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What is The Knowledge Management Process?
(Life cycle models, challenges and process)

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge." - Daniel J. Boorstin

Many businesses feel that just because they utilize certain tools and knowledge management process for decision making and knowledge creation, they have aced the game of content management. But this is not always true.

It is rather important to follow best practices when you are working on knowledge creation or knowledge transfer. Only then you will actually have the right knowledge management strategy for your business's decision making. An optimal knowledge management strategy will ensure that you are not living in the illusion of knowledge and can actually refer to your content management database as an integral part of knowledge assets.

But how would you differentiate between various tools for content management or knowledge management processes if you don't understand how it really works. To help you understand the concept better, we will discuss some of the top knowledge management processes for organizational knowledge and best practices for the same.

But first, let us take a look at the definition of knowledge management so that you are clear on the concept if you are new to the field.

What is Knowledge Management?

When you systematically arrange or manage the knowledge of an organization in a way that it becomes easy to understand or find and acts as an asset of that organization, it is called knowledge management. In the long run, this is beneficial to the employees as well as to the customers of the company since it makes things easier. With access to the right knowledge at the right time, customer support and work become better.

The knowledge creation or knowledge transfer is done for better decision making using tacit knowledge. There are a number of knowledge management processes used for knowledge creation. With the correct knowledge management strategy, the decision-making process becomes easier. We will elaborate and talk more about various knowledge management processes ahead and the best practices you should follow for organizational knowledge creation.

With the help of knowledge management, one can identify the following:

  • The location where the information is stored
  • The format in which you save the files
  • Which knowledge management strategy is crucial for every employee and which data needs to be limited to only certain people
  • How to acquire, arrange and share new knowledge with others, which tools to utilize for the same
  • When to remove irrelevant information and ensure that the data is up-to-date

Although the definition makes it sound simple enough, there are certain challenges that organizations like yours could face when working on a knowledge management strategy of their own. We have listed some bigger challenges that organizations often face while trying to set up an optimal knowledge management strategy using information technology in place.

What is the Process of Knowledge Management?

The process of knowledge management follows some general steps universally. The process has been formalized and perfected up to an extent by numerous scholars and knowledge management experts over the years.

However, the tools or information science used may vary as per the organization. Whichever tools one may use, if they follow the techniques and process correctly then the organization of information and sharing knowledge will be smooth.

process-of-knowledge-management

Step 1 - Collection

This is a crucial step in the knowledge management processes and requires special attention to detail. If the information or data you collect while data mining is incorrect, inaccurate or irrelevant, then it can seriously hamper the next few steps in the knowledge management strategy. Therefore, make sure that you are careful about the source of your information and double-check the relevancy.

There are many different procedures and techniques for collecting data, hence, you should document the procedure your organization is going to follow so you can ensure that everybody is following it for sharing knowledge.

As per the knowledge management procedure, there are certain data collection points and some examples include daily attendance reports or monthly sales reports. Depending on the data collection points, the method of collecting data and sharing knowledge also varies. For example, you might be collecting the daily attendance reports through a bio-metrics attendance machine and the sales report might be in the form of physical receipts.

Other than data collection points and extraction processes, another aspect to define here is the storage of data such as a knowledge management software. Once you define that in your knowledge management strategy, it becomes easy for your employees to follow the best practices while they are seeking or sharing knowledge.

Step 2 - Organization

Just collecting the data is not enough and you also need to arrange the data in a systematic order so that it is easy to understand or use. You can divide the data as per the category of the information (sales data in one file, staff information in another, purchase reports in another) or as per your organization’s knowledge management processes. You might even use various techniques like normalization to ensure that all the data is categorically in the correct place. In this way, you are able to easily arrange and relate data. After step 2 is successfully complete, raw data turns into information.

Step 3 - Summarize

In this step of knowledge management processes, you need to summarize the information in a way that gives the basic essence from it. It is easy to understand lengthy data points when you represent it in a tabular or graphical format and store it properly.

For summarizing, there are many tools available like software packages, charts, and various techniques.

Step 4 - Analyze

In this step of your knowledge management processes, you need to analyze the information and find any relationships, redundancies or patterns present in the data available.

It is better to assign a team of experts for this step of the management strategy because the experience and expertise is an important factor here. After analyzing, the team of experts creates different reports with their analysis.

Step 5 - Synthesizing

It is in the 5th point of your KM systems that information transforms into knowledge. To derive different concepts from the data, you can combine the analysis reports.

It is also possible to apply the pattern of one entity to explain another and thus obtain a set of knowledge elements that you can use across the organization. It will help you improve your management strategy and KM processes.

The organizational knowledge base then stores this knowledge for whenever you want to use it in the future. More often than not, the knowledge base is a software that you are able to access from anywhere and any mobile device. As long as you have an internet connection, you will be able to access the knowledge database without any problems.

