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Knowledge Management: An Overview

Knowledge Management is a philosophy One that focuses on the intangible assets of knowledge and understands the assets generative value. These assets appreciate in value over time with judicious use by creating a culture of knowledge sharing. What is knowledge management? There is no agreed upon definition. Due to the incongruity of definitions for Knowledge Management, many organizations have shelled out, and lost, millions of dollars trying to bridge Knowledge Management from theory to practice. Many organizations have forged a tumultuous relationship with KM, and many others have simply cut the apron strings. These attempts to forge bonds with KMs theoretical concept have shaken free many best practices of why organizations failed to successfully implement KM, and further adding to KMs definition by helping define what KM is not. To begin looking at a KM infrastructure for The Company, we need to agreed upon a definition of what Knowledge Management means. The most succinct definition of KM that encompasses many experts point of view was stated by CIO Magazine, KM is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. Most often, generating value from such assets involves codifying what employees, partners and customers know, and sharing that information among employees, departments and even with other companies in an effort to devise best practices. It's important to note that the definition says nothing about technology; while KM is often facilitated by IT, technology by itself is not KM. To further dissect this definition, information is what we find though Web-enabled technologies such as the Internet, Intranet, file server, etc. Information is not knowledge, but information can lead to the formation of knowledge. Whereas, learning is about taking this information and creating instruction with context to be delivered in a modality of choice, to aid in the formation of new knowledge.

Information vs. Knowledge:

Information is merely the codification of implicit and explicit knowledge in an organization. When a person seeks and finds the relevant information they need, then their background, experience, and education collectively contribute to create the context for that information. Next, they utilize their experiences in translating the found information into new knowledge. However, if that person does not have the background or experience to translate the information, the process of learning comes into play. The role of learning is to provide a context for information and provide multiple access points for that information so that new knowledge can be formed and learning can take place. To conceive of knowledge as a collection of information seems to rob the concept of all of its lifeKnowledge resides in the user and not in the collection. (Churchman, 1971)

Technology and Knowledge Management:

KM technologies generally consist of technologies that decentralize the control or context of information. For instance, look at the difference of a weblog and an e-mail. When you send an e-mail to one individual that information is trapped in within the e-mail, which is located on an e-mail server, and cannot be re-used or archived for the benefit of others. However, if information was transmitted to a person or group of people using a weblog, then this information suddenly becomes centralized, and affords us with the ability to search, archive, or re-use this information in other ways. This also helps us to harness the tacit knowledge of the individual who is maintaining the weblog. Over time as this weblog grows so does the information in which the person is transmitting, and once they have left the organization that information still exists in a fashion that everyone can access. 1

KM is not about the technology, but about which technology can be used to help us achieve our goals. Not every department, or group, has the same goals or the same level of information people are seeking. Many KM directed technologies consist of the following: Blogs: Websites in which items are posted on a regular basis and displayed in reverse chronological order. The term blog is a shortened form of weblog or web log Wikis: a type of website that allows users to easily add and edit content and is especially suited for collaborative writing. The name is based on the Hawaiin term wiki, meaning "quick", "fast", or "to hasten". Groupware (Collaborative Software): Application software that integrates work on a single project by several concurrent users, at separate workstations, accessing a single collaborative workspace. Collaborative Tools (Instant Messaging, White Boards, Document Management) Really Simple Syndication (RSS): a family of XML file formats for web syndication used by news websites and weblogs. RSS technology allows Internet users to subscribe to websites that provide RSS feeds with regular changes and additions to content. Social Network/ Expertise Locaters: Allows for peer-to-peer connectivity in which people can be connected to others based off interests, jobs, awards received, school, or skill sets. Allows you to immediately connect to a person who has the information or knowledge you are seeking. Vidcasts: online delivery of video content Podcasts: web feed of audio or video files placed on the Internet for anyone to subscribe to, and download, the content. Screencasts: video recording of a screens output and placed on the Internet. Portals: sites on the World Wide Web that typically provide personalized capabilities to their visitors; business portals are designed to share collaboration in workplaces where the content can be worked on via multiple platforms such as personal computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile phones Document Sharing Systems: systems that allow people to work on a document with multiple people in multiple locations. Communities of Practice (CoP): process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in some subject or problem collaborate over an extended period to share ideas, find solutions, and build innovations

It is also important to note here that a true Knowledge Management system is comprised of many different types of technologies that are used to target the unique set of circumstances in which organizations are trying to capture or disseminate information. While all-inclusive systems are touted, such as Microsoft Sharepoint, these systems may lack the support and customization needed to embed this new workflow into an employees day-to-day activities. In the computer science fields, it is increasingly recognized that most current software for knowledge management have more to do with new ways of storing and communicating information than with actual ways in which people create, 2

acquire and use knowledge (Milton et al., 1999)

Knowledge Management Design:

The publishing model of information is obsolete; by the time information is published much of it may be irrelevant. Instead of working to capture knowledge, opportunities for sharing and making knowledge easy for others to find should be created. General elements to be incorporated into any design: Strategic focus on what knowledge is most important Organizational focus on issues of culture, such as appropriate values and attitudes, organizational structure of information and control, and on business processes. Technological a focus on the information technologies, tools, and infrastructural support to enable the new processes Human/Individual centered focus on the development and effective utilization of individual and collective skills, expertise and behavior. Yet despite the technology, Knowledge Management is as much about people, working relationships, and communications. Management - Knowledge needs to be managed at multiple levelsfrom the individual to the group to the organization. Start small Work towards understanding the environment, the people, and their process to develop a solution that can be integrated into their daily activities to ensure long term use.

