Posted by: wppienaar | 18/Jun/2009

Knowledge Management Tools, Techniques & Applications

 
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT TOOLS, TECHNIQUES AND APPLICATIONS
1. Introduction
Organizations became more and more aware of the value of intellectual assets sitting in their human capital.  In a time where organizational success is meticulously measured in balance scorecards, financial statements and good governance, little is said about the tacit knowledge of its human capital.  Knowledge Management focuses our attention on this asset to meet business objectives.  Knowledge Management is therefore the process whereby knowledge are created, captured, shared and applied for value-creation.  In a more defined sense, “KM is to define and support organizational structure, allocate personnel to tasks, and monitor knowledge engineering activities (Berztiss, A in Schwartz, DG; 2006: 24).
Experience has showed that people don’t necessarily share their knowledge easily, and similarly, the existence of Knowledge Management Systems does not automatically cause people to share their knowledge.  The tacit knowledge in an organization’s workforce still needs to be utilised and codified to be of value for an organization.  Knowledge management therefore needs “to establish an environment in which people are encouraged to create, learn, share, and use knowledge together for the benefit of the organisation, the people who work in it, and the organisation’s customers” (Robertson, S; 2005).  
In this paper, three knowledge management (KM) tools, techniques and applications will be briefly discussed and compared to find its benefits and limitations as a tool, technique or application.  
2. Knowledge Management Tools, Techniques and/or Applications
2.1 KM Tool: Content Management System (CMS)
A Knowledge Management tool is considered as something with which knowledge is managed.  If for example, a computer is needed to manage the knowledge, it is defined as a tool.  In this sense, a Content Management System (CMS), Intranet, wiki, Knowledge Maps and a blog would be examples of a KM tool as all these require the use of a computer to “manage” knowledge.
2.1.1 Definition of CMS
A content management system (CMS) is a software application or processes which manages and updates the content of a web site.  CMS became popular as more and more internet users started to have their own web sites without having to know HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), the language of writing a web site or html file.  On Plone’s web site, an Open Source CMS, they define themselves as a solution whereby “non-technical people create and maintain information using only a web browser” (http://plone.org/).  One can also think of a CMS as a template for writing content and submitting it to a web site.  This should not be confused with a blog.  Although a blog is also used to submit content to a web site, a blog is generally part of a CMS and not a CMS in itself.  Therefore, “Content Management System is a way of managing content and a Blog is a way of using a CMS” (Neto, M : 2009).  Similarly, a CMS is also not a portal or Intranet.  A CMS can be used as a portal or intranet, but is much more than only a portal or an intranet.
In terms of Knowledge Management, the definition of James Robertson also incorporates the knowledge management processes.  Robertson defines a CMS as a system that “supports the creation, management, distribution, publishing, and discovery of corporate information” (Robertson, J: 2003).
Different CMS’s are available on the Internet, like Plone, Joomla and Drupal.  These are all part of the Open Source Software movement.  There are however, many commercial CM Systems available, like CM3, OpenText, Documentum and Oracle’s Stellen Web CM.  These systems all have different features to cater for the needs of its users, but will generally offer indexing and searching facilities, authoring abilities and a repository facility.  
2.1.2 Benefits & limitations of CMS
The biggest benefit of a CMS is the ability for anybody in an organization to participate in creating and publishing content.  In the beginning of the internet, it was up to highly skilled HTML developers to create and publish content to a web site.  This was also the impetus for many software developers to develop tools and templates for non-technical users to start building their own web sites.  Today many of these software, commercial and Open Source, are available.  But it was still necessary to create a web site with its content.  There was still a level of technicality to it, albeit with a GUI (like Microsoft’s FrontPage).  The next generation was the establishment of CMS from where anybody can create and publish content through a web interface, no software installs, no technical or HTML developing skills necessary as a CMS separates the design (HTML) from the content.  
