Knowledge management (KM) started occupying centre stage in organisations in the 90s with the companies beginning to value their knowledge assets in addition to traditionally valued physical assets.
Knowledge management (KM) started occupying centre stage in organisations in the 90s with the companies beginning to value their knowledge assets in addition to traditionally valued physical assets. Knowledge assets were largely repositories mostly comprising of explicit knowledge objects and some tacit knowledge inventories which employees and other stakeholders could access with relative ease as the discipline of knowledge management assumed the responsibility of coding, documenting, categorising and sharing knowledge objects in order to help users save time and efforts in locating such assets.
KM practitioners faced the challenge of motivating employees to contribute to the repository on the one hand and on the other, encouraging them to take advantage of the repositories painstakingly built. With organisations engulfed by digital technologies and undergoing transformation as a result, KM practitioners are facing a new set of questions including the relevance of knowledge management in the context of availability of information and knowledge from multiple sources.
The approach to KM discipline is thus shifting from systematic storage and dissemination of knowledge to the users to dynamic creation, sharing and customised retrieval and access formats. As a result, the relevance of KM has not reduced but has significantly enhanced and if managed well, knowledge harnessed and used by the business, could become a key differentiator in the competitive marketplace.
The process of adopting digital technologies with its focus on heightened customer intimacy and enhanced customer experience has led to knowledge insights drawn from every transaction with the help of intelligent analytics becoming the crucial drivers for businesses. Huge volumes of data are now being turned into relevant information that could be used for better decision making.
KM discipline had its foundation in digital library of sorts and hence had strong roots in creating robust processes for collating available assets from known sources and sharing them effectively. With the possibilities of access to multiple knowledge sources, specially outside the boundaries of organisation, it is now feasible for KM to demonstrate its value and ROI through analytics and insights drawn from time to time.
As a result, what constitutes knowledge for the organisation needs to be redefined and prioritised as it involves huge efforts and investment to manage these assets. In the past, KM managers had to coax employees to share their knowledge with others. Today, not only the culture of sharing has become a natural phenomenon but due to collaborative frameworks available and seamless networking amongst various stakeholders, it is difficult to draw boundaries for knowledge source and ownership. This raises complexities regarding intellectual property rights of such knowledge assets and security considerations around sharing of knowledge across and within physical boundaries of organisations.
With organisations also beginning to lay emphasis on inculcating innovation culture, KM assumes another important dimension of fostering entrepreneurial zeal. In many organisations, instead of or in addition to setting up of the repository of knowledge assets and taking a ‘push’ approach, through the intranet portals, employees are encouraged to ask questions and respond to them based on individual expertise.
Further the patterns of seeking and providing information are studied to identify emerging clusters of new competencies and knowledge created across multiple teams in the organisation. As a result, such knowledge
networks throw up new opportunities for the organisations to design new products or services for their customers. It has also been observed that customers who wish to find quick solutions or find smart solutions to the problems at hand, are beginning to utlilise the large networks comprising of smart young employees of their vendors and thus drive innovation through their participation.
While vast repository of knowledge assets are available and have been stored and catalogued well, employees may still not be aware of how they could make them more effective. The new trend is to align the knowledge assets with the roles employees have to perform and assign the mandatory knowledge objects to them. Employees are then assessed periodically on the levels of competencies they have managed to achieve and on the effective use of knowledge resources assigned to them which may also include mentors and experts on various domains. Effective KM approaches adopted by organisations create confidence to the teams that they have easy and quick access to support as required while dealing with complex customer requirements.
It is also important to recognise that depending upon the industry type and the maturity of businesses, different generations of KM are likely to coexist within an organisation. Knowledge assets curated to meet the business needs to be tapped by users as per their requirements, query based responses leading to archival of such knowledge assets, mapping customer centric knowledge through social media and other company specific platforms and co creation of knowledge by collaborating with the specialists are some of the models followed by organisations with some of them using more than one model to meet their objectives. With the importance being accorded to conversion of large volumes of data into explicit knowledge, we must remember tacit knowledge of the organisation also increases in tandem.
While the specialist teams are being tasked with managing explicit knowledge, KM practitioners need to continue to focus on methods and tools to elicit and manage tacit knowledge because it is the wisdom derived from the combination of explicit and tacit knowledge that would drive the strategy of the business.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company