KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT Knowledge Management has been the focal theme in many projects undertakenby different organizations. Despite this, there is some dispute over what exactlyknowledge management is. For example, some in the field define knowledgemanagement simply as information that has value for action, but others, like Snowden(1999), defines knowledge management as the identification, optimization, and activemanagement of intellectual assets, either in the form of explicit knowledge held inartifacts or as tacit knowledge possessed by individuals or communities. Malhotra (1998)maintains that knowledge management caters to the critical issues of organizationaladaptation, survival and competence in face of increasingly discontinuous environmentalchange and essentially, it embodies organizational processes that seek synergisticcombination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies,and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings. Most researchers andpractitioners however agree on the point that knowledge management involves processesof capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge (Devenport, 1994). In thissense knowledge management is about harnessing the intellectual and social capital ofindividuals in order to improve organizational learning capabilities, recognizing thatknowledge, and not simply information, is the primary source of an organization?sinnovative potential (Swan et al., 1999). It is observed that knowledge management researchers have spent considerableenergy into defining knowledge, much less is written on the term management. This isbecause most researchers believe that the idea of management is something that makes
common sense (Alvesson and Karreman, 2001). In general, the traditional understandingabout management suggests that it involves planning, organizing, coordinating, andcontrolling work.Benefits of Knowledge Management The effective deployment of KM will reduce a lot of repeated efforts inreinventing same solution to perennial problems that involve customer, supply chainpartners and operations. It requires an investment in KM system and technologies, andorganizational commitment to continuous use, which can happen through a culturalchange. The efforts will lead to many benefits. For example, re-use of existing knowledgeelements prevents recurring costs related to repeated research of the same marketingproblem, and repeated generation of similar solutions. It will also evolve access to in-depth knowledge elements for support staff, partners, and customers that improve thecustomer service experience and squeeze the time from problem statement to problemresolution. In another situation this will make marketing faster and closer to customer dueto more accurate assessment of customer requirements. Creation of an enterprise-wide knowledge management system is a difficult task.However, the benefits of a well-designed KM system are well reported. Offsey, (1997),Guns and V 䬩 kangas (1998) reported following benefits of KM: Better Awareness ? Everyone knows where to go to find the organization?s knowledge, saving people time and effort.
Better Accessibility ? All individuals can use the organization?s combined knowledge and experience in the context of their own roles. Improved customer satisfaction ? The ultimate of any business is to have satisfied customers. KM helps in knowing the customer?s requirement better and supports organizational activities to achieve this. Better Availability ? Knowledge is usable wherever it is needed ? from the home office, on the road or at the customer?s side. This increases responsiveness to customers, partners and co-workers. Improved Timeliness ? Knowledge is available whenever it is needed, eliminating time wasting distribution of information ?just-incase? people are interested. Improved Productivity: Knowledge Management helps to facilitate knowledge flows and sharing to enhance the productivity of individuals and hence the enterprise. Productivity increases because the knowledge does not have to be recreated through training, experience, and so on. Productivity also increases because the ?time to output? for a task is reduced as well. For example, ensuring that a piece of software can be used in several places, it eliminates the need to write it again, and speeds up the accomplishment of tasks dependent upon it. Customer satisfaction improves when problems are resolved quickly. KM-repository can be interfaced with other functional domains so as to evolve a real repositoryof collective organizational wisdom. Organization can use this to handle problems across abroad range of functions such as new product development, advertising plan, dealership
network design, complaint redressals, packaging redesigns, inventory management,logistics planning, supply chain integration etc.DATA, INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE In literature, researchers have identified three entities in their understanding ofknowledge. This requires a distinction among data, information and knowledge. Theseare related yet differently treated in literature. The confusion between knowledge andinformation has caused managers to sink billions of dollars in information technologyventures that have yielded marginal results (McCampbell et al., 1999). Data include facts, images, sounds etc and generally need some restructuring forbeing suitable for a decision-making environment. Information is the filtered, formattedand summarized data. Vance (1997) defines information as data interpreted into ameaningful framework whereas knowledge is the information that has been authenticatedand thought to be true. In this sense knowledge is a more comprehensive than data andinformation. It is a mix of contextual information, value, experience, expert insight, andgrounded intuition that actively enable performance, problem solving, decision-making,learning and evolving. For example, during a laboratory-experimentation of measuringtemperature, pressure and volume of a gas by changing these parameters the resultobtained are data. A tabulated summary of the results for a wide variety of gases,pressure, temperature and pressure is information. Based on the tabulated informationand lessons learned, a rule or a system that enables an engineer to select ideal pressureand temperature so that a particular gas occupies certain volume is knowledge. Majorityof researchers suggest that a hierarchy can be perceived from data to information to
knowledge with each varying along some dimension, such as context, usefulness, orinterpretability (Alavi and Leidner, 1999). An opposite view however argues that knowledge is needed, before data arecollected and indeed it determines what data to store (Tuomi, 1999). Spiegler (2002)compares the two views and discusses their relevance to the generation of knowledge.Spiegler (2000) suggested a recursive and spiral model of linking data, information andknowledge, where ??yesterday?s data are today?s information, and tomorrow?sknowledge, which in turn recycles back through the value chain into information and theninto data.??Nonaka (1994) explains that information is a flow of messages, while knowledge iscreated and organized by the very flow of information, anchored on the commitment andbeliefs of its holder. He also maintains the most important element in knowledge isaction.