Knowledge management as the name suggests is a process that deals with creation, utilization, preservation and distribution of knowledge for the purpose of knowledge enhancement. Knowledge in this context will be used to refer to the facts, feelings and expenses of knowledge known to a person or group of people that is according to Collins English Dictionary, (1984) According to Liebowitz (2000pp.34-54) knowledge management is the consolidation of knowledge based systems, artificial intelligence, software engineering, business process improvement, human resource management and organizational behavior concepts. ‘‘Knowledge management is nothing more than managing information flow; getting the right information to the people who need it so they can act on it quickly’’ (Gates, 1999. Pp.31-=56).
As economies move from post industrial economy to knowledge based economies knowledge management is budding up as a discipline in its own right. It has been argued that knowledge management can only be successfully practiced using technology. In my opinion successful knowledge management is successful if a combination of factors such as organization structure, technology, culture and people are put together to achieve an effective knowledge management practice. According to Davenport and Prusak (1998pp.98-104) they argue that, effective knowledge management does not solely rely on technology. A combination of factors such as social and managerial factors contributes significantly to that end.
It is important to lay out the importance of knowledge management to an organization. Knowledge is a resource to any organization or community. It may be described as an intangible asset and organizations which realize this importance, capitalizes on it to gain competitive advantage.
Technology in knowledge plays a significant role in facilitating the process of capturing, creation and dissemination of knowledge. It enhances rapid access to knowledge. As seen in the definition of knowledge management, the purpose of technology is essentially to facilitate or enhance this process of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing.
This is because technology facilitates creation of knowledge pools where information is consolidated, sorted, filtered and stored for reference by users. Knowledge is a resource and needs to be managed. Technology facilitates dissemination of this information regardless of geographical distance at real time. For knowledge to be realised and therefore valuable to the users it has to be immediate and quality as such technology aids in speedy transmission of knowledge regardless of recurrence as frequency. Owing to the constant changes of which business operates for instance the frequent mergers and cartels formed, technology organization data or information is usually last. Technology therefore plays a vital role of creating, preserving and distributing both new and old literature for reuse by organizations. It is this knowledge management practice than aids in better decision making. That is by referring back to past experiences. Technology preserves knowledge which acts as intellectual capital facilitating knowledge transfer innovations are built on this pool of knowledge (Skyrme).
While it is a fact that technology plays a significant role in knowledge management, successful knowledge management is an interactive process between the users, techniques and technology. This is according to Ganesh, an assistant professor in the department of information technology age virtually every aspect of life is becoming more knowledge sensitive and organizations need to keep up with this trend. On the need to get real time, relevant information is core to successful knowledge management. These needs are met with application of knowledge management systems which process data to useful information that can easily be interpreted by users. This is because information value varies from person to person. How it is organized and amount of content determines its validity and usefulness.
According to Ganesh knowledge management the coordination of the processes of knowledge creation, presentation, validation, distribution and application enable, organization to leverage knowledge for competitive advantage (2001.pp.21-45). Technological advances in the field of knowledge management are more responsive to users needs. These needs are ever changing and technology supports effective knowledge management. For instance, users need fast methods accessing information capturing new knowledge and distributing it. Technologies such as tele conferencing, internet and web pages are easy to use as well as fast matching with the users needs. Retrieval of information especially for large organization is usually hectic. Organizations which invest on current trends experience efficiency in retrieval of documents. Sorting of documents and cataloging is also facilitated using technology, hence better knowledge practices. Before proceeding further, it is important to mention the various types of computer aided knowledge management technologies. They include knowledge bases, expert systems, knowledge repositories internet and intranets. These technologies facilitate storage of multiple information from various sources. They simplify the process of capturing knowledge and transfers of information. For more sophisticated programs such as expert systems, features such as analyzing capability and knowledge on specific subjects are used. These systems can analyze data which would have taken so many experts to analyze plus they save time. Technology basically enhances sharing of knowledge.
It is indeed subjective to claim that knowledge management can only be successfully practiced with the support of technology. On the other hand, our appreciation of what technology does for knowledge management is crucial. Clear examples organizations such as universities, the famous McDonalds, Airlines make use of technology to facilitate knowledge management practice. Technology has changed the way knowledge is captured, utilized and distributed in order to make the process efficient.
A company like McDonald’s outsourcers order taking at some of its drive up windows. It also outsourcers data entry clerks who link orders to pictures of the customers in order to increase is market (Friedman 2006. Pp.87-99). Web pages designed to link people, give feedback or distribute information to different persons are commonly used by organizations. Particularly, E bay which is access by millions of people globally is an effective tool of sharing knowledge.
According to Nash (2001.pp.53-77) the internet and web-based technologies have significantly empowered customers by providing a means of enhanced access to information and interactive communication.
The advent of internet enhanced sharing of information between users, through emails, web pages concepts such as e learning e-directories further enhance the sharing of knowledge. Currently, a new trend called blogging has come up, where organizations post their expenses or comments on various subjects online. This creates a pool of knowledge where users can access this information easily. Also personal blogs which are sort of online diaries where personal information is shared contribute to knowledge.
