Knowledge Management (KM)

- 'knowing what you know and profiting from it'       


Knowledge Management, or simply "KM", is a business concept that deals with how a company should and could make the best use of its existing knowledge.  It involves the systematic and structured process of organizing corporate information for easy retrieval, distribution, and reuse across the entire company.  By this definition alone, computerization should be part of every serious KM program, which is why KM-related software have been on the rise in recent years.


Experts believe that the vast wealth of knowledge that an organization accumulates over years - business ideas, management concepts, internal systems and processes, engineering expertise, customer and prospect information, industry trends, and the like - are often very underutilized. In fact, millions of pieces of vital knowledge within the company are just localized to a certain group within the organization, or even just a certain individual. These information only stay with the people who keep them, and will be lost as soon as these people leave the company.


With excellent knowledge management, every piece of corporate information becomes readily available to anybody within the company who could use them for the company's benefit.  Empowering people to seamlessly share past or present knowledge, or even their skills, with each other and harness them to meet company goals is the essence of knowledge management. The importance of knowledge management is embodied in the now-famous statement of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt: "If HP knew what it knows, we'd be three times as profitable." 


In the last century, manual labor or production management is the key to success.  In the 21st century, it would be knowledge management.  In fact, knowledge management directly impacts the major drivers of company success: customer value, operational excellence, and product innovation.  Pursuing these efficiently and effectively requires excellent management of knowledge to ensure progressive productivity among knowledge workers and proper harnessing of the organization's collective knowledge to its advantage.


Knowledge Management has three (3) major components: 1) people, who keep the knowledge and apply them; 2) processes, with which people create, capture, store, organize, and distribute knowledge; and 3) information, which are the pieces of facts and data that people convert into and apply as knowledge.  It is therefore imperative that these three components are considered when setting up a KM program.


For instance, having great leadership and developing good organizational structure and corporate culture within the company will encourage people to participate in KM initiatives.  Processes, on the other hand, must be created based on and driven by a knowledge management framework that would allow centralized creation, capture, organization, retrieval, and reuse of information to generate value for the company. Lastly, information must not only be accessible - people must also be able to associate them with their work and apply them as knowledge to improve their output.  


In setting up a KM program, it is important to distinguish between 'information' and 'knowledge'.  Information is just a piece of fact or data stored somewhere.  Knowledge, on the other hand, is associating these various pieces of information with each other to create a new meaning to their existence, which when conveyed and applied creates value for the organization. The key to effective knowledge management is not really in the storage and retrieval of individual pieces of information, but in being able to create meaningful and valuable associations among them.  This is why knowledge management is not just knowing what you know, but also profiting from it.


Many experts believe that a complete off-the-shelf knowledge management software solution for everyone will not happen in the near future.  This is because every company differs in the way it creates and applies knowledge. Companies can use the same data storage solution, but there is no KM software just yet that can cater to every corporate goal, corporate culture, and corporate knowledge infrastructure to help management come up with something that would increase profits or market share.  To this point, genuine stock-approach KM doesn't yet exist, so companies have to set up their own internal KM solutions for now.


What abound in the market at present are not complete turnkey knowledge management solutions, but simply knowledge management tools.   These are nonetheless powerful collaboration tools and modules of knowledge management-enabling software that can work across platforms to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, create a better and more efficient working environment, and ultimately help the company succeed.  These include components for document management (DM), digital asset management (DAM), content management (CM), web content management (WCM), records management (RM),  business process management (BPM), customer relationship management (CRM), etc.


Still, the quest for better and better knowledge management solutions goes on. New technologies involving electronic meetings, chat-enabled collaborations, and portal infrastructures that mediate people interactions and amass knowledge from them are just a few examples of what have been developed, and are still being developed, for this purpose.  Innovations in the field of knowledge management will certainly continue, especially since in this day and age, knowledge is power


See Also:   Learning Organization Supply Chain Mgt. Game TheoryCRMTQM KaizenKnowledge Management




Copyright 2005 All Rights Reserved.