Knowledge Management - A Pragmatic View

Christopher Harrison, CTO, Nova Southeastern University
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Christopher Harrison, CTO, Nova Southeastern University

The concept of knowledge management has existed for over two decades and at its core basic conceptual definition, it focuses on capturing, developing, sharing and effectively leveraging organizational knowledge within the enterprise for competitive advantage manifested in several different forms.

In today’s digital world, entities have embraced the value and power of knowledge management to the extent of leveraging expert systems, software, databases, repositories of data and human capital in order to bring together value and efficiency into their organization.

Currently, companies have taken the intellectual capital of their organization and have built solid frameworks around the integration, collaboration and collection of critical data points in order to either remain competitive, transform themselves or lead the way. These frameworks together with a plethora of solution providers that include groupware, workflow, content management, document management, portals, eLearning solutions, business intelligence, databases, blogs, wikis and a few others are part of an ecosystem that provide the foundation suite of tools to aid organizations in their quest having the right information available at the right time.

Chief Knowledge Officer’s today are not only new to the “C” suite but play a critical role in orchestrating the power of knowledge management as they collaborate together with Chief Information Officers, Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers and other key leaders in large organizations where deep and historical knowledge is critical to the success of the company.

If you look at the basic 6 steps of any knowledge management strategy, you will see that it requires:

1. Collect Data: Search and collect basic information from the various sources
2. Use Data: Use and exploit the various data points and collected information to respond to the client’s need.
3. Enrich: Gather additional information and enrich the deliverable with more insights to increase its added value.
4. Share: Sharing of knowledge and insights with other members of the organization/
5. Access: Access future information and knowledge needs to fit the organization’s overall strategy.
6. Build/Sustain/Divest: Build extra knowledge on important topics and divest obsolete knowledge.

  ​Begin with a phase approach that will enable your knowledge management initiative to be refined and fine-tuned before a wider application  

All of the above 6 basic steps are predominantly common within any entities’ framework and organization. Each one of them might adopt a hybrid version as they tailor it to their specific organization, culture, objectives, goals and others.

As we look deeper into the implementation component of a knowledge management strategy, we find ourselves with 3 set of keys that are very common and fundamental in the success of a knowledge management strategy as it relates to the implementation piece.

1. Start with a clear definition. Set realistic, precise and well defined goals and objectives for the initiative you are about to embark on. Begin with a phase approach that will enable your knowledge management initiative to be refined and fine-tuned before a wider application.

2. Foster an environment of sharing and collaborative knowledge creation. Embrace social networking in the form of enterprise social networks (ESN) as part of the knowledge management strategy, which will enable rapid develop of useful data and knowledge at a significant lower cost.

3. Think globally. In today’s digital world and economy, organizations that start small should not limit their thinking about the uses and value of knowledge management to just one business division or geographic location. It can have broad advantages across the enterprise and should be treated as a corporate-wide initiative.

Do not expect this to happen overnight. It may take time for organizations to adapt to a more open, collaborative culture. Find some people within the company who can champion the project and rally everyone's support. You will also need the blessing of management to free up necessary resources.

One of the key is to be persistent, as over time, small steps should lead to bigger gains.

If we analyze for a moment the higher education industry and in particular universities both private and public that also focus heavily on research and development, you will find that knowledge management inherently plays a fundamental role in their ability to find solutions to diseases, discover new ideas and solutions to our complex world.

These academic institutions that leverage the academic, scientific and student community augmented with research labs and sophisticated technology such as super-computers or high-performance computer environments are capable of producing great research and solutions but only through the effective collaboration through knowledge management and the synergies among the various disciplines, all in an effort to come up with life-changing outcomes.

In a world where knowledge increases exponentially daily, organizations cannot afford the luxury of operating without some way to manage its growth. Technology, while a useful tool, is insufficient to bring about success. A strategic approach coupled with a patient attitude and an effective implementation strategy should be capable to ripping the value of knowledge management in any industry or organization and as the quote says “Knowledge is Power”.

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