Knowledge management is the set of methods and tools dedicated to the identification and management of a company's intellectual capital. The aim is to circulate knowledge to create innovation.
A definition of Knowledge Management was first given by Karl Wiig, who theorised its foundations during a conference of the United Nations International Labour Organisation (1986):
Knowledge Management is the systematic, explicit, and deliberate building, renewal, and application of knowledge to maximize an enterprise’s knowledge-related effectiveness and returns from its knowledge and intellectual capital assets.
The object of this discipline is the Knowledge Base, the mass of information made up of explicit knowledge (documented and easily transferable) and implicit knowledge, which resides in employees and staff, linked to the experience of each person and the context. It is, in fact, above all the best practices for problem solving that enable companies to improve their performance.
The importance of the corporate Knowledge Base
As seen in the previous article on Knowledge Hoarding, it may happen that in companies some people are identified as "knowledge holders", and that all employees turn to them to solve problems or simply to get the information they need to do their job.
When this happens, it means that the corporate Knowledge Base is not accessible to everyone, there is no company culture of Knowledge Sharing and, therefore, people are not even willing to share knowledge accumulated through experience.
When we talk about Knowledge Base we obviously refer to the wealth of information and procedures that are fundamental to employees and customers: the so-called company’s know-how. Tacit knowledge, or implicit knowledge, is its most valuable element, because it is composed of best-practices and decision-making processes put into practice by company players, tested over time and passed on (in part) through experience.
For this reason, it is important that the knowledge assets can be easily accessible and shared among the various departments, so that everyone, according to his or her role, can exploit information made available to carry out his or her work in the best possible way.
What is Knowledge Management: how to manage information and improve productivity
Knowledge Management aims to collect and manage knowledge related to a company, eliminating redundancies and knowledge gaps, which can be created when documentation remains separate between company departments.
By creating a single database where all intellectual capital is collected, the company's know-how is protected and the search for data and information is facilitated, increasing staff efficiency.
Content sharing between all departments facilitates the alignment of interdisciplinary objectives, communication and collaboration between people, to develop projects and create new knowledge.
Knowledge Management System characteristics
Corporate Knowledge Management therefore has the objective of circulating company’s knowledge and storing information, making it accessible when needed.
In order to implement this type of activity, it is necessary to use knowledge management tools, which allow to import all the know-how and provide it when required.
Knowledge Management software refers to any IT system that allows to:
1. ACQUIRE, STORE AND RETRIEVE INFORMATION
To do this, the KMS must import, or create from scratch, the knowledge base from which to extract the answers and documents required at the right time.
A document management software can automate this import, without the need to rewrite the content in a language other than natural language, allowing to optimise the implementation time of the system.
2. INDEX AND MANAGE KNOWLEDGE
In the process of creating corporate information repositories, knowledge can be indexed in categories to facilitate its subsequent navigation. Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, Knowledge Management systems have evolved and even this step can be automated, rapidly integrating solutions into business processes.
3. EASILY ALLOCATE BUSINESS RESOURCES
As a consequence of the circulation of information through corporate knowledge management, procedures and decision-making processes to perform any job will be faster to apply. No more time will be wasted searching for answers and solving repetitive tickets, but everyone in his or her role will be able to make decisions autonomously, with all the knowledge he or she needs.
The availability of free and easy access to documents, product sheets, price lists and any other type of file, makes it possible to optimise time and costs for both the Help Desk and Customer Service, offer better services and have more satisfied customers.
4. CONSTITUTE A VALUABLE MINE OF HIDDEN KNOWLEDGE
The advantage of good corporate know-how management is to exploit the implicit knowledge built up through the experience of employees. In order to make use of best practices and proven problem-solving procedures, it is necessary to spread the culture of knowledge sharing and offer ways of collecting knowledge. Making knowledge easily accessible to everyone is the best way to avoid wasting time and productivity.
Sharing best practices and know-how can be a competitive advantage for the companies. Knowledge dispersion is a risk whenever an employee leaves or changes roles. Therefore it is necessary that information does not remain the prerogative of one person, but is shared with colleagues as much as possible, so that it can be searched and used easily.
5. STIMULATE COLLABORATION AND CREATE NEW KNOWLEDGE
Last but not least, a KMS can help others to learn and produce new knowledge. It is the project manager who has to promote a culture of collaboration and encourage employees to learn, pursue their goals, and do business. By promoting a spirit of collaboration and sharing, the growth of new ideas is stimulated and a culture of innovation spreads throughout the company. If everyone is recognised for his or her importance and contribution to the better circulation of knowledge, there will be a greater incentive to share ideas and information. A real loop of productivity.