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With the rapid advancement in technology, managers have realised the essence of information technology in enhancing the performance of their organization (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 2005).. It is with regards to this that the concept of knowledge management systems, a paradigm of knowledge management (KM) has increased in popularity for the last several years (Stewart, 2007).
Knowledge management systems incorporates knowledge management (KM) and information technology (IT) to enhance the process of creation, development, utilization, transfer and storage of information within an organization. This paper therefore shall expound on literature in knowledge management systems and information technology to determine the theories and concepts that are present in the field.
Different scholars have developed different systems that can be used to classify data, knowledge and information. Vance (1997) came up with a hierarchical system of classification that has been adopted by many scholars in the field of information technology.
The importance of knowledge in an organization has been stressed with respect to this hierarchical classification of data, information and knowledge presented by Vance (1997). Thus, knowledge originates from personal information that has been stored in the minds of individuals. This information is useful in the process of generating facts, procedures and concepts and decisions to enhance the overall performance of an organization (Fahey and Prusak, 2008).
Knowledge management has always been viewed as an integral component of the overall success of an organization. Managers usually integrate this concept to improve the level of operation of their organization to achieve a competitive edge over rivals within the industries in which their organizations operate in. This is because, knowledge management is a tool that improves the innovation and responsiveness of an organization (Glazer, 1998).
The operation of knowledge management systems is based on information technology (IT) (Machlup, 2010). The aim of these systems is to ensure that the process of information and knowledge creation within an organization is effective and efficient. IT plays a critical role in the development and support of knowledge management systems.
As Alavi and Leidner (2001) asserted, the basis of knowledge management system is based on information technology. As such, IT supports the process of knowledge management in a number of ways. For instance, an organization can search for a specialist in a given field by utilizing information found on online directories and stored databases.
Through IT, organizations can also share information and enhance its operations through virtual teams, reviewing information from previous projects stored on a database. An organization can also have a clear understanding of the needs of its clients by critically analyzing and evaluating stored transactions data.
With these examples, it will be difficult to clearly point out the role of IT in supporting knowledge management as its use is diversified. In addition to this, it is also impossible to develop a specific technology to support the process of knowledge management within an organization (Holtshouse, 2009).
However, Alavi and Leidner (2001) narrowed down the application of IT in knowledge management to the following three areas:
- Coding and sharing of data
- Development of corporate directories
- Development of knowledge links and networks
Coding and Sharing Of Data
Coding and sharing of data that promote best practices within an organization has been one of the main areas in which IT has been used to enhance the process of knowledge management (Spender, 2006). This process is mainly achieved through internal benchmarking. Here, information regarding the best practices that have been reported to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of operations are stored and shared among individuals and different departments within an organization.
This ensures that the knowledge with regards to the best practices is made available to all hence boosting the performance of individuals and improving the overall performance of the firm. With this in place, the operations of a firm shall be conducted in an effective and efficient manner increasing level of profitability and the ease at which an organization can achieve its short term and long-term goals and objectives.
Development of Corporate Directories
IT also plays a critical role in supporting knowledge management by enhancing the process of developing corporate directories. Retrieving stored data is one of the main challenges that organizations face prompting the development of knowledge management. This is because most of the information in organizations is not stored properly hence retrieving them become a problem.
In addition to this, most of the data found in organizations is not coded. This makes the task of retrieving and actually utilizing such information to benefit an organization to be difficult. Therefore, with the help of IT, coding of information via internal mapping expertise has ensured that firms are now able to retrieve information at ease.
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This has greatly reduced the level of repeated mistakes that came up as a result of the implementation of poor practices (Robertson et al, 2006). Instead, internal mapping has ensured that only best practices are retrieved and used to enhance the overall performance of an organization.
Development of Knowledge Links and Knowledge Links Networks
IT has also played a critical role in the development of knowledge networks via knowledge management systems. Knowledge networks are essential in sharing of information among individuals, departments and to a larger extent, different organizations. Chrysler is an example of an organization that greatly benefited from knowledge networks.
According to Alavi and Leidner (2001), Chrysler faced a critical challenge after it modified its operations from functional to platform based organization units. In the process, the company realised that its operations would deteriorate unless suspension specialists would have an effective and reliable means of communication through which they will exchange and share ideas across various platforms (Alavi and Leidner, 2001).
This led to the development of Tech Cul that enabled Chrysler to bring individuals together from different backgrounds. This system enabled virtual and face-to-face communications among professionals from different fields of expertise. It enabled people them to share ideas and come up with solutions to collective problems that they were facing. This ultimately improved the performance of the company by developing high quality products.
From the discussions that have been presented in this paper, it is evident that information and knowledge are essential components of an organization. They play a critical role in enhancing the operations of an organization enabling it to achieve its short term and long-term goals and objectives.
It is with regards to this that managers and scholars always emphasize on the importance of knowledge management. However, to ensure this practice is conducted in an effective and efficient manner, the process has incorporated IT through knowledge management systems to enhance the process of coding and sharing of data, development of corporate dictionaries and knowledge networks that improve the process of creating, developing, sharing and storing of knowledge within an organization.