The ease of creating and publishing content ensured that knowledge can be created and shared by all.  In the past the developers only created the web site structure while other departments were responsible for the creating of content.  From own experience, the developers didn’t know how the content was to be published, while the information departments, didn’t know what was possible through the technology.  Another problem was the time delay in updating the content.  CMS provides the ability for anybody with content (tacit knowledge) to be able to create and publish that content to a web site, ready to be indexed and retrieved much quicker than in the past.  If an external company has built a web site or intranet, this feature of CMS also saves the cost of support and maintenance by eliminating the need for the developer to make small changes to a web site.
Another benefit of CMS is the ability to index, organize and share knowledge quicker and easier.   Because content is organized according to consistent metadata structures, the finding of content is improved.  “Basically, if the appropriate metadata is captured on all documents, then people can find the right content a lot more quickly” (McGovern, G. 2002).
Interestingly, the same benefit of ease of use of a CMS, is also one of its limitations as the design is often captured in HTML stylesheets (Cascading Style Sheets).  Although CSS can be changed, it requires the knowledge of HTML and CSS file formatting and structure and is therefore not easy to modify a CMS to one’s own formatting or colour schemes.  Many CMS’ does provide “themes” (a set of fonts, backgrounds and colour schemes assembled in a changeable CSS) to be able to establish a personal look-and-feel to a CMS, but even these themes are limited.
2.1.3 How does CMS contribute to Knowledge Management
From James Robertson’s definition, it is already clear that a CMS contributes to KM as it facilitates all of the KM processes, like creation, capturing, sharing, organizing and using or discovery of information.  A CMS helps the creation of information by providing the platform for creating content to be published to a web site.  A CMS stores information and also makes the retrieval thereof possible by indexing and searching facilities they offer.  A CMS contributes by transfer knowledge from tacit to explicit knowledge and consequently publish this acquired knowledge to be used by an organization (application).
CM3 claims that their product not only relates to knowledge management, but also to Digital Asset Management, Document Management and Content Management amongst others (http://www.cm3cms.com/company/articles/whatisit.html).  This proves that a CMS greatly contributes Knowledge Management. 
2.2 KM Technique: Storytelling
A Knowledge Management technique is a method of extracting tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. 
2.2.1 Definition of Storytelling
Storytelling is a way of sharing your “story” with someone.  It is an ancient method of education.  For thousands of years the biblical account of God’s involvement with man was transferred from generation to generation through storytelling.  Thomas Groome recalls that “remembering and representing the Story is an essential part of the Jewish and Christian process of knowing God” (1980:192).  In KM, storytelling became an important communication tool to share knowledge, experiences, ideas and even emotions and can be used effectively in an organization to gather knowledge.  Despite many different schools and definitions of storytelling, storytelling aims to keep “the story alive”, to convey a message in a narrative genre.  Storytelling is therefore “a method to illustrate a point, convince listeners, and effectively transfer knowledge by narrating management actions, employee interactions, or other relevant events within an organization” (Ribiere, V.M. & J.A. Roman; 2006:343).
2.2.2 Benefits & limitations of Storytelling
Storytelling as a technique has several benefits.  Because one is sharing “your story”, your experiences of a happening, it is not only truthful, but also shares deeper meanings.  Although Denning requires stories to be a representation of the truth, many others believe that truthfulness is arbitrary and is “secondary to its intended use” (Connel, N..A.D. 2006:722).  Stories form part of human existence and is used in everyday life because of its power – it is captivating, shares emotions, often gives deeper understanding of events, and is personal because listeners get involved in the stories.
Storytelling as a technique also helps in building relationships in an organization.  By re-telling shared experiences, people “connects” to each other and a sense of belonging is create, which in turn creates loyalty to each other and consequently to the organization.  The more one was part of a story of the organization, the more one feels compelled to be part of the solution, to work cooperatively with others because of common experiences with others.
  
