Information Technology in Knowledge Management
To remain competitive and earn competitive advantage, organizations must effectively and efficiently create, capture, locate and share their organization’s expertise and knowledge. This increasingly requires the organization to make its knowledge and expertise explicit and record it for the purposes of easier reuse and distribution. This paper provides a simple framework that such an organization would use to configure its technical and organizational capabilities and resources to leverage its knowledge and expertise that has already been codified.
Leading organization and management theorists have popularized the concept of treating organizational expertise and knowledge as a strategic asset that is valuable. Experts are currently advising organizations to retain their competitive advantage by effectively and efficiently creating, capturing, locating and sharing their expertise and knowledge. As it follows, numerous firms are showing interest in implementing processes of knowledge management and technologies, and are even starting to adopt methods of managing knowledge as part of their overall strategy in business (Zack(a) 394- 408).
Although processes of knowledge management are becoming accepted widely, few firms are currently capable of coming up with and leveraging critical knowledge of the organization to improve the performance of the firm. Numerous firms, therefore, have become so complex when it comes to their knowledge such that their knowledge has been fragmented, impossible to share and locate, and, as thus, inconsistent, redundant or not utilized at all. In the current environment of rapid changes and discontinuity in technology, even expertise and knowledge that can be shared between and inside organizations have often been made obsolete (Zack (a) 394- 408).
It is usually useful to differentiate knowledge from information and data. Data is a representation of facts and observations, and, therefore, not usually meaningful. Information, on the other hand, results from putting data within some context that is meaningful, usually in a message form. Knowledge is that which individuals come to value and believe based on the accumulation of information that users have organized meaningfully through communication, experience or inference. As such, knowledge can be understood both like something, that can be manipulated and stored, and as a process of simultaneous acting and knowing, that is the application of expertise. As a matter of practicality, organizations need to manage expertise and knowledge as a process and an object (Zack (a) 394- 408).
Knowledge can be explicit or tacit. Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that organizations subconsciously understand and apply; develop from direct action or experience, difficult to articulate, and usually share through conversations, shared experiences or storytelling that is highly interactive. Explicit knowledge, on the other hand, can be formally and precisely articulated. Hence, although it is usually more abstract, explicit knowledge can be easily documented, codified, shared or transferred. Explicit knowledge is increasingly playing a large responsibility in organizations, and professionals see it as one of the most essential aspects of production in a knowledge-based economy. It ensures that a company has such things as computer software, procedure manuals, and product literature. Usually, it is advisable to convert tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge (Zack (a) 394- 408).
The roles of information technology
The roles of information technology in the management of knowledge and expertise in an organization are numerous. For example, information technology infrastructure in knowledge management can be used to provide an organization with a pipeline that is seamless through which explicit knowledge can flow the five stages of the process of refining to enable a number of actions. These include; to capture knowledge, to define, store, categorize, index and link digital objects associated to the units of knowledge, to search for the relevant content flexibility to make it applicable and meaningful in different contexts. The knowledge refinery stage represents the processes that firms use for developing and distributing knowledge that they store in the repository. This process as already indicated has five stages. These are acquisition, refining, storage and retrieval, distribution and presentation of information (Zack (a) 394- 408).
Information technologies such as Lotus Notes M and World Wide Web offer organizations a potentially useful environment in which to develop a multimedia repository for knowledge that is both rich and explicit. Types for assigning different labels, indices, and categories to each knowledge unit capture input. The structure is usually sufficiently flexible to create units of knowledge, linked and indexed using categories, which reflect, or show the structure of the contextual knowledge and the factual knowledge content of an organization, shown as subsets that are flexible trough views that are customizable dynamically (Zack(b) 28- 33).
The effective and efficient utilization of technology to communicate expertise and knowledge requires a firm to share a context, which is interpretive. The more that the individuals within industries or organizations that share similar expertise and knowledge, experience and background, the more he efficiently and effectively knowledge can be communicated and passed across through channels that are electronically linked controls mediate. Through access to an electronic repository, which is central, organizations can use this knowledge to attain factual, explicit knowledge within a community, which is constantly having a high level of shared contextual knowledge.
However, when organizations share context that is interpretative moderately or when the knowledge that organizations exchange is tacit and less explicit, or affiliates itself with the community loosely, then more modes that are interactive such as discussion databases or electronic mail are appropriate. In cases where context is not appropriately shared and where knowledge is centrally tacit, narrated experience and communication are best supported with the most interactive and the richest modes such as face- to- face conversations and conferences carried out through videos (Zack(b) 28- 33).
Based on the above knowledge, the processing of knowledge in an organization can be categorized under two main classes; the interactive and the integrative categories, each of which addresses different objectives in knowledge management.
Together, these two approaches provide an organization with a wide range set of processing capabilities for knowledge. They support repositories that are well- structured for the management of explicit knowledge while enabling the user to interact, which in turn leads to the integration of tacit knowledge (Zack(b) 28- 33).
Integrative applications are those that exhibit a flow of explicit knowledge that is sequential out of and into the repository. Consumers and producers are able to interact with the repository rather than amongst each other. The repository, therefore, becomes the basic medium through which knowledge can be exchanged, providing users a place for members of a community of knowledge to contribute their views and knowledge. The key focus tends to be on the explicit knowledge and the repository that holds it, rather than on the users, contributors, or the tacit knowledge, they might have (Blackler 1021- 46).
Integrative applications usually vary in the extent to which producers and consumers of knowledge come from the same community of knowledge. At one extreme, the consumers or the readers of the knowledge engage directly in the same neither work nor belong to the community of practice as the authors or producers of the information. Once it has been published, the content of the repository tends to be stable, and those minimal updates that might be needed are expected to come from the authors or the producers. The consumer, therefore, is left with no other option but to accept the information as it is, and active modification or feedback by the consumers is not usually expected. An example is a periodic letter that an organization might produce, a directory of the skills and experiences of the workers and policies produced by the human resource departments (Blackler 1021- 46).
Interactive applications, on the other hand, are focused mainly on supporting the interaction that exists between the people in possession of tacit knowledge. Unlike the applications, used in integrations, the repository in interactive applications results from collaboration and interaction rather than the focus of the application. The content of interactive applications is emergent and dynamic. These applications vary by the degree of expertise between consumers and producers and the level of structure imposed on the interaction between these two entities.
Where knowledge transfer and formal training are the objectives, the organization tends to place the application in the system between the student and the instructor, or novice and expert; and an organization usually structures this around a challenge, lesson plan or assignment that is discrete. Interactive applications play a central role in supporting the creation and the existence of integrative applications. For instance, a forum or discussion can be launched and linked to a publishing application that is electronic for editors to debate about the quality of contributions or to develop a place for readers to place their reactions and discuss the application. Best practices usually need some level of forum integration, so that those trying to adopt a practice have a chance to discuss its limits and reapplications with its manufacturers (Blackler 1021- 46).
Knowledge management is an essential aspect of the success of an organization. This success, however, it depended on the level to which an organization manages this knowledge. Experts have identified information technology applications as some of the most efficient and effective tools for managing information.
Blackler, F. “Knowledge, Knowledge Work, and Organizations: An Overview and Interpretation”. Organization Studies, 16. 6 (1995): 1021-1046. Print
Zack, M. H. “Developing a Knowledge Strategy”. California Management Review 24. 3 (1996a): 28-33. Print
Zack, M. H. and J. L. McKenney. “Social Context and Interaction in Ongoing Computer- Supported Management Groups”. Organization Science, 6. 4 (1995b): 394-422. Print
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