Issues in Knowledge Management Dr Sherif Kamel The American University in Cairo
Outline • Introduction • Knowledge management definition • Data, information and knowledge • Tacit versus Explicit Knowledge • Knowledge Management - An Evolving Concept • Managing Knowledge
Introduction • Ernst and Young Knowledge Management system • Intranet allows 82000 in global organization share leading practices and intelligence • Allows access to 1200 internal knowledge bases and external sources • Software tools facilitate search process (including unasked for information that may be relevant) • Center for Business Knowledge includes subject matter experts at strategic locations worldwide – they foster strategic thinking and package knowledge for assimilation • Believe KM efforts have contributed to firm’s success (how to measure?)
Knowledge Management Definition • Seeks to collect, organize, and distribute knowledge to leverage its value collectively across the organization • Many seek to gather and store information • Some do not study whether and how employees use it • KM includes the processes necessary to capture, codify, and transfer knowledge in order to achieve competitive advantage • Value is minimized if knowledge is not shared beyond individual and/or workgroup
Knowledge Management Definition • KM relation to IT • IT makes up infrastructure for KM systems • KM systems provide data infrastructure for many IS applications • KM is a key application of IS like e-mail reflecting a new business application • IT does not guarantee knowledge is captured and/or used • Related to intellectual capital – knowledge that is used to produce higher valued goods/ services and/or produce competitive advantage • Terms are sometimes used interchangeably and/or imprecisely
Data, Information and Knowledge • Data • Specific objective facts or observations that can be easily captured, stored and transmitted – but have no intrinsic meaning. • Information • Data endowed with relevance and purpose, people interpret the context of the data and summarize it into more condensed form • Knowledge • Information with the most value – includes individual’s unique experience, judgment and wisdom, values and beliefs are components, also includes the synthesis of multiple sources over time, computers are better at dealing with data than knowledge
Tacit versus Explicit Knowledge • Tacit knowledge • First described by Polyani – “we can know more than we can tell” – is personal, context-specific, hard to formalize and communicate, consists of beliefs, skills, and experiences, entirely subjective and often acquired through physically practicing a skill or activity • Explicit knowledge • Traditional focus of IT – can be collected, organized and transferred through physical and digital means • Tacit knowledge is hard to capture outside human mind.
“Knowledge Management” An Evolving Concept • Concept is not new • It has implications for new technologies such as collaborative systems and for Internet systems that act as a large, geographically distributed knowledge repository • Emerging discipline that draws from many areas • Key to competitive advantage • Sustainable advantage relies upon what its employees know and how they apply knowledge to business problems • Expectations can be exaggerated due to vendor and others claims – one tool to serve organization needs that must be balanced with other tasks
Managing Knowledge • In the past, no explicit effort had to be made to manage knowledge • KM was important to success in different areas of the value chain, has become knowledge intensive (R&D). • KM becomes more important as basis for competition and needs to be managed effectively • Sharing best practices • Need to leverage knowledge gained by a subset of the organization, can not afford to “reinvent the wheel” • Setting-up systems to capture best practices and disseminate experience especially in firms that apply expertise such as accounting, engineering and consulting firms.
Managing Knowledge (Cont’d) • Globalization • Entire supply chain can operate more effectively globally than when subject to local supply and demand • Rapid change • Existing knowledge becomes obsolete faster • Employees must learn new skills in less time • KM provides way to optimize use of existing knowledge and help the transfer of new knowledge across the firm • Downsizing • Has removed knowledge as eliminated employees experience from firm. • veteran employees with extensive knowledge of organization and its processes may be hard to find, new employees take longer to get up to speed.
Managing Knowledge (Cont’d) • Managing information and communication overload • Knowledge embedded in products • Many firms sell knowledge as others sell products • Much of the value in the products is due to knowledge embedded in such products • Sustainable competitive advantage • Increasingly difficult to keep competitors from copying and improving on products and processes • Life cycle of innovation is growing shorter • The capacity to learn is the one sustainable competitive advantage
Knowledge Management Processes • Knowledge generation • All activities that discover new knowledge (new to individual, firm or discipline) • Knowledge codification • Capture and organization of knowledge so it can be reused • Knowledge transfer • Transmitting knowledge from on person or group to another and the absorption of that knowledge • All these processes occur naturally • KM seeks to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of these activities and leverage their value for the firm
Knowledge Generation • Concerns the internal activities of the organization to acquire or create new knowledge (new to the firm) • Techniques for knowledge generation include • Purchase or rental of knowledge • Research and development • Shared problem solving • Adaptation • Communities of practice
Knowledge Capture and Codification • Capturing knowledge involves a continuous process of scanning, organizing and packaging knowledge • Codification is the representation of knowledge in a manner that can be easily accessed and transferred
Knowledge Transfer • Four different modes have been identified • Socialization • From tacit knowledge to tacit knowledge - This occurs through observation, imitation and practice in apprenticeships, conferences and “at the water cooler”. • Externalization • From tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge – must be articulated in a form such a videotape • Combination • From explicit knowledge to explicit knowledge – copying and distributing a tape transfers it so all can benefit • Internalization • From explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge – when tape is combined with prior experience, benefits can result