Knowledge management is now a well-established discipline in many large organizations. But what is its status and role in small and medium enterprises and what are the policy implications?
Drivers of Knowledge Management
Dispersion – the organization is dispersed over several geographic locations. This makes it more necessary to find out what is already known elsewhere to avoid “reinventing the wheel”
Change/restructuring – constant reorganizations mean that the relationships in which informal knowledge is shared are often broken; some organizations, have a demographic situation in which many experienced and knowledgeable staff will reach retiring age within a short period of time.
Complexity/interdependencies – many organizational activities require inputs from other departments and their own activities may impact others
Improving business performance – by sharing ‘best practices’ across an organization, the performance of the less well-performing units can be brought closer to that of the best.
Customer relationships – the higher value placed on good customer service and customer relationships puts a premium on customer knowledge – understanding their needs, bringing together customer information into a single place, and using the knowledge so acquired to develop better products and services
Need for innovation – faster, better, cheaper (a common mantra within the business) is the result of more effective innovation; this requires an innovation system that converts knowledge (ideas) efficiently and effectively into products, services and processes.
Better enabling technology – the growth of functionality of the Internet (including collaborative workspaces, discussion groups, content management systems and portals) makes it easier to assemble and share information across organizational boundaries
Minimizing uncertainty and risk – better access to relevant knowledge will help managers make better decisions and so minimize various risks that may confront the business.
Regulation – the quality of information and reporting is increasingly required by regulatory bodies; a good approach to knowledge management will allow such information to readily accessed (c.f. the requirements of Freedom of Information legislation in various countries).
Last but not least there is a difference between Information and Knowledge. Information means “What is” where is Knowledge means “How to”. This can be a starting point to have a knowledge management system in your organization for better processes, efficiency, and productivity.