posted 1 Feb 1998 in Volume 1 Issue 4
2. Knowledger - a business process focused knowledge management
Ronald Young , Chief Executive, Knowledge Associates outlines Knowledger - an Organizational knowledge management solution with a high level framework, methodologies, systems and tools to optimise knowledge working at all levels.
This article outlines Knowledger, an integrated Organizational knowledge management solution that incorporates a high level enterprise knowledge management framework that focuses on the strategic business objectives and the key business processes; optimises the rapid creation and management of the underlying knowledge throughout the organisation; provides a knowledge accounting system to measure the growth of the knowledge capital; and strategically integrates the enabling groupware and information systems and technologies in such a way that it facilitates optimal knowledge working at all levels.
Knowledge Associates have been educating, consulting, designing and developing knowledge management solutions since 1993. Increasingly, new clients have been asking for a simple high level enterprise knowledge management framework that clearly demonstrates to their senior management the strategic benefit of knowledge management to the growth and profitability of the business. They have been seeking systems and practical tools that will link to the high level framework, and practical methods, advice and assistance in implementation.
Knowledger 1.0 gradually evolved through this period of practical consulting, development, pilot applications, and a series of executive briefings and intensive master classes with practitioners. Knowledger is now being used by several large organizations on a global basis.
1. Knowledger - a customer focused knowledge management framework
Knowledger starts and ends with the customer as the primary focus at all times. Most organizations today have rapidly learned that they are in business to serve customers well and it is knowledge that strategically underpins this. Knowledge Management for its own sake is simply a grand intellectual and technological exercise, but creating a customer focused knowledge management strategy and framework is the first step to successfully harnessing and managing the knowledge assets for the benefit of the business. Figure 1 - the customer - is the heart of the knowledge management framework.
To serve the customer well requires the organisation to have excellent business processes in place with highly competent people to perform them.
Although each organisation is different, and may choose to categorise and name it business processes differently, depending on whether its emphasis is on manufacturing, distributing, researching, marketing or whatever, we can say that the key or 'mega' processes to do business revolve around selling, serving, developing people, and creating new products and services, as in Figure 2.
2. Knowledger - a business process focused knowledge management
Many organizations we work with may be happy with their focus on the
customer in each of these key process areas, as depicted by the arrows in Figure
2, but seem to have paid less attention to the obvious inter-relationship
between the processes themselves. People in small organizations, in doing
business, are typically involved in all four processes, but in large
organizations specialisation, fragmentation and boundaries occur at the business
process level and many people do not have the knowledge of the whole business
process and whole business context to work within, but tend to concern
themselves within their own business process domain.
The new business paradigm of knowledge organizations and knowledge working is such that it enables large global organizations to think and act 'as one' and Knowledger is a practical system that gives knowledge workers this capability. It starts at the high level enterprise model by reminding us of the need to consider the whole customer focused business process from sales of existing products and services, which then enables us to serve the customer well, which will then enable us to develop people, which will then enable us to create even better products and services, which will enable us to sell more easily...and so the upward spiral goes on. The faster and the better this whole business process is, as one, the more competitive and extraordinary the organisation will be. Figure 2 also illustrates the two way focus and interrelationships of the key business processes to enable 'business as a whole'.
3. Knowledger - a system for leveraging and managing knowledge
Underpinning every business process, in fact, underpinning every aspect of any business, is knowledge. Underpinning the sales process is both the best knowledge of selling (process knowledge) and the best knowledge of customers, competitors, industry etc (content knowledge) and so on.
This may appear quite obvious to state but the problem, quite simply, is that it is fragmented as specialised knowledge that embeds itself throughout the organisation. It is quite static. When asked to do a brief audit of the knowledge in an organisation, at a macro level, we quite often see many static pockets, 'islands of knowledge' in the heads of key individuals and that remain within a key business process domain.
We need to better realise that knowledge not only underpins everything in business, especially the key business processes, but it needs to be opened up, unblocked, and circulated throughout the organisation fast. The results on business performance of opening up and unblocking knowledge are extraordinary. The results of circulating knowledge throughout the organisation fast, on business performance, are extraordinary. Figure 3 illustrates the underlying Knowledge Flow that is able to nourish the entire business.
4. Knowledger - a system for sharing explicit knowledge
This circle of knowledge is being called many things by our consultants and clients. We have often referred to it as a 'knowledge highway' or recently as a 'river of knowledge'. I rather like the river analogy as it suggests that all the people in the organisation can go to their part of the river bank and be nourished by and add to it, as it continually passes by.
Furthermore it implies that there is a process in place, at a higher level, that ensures a continual supply of river water. I have no doubt that new and even more powerful metaphors and analogies will appear to represent the knowledge flow and knowledge transfer that needs to take place throughout the organisation.
As knowledge management practitioners, we have learned that we can open up and more easily and quickly share our knowledge in the organisation if we are able to make it explicit in form that uses the best communications and information technologies e.g. databases, CD roms, software, groupware, internets, intranets etc to share it fast. This explicit knowledge means that knowledge within our heads is turned into 'communicable information' for others to more rapidly assimilate and develop their knowledge.
Figure 4 illustrates how, for each key business process, we need to develop and/or integrate the key databases of information that underpin the business processes separately, into knowledgebases that connect to the Organizational knowledge flow, as a whole. Although organizations may already have many of the databases in place, they have not been able to integrate them into an Organizational knowledge flow and knowledgebases. Now new groupware technologies have made this possible. This explicit information sharing is now a daily reality as a result of the use of groupware technologies that electronically link and enable knowledge workers in the organisation to communicate, co-ordinate, collaborate, learn and share in radically and fundamentally new ways. Groupware the Internet and the World Wide Web now enable us to open up, unblock, and create knowledge highways.
