In an earlier blog we discussed how data became knowledge after being grouped and contextualised. But what value has Knowledge?
Knowledge is part of a firm’s intangible assets, which also include Brand, Reputation and their unique business process. However, knowledge that cannot be shared is next to useless. If specific critical knowledge only exists in one employees head, then the organisation is at risk of that knowledge walking out the door if he/she leaves. Only when it is possible to share knowledge throughout the organisation, and learn from it, has knowledge value.
Types of Knowledge
Explicit Knowledge is Documented knowledge. Whether that’s in structured form, like documents, or unstructured, such as emails, voicemail, graphics, etc.
Tacit Knowledge is less quantifiable. It’s undocumented – generally stored in an employees head. It’s knowledge learned from experience, but you’re often not aware you know it. It’s often when something isn’t working with a program, it triggers a memory; This suggests something to try to resolve the problem, which often works. You may not have knowledge of the system being coded, but a similar experience with another system can be enough to gain knowledge from.
Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, developing, sharing and using organisational knowledge in an effective manner.1
There are known steps in the Knowledge Management value chain. These steps allow an organisation to learn & change it’s business processes to reflect this learning.
- Acquire Knowledge.
- Repositories of structured & unstructured data.
- Online expert networks within the organisation.
- Discovering patterns in data.
- External Pertinent Data
- Internal Transaction data.
- Store Knowledge.
- Storage that can be accessed by employees as needed – Indexed, tagged, digitised, etc.
- Expert systems that can help organisations save past knowledge & build new.
- Rewarding employees for keeping knowledge up to date.
- Disseminate Knowledge.
- Options available for sharing information – wikis, blogs, E-mail, Instant Messaging, Collaboration Tools
- Key learning routes to help managers deal with important information.
- Apply Knowledge.
- Management Support for process, product & services change as a result of new Knowledge.
- If an organisation doesn’t change as a result of new Knowledge, they get to return on investment.
Benefits of knowledge management:
- Information easily shared between staff members, and not lost if somebody leaves the company.
- Cost savings: You save time and money in training staff quickly.
- Sharing of ideas can increase innovation within the workforce. Possibly including a multi-cultural element in large companies.
- Improved customer relationships are created by always having the knowledge available to properly care for the customer relationship. In addition, cross-product selling is encouraged by the sharing of knowledge between departments.
- It makes staff more productive by giving them the knowledge to do their jobs better.
- Save time by ensuring knowledge is always available for use, and doesn't have to be re-created repeatedly.
- Stimulates a culture change where sharing and innovation is to the fore-front.
- Facilitates decision-making capabilities without information overload.
People are the holders of knowledge. They develop, share & use knowledge. For all the possible Knowledge Management systems available to companies, it’s their people that are the most important store of knowledge. Unless there is a culture of sharing that knowledge within your company you might as well save your money on the IT spend. It will fail. Only when the company culture is right, will you gain benefits from Knowledge Management Systems.
Laudon K & Laudon J. (2014) ‘Management Information Systems: Managing the Digital Firm’ Pearson, Edinburgh.