Knowledge Management

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Knowledge Management
Why embark on a formal KM initiative?
What information is important?
Who participates and who needs information?
How to get the information to where it needs to be
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Without the "Top" There is no Knowledge Management

Knowledge management (KM) is a term that is often used, and means several things to different people. In its simplest form, knowledge management is about having the capability for getting the "right" information to the "right" people on a timely basis. The trick is being able to properly define all the nouns in that statement. Asking what information, to whom , and when , is the key to unlocking KM. In real organizations, this is no simple matter. In addition, considering how to deploy this information, and why is also of importance.

Knowledge management can be as simple as two employees having lunch and discussing the issues they face or as complex as a decision enabling information technology system. Both of these have a number of characteristics in common.

The conversation and the system both boil down to available data. Every decision a manager makes, boils down to available data. Some have even defined management as the skills required to make the best decisions with the limited information available at the time.

Figure 1 - Knowledge progression framework


Information follows a logical progression as depicted in Figure l. In order to be available, data must be collected and stored. This can be either in someone's head or in a file or technology system. (The reason we hear more and more about KM these days, is the increased ability for organizations to use information technology in their collection and deployment of information.)

Borrowing from accounting terminology, data must be accurate, timely, complete, and organized. Attributes without which, data are rendered meaningless.

Once collected, data begin to take on the aspect of information when combined with other data. This is usually through "analysis". This other data can take the form of that from other systems or simply what the analyst "knows" about the business.

Once data is analyzed, it must be reported to those who need it. This can take many forms, from paper printouts delivered monthly to clicking on an intranet hyperlink. The report must be "understood" by its users. Without this understanding, the information hasn't yet become "knowledge".

Knowledge forms the basis for action, either directly or indirectly. If a manager "knows" something, his or her decisions will be better informed. "Acting" can consist of doing something, or choosing the status quo. Either way, the decision is based on knowledge.

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