Research and Advances
Computing Applications

The Most Important Issues in Knowledge Management

  1. Introduction
  2. Managing the Issues
  3. Unresolved Questions
  4. Conclusion
  5. References
  6. Authors
  7. Figures
  8. Tables
  9. Sidebar: Issues in Knowledge Management

  • Knowledge repositories. Databases allowing the storage and retrieval of explicit research and technical and management knowledge in text format.
  • Best-practices and lessons-learned systems. Knowledge repositories used for the explication, storage, and retrieval of business best practices and for making the lessons learned in projects available to others.
  • Expert networks. Networks of individuals identified as experts in some specific professional area who are electronically accessible by others with questions related to that expertise.
  • Communities of practice. Networks of self-organizing groups whose members share common professional interests and who may live or work in dispersed geographical settings.

The table outlines the top 10 issues in KM in the order given by study participants, each associated with a representative comment. All 20 issues identified in the study are outlined in the sidebar “Issues in Knowledge Management”; the definitions were developed by amalgamating the various descriptions provided by study participants.

Study participants were concerned that KM might alter the relationships among individuals and groups within the organization in unforeseen ways.

 Grouping issues

In order to provide a structure that could make it more practical to manage the 20 issues, we performed a factor analysis (a statistical procedure for organizing items into factors, or groupings, based on similarities). The figure outlines the four resulting factors incorporating the various issues.

The first grouping—executive/strategic management—addresses concerns important to individuals with a strategic view of KM, including potential benefits and potential pitfalls. For example, study respondents reported being interested in KM’s potential for enabling their organizations to compete at a new level of sophistication. Another issue in this grouping concerns KM’s potential for influencing organizationwide creativity and innovation. Participants were also concerned that KM might alter the relationships among individuals and groups within the organization in unforeseen ways.

The next grouping—operational management—addresses how to identify the knowledge available in an organization, seeking ways to capture it in a KM process. Another issue is the ability to design a KM system, including its tools and applications.

The third grouping—costs, benefits, risk—addresses how much money, time, and human resources an organization should be willing to invest in developing a KM system and how much it can expect in return, in terms of both financial and nonfinancial benefits. The risk issue emerged from participant concern about the sensitivity of an organization’s knowledge if utilized for purposes other than its intended purpose.

The final grouping—standards—addresses standards in KM technology and communication networks, both technical and in terms of definitions. For instance, study participants expressed concern over vendors producing KM proprietary applications that are especially difficult to integrate with nonproprietary systems. Concern over definitions suggests that KM proponents must learn to explain KM in more concrete business-oriented terms if they want management to appreciate how it could be exploited.

These groupings suggest at least one promising way to organize responsibility for monitoring sets of KM issues: assign one person or group to each grouping in order to track and be responsible for the implementation or incorporation of experience relevant to each issue into an organization’s management philosophy.

They also suggest the need for focused research programs. Since study participants empirically determined that the issues in each group were related, research on a set of them could be expected to be synergistic. Without such a structure, the study of KM might continue taking the helter-skelter approach characterizing the early years of KM research.

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