The concept of “knowledge management” (KM) has been around since the 1980s; it refers to the process of creating, storing, using, and sharing knowledge within an organization. KM is now well accepted as a vital business capability, because, as IBM puts it, “When knowledge is not easily accessible within an organization, it can be incredibly costly to a business as valuable time is spent seeking out relevant information versus completing outcome-focused tasks.”
Once the importance of the knowledge management function was widely recognized, systems to automate it quickly followed. KM systems have primarily addressed explicit knowledge – “knowledge that is captured within various document types, such as manuals, reports, and guides, allowing organizations to easily share knowledge across teams.”
IBM breaks the knowledge management process into three main steps:
- Knowledge Creation: During this step, organizations identify and document any existing or new knowledge that they want to circulate across the company.
- Knowledge Storage: During this stage, an information technology system is typically used to host organizational knowledge for distribution. Information may need to be formatted in a particular way to meet the requirements of that repository.
- Knowledge Sharing: In this final stage, processes to share knowledge are communicated broadly across the organization.
In every use case, all three steps are vital to the process, though in some instances “creation” might be more aptly described as “ingestion” – for example, in market and competitive intelligence applications, where the content housed in the KM system is largely drawn from the “outside world” (e.g., market assessments by industry analysts, news reports, competitors’ product literature, etc.).
To ensure maximum performance, the functional capabilities of any knowledge management system must be optimized for the particular use case. In the market and competitive intelligence example cited above, there is a unique requirement that the system be able to ingest and consistently index in-depth market analyses from dozens of syndicated market and competitive intelligence research sources that the entire organization, or individuals or departments within it, may subscribe to. These subscriptions are expensive and rigidly licensed, so ensuring their use is maximized and consistent with contractual stipulations is imperative. Since each third-party publisher has its own unique way of doing things, and each wants subscribers to experience its brand, there is a significant integration and security burden placed on the knowledge management system.
So, while this process is not literally about “creating knowledge” – that’s being done by a third party – it is very much about ingesting the knowledge that will be stored in and shared by the KM system.
Finally, IBM identifies several common benefits of knowledge management and the systems that support the processes. Among the top three benefits is “making better informed decisions” – which is the crux of Northern Light’s value proposition for SinglePoint market and competitive intelligence portals. The creative use of artificial intelligence in knowledge management systems is amplifying both their capabilities and their benefits, especially in the “knowledge sharing” dimension.
Clearly, knowledge management is no longer the new kid on the block; it is a mature, respected and vital member of the enterprise IT community at organizations worldwide.