Knowledge to be acquired and technologies that can be used: Collection Connection 1. What is known? 1. Who knows who? 2. Where is it? 2. Who knows what? 3. How do we relay information?

Creation/Collaboration 1. What do we want to know? 2. How do we create what we want to know? 3. How can we share what we know?

Document management systems Content Repositories Search Engines

Technologies Used Instant Messaging E-mail Phone

Groupware Lotus Groove

Portals Directories Yellow Pages Online Dictionaries

Video Conferencing Social Software Expert Locater Blog

MS NetMeeting MS Project IBM Babble Wiki

Thomas, Kellogg and Erickson (2003) point out the view of Knowledge Management as a passive, fact storing procedure which ignores the context in which knowledge is embedded and which relies solely on information technologies is a common misconception to the whole process.

Knowledge Management is divided into three levels: data, information, and knowledge

Level Data

Description A central repository of an organizations major documents, reports, manuals, and forms for the purpose of distributing information to be downloaded and printed.

Technology Content Management Systems (CMS) Document Managements Systems


This level focuses on information creation, sharing, and management. Here information is accessed online where the newest information is accessible, eliminating versioning control of downloaded documents. Publishing models are becoming extinct.

Portals Document Sharing Systems Blogs, Wikis Social Networks, Collaborative Tools Communities of Practice


Knowledge, or Enterprise Intelligence, is the main goal of KM to create a system where the organization depends on the expertise embedded into the system. Here, people continually rely on the information and add to the collective intelligence of the business.

Executive Dashboard

This level is less about technology than it is about support to ensure the KM system is continually maintained and evolves. The supports required at this level are: Performance Support External Support Extrinsic Support

ntrinsic Support

Knowledge Management Approach:

Human Performance Technology Model Human Performance Technology (HPT) is a field of work which seeks to provide an engineering approach to attaining desired accomplishments from human performers by determining gaps in performance and designing cost-effective and efficient interventions. Baked-in Tom Davenport, KM expert and professor at Babson College, suggests that the best way to encourage worker participation in the creation and dissemination of knowledge is to bake it into the job. Here KM becomes integrated into everybodys job, it is not an add-on. Baby-Steps Start small with smaller communities and smaller projects. Small successes are more desirable than big failures. Build solutions to meet a real need. Then leverage the learning from these collections of small successes to approach larger, more complex communities and initiatives.

Proposed Knowledge Management Initiative:

This section looks at proposed Knowledge Management tools, various ideas regarding how these tools can be used, and a rough draft of phases for implementation. Each technology or idea will be mapped to the following grid that details what types of technologies can be mapped to what type of information we are looking to capture. Approaches to KM Collection 1. What is known? 2. Where is it? Connection 1. Who knows who? 2. Who knows what? 3. How do we relay information? Creation/Collaboration 1. What do we want to know? 2. How do we create what we want to know? 3. How can we share what we know?

Document management systems Content Repositories Search Engines Portals Directories Yellow Pages Online Dictionaries

Technologies Used Instant Messaging E-mail Phone Video Conferencing Social Software Expert Locater Blog

Groupware Lotus Groove MS NetMeeting MS Project IBM Babble Wiki

Proposed Knowledge Management Initiative:

The Company Intranet (Portal): Collection: What is known? Where is it? The The Company Intranet provides access to company information and applications, employees, corporate resources, benefits, automotive news, Internet/Intranet search, links to CoP, etc. The portal is customizable to meet the need of each individual or department, and gives access to other 6

CoPs that are setup in the organization.

Communities of Practice (CoP): Collection: What is known? Where is it? The best definition of CoP comes from the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). They state that CoPs are, Networks of people who work together in an organization and who regularly share information and knowledge. Such people may be, but aren't necessarily, part of formal teams or units. They often collaborate on particular projects or products, or they hold the same or similar jobs. They have been described as peers in the execution of real work. All CoPs would be linked from the The Company Intranet and would provide everyone with access to the following technologies. Blog: Connection: How do we relay information? While blogs are nothing new, the way in which they are being utilized in changing everyday. One of the affordances of having a blog is that the information and comments can be mined at a later date, unlike e-mail or IM. In a New York Times article titled, Corporate Blogging Take Off, they examine how blogs are now being used as a Knowledge Management tool in many corporations. Some examples the New York Times cites are: Robert Scoble, a Microsoft product marketing manager, maintains a weblog about the company that generates regular feedback from tech-savvy customers on how to improve Microsoft products. Though he's just one of hundreds of employee bloggers at the software giant, Scoble is by far the most widely read, with more than 850 blogs and 1,300 sites that link to his blog. Some 500 IBM employees in more than 30 countries use blogs to discuss software development projects and business strategies. When it released a crop of new software products in 2002, Macromedia saved tens of thousands of dollars in call-center support with blogs that addressed customer questions.

