types: tacit and explicit. Tacit knowledge as described by Poliyani refers to the information that we know but are not aware of knowing such information. In other words, our mind knows more than what we know. Explicit knowledge is the information that we hold (Barnes, 2001). It seems an insurmountable task to talk about knowledge and reach general consensus about it. Since human individuals have written all the literature, in other words, individual knowledge has created knowledge; all access is individual in turn. Publications over the past decades lack general consensus on the definition of knowledge management (Wilson). By contrast, different patterns of definitions originate from different academic disciplines, such as organizational theory, information science, psychology, and sociology (Wilson).

This definition of knowledge has been criticized by Wilson (2002 ). He studies the approach to knowledge management in different scholarly articles, by consultants, and in education institutes. According to his research, knowledge has been misinterpreted as information and has been used as synonymous terms. Even the concept of tacit knowledge has been deliberately misinterpreted by consultants and academicians in order to make knowledge management a new management fad.

Taking the available definition of knowledge in the literature, we consider knowledge taking the form of intellectual capital. Barnes (2001) describes information as explicit knowledge and intellectual capital as tacit knowledge. This intellectual capital becomes the true component of the organizations today. Further, knowledge has different process associated and it is important to identify the processes that can be managed (Barnes, 2001). This leads us to the problem of managing knowledge.

Know when it comes to defining knowledge management it is difficult choose the right definition as there are numerous definition provided in the literature (Wilson, 2002 ). The term “Knowledge Management” is used to describe everything from the application of new technology to harnessing of the intellectual capital of an organization. From an organizational context, it has become fashionable to downplay the significance of an organization’s information processing and communication capabilities for the success of knowledge management (Cross & Baird, 2000). It is certainly true that knowledge management’s salient issues go far beyond the infrastructure of information systems (Wilson, 2002 ). Knowledge management has been used in several frameworks such as organizational learning, improved levels of organizational performance, and use of analytical software for high performance in organizational learning (Wilson). As defined by Barnes (2001):

Knowledge management is the attempt to improve/maximise the use of knowledge which exists in an organisation. More specifically it aims to stimulate its creation and encourage its capture, sorting, sifting, access, linking, storage and distribution. In short, it addresses itself to the processes identified above.

Knowledge management is the deliberate and systematic coordination of an organization’s people, technology, processes and organizational structure in order to add value through reuse and innovation. This coordination is achieved by creating, sharing and applying knowledge as well as through feeding the valuable lessons learnt and incorporating the best practices into corporate memory in order to foster continued organizational learning (Dalkir). KM also facilitates flow of knowledge and sharing to improve the efficiency of individuals and hence the organizations. There are many factors that adversely affect the success of KM implementation in the organizations, known as KM barriers (Cross & Baird, 2000). These may be internal and external type barriers. Internal barriers originate from organizational cultures, organizational structures, etc. The second group of barriers is outside the immediate control of the organization.

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On this discussion, it is important to understand the knowledge management barrier which becomes hindrances to establishing Knowledge management in organizations. Barriers, which hinder organizations to implement KM, have been identified from various authors who have researched and written directly on this issue. One of the earliest sets of barriers for implementing KM was reported by a study of Fraunhofer Stuttgart. According to this study, scarcity of time and lack of awareness about KM were the most important barriers to implement KM (Bullinger, Worner, & Prieto, 1997)Aligned with this type of approach, another study to explore the practices has identified three major barriers namely scarcity of time, lack of awareness and lack of top management support, to implement KM[20]. Based on lessons captured from leading organizations, two of the KPMG (Wilson, 2002 ) studies have proposed four (lack of time, lack of understanding of KM and its benefits, lack of funding and lack of senior management support) and five (lack of time, the sharing of one’s own knowledge, an unclear strategy, weaknesses of information communication technology support, and unclear information demand) key barriers respectively to KM initiatives (KPMG, 1998).

The Delphi study has proposed three barriers, among which culture was the top most barrier and immature technology and lack of need of KM were the minor barriers (Wilson, 2002 ). Another survey has identified culture, leadership, lack of understanding, efforts vs. reward, technology and knowledge complexity as barriers to KM implementation (Wilson, 2002 ). A survey of Indian engineering industries has proposed twenty barriers, amongst them, lack of understanding of KM and lack of top management commitment have been identified as top most barriers. According to this survey, there is a need for KM strategy which must be supported by top management and requires a good KM infrastructure, staff retention, and incentives to encourage knowledge sharing. Reference shows culture as a main barrier and lack of time, and lack of ownership of problem as two other barriers. Reference (Riege, 2005) classifies barriers into three categories namely organizational, individual, and technological barriers. Organizational barriers are lack of leadership, organizational structure, processes etc. Individual barriers are lack of time to share knowledge, job security, benefit of knowledge management, low awareness, and realization of the value etc. Technological barriers are lack of integration of information technology system, unrealistic expectation of employees, lack of training etc.

But there are problems that are faced while a knowledge management systems are implemented which leads to the failure of most knowledge management (Wilson, 2002 ). Knowledge management excessively takes the path of using information system. Knowledge building, externalized, organizational memory provides a powerful resource for knowledge advancement, and advances are realized through collective responsibility knowledge creation. What is important for today’s managers to know is how knowledge management can be accomplished. KM aims to increase the ability of workers to perform knowledge-intensive tasks. From the perspective of work as creative design, we can restate this purpose simply as understanding the problem at hand (Fische & Ostwald, 2001).

Hence, to manage knowledge it is important to identify process of determining overall business objectives, identifying target knowledge consumers, and conducting detailed needs assessment will typically result in a much larger vision than originally envisaged (Talisma, 2006). There are different barriers which arise in the way of knowledge sharing and management and need special attention to take care of these problems. Another problem that can be observed for implementation go knowledge managed is “KM [Knowledge Management] implementations do not pay enough attention to the actual knowledge content—Web pages, documents, FAQs, solution finders, searchable databases, and external syndicated information. The challenge is to not get inundated with information, and yet identify adequate and relevant knowledge to kick-start user adoption of the KM system.” (Talisma, 2006, p. 8). But there are questions that linger pertaining to the implementation of knowledge management systems and its excessive inclination on information system. Hence, managers should know that knowledge management systems are not information systems.

Works Cited

Barnes, P. C. (2001). A primer on knowledge management. 2008. Web.

Bullinger, H., Worner, K., & Prieto, J. (1997). Knowledge management today: Data, facts, trend, (in german). Institut fur Fraunhofer fur Arbeit Management und Organisation (IAO): Stuttgart.

Cross, R., & Baird, L. (2000). Technology is not enough: improving performance by building organizational memory. Sloan Management Review Vol. 41, No. 3 , 69–79.

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Dalkir, K. Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice. Burlington: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.

Fische, G., & Ostwald, J. (2001). KM aims to increase the ability of workers Problems, Promises, Realities, and Challenges. IEEE Intelligent Systems , 60-74.

KPMG. (1998). Knowledge management research report 1998. in: KPMG Management (K. Consulting, ed.). Consulting.

Riege, A. (2005). Three-dozen knowledge-sharing barriers managers must consider. Journal of Knowledge Management 9(3) , 18–35.

Talisma. (2006). Knowledge Management Implementation Best Practices. Web. 

Wilson, T. (2002). The nonsense of ‘knowledge management’. 2008. Web.

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