Step 6: Decision Making

At this stage, you may use the knowledge in the database for making decisions. The decisions could be important and crucial decisions on which your company could be dependent. Or the decisions could be everyday routine decisions that help you with management and in running the company efficiently on a daily basis. For example, If you are calculating an estimate for a specific type of project, you can easily make use of the data that you have which is related to previous calculations. estimating a specific type of a project or a task.

This helps you speed up the learning processes and transfer knowledge easily, which is the estimation process in this case. It also gives a higher percentage of accuracy to the results by using previous results and thereby minimizing the chances of error. Thus, organizational knowledge management strategy adds a lot of value and also helps your company save money if you look at it in the longer run.

Challenges in Knowledge Management Processes

Challenges in Knowledge Management Processes

1. Security Concerns

Your data is important to your organization and it needs an ample amount of security to ensure confidentiality. It helps your customers build their trust in your brand and stay loyal to you. If any company leaks data on purpose or by mistake, it doesn’t matter how large your company is, the brand value will drop down in the market.

By using knowledge management processes and tools that have higher levels of security and permissions, you will ensure that your data is safe and secure. This helps you create a higher brand value, keep your data safe and ensure that customers stay loyal to your company.

2. Improving Organizational Culture

Office politics is a common thing that hinders growth and productivity in many corporations. This results in the hoarding of information and a break in the flow of knowledge sharing too. Managers often face this type of resistance in their teams or in the organization when they are trying to set up better knowledge management processes.

To prevent this from happening, managers need to develop a culture of learning, growth, sharing and changing for the betterment of the company. A team that can adapt change easily will find that they are able to adapt to new processes and latest tools quickly.

3. Accuracy and Reliability

One of the bigger challenges in maintaining a knowledge repository is to ensure that the information in the tools is all up to date and accurate. If a crucial point of data is inaccurate, then it will be problematic for everyone who has access to the tools for sharing knowledge.

To ensure accuracy, you will need to keep a check on the content and as the number of data increases, you might even need a person to keep a check on the same full-time. In the initial stages, however, you can just set up regular reminders and tools to assure that everything is in place.

4. Staying Ahead with Management Technology

No matter what tools or technologies you use, you should expect regular updates or new versions. Although it might be a little difficult to keep up with all the tools and the constant new updates. However, you need to remember that updates usually come in when there is something better in store. These tools will help you achieve more and do things in a better way than you were doing before.

Now that you know the type of challenges that you might be facing as a manager or owner of an organization, you should also understand various life cycle models for the knowledge management processes. There are 4 basic models, let us take a look at them and understand them in detail.

Top 4 Knowledge Management Life Cycle Models

There are 4 basic life cycle models for the knowledge management processes based on their ability to meet the demands. These models or cycles explain how information transforms and becomes knowledge. Take a look at these 4 models to understand the basic knowledge management processes and the best practices to follow.

1. Wiig Model (1993)

Wiig Model

Karl M. Wiig was one of the pioneers in the field of knowledge management processes, and one of the first persons to publish a paper on it. His knowledge management cycle addresses the approach that an individual or organizations take for building knowledge repositories or databases. The model addresses the organization as a whole and includes business areas that are common in almost all organizations.

According to the Wiig model, there are 3 conditions that should be present for an organization to do business successfully. They are as follows:

  • They have a business (service or commodity) and customers.
  • They have resources (people, budget, facilities).
  • They have the strength to act.

This knowledge manager model states and relies on the fact that if you want the information to be useful, then it should be organized properly by using the right tools. For this reason, the primary goal of this model is to organize the data as soon as it is codified. However, the knowledge management process also outlines how to build, store, pool and then extend the information as knowledge. There are 4 major phases in the KM model namely, build, hold, pool and apply knowledge. Let's take a look at them in detail below:

  • Building knowledge: You can build knowledge from various sources, external and internal in such a way that it covers both tacit and explicit knowledge.
  • Holding knowledge: Your company and the employees need to store the information in specific or easily retrievable physical formats by using management tools for it. The training for the same needs to be given by you to the employees.
  • Pooling knowledge: For this step, you need to utilize appropriate knowledge management systems that ensure and enable cross-talk between different groups of people or experts.
  • Applying knowledge: In this step, you should utilize knowledge management tools for changing or improving various internal work processes in such a way that new knowledge is collected and embedded automatically to the knowledge management tools.

Karl Wiig proposed his KM model in 1993 and some of the essential elements that he suggested were:

  • Connectedness
  • Completeness
  • Congruency
  • Perspective and purpose

1. Completeness:

This element describes the amount of relevant data, information or knowledge available from a particularly given source. The sources may vary and range from human minds to knowledge bases or management tools (such as tacit or explicit knowledge).

