It is said that “knowledge is power”; certainly anyone that has been involved in business for any length of time can attest to the truth in that statement. It is only through accumulated knowledge that organizations are able to expand their sphere of influence and profit from emerging opportunities. Moreover, in order to actually identify an opportunity, experience is often required. In other words, knowledge and experience are among any business’ most valuable assets.
Knowledge Management is essentially a way of approaching business-oriented strategies and practices utilizing the abilities and insights of personnel as tools. Think of it this way: if you’re not tapping into the true abilities of your employees, or allowing them to present you with their thoughts, findings and opinions, you’re missing out. Simply put, individuals that are embedded within certain departments will obviously have a much clearer idea of what’s going on within their unit. By taking everyone’s ideas and knowledge into consideration, a more comprehensive business strategy will likely emerge.
What makes knowledge management so powerful is that it isn’t tied down to one specific area of an organization. Every single department in a company should fall under the influence of knowledge management, including IT, business management, production, and even areas like customer service. For example, if a company is releasing a new product and consumers were voicing technical concerns about it directly to those employed in help desk positions, would it not be beneficial for those customer service specialists to rely this information to those who have the ability to actually fix the problems?
In the field of knowledge management, there are several different areas of concentration, or focus. Wikipedia defines them as follows:
- Techno-centric – focuses on technology, ideally those that enhance knowledge sharing and creation.
- Organizational – focuses on how an organization can be designed to facilitate knowledge processes best.
- Ecological – focuses on the interaction of people, identity, knowledge, and environmental factors as a complex adaptive system akin to a natural ecosystem.
By taking each of these areas into consideration, both individually and grouped as a whole, you can develop a more complete approach to knowledge management that takes nearly every facet of your organization into account. You might even say that this is crucial, as technology is reliant on how human beings use it within their organized social structures. Likewise, it’s critical that it be determined how a business functions from an ecological point-of-view, because that will tell you how accumulated knowledge is actually being used.
However, perhaps the most practical and valuable use of knowledge management exists within the IT sector. There are so many individual elements associated with running a massive IT operation that it’s almost impossible to keep track of everything that’s going on. IT managers have to rely on the abilities of their subordinates to ensure that the many minor, yet routine problems that are encountered are dealt with. Likewise, whenever an issue comes to light (as is usually the case), logs are supposed to be created which detail what the problem was and how it was resolved. This allows the entire IT department to gain an immediate insight into any perceived weaknesses in the infrastructure (also, it contributes directly to knowledge management). In such cases, a person who is charged with knowledge management would likely take all of the recorded issues encountered within a period of time and begin formulating new strategies, enacting changes to policy, or even upgrading / purchasing new hardware.
Even though knowledge management in IT is going to primarily deal with specific technical issues, the end goal is to help create additional business value for the entire organization. This is where things get sort of ‘tricky’ and targeted training might need to be considered or advised. Often times, certain individuals’ opinions or observations within the IT sphere aren’t given ample consideration. More often than not, this leads to situations where the best “fix” isn’t offered; which in turn means that different people within the same department could be working on solutions for the same problem! This type of predicament demonstrates how time and energy can be wasted; furthermore, such inefficiencies also prevent other problems from being addressed in a timely manner. By the same token, business-minded people tend to label such wastes as potential profit losses.
One could also argue that a lack of an organized approach to knowledge management also implies that certain opportunities are being lost or overlooked. By taking all the accumulated knowledge and considerations of every single department into account, one often discovers that there are certain “profitable combinations” of processes or services that can be created. There’s often very little intercommunication taking place across different areas of the corporate structure, so you can’t simply leave it to individuals that are completely shut off or “compartmentalized” to “connect the dots” and bring these new ideas and concepts to light. In reality, knowledge management is best tool for forging these connections and successfully executing business-oriented objectives.