Its limitations are that it cannot be used for every situation.  Because storytelling has a personal character to it, it can be counter-productive if it is used without the personal touch, without the emotional side to it.  Although the personal character of storytelling is what makes storytelling so authentic, it can also be a limitation in situations where you need objectivity, or when reporting on routine situations (SDC Knowledge Management Toolkit).  The power of storytelling lies in the interpretation and application listeners make of it in their own situations.  “Stories can provide context to interpret otherwise difficult data” (Snowden, D; 2006:680).  If you as the storyteller try to make that interpretation for others, you are limiting the power of storytelling, even robbing it from its power.  In a sense, “you have to stand back and trust that the story will ignite the listener’s own creativity” (Denning, S. 2000).  With other words, storytelling will not work where someone is trying to impose their views, their solutions on others as it robs storytelling of its characteristic of identification to the story and finding solutions.  Storytelling also needs to be understandable.
2.2.3 How does Storytelling contribute to Knowledge Management?
Storytelling is a very useful tool for organizations to create, share and transfer knowledge and experiences.  The fact that storytelling is used for centuries proves that the narrative discourse appeals to people.  It gives us an imaginary visualization while the story is being told.
In the process of creation of Knowledge, storytelling can assist by creating a visual image of information.  Visualization is a powerful media for capturing people’s imagination.  This is clearly seen in the space the electronic media (TV) and computer games have taken in the lives of modern men. Storytelling also helps inspiring people to create their own stories and therefore valuable insights and knowledge.  This is why storytelling is also a valuable KM tool in simplifying complex issues.
Storytelling also contributes to KM in the process of storage of knowledge by storing information of the past, ways of the past for future reference.  
Storytelling is probably mostly associated with the transfer of knowledge.  A story can help organizations to revisit successes and failures to learn from the experience.  Storytelling is also useful in strategic planning where the vision, mission and strategy of an organization need to be transferred to its employees.  “You have to take the time to find a story of your vision in a way that connects—a story that people can see” (Simmons, A.).  Craig de Lange (2009) provides a list of organizational processes which has all to do with the transfer of knowledge, for example Strategy Articulation, Cultural Development, Change Management and gaining insight in Client Relations.  
Storytelling hugely contributes knowledge management because it speaks to the heart and therefore opens us up for the transfer of knowledge. 
 
