Knowledge Management

What is knowledge?  Knowledge is derived from information in the same way information is derived from data.  Data is facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis.  Data becomes information when it is contextualized, categorized, calculated, and condensed. Knowledge is the understanding of information, or a skill that you get from experience/education.

Knowledge-mgmtKnowledge management is a fairly new concept that developed in the 1990s.  In recent years it has become a hot topic in the field of information science.  Knowledge management is a multi-disciplined approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge.  It is the process of collecting, organizing, summarizing, analyzing, and synthesizing knowledge that ultimately leads to decision making.  It also promotes an integrated approach to sharing an organization’s assets.  These assets include documents, databases, policies, procedures, and uncaptured information.

There are three types of knowledge: explicit, implicit, and tacit. Explicit knowledge can be readily transmitted to others and is also referred to as articulated knowledge.  It is expressed as numbers, words, codes, and formulas. Implicit knowledge is not directly expressed and the meaning is inferred from the context and relies on existing knowledge. Implicit knowledge can be made explicit. Tacit knowledge is difficult to communicate to another person by verbalizing it or writing it down.  It is based on emotions, insights, experiences, intuition, and observations.

Knowledge Management can be viewed in terms of people, processes, technology, culture, structure, and technology. With people, knowledge management focuses on how to increase the ability of an individual in the organization to influence others with their knowledge. The processes involved with knowledge management varies from organization to organization and there is no limit on the number of processes. The technology used in knowledge management should be chosen after all the requirements of a plan have been established. The culture of an organization enables successful knowledge driven processes and influences the success of its employees. Structure is key and it includes the business processes and organizational structures that facilitate knowledge sharing within an organization. Technology is used as a tool and viewed as an enabler of knowledge management, rather than the solution.

An effective/efficient Knowledge Management program should help an organization improve decision making, foster innovation by encouraging ideas, boost productivity by getting information/knowledge disseminated faster, increase employee retention rates by recognizing the value of employees’ knowledge, and streamline operations and reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary processes.

In today’s digital age knowledge is critical, and getting the information needed in a timely manner is vital to achieving success.  Organizations must create autonomous and transparent ways to access knowledge resources that will help employees/users find and interact more easily with the knowledge source.  Information professionals are seen as ‘knowledge managers’ more now than ever before.

Where e-mail once served as an acceptable knowledge management practice, it has become an ineffective way to manage projects and communication.  Many companies are turning to content management systems such as SharePoint, DropBox, and Joomla.  Information professionals are key players in the selection and implementation of knowledge management because of their expertise in the organization and management of information.

In today’s workplace, there is a growing gap between how knowledge is obtained and the amount of knowledge that exists throughout an organization.  Big data is encroaching the workplace and is becoming a growing concern.  This paves the way for information professionals to utilize the latest technologies, then improving access to collective knowledge and leading to a more efficient, connected work environment.

Shockley, W. (March 2000). Planning for knowledge management. Quality Progress, 57-62.