What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge management (KM) has no single definition and means different things to different people. Here are a few of our favorite definitions:
- The explicit and systematic management of knowledge and the associated processes of creating, gathering, organizing, storing, sharing, and use in pursuit of an organization's objectives.
- A set of integrated business processes, methodologies, and tools that get the right information (in the right format or in the right software application) to the right people at the right time to enable end users to make higher quality decisions.
- Experience or information that can be communicated or shared.
To us, the term "knowledge management" has evolved to become a useful umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of approaches, methods, practices, and technology tools that somehow are involved with the management of knowledge. KM has been written about and discussed in almost every imaginable context by countless numbers of people. There are hundreds of on-line repositories and databases that contain KM articles, websites, and other resources, and at last count, a Google search on the term “knowledge management” returns more than 80 million listings! Unfortunately, this diversity has led to confusion, hype, and numerous detractors (for example, see Gartner's Hype Cycle for Knowledge Management).
More significant than the definition of KM is the distinction between the two main types of knowledge - explicit and tacit. Each type requires managing it in different ways. Explicit knowledge is knowledge that is codified, such as in documents and databases. Tacit knowledge, such as knowing about how to manage a project or play an instrument, is experiential, in people's heads, and not easy to capture and express in an explicit form. This distinction between types of knowledge has led to two complementary perspectives of knowledge management:
- Managing knowledge as objects. The emphasis in this perspective is on managing explicit knowledge or information. Common practices for managing explicit knowledge include classifying and storing content, creating knowledge maps, conducting content and knowledge audits, creating leading practices databases, and populating portals and intranets.
- Managing knowledge as human networks. The emphasis in this perspective is on managing knowledge workers, their communities, and the environment in which they work. Common practices for managing tacit knowledge include encouraging learning and innovation, enabling collaboration, designing knowledge sharing workspaces, and establishing communities of practice.
Lastly, managing knowledge is a complex problem. It involves identifying personal expertise and know-how and representing it in ways that make it easier to share. It involves designing processes and implementing technologies to capture both structured and unstructured content to make it more widely available and simple to find. It also involves establishing the organizational enablers that encourage individuals and groups to share their experience and rely on the knowledge of others.
At Iknow, our experience crosses the full lifecycle of knowledge management activities. In addition, our knowledge of more than 40 knowledge management domains and our relationships with leading software companies, professional services firms, and content providers allow us to design and implement the optimal solutions that address our clients' needs.