Thursday, April 2, 2009

KMS and IT supporting Organizational KMS

Knowledge Management in an organization is defined as systematic and disciplinary ways that an organization takes to advantage from the knowledge available to it. Knowledge in this context refers to both experiences and understanding of the people who are involved in the organization and the information artifacts such as documents and reports, available within the organization and in the world outside [2]. Information Technology (IT) has made the process of knowledge management easy; many organizations are investing in IT to facilitate the sharing and integration of knowledge. KMS is a form of information systems for managing organizational knowledge. Now a days, IT is the important and critical element of every successful organizational knowledge management system as it is used in the process of knowledge creation, storage/retrieval, transfer and application.

A wide variety of successful IT solutions are coming into the market ranging from new varieties of documentation (to support the flow of tacit knowledge from one individual to other), new generation of artificial intelligence systems (to support the knowledge creation process when a uncertainty and ambiguity situation arises ) apart from the use of various collaborative technologies such as internet (which acts as a platform for so many technologies like wikis, blogs, second life etc in the process of sharing and transfer of knowledge). However, Information Technology (IT) by itself is not a Knowledge Management System but it acts as a facilitator to KMS to increase the efficiency and capability of KMS by encouraging the free flow of ideas (knowledge transfer).

But IT alone will not result in the successful KM; which implementation also depends focusing on the non-technical issues such as human factors, organizational culture, multidisciplinary skills of the staff etc. Whatever may be the knowledge (tacit or explicit), IT tools are used to leverage the KM process in the organizations. These tools range from Internet, Intranet, Extranet, Email, Database Management Systems, Decision Support Systems, Expert Systems, Groupware, Blogs, Wikis and other network based technologies. Therefore there should be a balance between the KM initiatives and IT tools in order to exploit the benefits of knowledge management to the fullest in the organizations [1]. IT supports both organizational KMS (tools like second life, internet, groupware etc) and Personal KMS (with the tools like blogs, wikis, second life etc).

Internet and Intranet:- These two protocols facilitates the users to access the information anytime, anyway facilitating the flow of knowledge in the organization and provides a platform and format for many other knowledge tools document management, decision support etc which will play a critical role in sharing and creation of organizational knowledge. Almost all of the technologies are dependent on these protocols which makes these key technologies in organizational KMS.

Groupware- Lotus notes: - Groupware products like Lotus Notes are used to create discussion databases which allow the members to access the organizational memory as well as current news feeds in different areas. When creating new knowledge existing knowledge can be assembled from the archive and guided by an expert system in the front end, while tacit knowledge is added through the discussion databases.

Document Management: - Documentation is the primary form of information sharing, creating and managing in any organization. Through documentation explicit knowledge is shared. With the annotation and reading facilities, they become knowledge repositories which help the team members in different projects.

Mapping Tools: - There is increased number of mapping tools which are used to help and develop ‘shared mental models’ which is a critical part of knowledge management in the organization. By using these shared mental models, the future problem scenarios can be anticipated and conflicts between different stakeholders can be solved etc.

IT in Organizational Knowledge Management System (KMS) with reference to Nonaka’s Model:

Tacit to Tacit: - Tacit knowledge is the knowledge stored in an individual in which IT plays a minimal for its transfer. But as the world progresses, the word mobility has gained immense importance which allows the individuals to communicate even they are farther away, i.e. through online meetings which allows the virtual face to face communication (tacit to tacit). Groupware is a tool used for the online meetings which allows the individuals to work together in groups or teams. An example of current groupware is, Lotus notes which facilitated the sharing of documents and discussion and allow various applications for it. Another approach to share individual’s knowledge is expertise systems which are intended for suggesting the names of individuals who have knowledge in a particular area.

Tacit to Explicit: -Collaboration systems and other Groupware tools facilitate this kind of conversion of knowledge which according to Nonaka can be done by forming shared models, then articulated through individuals communication. Online discussions forums, News groups can also be seen as ways to capture tacit knowledge. This way a repository is created to by explicating the individual’s knowledge.

Explicit to Explicit: - Once knowledge has been conceptualized, there must be some prototypes that should articulate the knowledge that is converted. That is, it can be captured in a persistent form as report, an email, a presentation or a web page through which it is available to the rest of the organization. Technology can be used in this context through the use of word processing which facilitates the sharing or electronic documents via web and document management systems. Also portals provide convenient location for the storage of metadata about documents in their domain. Improving knowledge capture is a goal of many organizational KMS.

Explicit to Tacit: - A knowledge management system should allow the understanding and usage of information. For example, the system might go though the document analysis and generate meta-data to support the rapid browsing of available information [2]. Another example is generation of tacit knowledge through learning online education and distance learning. Modules of Web based courseware; self-directed learning and training will be parts of the KMS [2].

Conclusion:- In today’s knowledge management systems, IT can be used as facilitator to enhance the organization knowledge management process. Also by understanding the organizational knowledge management using Nonaka’s model it is hoped that we can integrate technologies that can, to some extent, foster the use and sharing of knowledge

References: -
1) ‘Knowledge Management Solutions - The IT Contribution’ By Dr David J. Skyrme ,David Skyrme Associates Limited
2) ‘Knowledge Management Systems (KMS) in Organization: A Collaborative Model for Decision Makers’ By Ruzaif Adli Bin Md. Daud, Principal Consultant Sigma Rectrix Systems (M) Sdn Bhd

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