First and foremost, you will need to ensure that all the information is complete. And also, if the information is already available on the subject but people are unaware of its existence or if they are unable to utilize it because of some of the other reasons or a lack of proper management tools.

Moreover, in the acquisition stage, the guiding principle of the Zack knowledge management model is “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. What this means is that people should get the proper training to understand the process and get it right. This helps ensure that any knowledge they put into the knowledge management system is correct and relevant for you to get the results that you desire from this model.

2. Connectedness:

This element gives you a brief about the relations between various knowledge objects. These relations are already well-understood and well-defined between the objects. Most knowledge objects have a connection with each other in some of the other way. The more connections exist in knowledge management tools, the better is the content. These connections ensure that the content and knowledge management tools are consistent and of greater value than the content with no connections.

3. Congruency:

You can judge the congruency of knowledge management tools on the basis of all the facts, concepts, perspectives, values, judgments and the connections between the objects. You should especially ensure that the connections are consistent and that there is a relation between all the knowledge objects. The majority of the knowledge bases or the content in them do not meet these criteria.

4. Perspective and Purpose:

This is a technique that helps you in knowing about something from a particular point of view and for a specific purpose. In this step, you should organize most of your knowledge by applying the dual dimensions of perspective and purpose. Through this model of the knowledge management process, you will be able to define various levels of internalization of information.

2. Zack Model (1996)

Zack Model

The Zack model is derived from working on the design and development stages of knowledge management. The major developmental stages of a knowledge repository in the knowledge management process require analysis and then mapping to the stages of a KM model.

In the Zack model, the phases are rather similar to the Wiig model but the major difference arises in the fact that the Zack model prioritizes a logical and standardized approach between each new stage. The main phases or stages of the Zack KM model are acquisition, refinement, storage/retrieval, distribution, and presentation. Let us understand them better.

1. Acquisition of Data or Information

At this stage, the focus is on the quality and accuracy of the information on hand. The information that you collect here is in the form of raw data from various departments of the organization. The data includes various knowledge objects such as where does the company acquire materials from and what are the specifications for the materials such as scope, sizing information, credibility, accuracy, a timeline of the information, relevancy to the other knowledge objects, cost, source, exclusivity, and other information.

For example, let us imagine that you run a cloth manufacturing factory and you are buying raw cotton for making these clothes. You might be having many vendors for raw cotton and each one of them gives you a different specification and quotation for the same amount of cotton. Even the quality, type and delivery dates are matching for each vendor yet the quotation is different. This makes it difficult and almost impossible to reach a satisfactory decision while keeping in mind that quality is the same. For such cases, you will need to capture all the various data points and ensure that the information that you collect is standardized. This is important because you can only compare the data that you collect and store in a standard format. The relevancy and the connectedness of the information to your clothes manufacturing business are also important and crucial in this stage.

Moreover, in the acquisition stage, the guiding principle of the Zack knowledge management model is “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. What this means is that people should get the proper training to understand the process and get it right. This helps ensure that any information they put into the system is correct and relevant for you to get the results that you desire from this model.

2. Refinement

After acquiring information, you need to store it but keep it in mind that not all information is to be stored. First, you should convert the information into various knowledge packets so that the process of storing the information becomes easier. It also makes it simple to retrieve the information in the future whenever you need it. This stage in knowledge management processes for converting information in the knowledge packets is known as refinement.

There are many different types of refinements that you can apply to information. The type you apply depends on the requirements of your organization. For example, Physical refinement is applied when you are migrating information from one medium/location/software to another.

On the other hand, you should apply logical refinement when you are restructuring the information into preset formats. Your organization can also apply of this step when indexing and integrating any information into a larger group of information.

Cleaning is applied to when you are getting rid of redundant information or duplication. You may even utilize it for removing unnecessary parts of the entire package of information.

Standardization is another type of refinement that will help you in tailoring all information into predefined templates. This will help you make it easy to compare and improve the usability of the information.

3. Storage and Retrieval

Although knowledge management software is replacing traditional methods of storing information, there are still many businesses that still store their data in files, folders and other forms of printed or written information.

You can utilize this information during the stages of product creation, For example, information necessary for recipe and label creation, packaging, and other processes.

4. Distribution

In this stage of Zack's knowledge management process, you need to define the various recipients of the information as well as the mode in which they will receive this information. The modes can vary from mails, prints and any other type. You will need to specify the timing and frequency at which they will receive the information, as well as the form and language of the information.

5. Presentation

Presentation is the final step and after this, the information will be considered as knowledge.

The presentation of the information in the knowledge management process depends on the complexities of your organization. You will need to consider the recipients too for this stage.  Each recipient has a particular need for the different parts of knowledge that they will receive. By tailoring and packaging knowledge for each group of recipients, you will see an increase in the productivity of your organization.

