ERIC Identifier: ED464520
Publication Date: 2001-00-00
Author: Milam, John H., Jr.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Higher Education Washington DC.
Knowledge Management for Higher Education. ERIC Digest.
Knowledge Management (KM) principles recognize that it is important for
organizations to "know what they know." All institutions inherently store,
access, and deliver knowledge in some manner. The question is what value is
added to the products and services they deliver by the effective use of that
"Almost any institution in this country will make reference to the capturing
of knowledge, the sharing of knowledge and the delivery of knowledge from
faculty to students," explains Stevenson. However, KM involves much more, going
beyond the inherent knowledge industry of colleges and universities. In the
EDUCAUSE Leadership Strategies volume entitled Information Alchemy: The Art and
Science of Knowledge Management, Bernbom explains that KM involves the
"discovery and capture of knowledge, the filtering and arrangement of this
knowledge, and the value derived from sharing and using this knowledge
throughout the organization" (2001, p. xiv). It is this "organized complexity"
of collaborative work to share and use information across all aspects of an
institution which marks the effective use of knowledge.
Higher education institutions have "significant opportunities to apply
knowledge management practices to support every part of their mission," explains
Kidwell et al (2001, p. 24). "Knowledge management should not strike higher
education institutions as a radically new idea; rather it is a new spin on their
raison d'etre" (p. 24). The problem is that it is such a "wide open area of
study that it is difficult to understand the implications of knowledge
management for an educational setting" (Thorn, 2001, p. 25). This digest offers
a basic introduction to the potential of KM for higher education.
Companies with a focus on KM pay close
attention to issues of collaboration, organizational learning, best practices,
workflow, intellectual property management, document management;
customer-centric focus, and using data effectively. KM initiatives include
portals that use the web to span communication across an entire enterprise and
to promote business-to-business relationships (Roberts-Witt, 1999; Ruber, 2000).
The Internet is also used intensively for team collaboration and groupware;
natural language queries of data; sharing information on best practices; and
anytime/anywhere online learning (Delio, 1999; Sherman, 2000).
According to a survey conducted by Knowledge Management magazine and
International Data Corporation (IDC) about the state of KM (Dyer and McDonough,
2001), the primary business uses or domains of KM are to:
and share best practices (77.7%)
training, corporate learning (62.4%)
customer relationships (58.0%)
competitive intelligence (55.7%)
project workspace (31.4%)
legal, intellectual property (31.4%)
web publishing (29.9%)
supply chain management (20.1%)
E-learning is one of the most important KM practices, something which one
would expect higher education institutions to have as an advantage. Yet these
e-learning opportunities are geared most often to students as online customers,
not to employees as part of capitalizing on their knowledge as an intellectual
asset. The e-learning focus in KM is on "just-in-time knowledge," delivered
anytime and anywhere, with the traditional "course" disaggregated into
"knowledge chunks." Two-thirds of 700 companies polled in a Delphi Group study
use online resources for training employees (Survey Tracks, 2001).
Data warehouses, data mining, and virtual reality modeling are used as new
ways to visualize and transcend extraordinarily complex, transaction-based data
(Knowledge Integrity, 2000; Nylund, 2000). The concept of the "executive
information system" is taken much further with the use of digital dashboards for
monitoring critical processes and performance measures (Angus, 1999a; Karlenzig,
1999; Microsoft, 2000, 2001).
The Microsoft White Paper entitled "Digital Dashboard Business Process
Assessment Guide" provides a useful description of this tool:
A digital dashboard is a customized solution for knowledge workers that
consolidates personal, team, corporate, and external information and provides
single-click access to analytical and collaborative tools. It brings an
integrated view of a company's knowledge sources to an individual's desktop,
enabling better decision making by providing immediate access to key business
information... (Microsoft, 2000, pp. 1-2).
The goals for the digital dashboard are to focus on critical information,
integrate information from a variety of sources, use company knowledge fully,
and work with the same information in the office or on the move. In addition,
there is a special new focus on "attention management tools" that are designed
to address the problem of information overload and help executives focus with
personalized web portals to monitor their unique priorities and mission.
