At the end of last century, hi-tech industries rose and impacted the traditional industries, and it changed the way of economy developed. Economies in western countries greatly rely on the producing and applying of knowledge. Knowledge becomes one of the most valuable resources in organisations as well as capital and human.
Knowledgeable assets (intangible) slowly replace the physical assets (tangible), and become the main competitiveness of organisations. Therefore, knowledge management is now one of the most essential parts of the contemporary management study. There are plenty of literatures concerning knowledge management, the author summarised them and divided them into two parts, one is to research the knowledge management like knowledge management behaviours, the building of knowledge management models, and this part mainly focuses on theories; the other part is to analyse the using of knowledge management within companies’ daily practices like develop information system or artifact intelligence system for the knowledge management field. Explanation about Knowledge management would be given which based on both theories and practices. It is difficult to give the knowledge management theories a summary, because there are too many different ideas in this field, the author found several definitions of knowledge management. However, a clue had already been sorted out for our readers. At the beginning, our readers should be clear about the definition of the knowledge itself.
The knowledge was introduced by Polanyi (1958), in both tacit form and explicit form. Explicit knowledge can be easily understood, it is the knowledge which can be recorded and reviewed like data, documents, system and policies. In addition, from Hodgkin (1991), ‘Tacit knowledge comprises a range of conceptual and sensory information and images that can be brought to bear in an attempt to make sense of something’. In the daily life, staff can often contact the explicit knowledge as it can be easily discovered.
Polanyi (1967) also stated that although human know a lot in their mind, they can hardly express all them out, which means it is difficult to convert tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge. As it mentioned before, there are a lot of explanation about the knowledge management. The author would like to show readers some definitions from glossaries: The DOFA (Department of Finance and Administration) (2000) states a simple definition of knowledge management, which is ‘Organising, sharing and applying knowledge through the support of people and technology’. The UK design council (2009) gives a more detailed concept, which is ‘The processes an organisation utilises to make full use of the information it holds by correlating separate sources and showing how they can be exploited’. However, a more comprehensive and clear explanation of knowledge management is from London Imperial College (2009), which points out that it is ‘the process of capturing, organising, and storing information and experiences of workers and groups within an organization and making it available to others. By collecting those artifacts in a central or distributed electronic environment (often in a database called a knowledge base), KM aims to help a company gain competitive advantage’. Enterprises firstly introduced the concept of knowledge management, so the purpose they use knowledge management is to increase their competitiveness, and combine the purpose with the knowledge management from London Imperial College, it is a process of capturing, organising and using knowledge for the purpose of gain more competitiveness for organisations. Chor-Beng (2008) talked about the using knowledge management in organisations. He mainly introduced the integrity of knowledge management and customer relationship management. Actually he mentioned not only customer relationship management can be integrated with knowledge management, but also ‘supply chain management (SCM), product development management (PDM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and retail network management (RNM) that offer different perspectives into knowledge management adoption’. He imagined combining the components of knowledge management and other management together to help organisations be more competitive.
The competition of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is fierce nowadays, and most SMEs would like to explore their E-businesses to gain more competitiveness. Juan et al (2007) made investigation regarding 107 SMEs in the Spanish telecommunications sector, and they discovered from the result that the requirement of build their own E-business system of SMEs is to provide and support the process to get, share and use knowledge. They also mentioned to learn from their suppliers and customers is necessary, because this can both test the effectiveness of E-businesses’ new ways and build the E-businesses which can satisfy the needs of customers. Maguire et al (2007) also have their opinions concerning the knowledge management and SMEs, but they focused on the gaining competitiveness of SMEs through knowledge management. They use the form of questionnaires and interviews to investigate over 200 firms (SMEs), and the bright side of this investigation is that 70% firms use ICT system to aid their work, but the problem is that they like to use ICT independently but not carry out the integrated and strategic approach in their use of ICT. Robertson (2001) made a comparative analysis between the Silicon Valley firms of USA and the Xerox China Limited of P.R.C. He get a conclusion as follows, ‘for Xerox China Limited, is a higher perceived existence of rewards and incentives, knowledge flow, knowledge accessibility and learning process in addition to a higher perception of the importance of knowledge dissemination versus the Silicon Valley firms. In all other knowledge management areas, the Silicon Valley firms have higher levels of responses in the perceived existence and level of importance of knowledge management practices’. Nielsen provided a case study concerning Siemens’ applying of knowledge management – ShareNet. Siemens invested 1 billion dollar to shift itself into an E-driven company, which means Siemens want its all processes can be run electronically, both from procurement to marketing and development to controlling.