2.3 KM Application: Blogging
Knowledge Management applications are Web 2.0 websites and web applications that are used to assist people in sharing their knowledge.  Web 2.0 was the next generation development of web and internet protocols that made sharing and collaboration much more accessible to everyone, thereby creating the opportunities for social networking, web-based communities, forums and blogs.
2.3.1 Definition of Blogging
Blog is a derivative of the word “web log”.  In essence a blog or web log is an “e-diary”, an electronic version of a personal diary.  It soon developed in more than just an e-diary and rapidly became a system where individuals can add items, share insight, write articles etc. to a web site.  Webopedia defines a blog as  “a Web page that serves as a publicly accessible personal journal for an individual. Typically updated daily, blogs often reflect the personality of the author”.  SearchWinDevelopment.com added another dimension to its definition by saying blogs is online journals of people “intended for public consumption” (2007).  This is important as it is the link to Knowledge Management.  Many might argue that personal e-diaries do not contribute much to Knowledge Management but if it is content “for public consumption” it becomes a valuable tool in Knowledge Management.
2.3.2 Benefits & limitations of Blogging
The biggest benefit of blogs is the ease with which everybody can write and publish content, available to others, thereby creating and sharing knowledge.  Blogs made publishing of personal content available to everybody at a fraction of the cost of publishing a book by implementing Web 2.0 technology.  Because it is free and available, it does not have to go through the rigorous evaluation by publishing houses before publishing content, thereby creating huge opportunities for knowledge to be created and shared with everyone.  It gives therefore the author an opportunity to express himself “without the interference of a third party, such as an editor” (Babak).
Because blogs do give readers the opportunity to react (comment), they are excellent in provoking feedback and discussions.  “Potentially, the blogosphere results in even more collaboration, as it is open to a wider audience than strictly the community.” (Vinson : 2007).  Blogging also opens up the channels of communication and discussions.  A lower level employee has an opportunity (even anonymously) to participate in a post from management in which that level of employee would not have access to without blogging.  Blogging also brings different commentators together, broadening a debate with more knowledgeable contributors.  Especially on the internet, posting a contentious article on an internet blog, will attract millions of commentators and adding much more objectivity to a discussion than the same discussion would attract in a small local group.
Exactly this benefit can also pose a limitation to blogs.  Comments and feedback opens up discussions on a topic, but it rarely causes the originator to modify its opinions.  The dynamic on a blog therefore is in favour of the original creator of a post, inhibiting true and honest discussions.  
Blogs can be totally anonymous which, in an organizational context, can be beneficial, but they can also be too personal and subjective which inhibits objectivity.
Because blogs are presented in a chronological order (newest on top), it is not easy to find older entries, in which case a wiki is of more use as content can be organized alphabetically rather than blogs’ chronological approach.
2.3.3 How does Blogs contribute to Knowledge Management
Blogs contribute in several of KM processes.  Blogs contribute in the process of creating knowledge.  Apart from the approximately 200,000 posts that WordPress.com are recording daily, an organization can use an organizational blog to let their employees create insights, shared experiences or failures on recent activities by creating blogs.  These blogs stimulate discussion and collaboration amongst other employees which facilitates not only sharing but re-creation of more knowledge as people interact with each other.  Organizations who have been implementing blogs, reported an improvement on internal communications, re-engineering of work processes and even replacing email as main method of communicating (Ward : 2005).
3. Conclusion
This paper gave an overview on 3 Knowledge Management (KM) tools, techniques and applications as a means to capture and share tacit knowledge.  More and more companies realise the value of their human capital and the knowledge they share.
Some KM tools, which help managing knowledge, are KM Systems, portals, intranet, Knowledge Maps and a Content Management Systems.  This paper discussed CMS as a KM tool which enables non-technical users to create and publish content to web sites without having the need to code the html pages.  An organization can use CMS effectively by allowing its employees to share their experiences, successes and failures to internal web sites.
KM techniques are methods of extracting tacit knowledge from people.  There are many KM techniques available for different situations like After Action Review, Swot Analysis , Brainstorming, Communities of Practice, Storytelling, Anecdote to mention a few.  This paper discussed Storytelling as a technique or method to extract valuable experiences from people.  An organization can use Storytelling effectively to assist in knowledge management.  Storytelling is an effective method in troubleshooting scenarios and to break down forms of resistance in a particular group.
KM applications are mostly Web 2.0 developments that are used to assist people in sharing their knowledge easily by using web technologies.  The best known KM application is email, which is becoming the primary tool of written communication between people and organizations.  Many applications are available to manage email, for example, Microsoft’s Outlook and Groupware.  Other KM applications are Skype, Social Networking, RSS and podcasting, to name a few.  This paper discussed blogging as a KM application.  Blogging is a useful application available to organizations to allow employees to share their knowledge and experiences on blogs.  It also allows for other to participate on a blog by writing comments and hereby fostering discussions and subscribing to a blog of interest with RSS (Real Simple Syndication).  A study reported that 53% of companies who responded on a survey, indicated that they implemented blogging (Ward : 2005).  Another study reported as much as 89% of companies implemented blogging or plan to implement (Guidewire Group : 2005).  Blogging is becoming a useful tool for organizations managing their knowledge.