In the modern world, information technology has taken over all the aspects of our lives including the management of organizations. Most of the organizations in the world have adopted and incorporated the concept of information technology to improve their operations to meet the needs and desires of their customers and to stand at a competitive edge over their rivals. Knowledge management systems have been one of the facets of IT that firms have incorporated to manage the knowledge and information present in their systems.
Knowledge management has played an essential role in the process of storing and retrieving data. According to Spanbauer (2007), the operations of modern organizations are entirely based on the use of emails. Members of an organization use emails as the main form of communication and storage.
However, Spanbauer (2007) goes ahead to state that the major problem with the use of emails it that it does not store data in a systematic way hence making it difficult to retrieve information whenever needed. It is with regards to this that organizations such as Garner have found it essential to use applications such as Customer Coversation System (CCS) and Illumo to enhance the process of data storage, sharing and retrieval within an organization.
It is as a result of such data storage and retrieval systems that strategic and innovative discoveries have emerged from. Viagra, an erectile dysfunction drug was discovered through this process. During its early days, Viagra was used to suppress conditions that led to heart failure.
However, during its administration, nurses discovered that it had a side effect (erection on male patients). This side effect was recorded and stored. This information was later discovered by a doctor during a cross-data study and resulted in the development of a multi-billion dollar industry (Bushell, 2001). It is with regards to this that organizations in the modern word find it essential to systematically store and share information.
Knowledge management systems are solutions to organizations that have to record, maintain, store, retrieve and share bulky datasets and information. Braue (2011) interviewed the lead construction engineer of Connect East, Barry King. Connect East had been contracted by the Victorian government to maintain Melbourne’s East Link toll road (Braue, 2011).
To ensure that this process is conducted professionally in an effective and efficient manner, King and his team need to maintain the records of all assets to meet the requirements of enterprise asset management (EAM). This includes maintaining records for all the equipments, machineries, and spares that are used in the process of maintaining the road. Purchasing, depreciation and amortization records also need to be maintained.
These records need to be presented to the Victorian government and other stakeholders in the company especially due to the fact that the project is almost nearing its completion. However, with the use of IBM’s Maximo, Connect East has been able to maintain systematic records. According to King, this tool has enabled the organization to achieve optimum performance with regards to effective record keeping thus reducing the operating costs (Braue, 2011).
During its early years, social networks were viewed as platforms through which individuals can interact with their friends and family. However, with time, organizations have found it virtually impossible to operate without social network sites (Dancy et al, 2012).
According to Dancy et al, organizations in the 21st century are using social media as a platform for developing, maintaining, retaining and sharing knowledge within the organization its self and with other stakeholders. Professionals in the field of information technology view social media as a means through which organizations can collaborate to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their services through knowledge retention and sharing (Amidon, 1997).
Social media has enabled organizations to interact with people outside the domain of their operations and actually get first hand feedback on their operations and means through which they can enhance their services. It is with regards to this that most organizations have pages on social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and so on.
These pages enable them to have direct contact with their stakeholders especially their customers enabling them to understand their needs and preferences. Additionally, through knowledge sharing, social media acts as platforms through which ideas on service improvement can be shared.
It is thus evident that organizations in the modern world have embraced the importance of knowledge management systems. This is because most organizations in the world are using varies applications, tools and technologies to enhance the process of keeping, retrieving and sharing their records through platforms such as social media.
This has in turn improved the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations ensuring that organizations achieve their operational goals and objectives and at the same time, stand at a competitive edge in their respective industries.
Comparison of Literature and Current Practice
Knowledge and information has been regarded as a key asset in any organization. It is with regards to this that organizations that create, store, retrieve, utilize and share knowledge in an effective and efficient manner stand at a competitive edge. This has increased the importance and emphasis of the incorporation of knowledge management systems in the operations of organizations. In practice, it has been identified that organizations utilize knowledge management systems to achieve this goal.
For instance, the operations of modern organizations are entirely based on emails. However, to enhance the process in which information contained in emails can be stored, retrieved and utilized in a systematic manner, Spanbauer (2007) stated that organization are using applications and technologies such as CCS and Illumo.
On the other hand, an organization such as Connect East has utilized knowledge management systems to ensure that its information is stored in a manner that it can be easily retrieved and presented to the contacting government and other shareholders. Finally, modern organizations are now using social media as a platform of interacting with shareholders and sharing knowledge. This has enhanced the services and products provided by firms as a result of information sharing.
It is always the goal of any manager to ensure that his/her organization is experiencing an exponential growth in value. However, in the modern era, the value of an organization is not mainly based on its tangible assets but by its intangible assets. Therefore, the information within an organization plays a critical role in enhancing its operations and dictating the growth patterns that it exhibits. This has led to the incorporation of the concept of knowledge management (KM) in the running and management of organizations.
Knowledge is an essential asset that plays a critical role in ensuring the success of an organization in the short run and in the long run. It is with regards to this realization that organizations have found it essential to develop systems through the incorporation of information technology to ensure that information is stored in a systematic manner hence enabling easy retrieval and utilization to achieve the goals and objectives of an organization.
Therefore, for organizations to ensure that their operations are effective and efficient, they need to embrace the concept of knowledge management system to achieve their set goals and objectives.
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