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Knowledge Management

Enterprises are realising how important it is to "know what they know" and be able to make maximum use of the knowledge. This knowledge resides in many different places such as: databases, knowledge bases, filing cabinets and peoples' heads and are distributed right across the enterprise. All too often one part of an enterprise repeats work of another part simply because it is impossible to keep track of, and make use of, knowledge in other parts. Enterprises need to know:

  • what their knowledge assets are;
  • how to manage and make use of these assets to get maximum return.
Most traditional company policies and controls focus on the tangible assets of the company and leave unmanaged their important knowledge assets.

Success in an increasingly competitive marketplace depends critically on the quality of knowledge which organisations apply to their key business processes. For example the supply chain depends on knowledge of diverse areas including raw materials, planning, manufacturing and distribution. Likewise product development requires knowledge of consumer requirements, new science, new technology, marketing etc.

The challenge of deploying the knowledge assets of an organisation to create competitive advantage becomes more crucial as:

  • The marketplace is increasingly competitive and the rate of innovation is rising, so that knowledge must evolve and be assimilated at an ever faster rate.
  • Corporations are organising their businesses to be focused on creating customer value. Staff functions are being reduced as are management structures. There is a need to replace the informal knowledge management of the staff function with formal methods in customer aligned business processes.
  • Competitive pressures are reducing the size of the workforce which holds this knowledge.
  • Knowledge takes time to experience and acquire. Employees have less and less time for this.
  • There are trends for employees to retire earlier and for increasing mobility, leading to loss of knowledge.
  • There is a need to manage increasing complexity as small operating companies a re trans-national sourcing operations.

A change in strategic direction may result in the loss of knowledge in a specific area. A subsequent reversal in policy may then lead to a renewed requirement for this knowledge, but the employees with that knowledge may no longer be there.

Knowledge assets are the knowledge regarding markets, products, technologies and organisations, that a business owns or needs to own and which enable its business processes to generate profits, add value, etc.

Knowledge management is not only about managing these knowledge assets but managing the processes that act upon the assets. These processes include: developing knowledge; preserving knowledge; using knowledge, and sharing knowledge.

Therefore, Knowledge management involves the identification and analysis of available and required knowledge assets and knowledge asset related processes, and the subsequent planning and control of actions to develop both the assets and the processes so as to fulfil organisational objectives.

There are many problems associated with identifying these knowledge assets and being able to use them and manage them in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Enterprises need:

  • to have an enterprise-wide vocabulary to ensure that the knowledge is correctly understood;
  • to be able to identify, model and explicitly represent their knowledge;
  • to share and re-use their knowledge among differing applications for various types of users; this implies being able to share existing knowledge sources and also future ones;
  • to create a culture that encourages knowledge sharing.
Knowledge engineering methods and tools have come a long way towards addressing the use of a company's knowledge assets. They provide disciplined approaches to designing and building knowledge-based applications. There are tools to support the capture, modelling, validation, verification and maintenance of the knowledge in these applications. However these tools do not extend to supporting the processes for managing knowledge at all levels within the organisation.

At the strategic level the organisation needs to be able to analyse and plan its business in terms of the knowledge it currently has and the knowledge it needs for future business processes. At the tactical level the organisation is concerned with identifying and formalising existing knowledge, acquiring new knowledge for future use, archiving it in organisational memories and creating systems that enable effective and efficient application of the knowledge within the organisation. At the operational level knowledge is used in everyday practice by professional personnel who need access to the right knowledge, at the right time, in the right location.

The knowledge management framework we use was originally based on work by van der Spek and de Hoog. It covers

  • identifying what knowledge assets a company possesses
    • Where is the knowledge asset?
    • What does it contain?
    • What is its use?
    • What form is it in?
    • How accessible is it?
  • analysing how the knowledge can add value
    • What are the opportunities for using the knowledge asset?
    • What would be the effect of its use?
    • What are the current obstacles to its use?
    • What would be its increased value to the company?
  • specifying what actions are necessary to achieve better usability & added value
    • How to plan the actions to use the knowledge asset?
    • How to enact actions?
    • How to monitor actions?
  • reviewing the use of the knowledge to ensure added value
    • Did the use of it produce the desired added value?
    • How can the knowledge asset be maintained for this use?
    • Did the use create new opportunities?

We believe that the knowledge modelling techniques that exist to support the use of the knowledge, along with traditional business management techniques, provide a starting point to manage the knowledge assets within a company. Therefore the the techniques we employ for managing knowledge within the organisation are drawn from these two distinct areas:

  • the techniques that have been used previously from business management, for example, SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) analysis, balanced scorecards, modelling languages such as: IDEF (Process Flow and Object State Description Capture Method) and RADs (Role Activity Diagrams);
  • the knowledge techniques that have been used previously for the disciplined development of knowledge-based applications.
Our recommended approach is a multi-perspective modelling approach.  Several models need to be developed, each of which represents a different perspective on the organisation which can be characterised as “How, What, Who, Where, When and Why”
  • How the organisation carries out its business - modelling the business processes
  • What the processes manipulate - modelling the resources
  • Who carries out the processes - modelling capabilities, roles and authority
  • Where a process is carried out - modelling of the communication between agents
  • When a process is carried out - this specifies the control over processes

Knowledge Asset Road Maps highlight the critical knowledge assets required by an organisation to meet market needs five to ten years in the future. They are mechanisms enabling organisations to visualise their critical knowledge assets, the relationships between these and the skills, competencies and technologies required to meet future market demands. They allow:

  • individual knowledge management actions to be defined and justified in terms of their contribution to the overall aims.
  • effective communication of the work and progress on the programme to the participants and observers.
  • management aids for those involved in carrying out the programme and measuring its progress.
  • more effective communication between users, researchers, technicians, managers and directors involved in the various aspects of the programme.
  • sensible decisions to be taken on the opportunities for further exploiting the results of the programme.
  • the identification of knowledge gaps that need to be filled.
The Road Map is a living document regularly updated and serves as a framework for the monitoring of the knowledge management programme. The document reflects the current state of the interrelationships between work in progress and proposed for the future and the overall milestones and aims of the programme.

AIAI is concerned with how specific aspects of AI, namely modelling, ontologies and planning techniques can support knowledge management. These techniques allow an integrated support framework to be developed for knowledge management based on adaptive workflow techniques. AIAI projects worth noting in the context of knowledge management are the Bid Manager developed during the Enterprise project, a skills management system described in the publications below, and the AKT project.

Projects Publications Contact
Capability Modelling and Knowledge Management,
An Intelligent System For Bid Management,
Knowing who knows what - Skills and Capability Management.
Austin Tate
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Updated: Mon Feb 7 20:10:57 2011
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