The advances in Information Technology has had a huge impact on information and knowledge management by making available repositories of information and knowledge to people worldwide through the use of technologies.  “ICT allows the movement of information at increasing speeds and efficiencies, and thus facilitates sharing as well as accelerated growth of knowledge” (Becerra-Fernandez & Sabherwal. 2006:1). IT provided the technology, but the available knowledge now needs to be managed.  Knowledge Management aims to create, share and apply these vast quantities of information to become knowledge in the hands of the users.
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4. References
Babak, D. Blogs and Freedom of Expression.  [online]. Retrieved 29 April 2009 from http://sangonet.org.za/portal/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4333&Itemid=173. 
Becerra-Fernandez, I & R. Sabherwal. (2006). ICT and Knowledge Management Systems. In: Schwartz, D.G. (ed). 2006. Encyclopaedia of Knowledge Management. London: Idea: 230 – 236.
Bellingham, Daryll. (2001). The Art of Storytelling: The Power of Stories in the Corporate Environment. [online]. Retrieved 21 April 2009 from http://members.optusnet.com.au/~dbelling/artnscorp2.html
Berztiss, A.T. (2006). Capability Maturity. In: Schwartz, D.G. (ed). 2006. Encyclopaedia of Knowledge Management. London: Idea: 24-29.
Bontis, N. Managing Organizational Knowledge by Diagnosing Intellectual Capital. ????
Callahan, S. How to use Storytelling to size up a situation. [online].  Retrieved 9 April 2009 from http://www.anecdote.com.au/whitepapers.php
Caltan, S & V Ward. (2004). Story Guide: Building bridges using narrative techniques.  Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. [online]. Retrieved 18 April 2009 from http://www.km4dev.org/index.php?module=uploads&func=download&fileId=347 
Connell, N.A.D. (2006).  Organisational Storytelling.  In: Schwartz, D.G. (ed). 2006. Encyclopaedia of Knowledge Management. London: Idea: 721-727
De Lange, C. (2009). Storytelling Dissertation slides. [online] Retrieved 21 April 2009 from http://www.slideshare.net/cadelarge/storytelling-dissertation-slides-2-24-09-for-drexel-i-schooll
Denning, S. (2000).  The Springboard: How storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations. [online]. Retrieved on 19 April 2009 from http://www.creatingthe21stcentury.org/Steve17-limitations.html
Eppler, M.J. & R.A. Burkhard. (2006). Knowledge Visualization. In: Schwartz, D.G. (ed). 2006. Encyclopedia of Knowledge Management. London: Idea: 551-560
FX Programming. (2007). Limitations of a Content Management System. [online] Retrieved 28 April 2009 from http://www.mainely.us/node/62. 
Groome, T.H. (1980). Christian Religious Education. Harper Collins Publishers, New York.
KM Tools: Capturing and Codifying Knowledge [online]. Retrieved 9 April 2009 from http://www.icasit.org/km/tools/codify.htm
KM Tools: Collaboration Tools and Articles [online]. Retrieved 9 April 2009 from http://www.icasit.org/km/tools/collabsite.htm
KM Tools: Creating Knowledge [online]. Retrieved 9 April 2009 from http://www.icasit.org/km/tools/create.htm
KM Tools: Sharing Knowledge [online]. Retrieved 9 April 2009 from http://www.icasit.org/km/tools/share.htm
Knowledge Management Strategy Team (2008). Knowledge Management: Tools and Techniques.  [online] Retrieved 14 April 2009 from http://www.idea.gov.uk/idk/aio/8595069
Knowledge Sharing Toolkit. Blogs [online].  Retrieved 29 April 2009 from http://www.kstoolkit.org/Blogs. 
Knowledge Sharing Toolkit. Storytelling [online].  Retrieved 9 April 2009 from http://www.kstoolkit.org/Storytelling. 
McGovern, Gerry. (2002). The benefits of a Content Management System. [online]. Retrieved 28 April 2009 from http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/nt/2002/nt_2002_07_01_cms.htm 
Neto, M. (2009). While we are at it … [online].  Retrieved 28 April 2009 from http://eetemplates.com/index.php/blog/comments/while_we_are_at_it/ .
Ramalingam, B (2006). Tools for Knowledge and Learning: A Guide for Development and Humanitarian Organisations. Retrieved 29 April 2009 from http://www.odi.org.uk/resources/download/153.pdf 
Ribière, V.M. & J.A. Román. (2006). Knowledge Flow. In: Schwartz, D.G. (ed). 2006. Encyclopaedia of Knowledge Management. London: Idea: 336-343.
Robertson, J. (2003). So, what is a CMS?  [online] Retrieved 28 April 2009 from http://www.steptwo.com.au/papers/kmc_what/index.html 
Robertson, S. (2005); What is Knowledge Management? [online].  Retrieved 3 April 2009 from http://www.library.nhs.uk/KnowledgeManagement/ViewResource.aspx?resID=88741&tabID=290&catID=10406
Schwartz, D.G. (ed). (2006).  Encyclopaedia of Knowledge Management. Idea Group Reference Inc., London. 
SearchWinDevelopment.com. (2007). Definitions – blog. [online]. Retrieved 29 April 2009 from http://searchwindevelopment.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid8_gci214616,00.html 
Simmons, A. The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell. [online].   Retrieved 21 April 2009 from http://www.storytellingcenter.net/resources/articles/simmons.htm
Sipiora, M.J. & F. Lehner. [online]. Retrieved 21 April 2009 from http://storytellinginorganizations.com/index.php?page=home-more  
Snowden, D. (2006). Narrative. In: Schwartz, D.G. (ed). 2006. Encyclopedia of Knowledge Management. London: Idea: 678-682
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Storytelling. [online].  Retrieved 14 April 2009 from http://www.daretoshare.ch/en/Dare_To_Share/Knowledge_Management_Toolkit/media/Story%20Telling/Storytelling%20full%20text%20E.pdf
The International Development Research Centre.  [online]. Retrieved 19 April 2009 from http://www.idrc.ca/uploads/user-S/1226604770112265956261Chapter_3%5B1%5D.pdf. 
Vinson, J. (2007). Blogs are Knowledge Management Tools.  [online]. Retrieved 29 April 2009 from http://blog.jackvinson.com/archives/2007/02/11/blogs_are_knowledge_management_tools.html. 
Ward, T. (2005).  Study: Intranet Blogging on the rise. [online]. Retrieved 29 April 2009 from http://intranetblog.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2005/10/24/1318816.html%29.
Web Design Discussion. (2007).  Content Management System Benefits. [online]. Retrieved 28 April 2009 from http://www.drostdesigns.com/content-management-system-benefits/ 
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by WP Pienaar (2009)

