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Knowledge Management: Capture, Store & Share Information with KM

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  • 0:05 Data, Information and…
  • 1:41 Knowledge Management
  • 3:30 Capture, Store and…
  • 6:59 Software
  • 7:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Zandbergen

Paul has a PhD from the University of British Columbia and has taught Geographic Information Systems, statistics and computer programming for 15 years.

Knowledge management makes it possible to capture, store, share and utilize the knowledge and experience of an organization. Learn about the different types of knowledge and how knowledge management is implemented in this video lesson.

Data, Information and Knowledge

Let's say you are running a consulting company, and your business consists of a number of projects for clients, each with a particular budget. Most of the budget for each project is for your employees' salaries. Staying within the allocated budget is critical since clients don't like to hear the project is going to cost them more than you previously estimated. You're going to collect some data in order to better serve your clients for future projects. As you go about doing this, it is useful to distinguish between data, information and knowledge.

Data consist of basic facts or values. Examples of data are the number of employees in an organization, how many hours they worked each week and their hourly wage.

Information is a collection of facts organized so they have additional value. Information provides the context of the data and helps you answer questions. For example, the data on employees and their earnings could be organized so that they show how much time each employee spent on each project. This makes it possible to see which projects are still under budget and which ones are not.

Knowledge represents the awareness and understanding of information and the ways the information can be made useful to support a task or make a decision. For example, you could use the information on the time spent by each employee on particular projects to revise budgets for future projects of a similar nature. Understanding how to best budget for projects is an example of knowledge.

So you collect data, you turn this into information, and over time, this allows you to develop knowledge.

Knowledge Management

Now let's say your consulting company is a major international firm with around 3,000 projects every year. That is way too many projects for you to take a close look at individually. However, you have about a dozen senior project managers in your firm, and, collectively, they have a lot of experience in managing project budgets.

Several of these managers are going to be retiring soon, and you want to try to capture their experience in some way for the benefit of the rest of the organization. What you need for this is a knowledge management system. A knowledge management system, or KMS, is an organized collection of people, procedures, software, databases and devices to create, store, share and utilize the knowledge and experience of an organization.

Knowledge management can involve various types of knowledge. Explicit knowledge is objective and can be measured and documented. For example, by analyzing the original budgets and actual expenditures of a variety of projects, it is possible to identify which types of projects are more likely to go over budget.

Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is not so easy to measure and is more difficult to formalize. For example, let's say that the earlier analysis shows that many international projects go over budget relative to similar projects without an international component. This explicit knowledge does not tell you why this happened and how it can be avoided.

Project managers can probably tell you from their own experience that factors such as currency exchange rates, language barriers and communication challenges played a role. This represents the tacit knowledge of the organization. One of the challenges of knowledge management is to try to formalize tacit knowledge. In other words, making tacit knowledge explicit.

Capture, Store and Share Knowledge

Capturing, storing and sharing knowledge is critical to any KMS. This starts with identifying where the organization's knowledge is located. This procedure is sometimes referred to as a knowledge map.

Creating a knowledge map typically involves documenting the workflows and decision-making processes to identify key knowledge workers in the organization. Simply put, knowledge workers are people who create, use and disseminate knowledge. This typically includes scientists, engineers, writers, educators, designers and other professionals.

Knowledge workers are often part of a professional organization. However, knowledge can also reside elsewhere in the organization. For example, experienced managers often have a wealth of knowledge even if they don't fall in the typical categories of a knowledge worker.

Once the location of the knowledge has been identified in the form of specific individuals or groups, it needs to be captured. Capturing knowledge includes collecting all the relevant documents and organizing them in a meaningful manner. However, many aspects of knowledge are not recorded in formal documents. Capturing knowledge may, therefore, also require more proactive methods, such as conducting interviews with selected individuals or groups.

Knowledge is typically stored in the form of a knowledge repository, which includes documents, reports and databases. Specialized software tools are available to organize this material in an effective and usable manner.

Sharing knowledge can take place in several forms. Typically, more formal knowledge is written down in terms of policies, procedures or guidelines. These documents may get revised over time as employees use them and see opportunities for improvements. Knowledge can be shared person-to-person during presentations or meetings. Knowledge can also be shared electronically using collaborative software, meeting software and other collaboration tools.

One commonly employed approach in sharing knowledge is the use of communities of practice. These consist of groups of people dedicated to a common discipline or practice. Individuals can share and exchange ideas outside the more formal structures of the organization. For example, in a large organization, there might be a number of design professionals spread out over different departments. Perhaps there is a graphic designer in the marketing department, a website designer in the information technology department and a video editor in the public relations department.

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