Knowledge management: Business Strategy
By Juan Emilio Alvárez, Specialist in Digital transformation and BPM
From the organizational point of view, knowledge is the generating base of competitive advantages and the driver of the economy. The need to generate new ideas ina a quick and dynamic way has made it easier for the value of information and knowledge to rise.
According to Davenport (1997), “Knowledge” is information combined with experience, context, interpretation and reflection. It has a high value because it is prepared to be applied to decisions and actions ”.
The greatest asset that organizations have consists of the knowledge they possess. Either the set of skills and capacities of the organization itself or the people who compose it are the elements that allows it to achieve a certain degree of competence. But frequently this knowledge is not so explicit because of:
- information in general and knowledge in particular, is scattered and not available in time and where it is needed
- knowledge is available to very few people
- It is difficult to keep it when the company processes are restructured or employees are moving from one area to another.
Therfore, the usual thing is that organizations often do not have their knowledge in a systematized way, so the opportunity to properly take advantage of it is lost. To avoid this, organizations have to establish a system that allows identifying the knowledge linked to the definition of the organization's strategy and the development of its operational and Intellectual Capital.
"Knowledge Management", has as its main tasks to identify, gather, analyze and relate the information of the organization: strategy, regulatory framework (internal and external), processes, quantitative and qualitative capacities of each of the employees and collaborators, to transform it into knowledge and make it available to the entire organization; In short, its main objective is to improve efficiency and effectiveness by reducing the need to rediscover knowledge and increasing the quality of the decisions taken by the organization, since the information available will then be safe and reliable.
Organizations that are considering entering into Knowledge Management, have to take into account at least the following aspects:
- Information and knowledge. The first thing is to distinguish in the organization what is information and what is knowledge. Sometimes it is not easy and they get confused, coming to consider that everything is information, but with little value. The information has to lead to knowledge as an object of added value within the entity.
- Knowledge and its transcription. Almost all organizations have electronic or physical documents, that is, they have a lot of information, but have they transformed all these documents into explicit knowledge? Companies have to be able to relate all this information and apply techniques or mechanisms that transform it into valuable knowledge or objects of knowledge, and that are equally accessible as the information.
- Complementary knowledge and skills. Once the knowledge objects have been identified, those complementary entities should be analyzed which, if we add them to the knowledge object, we manage to increase its value.
- Individual and collective capacities. The organizations with the highest added value are those that have managed to combine all the individual and collective capacities of each of the elements of the organization, through a single collective knowledge, without losing individual knowledge. For this, the key is to relate the dependencies of knowledge. An ideal tool is the "Knowledge Maps" which should include, at least, the main "Knowledge Objects" of the Organization, reference sources and experts, their structure, applications and control and status variables, as well as the relationship and dependencies on each other.
KNOWLEDGE OBJECTS: WHAT ARE THEY?
Knowledge objects are the elements represented in the “Knowledge Map” and make up the organization's knowledge directory. To facilitate their location on the Map or Knowledge Management System (QMS), they can be classified by processes or knowledge areas. In this way, the objects of knowledge can be classified into:
- Explicit and be either in structured supports: manuals, databases, projects, studies, or in unstructured supports: reports, notes, ...
- General, in an organization there is generic knowledge that all its members must have, we refer for example to the areas of information technology or quality.
- Specific, required to develop specific activities.
- Implicit, located in people's minds,
Examples of objects of knowledge, which can be found in the formats commonly used in the organization: standards, methodologies, references, good practices, agreements, contracts, offers, proposals, projects, market studies, seminars, debates, prototypes, pilots , templates, manuals, guides, systems, ...
Once the different business objects have been identified, it is also important and necessary to establish parameters that define them, such as location, relevance, availability, applications, control and / or status, relationships between them, etc ...
5 PHASES TO MANAGE KNOWLEDGE
Implementing a Knowledge Management project is always complicated and it is necessary to approach it in a structured way and with a method that helps to identify, classify and define these objects of knowledge as well as to extract the value that they contribute to the organization.
A standard knowledge management project will normally consist of the following phases:
- Establish the scope and vision: what is the orientation we want to give to Knowledge management and, above all, the objective we seek.
- Orientation to concepts: It deals with knowledge organized in themes, objects and purposes. The simplest are focused on databases, with fields that refer to the knowledge available in the organization, the activity to which they are applied and the people in the organization who have said knowledge "
- Process orientation: Provides a representation of key processes and sources of knowledge that must be maintained to support and facilitate their development. This system is conceived as a whole composed of a set of related elements: objective, processes, activities, actors, technology, organizational structure, business and regulatory rules, events, etc.
- Skills Orientation: they identify the skills of the staff and the organization and the associated sources of knowledge. A matrix is usually constructed that associates the relevant knowledge and the positions of the organization, differentiating in each position the level of mastery that must be had for each knowledge.
- Define the Knowledge Management System coordinates, where needs and expectations are identified, identify and select the participants, the resources to use and the dynamics to follow.
- Identify the Knowledge that provide more value to the organization,
- Elements that require an intensive use of knowledge (strategy, processes, people, regulatory frameworks, stakeholders, etc.),
- Value the objects of knowledge,
- Obtain the knowledge gap,
- Identify the knowledge to develop, locate the objects of knowledge and find the people who have it.
- Structure, visualize and socialize knowledge:
- Choose the Type of Map and its Format, its syntax through previously agreed forms and symbols,
- Establish categories and hierarchies of knowledge,
- Identify the connections of the objects of knowledge,
- Create the visual network system,
- Approve the map.
- Establish communication, training and publication / presentation mechanisms.
- Analyze and measure the identified objects of knowledge. Once the approved knowledge map is available, the criteria and measurement indicators must be established to indicate whether the organization:
- Loses consciousness (leaks),
- Maintains the same (measures taken with little value) or
- Gain (you are on the right track) in knowledge within the organization and the value that it contributes in all axes: Strategic - Operational - Human.
In summary, Knowledge Management in organizations is a fundamental issue that should contemplate the alignment of the company in all its dimensions. In this sense, organizations should consider the scope and vision at least in the combination of the two orientations:
- Process Orientation, based on the design of a Business Architecture, with which the identification and classification of the explicit, tacit and general knowledge of the organization will be achieved in a very effective way, fully defined, classified and interrelated,
- Orientation to competencies, where the objective will focus on identifying the necessary knowledge by the people of and in the organization, where the implicit knowledge or experience of each collaborator will be taken into account.
Then it would only be necessary to interrelate the two scenarios to achieve a truly Knowledge-based organization.