1. Introduction

Organizations became more and more aware of the value of intellectual assets sitting in their human capital.  In a time where organizational success is meticulously measured in balance scorecards, financial statements and good governance, little is said about the tacit knowledge of its human capital.  Knowledge Management focuses our attention on this asset to meet business objectives.  Knowledge Management is therefore the process whereby knowledge are created, captured, shared and applied for value-creation.  In a more defined sense, “KM is to define and support organizational structure, allocate personnel to tasks, and monitor knowledge engineering activities (Berztiss, A in Schwartz, DG; 2006: 24).

Experience has showed that people don’t necessarily share their knowledge easily, and similarly, the existence of Knowledge Management Systems does not automatically cause people to share their knowledge.  The tacit knowledge in an organization’s workforce still needs to be utilised and codified to be of value for an organization.  Knowledge management therefore needs “to establish an environment in which people are encouraged to create, learn, share, and use knowledge together for the benefit of the organisation, the people who work in it, and the organisation’s customers” (Robertson, S; 2005).  

In this paper, three knowledge management (KM) tools, techniques and applications will be briefly discussed and compared to find its benefits and limitations as a tool, technique or application.  

 

2. Knowledge Management Tools, Techniques and/or Applications

2.1 KM Tool: Content Management System (CMS)

A Knowledge Management tool is considered as something with which knowledge is managed.  If for example, a computer is needed to manage the knowledge, it is defined as a tool.  In this sense, a Content Management System (CMS), Intranet, wiki, Knowledge Maps and a blog would be examples of a KM tool as all these require the use of a computer to “manage” knowledge.

 

2.1.1 Definition of CMS

A content management system (CMS) is a software application or processes which manages and updates the content of a web site.  CMS became popular as more and more internet users started to have their own web sites without having to know HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), the language of writing a web site or html file.  On Plone’s web site, an Open Source CMS, they define themselves as a solution whereby “non-technical people create and maintain information using only a web browser” (http://plone.org/).  One can also think of a CMS as a template for writing content and submitting it to a web site.  This should not be confused with a blog.  Although a blog is also used to submit content to a web site, a blog is generally part of a CMS and not a CMS in itself.  Therefore, “Content Management System is a way of managing content and a Blog is a way of using a CMS” (Neto, M : 2009).  Similarly, a CMS is also not a portal or Intranet.  A CMS can be used as a portal or intranet, but is much more than only a portal or an intranet.

In terms of Knowledge Management, the definition of James Robertson also incorporates the knowledge management processes.  Robertson defines a CMS as a system that “supports the creation, management, distribution, publishing, and discovery of corporate information” (Robertson, J: 2003).

Different CMS’s are available on the Internet, like Plone, Joomla and Drupal.  These are all part of the Open Source Software movement.  There are however, many commercial CM Systems available, like CM3, OpenText, Documentum and Oracle’s Stellen Web CM.  These systems all have different features to cater for the needs of its users, but will generally offer indexing and searching facilities, authoring abilities and a repository facility.  

 

2.1.2 Benefits & limitations of CMS

The biggest benefit of a CMS is the ability for anybody in an organization to participate in creating and publishing content.  In the beginning of the internet, it was up to highly skilled HTML developers to create and publish content to a web site.  This was also the impetus for many software developers to develop tools and templates for non-technical users to start building their own web sites.  Today many of these software, commercial and Open Source, are available.  But it was still necessary to create a web site with its content.  There was still a level of technicality to it, albeit with a GUI (like Microsoft’s FrontPage).  The next generation was the establishment of CMS from where anybody can create and publish content through a web interface, no software installs, no technical or HTML developing skills necessary as a CMS separates the design (HTML) from the content.  

The ease of creating and publishing content ensured that knowledge can be created and shared by all.  In the past the developers only created the web site structure while other departments were responsible for the creating of content.  From own experience, the developers didn’t know how the content was to be published, while the information departments, didn’t know what was possible through the technology.  Another problem was the time delay in updating the content.  CMS provides the ability for anybody with content (tacit knowledge) to be able to create and publish that content to a web site, ready to be indexed and retrieved much quicker than in the past.  If an external company has built a web site or intranet, this feature of CMS also saves the cost of support and maintenance by eliminating the need for the developer to make small changes to a web site.

Another benefit of CMS is the ability to index, organize and share knowledge quicker and easier.   Because content is organized according to consistent metadata structures, the finding of content is improved.  “Basically, if the appropriate metadata is captured on all documents, then people can find the right content a lot more quickly” (McGovern, G. 2002).

Interestingly, the same benefit of ease of use of a CMS, is also one of its limitations as the design is often captured in HTML stylesheets (Cascading Style Sheets).  Although CSS can be changed, it requires the knowledge of HTML and CSS file formatting and structure and is therefore not easy to modify a CMS to one’s own formatting or colour schemes.  Many CMS’ does provide “themes” (a set of fonts, backgrounds and colour schemes assembled in a changeable CSS) to be able to establish a personal look-and-feel to a CMS, but even these themes are limited.

 

2.1.3 How does CMS contribute to Knowledge Management

From James Robertson’s definition, it is already clear that a CMS contributes to KM as it facilitates all of the KM processes, like creation, capturing, sharing, organizing and using or discovery of information.  A CMS helps the creation of information by providing the platform for creating content to be published to a web site.  A CMS stores information and also makes the retrieval thereof possible by indexing and searching facilities they offer.  A CMS contributes by transfer knowledge from tacit to explicit knowledge and consequently publish this acquired knowledge to be used by an organization (application).

