Knowledge and Information Management in Organizations

Everyday, every hour, every minute all kind of informations patters on us. Some of this is useful, some is entertaining and/or satisfies the curiosity, and some is simply boring, saying the least. Information must become knowledge, before it can be used for achieving our goals. Everything is easy, once we know how it works, and exactly this is the power and the value of knowledge. In a knowledge driven economy, organizations can only survive and develop in the market, if their employees know more than the clients and at least as much as the competition.

The Properties of Knowledge

In the first place, knowledge is a fluent attribute of a person (being) - somebody either knows something or does not. Knowledge comes to us by information, experiment and deduction. Usually, knowledge is resident in our brain. In general, it can be accumulated, it is structured and retrievable, and last but not least, knowledge can be lost. Either a person forgets something over the years or an organization loses knowledgable persons. In order to turn knowledge into a property of an organization information retrieval and knowledge storage and retrieval needs to be managed.

Knowledge of an Organization

Very basically, the knowledge of an organization is the sum of the knowledge of all of its people which is stored in their brains. Beyond this simple fact, knowledge needs a storage place where it can be accumulated, structured and retrieved by authorized persons, i.e. documents, books, files, databases, ... However, effective for an organization is not the total sum of accumulated knowledge, whether in humans’ brain or in any kind of document or data store. Effective is only knowledge which is readily available for a given purpose, and it doesn’t help either to simply apply any knowledge. The key point of success is to make available as much as possible of knowledge focused on what is actually needed, in comparison to what may be available by chance. Knowledge needs an infrastructure, and for this of course we my use all sorts of IT services.

Information Exchange and Knowledge Retrieval in an Organization

The various services shall be grouped and utilized by its storage and retrieval capabilities in regard to the members of the organization.

IT service direction partners time retrieval
web site out 0 to many shifted general
e-mail in/out 1 to 1 (some) shifted personal
messaging (fone) in/out 1 to 1 (some) direct personal
database/forum/blog in/out many to many shifted general
file sharing in/out 0:n, n:0, 1:1
1:n, n:1, n:n
shifted general

The Web Site of an organization is used internally for announcements. The notes may come from somewhere and may be retrieved (going out of the system) by many people at any time (shifted). E-Mail and Messaging are for personal information exchange, and members of the organization store information into and receive information out of the system. The difference of both is, that messaging is like fone calls, the information exchange happens directly in time, while e-mails may be read at any time later. While these first 3 services are very valuable for day to day communication within the organization, these are of limited use, when it comes to the accumulation of knowledge.

Accumulation of Knowledge

The accumulation process must not require major efforts for data input and retrieval, otherwise people won’t use it effectively. For example, the primary information input must be in the native language of the person entering the data, otherwise the information may not be as complete and at the same time as comprehensive as it could be and it may be prone to misunderstandings - it’s not a good deal, having input non-ideal information in English in double or triple of the time compared to having it entered in native language. Online translators work well enough, and everybody shall use it.

We want our people to use the infrastructure. For example service reports shall be input into the Service Report database, which then would generate an E-Mail to the clients and to whom it concerns for taking immediate actions. It is wrong to write the report and send the PDF to everybody by e-mail. By this way, valuable informations would be buried into the in-boxes of the various participants and the file systems of some servers and client machines, but otherwise would only build-up the pile of lost knowledge.

Customer Support shall be done by a Forum system, instead of giving the advices by e-mail, for the very same reasons.

Laboratory and R&D journals shall no more be written on paper, we would use a BLog, i.e. a weBLog for this purpose.

Knowledge accumulation may benefit from the shareware principle, i.e. everybody who may retrieve knowledge from a database is supposed to contribute to it.

Relational Databases and Local Search Engines should facilitate the output of high quality information depending on the actual needs.

The infrastructure of Databases, Forums and BLogs need to be organized hierarchically by subject and with respect to access rights. Single sign-on is mandatory, or people won’t use it, that means, neither won’t contribute to nor benefit from the knowledge system, and the biggest loser would be the organization itself.

Copyright © Dr. Rolf Jansen - 2014-04-24 18:09:19