Knowledge Management Overview

What Is KM?
The word knowledge can be defined as an understanding that is acquired through personal experience or the study of factual information. Knowledge Management is a concept in which an enterprise gathers, organizes, shares, and analyzes the knowledge of individuals and groups across the organization in ways that directly affect performance. It is about helping people communicate and share information. Knowledge Management envisions getting the right information, in the right context, to the right person, at the right time, for the right business purpose. [1]

Why is it Necessary?
Knowledge Management focuses on ways of sharing and storing knowledge, as a means of improving speed, efficiency, and competency of individuals within an enterprise, therefore increasing the profitability.

The purpose of KM is to gather, categorize, store and spread all knowledge that is needed to make the organization both grow and prosper. It is not as much a technology change as it is a cultural change, but technology is a primary enabler of KM practices. Until recent years, many companies have rewarded individual performance, encouraging some individuals to keep much of what they know to themselves. Under the Knowledge Management approach, the organization seeks to find ways to get individuals to share their knowledge with others so the entire organization will benefit.[2]

How it Works
Knowledge is collected from all existing sources including people, systems, databases, file cabinets and desktops. All knowledge of value is stored and categorized as data in an organized repository. This knowledge can be immediately conveyed to those people and systems that need it, whether it's through an enterprise portal, collaboration tool, or knowledge transfer process. The right knowledge will go to the right person or system at the right time. Current knowledge can be retrieved from the system's archives at any time in the future. As knowledge becomes obsolete or expires, that knowledge can automatically be removed from the system.[3]

Brief History of KM
With continuously emerging work roles, the unlocking of an enterprise's information to members at every level has become essential to ensure that each has the knowledge, skills and authority to be productive. These new work roles demand that every individual have access to the correct data and knowledge in order to make their own effective business decisions. With the rise of organizations seeking ways to manage their knowledge has come the desire to share strategies with peers.

The first conference in the United States that focused upon knowledge - beyond the theories of artificial intelligence - was entitled "Managing the Knowledge Asset into the 21st Century." It was convened by Digital Equipment Corporation and the Technology Transfer Society at Purdue University in 1987. The second conference on "Knowledge Productivity" was coordinated by Steelcase North America and EDS in April of 1992.[4] Since then, the management of knowledge has become crucial within and among organizations. There have been a number of conferences focusing on different perspectives, each year growing more inclusive, and comprehensive.

In just a few years knowledge management has:

  • attracted significant interest from many areas, including top companies and government agencies
  • prompted the release of several magazines devoted exclusively to knowledge management
  • become an initiative in between a third and half of Fortune 500 companies
  • delivered demonstrable benefits in a variety of situations
  • created market opportunities for suppliers, especially for software products and management consultancy
  • stimulated new ventures devoted to exchange and sale of knowledge.[5]

Market Leaders
Knowledge Management continues to demand the attention, time, and energy needed to develop a successful and profitable business. However, the KM process is highly complex, involving many stages and addressing many different needs. For this reason, no vendor currently provides a complete, comprehensive suite of products. The consensus is that the best knowledge management plan can only be implemented with a meld of different products, including software, and services.[6]

Top vendors of Knowledge Management software include Autonomy, IBM Lotus, Plumtree, Microsoft, Hummingbird, and Open Text.[7] Others include Sybase, Brio, Cognos, Tibco, SageMaker, SeeCommerce, Viador and Hyperion.

The Future of Knowledge Management
As KM shifts the emphasis from single-handed information to the formal and informal processes that use the information, new KM practices are more focused toward changing an organization's climate, as companies seek to find ways to identify the types of knowledge they have and what they need to prosper and grow.[2] One outcome from this new emphasis is the disclosure of just how important the document/content management function is. Another involves the evolution of enterprise portals bringing knowledge straight to the desktop, which has revolutionized effective business decision-making. Organizations must understand this shift to maintain an effective Knowledge Management discipline.


[1] Robert S. Seiner, "Knowledge Management: It's Not All About the Portal." The Data      Administration Newsletter, November 2000


[3] Tom Finneran, "A Component-Based Knowledge Management System." The Data      Administration Newsletter, June 1999

[4] Debra M. Amidon, "The Momentum of Knowledge Management." ENTOVATION      International

[5] David Skyrme, ENTOVATION International