The final users of the knowledge generate feedback. This will help you continuously work for improving your knowledge sharing system and data repository by adding new elements and knowledge or by removing redundant and irrelevant information.

The Meyer and Zack knowledge management model is one of the best models that cover the entire organization and gives a complete picture of all the elements of a robust KM model.

However, if you wish for the cycle to work as intended, there are some knowledge prerequisites that you will need to provide:

  • Front end: rules on how one can identify source information, acquire the same, refine it and add it to the repository properly
  • Final stage: rules and information about copyrights, confidentiality, attribution to help understand how the knowledge sharing is to take place for distribution and usage

The refinery model for managing knowledge repository or database, your organization will need the support of:

  • Core capabilities in IT
  • Internal information about the business or the company
  • External knowledge about the current trends and market status
  • The organization’s management and organizational systems

The strength of this KM cycle lies in the refinery and renewal of information.

3. Bukowitz and William Model (2000)

Bukowitz and William Model

This knowledge management model builds upon the previous two. It expands the definition of knowledge sharing and storage in such a way that it includes the infrastructure to support the learning community. The knowledge-sharing model also highlights how organizations are able to generate, maintain and expand knowledge repositories in a way that creates value. Various types of knowledge are recognized in this framework and include databases, communication infrastructure, technologies, organizational skills and other knowledge.

Bukowitz and William also emphasize in their KM systems, the need for not only maintaining your knowledge repository but also building it over time. The various phases in this knowledge sharing management model are: get, use, learn, and contribute.

1. Get Stage: In this stage of the Bukowitz and William model, you need to acquire specific information that will help you in making decisions, solving problems or for creating new products or services. You can seek or procure this data in the raw form from various sources within your organization.

2. Use Stage: In this stage of the knowledge management system, you need to combine the information in various ways. The information could be individual or grouped together in a way that it is easy to use in the future. The knowledge will be useful for the innovation or renovation of various processes in the knowledge management processes of your organization.

3. Learn Stage: In a business environment, whenever you extract or share knowledge, new knowledge is automatically generated. It does not matter whether the venture is successful or a failure. By doing this, you and your organization get multiple benefits. It will help you ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated again in the future when you are working on some other project that is similar to it. This knowledge will also help you improve competitive advantage. Hence, it is important to integrate this new way of knowledge sharing.

4. Contribute stage: Employees are like the cogs in a wheel. Hence, it is crucial that your knowledge management process includes contributions from the employees as well. In the Bukowitz and William knowledge management process, the employees give their contributions so that there is a continuous updating of the database and the knowledge repositories. It helps you to easily document tacit knowledge.

4. McElroy Model (2003)

McElroy Model

McElroy, through his knowledge management processes, shows concern with knowledge production and integration. By doing so, he is actually building upon the process focus of the Bukowitz and William knowledge management model. This helps create different ways for your employees or the team members to submit claims when they don’t receive or fail to understand knowledge. This is an effort to improve group learning and contribution by the team members. The phases in the McElroy model are learning, validation, acquisition, integration, and completion.

FAQs

1. How do I begin developing a strategy for knowledge management?

Answer: You will first need to decide which KM model you are going to follow from the 4 mentioned in this blog. After that, you may start with the first step in the strategy development plan for your knowledge management.

2. What are the major components of knowledge management?

Answer: Knowledge management includes components such as people, process, IT, content and also strategy.

3. What is the knowledge management cycle?

Answer: Knowledge management cycle is a process that helps you transform raw data into knowledge within your organization. The KM cycle focuses on all the steps of the knowledge management process from the beginning until the end. It starts from the first step of data collection and ends at knowledge sharing.
4. What are the types of knowledge management?

Answer: The four major types of knowledge management systems are: enterprise-wide knowledge management systems, knowledge work systems, decision support systems and database management systems.

Conclusion

Knowledge management processes are an essential practice for businesses and organizations. Organizational knowledge also helps in adding long-term benefits for the company in the form of finances, culture, and people.

Therefore, all mature organizations should take necessary steps for using best practices in knowledge management processes so that they can enhance their business operations and the organization's overall capability.

Knowledge management processes are the science of pictorially depicting the KM framework in such a way that it shows the integration and inter-relationships between various knowledge management elements in a lucid manner. Knowledge management models and tools try to capture all the different management processes within an organization, the unique knowledge management requirements of each of them and facilitate a system of acquiring and storing this data using the right tools to enable continuous learning and improvement in the functioning of the organization.

A knowledge management framework is one that captures all the relevant aspects of knowledge management with appropriate detail. As organizational needs vary, you must choose the right knowledge management model and tools so as not to waste time and resources in capturing irrelevant data.

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