Since 1993, Knowledge Associates have chosen Lotus Notes and Lotus
Domino groupware technologies that integrate in extremely powerful ways with the
World Wide Web, to create corporate intranets, extranets etc as the best
technologies to create very scaleable, robust and secure technology
infrastructures for our clients knowledge management solutions.
Typically, in the knowledge management solutions we offer in 'Knowledger on the Web' or 'Knowledger in Notes', the underlying Notes databases that we have developed and/or the existing client databases, that may reside in different systems and computers, that we have piped into the Lotus groupware environment include:
1. Sales Team room/ space (for virtual collaboration)
2. Client/Customer knowledge
3. Client/Customer Industry knowledge
4. Client/Customer Competitor knowledge
5. Central Sales presentations libraries
6. Central Proposals/Quotations libraries
7. Serving Team room/space
8. Electronic Help Desks
8. Best Practices knowledge
9. Projects knowledge
People Development Process
10.People Development Team room/space
11.Learning technologies (especially new distance collaborative team learning technologies as Lotus Learningspace)
12.Personal Development tools to capture and structure learnings
14.Competencies frameworks and skills databases
Research and Development Process
15.R & D team room/space
17.Libraries of software objects
18.Electronic libraries of white papers, books etc
19.Patents, brands, copyrights etc
We also add:
20. Strategic Management teamroom/space to better ensure the alignment of the corporate vision, values, mission and goals with the values, vision, mission and goals of the key business process teams. This also better ensures that all knowledge, creativity and innovation are aligned to corporate objectives.
5. Knowledger - a system for creating and renewing tacit and explicit knowledge.
We have learned that sharing explicit knowledge with the proper use of groupware technologies enables the organisation, as a whole, to learn and develop new knowledge very fast. But we know that explicit knowledge is the visible 'tip of the iceberg' that we can all see and, continuing the iceberg analogy, there is far more beneath the surface, out of sight.
We have learned that the most powerful and valuable knowledge of all is alled our 'tacit' knowledge. That is, the deep body of knowledge that is within us all, that is developed within as a result of formulating and synthesising our personal intellectual learnings, values, beliefs, ideas, experiences etc throughout our lifetime. Quite often, we are unable to even verbalise our tacit knowledge e.g. a Master Chef, World Class sports person or successful business entrepreneur may not be able to describe his/her knowledge and art. Our tacit knowledge is the much larger, much deeper, and much richer source of knowledge - like the iceberg below the water surface.
The explicit knowledge, therefore, could be considered as the outer thinner rim of knowledge connected to explicit information sharing groupware technologies. The tacit knowledge is within us. The explicit/tacit knowledge is illustrated in figures 5 and 6.
now know that the key to extraordinary knowledge management in organizations is
our ability, as an organisation, to constantly share and renew our tacit
knowledge, the really powerful and deeply rich knowledge,as fast as
6. Knowledger - a system to facilitate creativity and
One key way to constantly renew our tacit knowledge, is to implement a new Organizational knowledge management process that turns tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge as a daily routine. This very process will also turn explicit knowledge into new tacit knowledge, as described below. This becomes the primary role of the knowledge worker. Knowledger is a system that provides tools for the knowledge worker to perform this daily process.
When this becomes the normal discipline the results are extraordinary. This is because we now know that the very process of forcing ourselves to turn our tacit knowledge into explicit forms is very creative and insightful. You will know this if you have ever written a book, paper or made a presentation. When we explicitly write down what we think we know it is far more than just a recording exercise. The very process of turning this powerful, symbolic, intuitive type of tacit knowledge into explicit communicable forms gives us new insights, new perceptions, new fresh ideas, new 'ahas' etc.
Imagine the consequences of a whole organisation of knowledge workers who are daily having to turn their rich tacit knowledge into explicit forms within Knowledger. The new creativity and innovation will be at a remarkable level by comparison. The creativity and innovation within each business process can then be applied to innovating even better business processes. Knowledger facilitates ongoing, sustainable creativity and innovation in the organisation. Figure 6 illustrates the other end of the knowledge spectrum - creativity and innovation. We are extending the Knowledger systems and tools in this area and will shortly add:
21.Knowledger innovation tools
22.Best Problems database that enables organizations to creatively turn the best problems collected and identified, into creative and innovative opportunities.
7. Knowledger - a system for measuring knowledge capital
Finally, we have now identified the key metrics for each of the underlying databases of Knowledger and we integrate them into a 'knowledge capital' statement. In the same way as we can measure our financial assets in a traditional balance sheet or position statement, we can now report on the knowledge capital. Typically, the knowledge capital statement could have three categories and form a complete knowledge taxonomy. Knowledge Management practitioners are increasingly adopting a taxonomy around customer capital, structural capital and human capital.
|Customer Capital - measuring from the databases customer loyalty, customer retention etc|
|Structural Capital - measuring the processes, best practices etc|
|Human Capital - measuring the competencies at a personal, team and Organizational level|
This article has briefly outlined Knowledger, as an integrated Organizational knowledge management solution that incorporates a high level enterprise knowledge management framework, that focuses on the strategic business objectives and the key business processes; optimises the rapid creation and management of the underlying knowledge throughout the organisation; provides a knowledge accounting system to measure the growth of the knowledge capital; and strategically integrates the enabling groupware and information systems and technologies in such a way that it facilitates optimal knowledge working at all levels.
Ron Young may be contacted at Knowledge Associates Ltd, St John's Innovation Park, Cowley Road, Cambridge, CB4 4WS, UK.
Knowledge Associates and Knowledger are registered trade marks of Knowledge Associates International Ltd.
Lotus, Lotus Notes, Lotus Domino are registered trade marks of Lotus Development Corporation.
©Knowledge Associates International Ltd 1998.