Knowledge management (KM) includes a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices.
Knowledge management efforts typically focus on organizational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, integration and continuous improvement of the organization.
KM efforts overlap with organizational learning, and may be distinguished from that by a greater focus on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and a focus on encouraging the sharing of knowledge.
There are two main types of knowledge: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge represents internalized knowledge that an individual may not be consciously aware of, such as how he or she accomplishes particular tasks. At the opposite end of the spectrum, explicit knowledge represents knowledge that the individual holds consciously in mental focus, in a form that can easily be communicated to others.
A successful KM effort needs to convert internalized tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge in order to share it. For knowledge to be made explicit, it must be translated into information, i.e. content.
Knowledge may be accessed at three stages: before, during, or after KM-related activities.
Different organizations have tried various knowledge capture incentives, including making content submission mandatory and incorporating rewards into performance measurement plans.
A successful KM strategy involves actively managing knowledge. In such an instance, individuals strive to document their knowledge into a shared knowledge repository, such as a database, as well as retrieving knowledge they need that other individuals have provided to the repository (push strategy). This is also commonly known as the Codification approach to KM.
Another strategy to KM involves individuals making knowledge requests of experts associated with a particular subject on an ad hoc basis (pull strategy). In such an instance, expert individual(s) can provide their knowledge to the particular person or people needing this knowledge. This is also commonly known as the Personalization approach to KM.
Other knowledge management strategies and instruments for companies include:
- rewards (as a means of motivating for knowledge sharing);
- storytelling (as a means of transferring tacit knowledge);
- cross-project learning;
- after action reviews;
- knowledge mapping (a map of knowledge repositories within a company accessible by all);
- communities of practice;
- expert directories (to enable knowledge seeker to reach to the experts);
- best practice transfer;
- knowledge fairs;
- competence management (systematic evaluation and planning of competences of individual organization members);
- proximity & architecture (the physical situation of employees can be either conducive or obstructive to knowledge sharing;)
- master-apprentice relationship;
- collaborative technologies;
- knowledge repositories (databases, bookmarking engines, etc.);
- measuring and reporting intellectual capital;
- knowledge brokers (some organizational members take on responsibility for a specific "field" and act as first reference on whom to talk about a specific subject);
- social software (wikis, social bookmarking, blogs, etc.);
- inter-project knowledge transfer.
Typical motivations leading organizations to undertake a KM effort include:
- making available increased knowledge content in the development and provision of products and services;
- achieving shorter new product development cycles;
- facilitating and managing innovation and organizational learning;
- leveraging the expertise of people across the organization;
- increasing network connectivity between internal and external individuals;
- managing business environments and allowing employees to obtain relevant insights and ideas appropriate to their work;
- solving intractable or wicked problems;
- managing intellectual capital and intellectual assets in the workforce (such as the expertise and know-how possessed by key individuals).
The technologies that aid knowledge management are: content management systems, collaboration software, knowledgebase applications, databases, web portals.
More recently, development of social computing tools (such as bookmarks, blogs, and wikis) have allowed more unstructured, self-governing or ecosystem approaches to the transfer, capture and creation of knowledge, including the development of new forms of communities, networks, or matrixed organizations.
Knowledge Management System
Knowledge Management System (KM System) refers to a system for managing knowledge in organizations for supporting creation, capture, storage, and dissemination of information. It can be a part of a knowledge management initiative.
The idea of a KM system is to enable employees to have ready access to the organization's documented base of facts, sources of information, and solutions. For example a typical claim justifying the creation of a KM system might run something like this: an engineer could know the metallurgical composition of an alloy that reduces sound in gear systems. Sharing this information organization-wide can lead to more effective engine design and it could also lead to ideas for new or improved equipment.
Distinguishing features of a KMS can include:
Purpose: a KMS will have an explicit Knowledge Management objective of some type such as collaboration, sharing good practice or the like.
Context: One perspective on KMS would see knowledge is information that is meaningfully organized, accumulated, and embedded in a context of creation and application.
Processes: KMS are developed to support and enhance knowledge-intensive processes, tasks or projects of e.g., creation, construction, identification, capturing, acquisition, selection, valuation, organization, linking, structuring, formalization, visualization, transfer, distribution, retention, maintenance, refinement, revision, evolution, accessing, retrieval and last but not least the application of knowledge, also called the knowledge life cycle.
Participants: Users can play the roles of active, involved participants in knowledge networks and communities fostered by KMS, although this is not necessarily the case. KMS designs are held to reflect that knowledge is developed collectively and that the "distribution" of knowledge leads to its continuous change, reconstruction and application in different contexts, by different participants with differing backgrounds and experiences.
Instruments: KMS support KM instruments, e.g., the capture, creation and sharing of information, the creation of corporate knowledge directories, taxonomies or ontologies, expertise locators, skill management systems, collaborative filtering and handling of interests used to connect people, the creation and fostering of communities or knowledge networks.
A KMS offers integrated services to deploy KM instruments for networks of participants, i.e. active knowledge workers, in knowledge-intensive business processes along the entire knowledge life cycle.
KMS can be used for a wide range of cooperative, collaborative, adhocracy and hierarchy communities, virtual organizations, societies and other virtual networks, to manage media contents; activities, interactions and work-flows purposes; projects; works, networks, departments, privileges, roles, participants and other active users in order to extract and generate new knowledge and to enhance, leverage and transfer in new outcomes of knowledge providing new services using new formats and interfaces and different communication channels.
The term KMS can be associated to Open Source Software, and Open Standards, Open Protocols and Open Knowledge licenses, initiatives and policies.
Benefits and Issues of knowledge management
Some of the advantages for KM systems are:
- sharing of valuable organizational information throughout organizational hierarchy;
- avoid re-inventing the wheel, reducing redundant work;
- reduce training time for new employees;
- retention of intellectual property after the employee leaves;
- time management.
Knowledge Sharing remains a challenging issue. Barriers may include time issues for knowledge works, the level of trust, lack of effective support, technologies, and culture.