CM3 claims that their product not only relates to knowledge management, but also to Digital Asset Management, Document Management and Content Management amongst others.  This proves that a CMS greatly contributes Knowledge Management. 

 

2.2 KM Technique: Storytelling

A Knowledge Management technique is a method of extracting tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. 

 

2.2.1 Definition of Storytelling

Storytelling is a way of sharing your “story” with someone.  It is an ancient method of education.  For thousands of years the biblical account of God’s involvement with man was transferred from generation to generation through storytelling.  Thomas Groome recalls that “remembering and representing the Story is an essential part of the Jewish and Christian process of knowing God” (1980:192).  In KM, storytelling became an important communication tool to share knowledge, experiences, ideas and even emotions and can be used effectively in an organization to gather knowledge.  Despite many different schools and definitions of storytelling, storytelling aims to keep “the story alive”, to convey a message in a narrative genre.  Storytelling is therefore “a method to illustrate a point, convince listeners, and effectively transfer knowledge by narrating management actions, employee interactions, or other relevant events within an organization” (Ribiere, V.M. & J.A. Roman; 2006:343).

 

2.2.2 Benefits & limitations of Storytelling

Storytelling as a technique has several benefits.  Because one is sharing “your story”, your experiences of a happening, it is not only truthful, but also shares deeper meanings.  Although Denning requires stories to be a representation of the truth, many others believe that truthfulness is arbitrary and is “secondary to its intended use” (Connel, N..A.D. 2006:722).  Stories form part of human existence and is used in everyday life because of its power – it is captivating, shares emotions, often gives deeper understanding of events, and is personal because listeners get involved in the stories.

Storytelling as a technique also helps in building relationships in an organization.  By re-telling shared experiences, people “connects” to each other and a sense of belonging is create, which in turn creates loyalty to each other and consequently to the organization.  The more one was part of a story of the organization, the more one feels compelled to be part of the solution, to work cooperatively with others because of common experiences with others.

  Its limitations are that it cannot be used for every situation.  Because storytelling has a personal character to it, it can be counter-productive if it is used without the personal touch, without the emotional side to it.  Although the personal character of storytelling is what makes storytelling so authentic, it can also be a limitation in situations where you need objectivity, or when reporting on routine situations (SDC Knowledge Management Toolkit).  The power of storytelling lies in the interpretation and application listeners make of it in their own situations.  “Stories can provide context to interpret otherwise difficult data” (Snowden, D; 2006:680).  If you as the storyteller try to make that interpretation for others, you are limiting the power of storytelling, even robbing it from its power.  In a sense, “you have to stand back and trust that the story will ignite the listener’s own creativity” (Denning, S. 2000).  With other words, storytelling will not work where someone is trying to impose their views, their solutions on others as it robs storytelling of its characteristic of identification to the story and finding solutions.  Storytelling also needs to be understandable.

 

2.2.3 How does Storytelling contribute to Knowledge Management?

Storytelling is a very useful tool for organizations to create, share and transfer knowledge and experiences.  The fact that storytelling is used for centuries proves that the narrative discourse appeals to people.  It gives us an imaginary visualization while the story is being told.

In the process of creation of Knowledge, storytelling can assist by creating a visual image of information.  Visualization is a powerful media for capturing people’s imagination.  This is clearly seen in the space the electronic media (TV) and computer games have taken in the lives of modern men. Storytelling also helps inspiring people to create their own stories and therefore valuable insights and knowledge.  This is why storytelling is also a valuable KM tool in simplifying complex issues.

Storytelling also contributes to KM in the process of storage of knowledge by storing information of the past, ways of the past for future reference.  

Storytelling is probably mostly associated with the transfer of knowledge.  A story can help organizations to revisit successes and failures to learn from the experience.  Storytelling is also useful in strategic planning where the vision, mission and strategy of an organization need to be transferred to its employees.  “You have to take the time to find a story of your vision in a way that connects—a story that people can see” (Simmons, A.).  Craig de Lange (2009) provides a list of organizational processes which has all to do with the transfer of knowledge, for example Strategy Articulation, Cultural Development, Change Management and gaining insight in Client Relations.  

Storytelling hugely contributes knowledge management because it speaks to the heart and therefore opens us up for the transfer of knowledge. 