Finally, perhaps the most pervasive focus in KM is on being customer-centric,
something shared with the TQM and CQI management philosophies but much more
pragmatic and data-driven when approached within KM. Much of customer care is
moved to the web, where this involves "improved customer satisfaction by meeting
their needs at the first point of contact;" more efficient operations that
combine call centers and the web; and increased site traffic "eyeballs" and
"stickiness" that help build a cohesive online community (Ward, 2001).
The point of KM in customer relations is to retain "institutional memory."
With a variety of software tools, the "knowledge base pushes relevant
information -- such as product announcements, special offers, industry news and
regional updates to these customers and partners, based on rules" (Anderson,
2001, p. 64).
REASONS TO ADOPT KM
Two universities with identical numbers
of faculty, degree programs, expenditures, and enrollment may vary widely in how
successful they are in rankings such as those conducted by U.S. News and World
Report. The difference is often intangible value that is added by effective
knowledge management. Organizations that reward collaboration and information
sharing are "outperforming companies that discourage these practices..." (Microsoft, 2000, p. 1).
The 2001 survey by Knowledge Management and IDC found that of those companies
that adopt KM, the top reasons are to:
expertise of personnel (51.9%)
customer satisfaction (43.1%)
profits, grow revenues (37.5%)
e-business initiatives (24.7%)
product development cycles (23.0%)
project workspace (11.7%)
As public, private, and for profit higher education institutions alike
respond to the phenomenal growth of online courses, cyber colleges, and virtual
universities, these same reasons to adopt KM apply. It is with KM that colleges
will be better able to increase student retention and graduation rates; retain a
technology workforce in the face of severe employee shortages; expand new web
based offerings; work to analyze the cost effective use of technology to meet
more enrollment; transform existing transaction-based systems to provide
information, not just data, for management; and compete in an environment where
institutions cross state and national borders to meet student needs
By leveraging knowledge capital, the nature
of organizations changes as they become more effective. A new dynamic of
information versus data comes into play. In her analysis of grassroots
initiatives for KM, Delio found that even when there is support in top
management for a project, the KM leader is "not a top dog in the organization." Of 3,500 IT executives surveyed, only a small fraction (7%) had CEOs who support
KM. Most of the companies implementing KM do it at a grassroots level, with only
8% driven from the top (Delio, 2000). Richard Danzig, Secretary of the Navy
explains this phenomenon:
One of the attractions of the information revolution is that it moves us away
from a top-heavy structure... Information acts like a force of gravity that
pulls the decision-making power lower into the organization, so it has more
freedom, flexibility and vibrancy. The gravitational pull is toward greater
freedom and flexibility for junior personnel, and I think that's very healthy
(Delio, 2000, p. 50).
CHALLENGES TO IMPLEMENTING KM
There are obvious challenges
to the implementation of KM. The Knowledge Management magazine/IDC survey (Dyer
and McDonough, 2001) documents the following:
have no time for KM (41.0%)
culture does not encourage sharing (36.6%)
of understanding of KM and benefits (29.5%)
to measure financial benefits of KM (24.5%)
of skill in KM techniques (22.7%)
processes are not designed for KM (22.2%)
of funding for KM (21.8%)
of incentives, rewards to share (19.9%)
not yet begun implementing KM (18.7%)
of appropriate technology (17.4%)
of commitment from senior management (13.9%)
challenges encountered (4.3%)
USING STORIES IN DECISION-MAKING
In KM, storytelling serves
two purposes. It can "quickly disseminate information and convey meaning at a
high level of understanding," explains Scott Smith, global executive for KM at
IBM Global Services, in an interview by Gill (2001, p. 27).
greatest benefit of using storytelling in KM may come from its ability to
capture tacit knowledge, which many observers call the most valuable knowledge
asset of an organization. Unlike explicit knowledge, which is written down in
documents, manuals and other accessible sources, tacit knowledge is implicit in
the minds of people, many of whom literally don't know how much their experience
has taught them (Gill, 2001, p. 27).
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Angus, Jeff. (1999b). "Challenging Quaquaversality." Knowledge Management,
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Knowledge Management (4):4. pp. CS1-CS6. Special Advertising Section.