Benefits of knowledge management

Knowledge management is the compilation and redistribution of organisation’s collective skills and experience for the benefits of organization as a whole. What are the benefits of knowledge management to an organisation?

Knowledge Management is a branch of management for achieving breakthrough business performance through the synergy of people, processes, and technology. Its focus is on the management of change, uncertainty, and complexity. It evolved from the need for advancing beyond the failing paradigm of Information Technology Management that accounts for 70%-80% system failures. Knowledge management refers to the critical issues of organizational adaptation, survival and competence against discontinuous environmental change. Essentially it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings. It is also more about the pragmatic and thoughtful application of any concept or definition, as it is not in the definition but in real world execution where opportunities and challenges lie.

Lessons learned from the world’s greatest organizations show that even simple technologies can generate great performance when empowered by smart minds of motivated and committed humans. Knowledge management activities are all over the map: building databases, measuring intellectual capital, establishing corporate libraries, building intranets, sharing best practices, installing groupware, leading training programs, leading cultural change, fostering collaboration, creating virtual organisations – all of these are knowledge management, and every functional and staff leader can lay claim to it.

Clearly the goal of knowledge management is sustained individual and business performance through ongoing learning, unlearning, and adaptation. Technologies of computing have inherent limitations. They have difficulty in generating meaningful insights from data as they can’t question or re-interpret their programmed logic and assumptions. Given inherent limitations of the technologies of computing, human users of such ‘systems’ have at least an equally important role in knowledge management. Some people says that knowledge management cannot be done without technology and somehow it is in danger of being perceived as so seamlessly entwined with technology that its true critical success factors will be lost in the pleasing hum of servers, software and pipes.

Whenever a business decide on investing in a new strategy, program, process, or project, they need to make sure that it is really worth investing and value-adding. They also need to analyse the cost-benefits of such an investment and the return or value that they get out of that investment. In today’s increasingly difficult economic times pose the need for cost-effective initiatives and organisation heads always need a clear understanding of the bottom line knowledge management benefits before they invest in such initiatives.

The Knowledge management benefits can be categorized into three which include knowledge benefits, intermediate benefits and organisational benefits. A typical example would be of an organisation such as a manufacturing firm or an academic institution or a government agency which has numerous physical files. Categorization and segregation into working databases allows the employees who need specific information to access the databases more efficiently through word or category searches instead of having to sift through so many folders. Updating of these databases will also result in having the most recent and relevant information and knowledge stored and easily accessible by any employee who may need any specific information.

Large organisations know a lot of things, but they don’t always know what they know. Consider this scenario: You are a specialist in construction technology who works in a field office of the PLUS Expressways Bhd (PEB). A civil engineer at the Works Ministry calls you, requesting information about Superpave asphalt mixture design. You know PEB has plenty of information about Superpave. But where is it? How do you find it? Whom do you call? The situation is complicated by the fact that knowledge about Superpave exists in a number of forms. Some pavement experts at PEB have been following Superpave developments ever since the technology was introduced. A good-practices paper was written to document one state’s experience. Several university researchers have written journal articles about the effects of the environment on Superpave asphalt mixtures. How can you be sure, even if you identify one or two sources of expertise, that you’ve done more than scratch the surface of the available information?

That’s the kind of problem faced by thousands of organisations — thousands of times a day — and it’s the reason for the development of a concept known as knowledge management. The benefits of knowledge management are endless.

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