Knowledge Management Definition and Solutions

Knowledge Management (KM) topics covering definition, systems, benefits, and challenges.

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Who should lead KM efforts?

Since KM is not a technology-based concept but a business practice, enterprisewide KM efforts should not be lead by the CIO. (The CIO is a suitable choice to lead KM efforts within the IT department, however. ) Some companies have dedicated KM staff headed by a chief knowledge officer or other high-profile executive. Other companies rely on an executive sponsor in the functional area where KM is implemented.

What technologies can support KM?

KM is not a technology-based concept. Don't be duped by software vendors touting their all-inclusive KM solutions. Companies that implement a centralized database system, electronic message board, Web portal or any other collaborative tool in the hope that they've established a KM program are wasting both their time and money.

That being said, KM tools run the gamut from standard, off-the-shelf e-mail packages to sophisticated collaboration tools designed specifically to support community building and identity. Generally, tools fall into one or more of the following categories: knowledge repositories, expertise access tools, e-learning applications, discussion and chat technologies, synchronous interaction tools, and search and data mining tools.

What is social network analysis (SNA) and how is it related to KM?

Companies that have been frustrated by traditional KM efforts are increasingly looking for ways to find out how knowledge flows through their organization, and SNA can show them just that. SNA is a process of mapping a group’s contacts (whether personal or professional) to identify who knows whom and who works with whom. In enterprises, it provides a clear picture of the ways that far flung employees and divisions work together and can help identify key experts in the organization who possess the knowledge needed to, say, solve a complicated programming problem or launch a new product. M&M maker Mars used SNA to identify how knowledge flows through its organizations, who holds influence, who gives the best advice and how employees share information. The Canadian government’s central IT unit used SNA to establish which skills it needed to retain and develop and to determine who, among the 40 percent of the workforce that was due to retire within five years, had the most important knowledge and experience to begin transferring to others.

SNA isn’t a replacement for traditional KM tools such as knowledge databases or portals, but it can provide companies with a starting point for how best to proceed with KM initiatives. As a component to a larger KM strategy, SNA can help companies identify key leaders and then set up mechanism—such as communities of practice—so that those leaders can pass on their knowledge to colleagues. To identify experts in their organizations, companies can use software programs that track e-mail and other kinds of electronic communication to identify experts in their organizations.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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