Technologies such as search engines which are able to filter contact from numerous WebPages and search for specific content internet uses in knowledge management adds more value to the users of knowledge in that its makes information accessible to users, relevant, and immediate. Knowledge sharing is further enhanced by its interactive nature through one on one communication tools such as teleconferencing, VoIPs, chat rooms and so on, plus its user friendly nature. Technology reduces the physical hindrances that obscure efficient knowledge sharing. Limitations such as geographical distance language, time are greatly minimized. Using technology thus people tend to be motivated to share knowledge
Limitations of technology in KM
Technology has its limitations. The large amount of information processed by knowledge management systems causes’ information overload. The user is bombarded with so much information, both relevant and irrelevant. This makes information interpretation difficult and thus decision making harder. This contradicts what technology seeks to achieve in knowledge management. In addition, technology has failed to replace the human dimension in terms. The tendency of people to confuse technology with knowledge management is also a limitation. People fail to realize that knowledge management is not only technology but also any better way of doing things. Knowledge management requires social arrangements to enable it happen (Denning, 2002.pp.28-37)
Successful knowledge management relies also on the culture of an organization. In regard to knowledge management, several definitions abound on the meaning of organizational culture but according to Tyler (1871.pp.11-16), it is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by a of society. This definition applies to the organization. The knowledge culture of organizations is closely related to how its successful knowledge management. This is seen in the way is motivates and enable its people to create, utilize distribute and share knowledge with others. An organization that breeds this culture climbs a notch higher in terms of knowledge management. The success of an organization management plan heavily depends on the culture that builds on knowledge sharing amongst employees. This culture is shaped by the daily interactions of people in an organization both in formal and informal setting. Organizations that foster supportive networks and that are productive social interactions among it stay ahead of others. A clear understanding of the cultures of others outside the organization also contributes. Kotter and Heskett identify the constructive culture. This culture is characterized by the quality workplace, limited turnover, the quality of products and customer service and organizational adaptability. This they say positively relate to the success of knowledge management. Therefore, in as much as a technology may be provided to facilitate effective knowledge management, the end success will greatly depend on the role played by organizational culture. Most firms invest in reward system, opportunities for more interactive discussion forms and information systems, leadership and so on (Drucker, 1999pp.66, Delong and faney 2000pp.51, Gupta and Gevindaran, 2000pp.84 &Venger et al. 2002pp.76). This contributes to successful knowledge management.
Different organizations have different leadership styles. However, organizations with leadership that promotes trust, tolerance for mistakes, autonomy willingness to change. Adaptability on so on positively play critical role to enhancement of knowledge culture. This is according to Ribiene and Sitor, 2003 and Bixler (2002pp.91-98). They continue to say that this kind of leadership should trickle down from top management level to the lower level managers in the organization. Therefore a strong correlation exists between an organization knowledge culture and leadership which are integral to successful knowledge management (Kluge et al, 2001 marsh and Satylades 2003; Relch and Welch 2005). Similarly, an organizational culture that is adaptive to changes in the external environment, flexible to adopting new technologies and values knowledge ultimately depicts successful knowledge management. A constructive organization culture positively relates to outcomes such as communication quality, less turnover, creativity, clarity, better products and customer satisfaction. (Klein, A.S., Masi, R. J and Weidness, C.K., 1995pp.121-26)
Successful Knowledge management depends on its people. Organization’s strategic capital and capability to successfully plan and execute strategy heavily depends on the knowledge of its workforce (Smith, 2005pp.44-64, Fitzgerald 1992pp.133-136) categories knowledge into three groups that is stable, dynamic and static dynamic knowledge, which he says influences on organizations capability to successfully manage knowledge. This knowledge must be nurtured and managed through knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing in this context is not to mean mere exchange of facts and truths but something much deeper Nonaka best defines knowledge sharing and recommends that “we must move away from the concept of knowledge sharing as transmitting data to the notion of effecting the right cognition in the right agents, at the right time” (Nonaka, 1995pp.80). The organizational culture further contributes to the knowledge sharing practice within the organization. Shared values, beliefs attitudes and practices of the people in the workforce constitute organizational culture (Schein 1991pp.101-109). A well designed knowledge management program succeeds when it’s supported by employees or people’s beliefs (Smith, 2001pp.55-59)
In conclusion, the success of knowledge management practice does not solely depend on the use of technology. Although technology is a vital ingredient, combinations of factors such as clear vision, ability to harness the culture of knowledge sharing, knowledge innovation and organization culture. An organizations dedication to enhancing knowledge management practice greatly determines its success in this area. According to Chatzkel (2002pp.87-89) use of technology in knowledge management is not intended to ever stand out there on its own. He says technology is here to help us do what we do better. It is there to connect information and people, and people and people. Other elements that contribute to successful knowledge culture are the organization structure, time allocation, recruitment, rewards system and business process. (Denning, 2002pp.65-69)
Nesbitt (2002) suggests a formula for successful knowledge management. He recommends the following steps. One is a clear definition of goals the knowledge management systems seeks to address. Second, is the performance of knowledge audit in order to identify any duplication, overlaps and gaps in the organization data/knowledge base. Third, is a description of knowledge units and their relationship. Forth, developing a knowledge management strategy based on content management search mechanism, information delivery and collaboration. Purchase of appropriate technology to enhance capturing, analysis, categorization and distribution of the knowledge and last but not least is conducting a periodic reassessment of the knowledge management system to determine areas of adjustment.
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