Inside Knowledge Magazine /Knowledge Management Magazine Archive
Volume 6 Issue 2
Many of the boundaries within which companies used to compete have been rendered meaningless by globalisation, the rapid advance of web technologies and the fall of many of the political barriers to trade that once seemed insurmountable. Knowledge management has in turn equipped businesses with the means to take advantage of the environment they now find themselves operating in. Properly understood and implemented, KM can help organisations overcome problems relating to scale, complexity and language, to geographical dispersion, and to cultural and societal discord. It is easy to see why so many multi-national corporations have invested so heavily in developing their knowledge management programmes.
Yet for similar reasons, it is also unsurprising that so few smaller businesses have even considered implementing a knowledge management initiative. Most continue to regard the discipline as extraneous to their day-to-day operations. Why, for example, would a company employing perhaps 200 people want to invest in a specialist collaborative application? How, more importantly, would it be able to afford to? Equally, and moving beyond the technology aspect of the discipline for a moment, what use is knowledge management to a company in which everyone knows just about everyone else, or at least knows someone else who does?
Trade associations, specialist publications, events organisers, KM associations and communities – the list goes on – each bear some of the responsibility for perpetuating the misconception that knowledge management is exclusively the concern of larger organisations. If all an entrepreneur reads or hears about is how the likes of BP, Siemens and Microsoft have saved xxx billion dollars through implementing ‘knowledge management’, why should they draw any association between the discipline and their own company’s operations?
Yet knowledge management is also about making the most of the resources at your disposal; about protecting your company against the loss of key knowledge further down the line; about encouraging learning and innovation, and thus developing future streams of revenue; and, crucially, about overcoming the diseconomies of scale the relative size of your business may impose. Amid the grandiose success stories emanating from so many blue-chip, multi-national businesses, it is easy to forget that at the heart of KM lie the fundamentals of sound managerial practice, plain and simple.
This month, with case studies and opinion from ABN Amro, ID Tours South Pacific, Unilever, Comverse, Standards Australia, the University of Central England and more, we aim to dispel the myth that, when it comes to KM, size matters. Our exploration of the role knowledge management has to play in small and medium-sized enterprises begins on page 10.
Simon Lelic, editor
The intranet and beyond [Web only article]
Despite promising immense business benefits, intranets often fail to deliver. Steve Boom explores what usually goes wrong, and how the lessons learnt from failed corporate intranet implementations can help shape best practice for portal design and deployment.
Your Say: Why size doesnt matter
Knowledge management has traditionally been regarded as the domain of vast organisations looking to align operations in the face of geographical and linguistic barriers, but a growing number of SMEs are beginning to recognise the benefits that KM can bring to their own operations. Simon Lelic talks to representatives from Azione, Fujitsu Services, Standards Australia and the University of Central England about the role the discipline has to play among smaller businesses.
Knowledge management for new ventures
KM has traditionally been concerned with efficiency in large organisations, but how relevant is it to small start-up companies focused on growth? Sam Marshall examines the unique knowledge risks and opportunities that set new ventures apart from established big business, and how KM practices can be adapted to cope with these fast-changing environments.
On tour with KM
As a sector heavily reliant on tacit knowledge and experience, KM clearly has a great deal to offer the tourism industry. Michael Mannington describes how ID Tours sought to implement a knowledge management programme in it Special Interest Tours division, in a pilot project designed to pave the way for a company-wide roll-out.
Punching above their weight
Funded by a number of public-sector organisations in the Netherlands, Syntens works to help enhance the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises in the country. Paul Louis Iske and Janika Horvath describe the methods and results of a recent initiative undertaken by the firm aimed at generating awareness among SMEs of the value of knowledge-based assets, and at raising the profile of knowledge management itself.
Establishing a living corporate knowledge base
The lack of a systematic means for employees to retrieve and access the information they need to carry out their jobs effectively is a frequent oversight, even among the largest and most successful organisations. Susan Gordon and Gloria G. Kinrot describe how Comverse worked to develop a collection of tools that have helped address this failing, in turn creating within the company a living corporate knowledge base.
Bridging the knowledge gap
In the past two years, the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System has faced multiple challenges, including the need to keep pace with developing technologies, adapt business unit procedures to comply with new rules and processes, respond to time-sensitive legislation, and capture the knowledge of skilled employees for succession planning. Knowledge Management talks to John Brosius about how the development of a KM programme through a newly implemented website helped the enterprise overcome the challenges it faced.
Book review: Know your value?
Sam Marshall reviews Know Your Value? by Mick Cope, a book he believes still stands out as one of the few knowledge management titles on the shelves that explore what KM means to the individual
Country focus: Singapore
Simon Lelic talks to Praba Nair, director of KM services, and Evan Cheah, senior consultant, both from NCS Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of the Singapore Telecommunications Group, about the evolution of KM in Singapore.
Five minutes with... Oracle
Jacquie Bran, project manager with the Knowledge Management events team, spent five minutes talking to Ibrahim Gogus, knowledge management director for Oracle Corporation, about the firm's experiences implementing a knowledge management programme in a diverse working environment.
The knowledge: Karl Wiig
During a career spanning 35 years and counting Karl Wiig was working with the concepts embodied by knowledge management since before the term was even coined. Simon Lelic talks to him about his career so far, and about his expectations as to how the KM industry as a whole will develop from here.