Knowledge Management: Putting technology aside

[German title: Wissensmanagement: Technologie beiseite gestellt]

Knowledge Management Architectures Beyond Technology
by Marla M. Capozzi
First Monday, volume 12, number 6 (June 2007)

Abstract: In McKinsey & Company’s 2006 Global Forces Survey, participants listed “innovation in products, services and business models” and “greater ease of obtaining information and developing knowledge” as the two most important factors contributing to the accelerating pace of change in the global business environment. Greater ease of obtaining information and developing knowledge were further cited as the single most important factor expected to contribute to corporate profitability over the next five years.
This is not surprising, with more than 40 percent of the U.S. labor now comprising of “knowledge workers” — the phrased coined by Peter Drucker nearly 50 year ago — for whom complex problem solving is the primary component of their jobs. More than 70 percent of new jobs created since 1998 in the U.S. require significant abstract thinking and judgment. Knowledge workers are also a key source of competitive advantage — companies with a higher percentage of knowledge workers are on average more profitable than labor–intensive companies. However, they are also more likely to show variability in their earnings performance — making the role of talent and knowledge more critical than ever.
Yet the truth is that most organizations continue to struggle with knowledge management. Significant time and money has gone into the architecting of knowledge management (KM) technologies designed to capture, codify and share knowledge within, across and beyond an organization over the past 10 years.
And further spending is expected, but with a twist. U.S. Federal government KM spending alone will reach US$1.3 billion over the next five years according to the Federal Knowledge Management Market View report. However, spending trends are beginning to reflect a shift as companies turn their focus away from technology issues and more toward KM services — the people and process dimensions. According to IDC, worldwide KM services spending will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 41 percent, from US$2.3 billion in 2000 to US$12.7 billion in 2005. Additionally, KM is becoming more global. While the U.S. leads efforts in the KM market, non–U.S. regions will outpace the U.S. in KM spending growth. KM technology spending will continue to increase, but just at lower rates. An AMR Research survey of 400 IT executives in manufacturing and service companies indicated that they would spend an additional 7.6 percent of their budgets on KM software in 2006.
These statistics also reflect the situation faced by many corporations — vast servers of knowledge sit underutilized with out–of–date or irrelevant content that does not support current business objectives. Additionally, executives, having spent attention and resources on KM, have not experienced the promised or desired ROI from these investments. Technology is no longer a real barrier for KM in developed economies. Advances in technologies span back–end content management systems, front–end user portal software and innovative user–generated content tools.
Putting technology aside, what can be done differently to increase the value of existing and new KM investments?
First, technology–enabled KM requires a broader infrastructure to be successful in corporations or non–profit and government organizations. Organizations cannot rely on grass–roots behaviors and communities of practice to emerge informally and expect to see a subsequent impact on performance and/or productivity. Secondly, KM practitioners should shift their focus from architecting knowledge technologies exclusively to architecting both technology systems and human interactions.

Read the full article online.

Copyright ©2007, First Monday

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