What is knowledge management?
Knowledge management (KM) is the process of identifying, managing, storing, and disseminating information within an organization. When knowledge is not easily accessible within an organization, it can be very costly for the business because valuable time is spent searching for relevant information versus completing results-focused tasks.
Knowledge management (KMS) systems leverage an organization's collective knowledge, leading to greater operational efficiency. This system is supported by the use of a knowledge base. They are usually essential to successful knowledge management, providing a central place to store information and access it easily. Companies with a knowledge management strategy achieve faster business results because increased organizational learning and collaboration among team members facilitates faster decision making across the business. It also streamlines more organizational processes, such as training and onboarding, leading to higher employee satisfaction and retention reports.
Type of Knowledge
Knowledge management definition also includes three types of knowledge, tacit, implicit, and explicit knowledge. This type of knowledge is largely distinguished by the codification of information.
- Tacit knowledge: This type of knowledge is usually acquired through experience, and is understood intuitively. Consequently, it is difficult to articulate and codify, making it difficult to transfer this information to other individuals. Examples of tacit knowledge can include language, facial recognition, or leadership skills.
- Implicit knowledge: While some literature eschews implicit knowledge from tacit knowledge, some academics describe this type separately, suggesting that the definition of tactical knowledge is more nuanced. Although tacit knowledge is difficult to codify, implicit knowledge does not always have this problem. Conversely, implicit information has not been documented. It tends to be in process, and that may be referred to as knowledge "knowledge".
- Explicit knowledge: Knowledge explicitly captured in various document types such as manuals, reports, and guides, allowing organizations to easily share knowledge across teams. This type of knowledge is perhaps the most well-known and examples include knowledge assets such as databases, white papers, and case studies. This form of knowledge is important for maintaining intellectual capital in an organization as well as facilitating the successful transfer of knowledge to new employees.
Process knowledge management
While some academics (PDF, 156 KB) (link is outside of IBM) summarize the knowledge management process which involves acquisition, creation, refinement, storage, transfer, sharing and utilization of knowledge. This process can be synthesized a little further. An effective knowledge management system usually goes through three main steps:
1. Knowledge Creation: During this step, the organization identifies and documents any existing or new knowledge that they wish to disseminate throughout the company.
2. Knowledge Storage: During this stage, information technology systems are typically used to house organizational knowledge for distribution. Information may need to be formatted in a certain way to meet the requirements of the repository.
3. Knowledge Sharing: At this final stage, the knowledge sharing process is widely communicated throughout the organization. The level of information dissemination will vary depending on the culture of the organization. Companies that encourage and reward this behavior will certainly have a competitive advantage over other companies in their industry.
Knowledge Management Tools
There are a number of tools that organizations use to reap the benefits of knowledge management. Examples of knowledge management systems could include:
- A document management system acting as a central storage system for digital documents, such as PDF files, images, and word processors. This system improves employee workflow by enabling easy retrieval of documents, such as lessons learned.
- A content management system (CMS) is an application that manages web content where end users can edit and publish content. These are usually confused with document management systems, but CMSs can support other types of media, such as audio and video.
- Intranets is a private network that exists only within the organization, which allows sharing of enablers, tools, and processes within internal stakeholders. Although time-consuming and expensive to maintain, they provide a number of groupware services, such as internal directories and search, that facilitate collaboration.
- Wikis can be a popular knowledge management tool given their ease of use. They make uploading and editing information easy, but this convenience can raise concerns about incorrect information because workers can update it with incorrect or out-of-date information.
- Warehouse data combines data from multiple sources into a single, central, consistent data store to support data analysis, data mining, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning. Data is pulled from this repository so companies can gain insights, empowering employees to make data-driven decisions.
Strategy to accelerate Knowledge management
While knowledge management solutions can be helpful in facilitating the transfer of knowledge between teams and individuals, they also depend on user adoption to produce positive results. As a result, organizations must not minimize the value of the human element that enables successful knowledge management.
- Organizational Culture: Management practices will influence the type of organization the executive leads. Managers can build learning organizations by rewarding and encouraging knowledge-sharing behavior across their teams. This type of leadership sets the foundation for teams to trust each other and communicate more openly to achieve business results.
- Community of practice: Centers of excellence in certain disciplines provide a forum for employees to ask questions, facilitating learning and knowledge transfer. In this way, organizations increase the number of subject matter experts in a given area of the company, reducing the dependence on specific individuals to carry out specific tasks.
Knowledge management use cases
Armed with the right tools and strategies, the practice of knowledge management has seen success in certain applications, such as:
- Onboarding employees: Knowledge management systems help overcome a huge learning curve for new employees. Instead of flooding new hires with 'data dumps' in their first weeks, continue to support them with knowledge tools that will provide them with useful information any time.
- Daily employee tasks: Allows every employee to have access to accurate answers and important information. Access to highly relevant answers at the right time, for the right people, enables the workforce to spend less time searching for information and more time on activities that drive business.
- Self-service customer service: Customers repeatedly say they'd rather find answers on their own, rather than pick up the phone to call support. When done well, knowledge management systems help businesses reduce customer support costs and increase customer satisfaction.
Benefits of knowledge management
Companies experience a number of benefits when they implement a knowledge management strategy. Some of the key advantages include:
- Identifying skills gaps: When teams create relevant documentation around implicit or tacit knowledge or consolidate explicit knowledge, it can highlight gaps in core competencies across teams. It provides management with valuable information for establishing new organizational structures or hiring additional resources.
- Make better decisions: Knowledge management systems arm individuals and departments with knowledge. By increasing accessibility to current and historical company knowledge, your team can increase skills and make more informed decisions that support business objectives.
- Maintaining company knowledge: If your most knowledgeable employee left tomorrow, what would your business do? Practicing internal knowledge management allows businesses to create organizational memory. Knowledge held by your long-term employees and other experts, then makes it accessible to your wider team.
- Operational efficiency: Knowledge management systems create destinations that enable knowledge workers to find relevant information more quickly. This, in turn, reduces the amount of research time, leading to faster decision making and cost savings through operational efficiencies. Increasing productivity not only saves time, but also reduces costs.
- Improved collaboration and communication: Knowledge management systems and organizational culture work together to build trust among team members. This information system provides more transparency among workers, creating more understanding and alignment around common goals. Engaged leadership and open communication create an environment for teams to embrace innovation and feedback.
- Data Security: Knowledge management systems allow organizations to adjust permission controls, serving controls, and document security levels to ensure that information is only shared in the right channels or with selected individuals. Give your employees access to autonomous knowledge safely and confidently.
Knowledge management dan IBM Watson
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Watson Discovery is powered by natural language processing (NLP). NLP ability to interpret human language and understand its meaning and context. Watson Discovery can quickly comb through a variety of content in linked data sources with contextual insights, determine the most relevant sections, and provide source documents or web pages. Create a knowledge management system with AI to make all the necessary information easily accessible and uncover meaningful business insights.