The most exciting part of this shift is that it built its own E-knowledge management. In 1999, Siemens started to use its own internal knowledge management system – ShareNet. ShareNet can control the transfer of knowledge through three processes which are capturing, developing and reusing of knowledge. Everyone in Siemens can get the information in this system from any places in the world. For instance, its sale representatives can get the up-to-date information at the right time. Enterprises would only consider the applying of knowledge management from the aspect of profit earning, however, knowledge management does much more than just make profit for enterprises, the second part of knowledge management which readers cannot miss is its academic value from the points of views of scholars.
Mentzas et al. (2003) described a knowledge management solution which named know-net, and it has three parts which are know-net framework (this framework is to build the conscious of knowledge management and to guarantee the complete of the effort of knowledge management), know-net method (helps organisations to develop their knowledge leveraging strategy and business processes and explicitly evaluate the business value of the knowledge management effort), and know-net tools (use knowledge navigator to collect, organise and share corporate knowledge). Earl (1996) posited the knowledge into three levels, and these are science, judgement and experience. These three levels represent more and more structure, certainty and validation from experience to science. In addition, ‘experience requires action and memory, judgement requires analysis and sensing, whilst science requires formulation and consensus’. He also attempted a knowledge management model including four components, which are knowledge systems, networks, knowledge workers and learning organisations. The concept of learning organisations is quite essential because the author found that more and more would like to achieve it. Lehaney et al. (2004) discussed the relationship between the knowledge management and sociotechnical thinking in their book Beyond Knowledge Management because there is nearly no literature which can link these two concepts. They also described the knowledge management and learning organisations and discuss the future of knowledge management. Knowledge management also contributes to the government. In the article HOW KM IS TRANSFORMING THE US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT which published in Knowledge Management Review, Barquin (2008) pointed out that, it is good to see US federal government started to use e-government to serve the governed and the citizen, as it ‘moved us closer to Abraham Lincoln’s envisaged government “of the people, by the people and for the people”‘. However, in order to maintain the service providing to citizen, a lot of data and information must be arranged, and it can be achieved through knowledge management. He also gave example of knowledge management applying in US federal government; National Housing Locator System (NHLS) can provide knowledge through the internet, which concerning available housing in specific areas of the country. AKO (Army Knowledge Online) supply army communicating with its troops, employees, contractors and dependents. In brief, because the knowledge management becomes more and more popular nowadays, human start to have more and more distinct conscious about it, and the research of knowledge management can reach nearly each tiny part of it. The researches for it usually go into two aspects.
The first aspect of research is about the development of knowledge management by the timeline (or theories research). Scholars researched knowledge itself originally which includes its definition, features, different types and the using of knowledge. Then the large amount of using knowledge leads human to a new time, which is knowledge economy time, the researches started to shift into knowledge economy and mainly focused on its origin, definition and features instead.
Because of the impact of the new knowledge economy, enterprises start to develop their own knowledge strategies, and then human started to research these companies which are pioneers in the knowledge management field. At last, they began to study the knowledge management like its development, concept, purpose, and implementation ways. The other aspect of research is about the connection or co-operation between knowledge management and other management like Human Resource Management, Information System Management, Strategic Management and R&D Management (practice research). Readers should want to know the practice of knowledge management in enterprises, unfortunately, only some famous international enterprises get success in the field of knowledge management practice. In fact, knowledge management is still not playing a vital role in most businesses like SMEs because there is no authoritative or mature knowledge management model so far, different companies have their different ideas of using knowledge management, and this made other companies hard to follow and improve their own, most SMEs are still wait and see if there are any methods they can simulate to apply the knowledge management. Some companies have their knowledge management system, but they cannot connect it to other system like human resource. These situations indicate that it is a long way to go for knowledge management to be mature to serve enterprises.
Fortunately, enterprises realized the importance of knowledge management practice, and they started to invest more resources into it to make it more effective to the business.
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