The next challenge facing the delivery of information is the relevance of the content and how far effective is it in communicating the message to the intended audience. Structuring the content and information in a logical sequence and in an easy to relate manner plays an important role in effective knowledge transfer. The IT tools used for information dissemination are key players in enabling knowledge managers to deliver the contents in a structured manner. Tools enable easy understanding and accessibility to relevant content and information.
The survey by EIU (2005) reveals that most managers feel that having information that they can quickly interpret or analyse is much more important than having access to information on the move. Jay Liebowitz (1995) in his book Knowledge Management Handbook states that there are many dimensions to knowledge management and this includes storage media, accessibility, typology and hierarchy. Knowledge can be stored in various media forms that comprises of human mind, organization, document and computer. Knowledge within the human mind is difficult to access while organizational knowledge is distributed.
Knowledge in a document ranges from text to well structured charts and tables whereas computer knowledge is more formal, shareable, well structured and organized. One of the pre-requisites for implementing KM using IT tools is a deeper understanding of the tools or technologies being used in the process. The survey conducted by EIU (2005) observes that one of the primary reasons for failure of knowledge management solutions in the past is that firms have invested in technology without fully understanding the needs of the user. The intranet has emerged as an important tool in disseminating knowledge within the companies.
Most companies now make use of their own Intranets to share company information, management policies, quality standards and work procedures. “While many Intranets are still languishing as a dumping ground for business documents, there is the potential to make Intranets a valuable tool to support knowledge management initiatives” (Robertson, 2004). According to Robertson (2004) in his article Intranets and Knowledge Sharing the potential use that this media can adopt in knowledge management initiatives ranges from communities of practice, staff directory, expertise and knowledge, to building collaborative work environments.
Communities of practice concept as elaborated by the author in his article suggest that the Intranet can be effectively used to share knowledge in a less formal environment. Building a home page for the community of practice can encourage users to establish an identity for their group and promoting its existence throughout the organization. In organizations having multiple branches across different locations these groups can collaborate and share information using the Intranet facilities.
These groups can take the responsibility to create knowledge base that can be shared by others within the organization through weblogs. Technologies like content management systems, collaborative environments, wikis, and specialized community of practice tools can be used to construct the knowledge base. The author observes that “while a community of practice must obviously focus on human interaction, it must also be supported by an effective environment and infrastructure. ” The Intranet can be effectively used to facilitate people contact each other through the staff directory tool.
Most of the organizations use this tool and employees find it very effective in locating individuals across various departments and locations. The staff directory tool should essentially contain contact details of all staff within the company. Some organizations place photos, organizational chart and link project to concerned staff members. Linking the staff to projects they are involved in and the content they are responsible for maintaining on the Intranet makes it convenient to find experts on any particular field of operation.
Many organizations list the specific skills and expertise of the employees on the Intranet. This is beneficial tool that helps people in finding people for any project based on their areas of expertise. However, the challenge facing managers is to encourage people to list their expertise, and to keep the directory up to date (Robertson, 2004). Knowledge management must occur on three levels within the organization – sharing knowledge that is relevant to the entire organization, information that is shared within a team, and information meant for any specific individual.
Using the Intranet to promote collaboration between team members is a popular management practice today. Many organizations have taken this path, and have supported the creation of team level collaborative spaces using a range of technologies. One of the greatest advantages that the use of Intranet in knowledge management, presents to an organization is its low cost of application, widely adopted features and its capacity to share extensive knowledge base.
Implementing Intranet based knowledge management tool within the organization can be a challenging task in meeting the specific knowledge sharing needs of the company. Robertson in his article Knowledge sharing and Intranet (2003) recommends a five step process in implementing KM using Intranet as the tool within the organization. The first step is to identify the knowledge needs throughout the organization that requires a detailed study of the organizational culture and specific team information needs that can be met through the Intranet.
The second step is to develop a knowledge management strategy to address these needs. The third step involves designing effective interfaces using information architecture to present information and content to the end user. The designing process should incorporate features that are easy to use and understand. The fourth step is to develop suitable technology platforms and lastly conducting a change management program through internal communications that encourage employees to adopt new systems and processes.