Similarly, The Company can use blogs to: Keep employees continually informed regarding the operations and direction of The Company. Communicate with the Company on the changes and problems with OneRoad of Connected Vehicle. Interdepartmental knowledge sharing on issues and topics Cross-departmental discussions/project planning Special interest groups Providing cross-functional training resources for The Company-nistas moving from one department to another

Wiki: Creation/Collaboration: How can we share what we know? How do we create what we want to know? The real benefit and power of a Wiki is that it allows for online collaboration. To harness the real affordances of this technology, the Wiki needs to be moved into a CoP and integrated as a tool to help capture and facilitate knowledge within the given context. Such as BMW OEM or Farmers Insurance. Knowledge Warehouse Collection: What is known? Where is it? A knowledge warehouse is the central repository where information is stored, organized, processed, and disseminated. These systems are typically used as a Question and Answer format to help people find answer to their questions regarding corporate policy, applications, department processes, etc. Sometime these environments are typically geared towards codified information, whereas other tools are suited more for capturing tacit knowledge. These types of systems generally have features that allow people to submit questions, view top questions asked or viewed, provide connections to other information that may be of value based off the question being viewed. Social Networks/Resource Finder: Connection: Who knows what? Social networks have been around for awhile. Friendster and Facebook are a couple of the more well known online social networks. This technology has started to become a knowledge management tool with the central idea of connecting employees with the people who have the information or knowledge they need. This type of network can also help people find or see career growth at The Company by viewing profiles of employees in positions they may be interested in pursuing and connecting with them for advice and suggestions to work towards that type of career. Ask [Insert Name] a question: Collection: What is known? Where is it? We can move towards developing an more open organization where people can submit or post questions to be answered by the intended recipient, e.g. senior leadership. A key focus of this system would need to ensure the anonymity of people submitting questions. Everyone in the organization then benefits from this system by being able to search and review questions and answers. Submit your idea: Connection: Who knows what? In an organization that continually promotes innovation; we should have a system setup to capture the ideas people have for the organization. This would probably be a closed system only accessible to senior management as people may be discouraged from posting their thoughts and ideas if they knew their peers would read this, or they are afraid someone may take their idea. Additionally, people should be allowed to submit their ideas anonymously. Media Library: Collection: Where is it?

This would be a central repository for media (photos, video, and audio) owned or produced by The Company. Everybody within the organization would be able to access this media so they can use these in developing sales presentation, marketing materials, internal presentations, e-learning courses, etc. Enterprise Content Management System (CMS) or Document Management System (DMS), or Both: Collection: What is known? Where is it? The purpose of a content management system is to act as the central repository for The Company information and would be linked to the The Company Intranet where this information would be accessed. This eliminates the need for publishing content to the Intranet and trying to maintain a large file structure, and produces up-todate information via the Intranet in real-time. Document management systems are typically used to publish the information located in a CMS in a variety of formats; PDF, HTML, etc. Typically, one would publish information to put up onto the Internet/Intranet or if a copy needed to be sent out to someone and it wasnt accessible via the Intranet. Suggestions for product updates and enhancements: Connection: Who knows what? In further moving towards a more open and knowledge sharing culture, there should be an easy way for everyone to submit their ideas and frustrations about OneRoad and Connected Vehicle. Our goal should be to make it easy to gather, and maintain feedback from everybody who uses the systems. Agents are dying to have their voices heard and this could provide a way to feel like someone is listening and working on the frustrations they experience daily with the systems the use. Each release should try to incorporate one suggestion from an agent, and this should be communicated to everyone to show the proactive nature of the organization and how they are listening to our front line employees. This also shows that everyone has the ability to create change in the organization from every level.

Wrap Up:
Knowledge management is more than a single technology, the codification of tacit knowledge, or a single process aimed to collect information. Knowledge management is also about people, working relationships, and communications of, and between, people and groups. The goal of Knowledge Management is to create a seamless and transparent flow of information in which: People know where to access necessary and relevant information, and this information can be accessed in a timely fashion. Information is located in a central repository where information is continually kept up-to-date and relevant. Information and learning work together in the creation of new knowledge for The Company. Information can be leveraged for other applications, but continue to share a single source of information, ensuring the information doesnt go stale or out-of-date. Multi-modes of access to information. Information can be viewed or accessed from one computer, cell phone, iPhone, blackberry, video player, or mp3 player. Enhance the communication and relationships between people and groups of people.

Capturing information in a system that allows for that information to be searched, archived, and analyzed. Allows for the open communication of the company to disseminate information, and for employees or clients to submit comments or suggestions.