 

2.3 KM Application: Blogging

Knowledge Management applications are Web 2.0 websites and web applications that are used to assist people in sharing their knowledge.  Web 2.0 was the next generation development of web and internet protocols that made sharing and collaboration much more accessible to everyone, thereby creating the opportunities for social networking, web-based communities, forums and blogs.

 

2.3.1 Definition of Blogging

Blog is a derivative of the word “web log”.  In essence a blog or web log is an “e-diary”, an electronic version of a personal diary.  It soon developed in more than just an e-diary and rapidly became a system where individuals can add items, share insight, write articles etc. to a web site.  Webopedia defines a blog as  “a Web page that serves as a publicly accessible personal journal for an individual. Typically updated daily, blogs often reflect the personality of the author”.  SearchWinDevelopment.com added another dimension to its definition by saying blogs is online journals of people “intended for public consumption” (2007).  This is important as it is the link to Knowledge Management.  Many might argue that personal e-diaries do not contribute much to Knowledge Management but if it is content “for public consumption” it becomes a valuable tool in Knowledge Management.

 

2.3.2 Benefits & limitations of Blogging

The biggest benefit of blogs is the ease with which everybody can write and publish content, available to others, thereby creating and sharing knowledge.  Blogs made publishing of personal content available to everybody at a fraction of the cost of publishing a book by implementing Web 2.0 technology.  Because it is free and available, it does not have to go through the rigorous evaluation by publishing houses before publishing content, thereby creating huge opportunities for knowledge to be created and shared with everyone.  It gives therefore the author an opportunity to express himself “without the interference of a third party, such as an editor” (Babak).

Because blogs do give readers the opportunity to react (comment), they are excellent in provoking feedback and discussions.  “Potentially, the blogosphere results in even more collaboration, as it is open to a wider audience than strictly the community.” (Vinson : 2007).  Blogging also opens up the channels of communication and discussions.  A lower level employee has an opportunity (even anonymously) to participate in a post from management in which that level of employee would not have access to without blogging.  Blogging also brings different commentators together, broadening a debate with more knowledgeable contributors.  Especially on the internet, posting a contentious article on an internet blog, will attract millions of commentators and adding much more objectivity to a discussion than the same discussion would attract in a small local group.

Exactly this benefit can also pose a limitation to blogs.  Comments and feedback opens up discussions on a topic, but it rarely causes the originator to modify its opinions.  The dynamic on a blog therefore is in favour of the original creator of a post, inhibiting true and honest discussions.  

Blogs can be totally anonymous which, in an organizational context, can be beneficial, but they can also be too personal and subjective which inhibits objectivity.

Because blogs are presented in a chronological order (newest on top), it is not easy to find older entries, in which case a wiki is of more use as content can be organized alphabetically rather than blogs’ chronological approach.

 

2.3.3 How does Blogs contribute to Knowledge Management

Blogs contribute in several of KM processes.  Blogs contribute in the process of creating knowledge.  Apart from the approximately 200,000 posts that WordPress.com are recording daily, an organization can use an organizational blog to let their employees create insights, shared experiences or failures on recent activities by creating blogs.  These blogs stimulate discussion and collaboration amongst other employees which facilitates not only sharing but re-creation of more knowledge as people interact with each other.  Organizations who have been implementing blogs, reported an improvement on internal communications, re-engineering of work processes and even replacing email as main method of communicating (Ward : 2005).

 

3. Conclusion

This paper gave an overview on 3 Knowledge Management (KM) tools, techniques and applications as a means to capture and share tacit knowledge.  More and more companies realise the value of their human capital and the knowledge they share.

Some KM tools, which help managing knowledge, are KM Systems, portals, intranet, Knowledge Maps and a Content Management Systems.  This paper discussed CMS as a KM tool which enables non-technical users to create and publish content to web sites without having the need to code the html pages.  An organization can use CMS effectively by allowing its employees to share their experiences, successes and failures to internal web sites.

KM techniques are methods of extracting tacit knowledge from people.  There are many KM techniques available for different situations like After Action Review, Swot Analysis , Brainstorming, Communities of Practice, Storytelling, Anecdote to mention a few.  This paper discussed Storytelling as a technique or method to extract valuable experiences from people.  An organization can use Storytelling effectively to assist in knowledge management.  Storytelling is an effective method in troubleshooting scenarios and to break down forms of resistance in a particular group.

KM applications are mostly Web 2.0 developments that are used to assist people in sharing their knowledge easily by using web technologies.  The best known KM application is email, which is becoming the primary tool of written communication between people and organizations.  Many applications are available to manage email, for example, Microsoft’s Outlook and Groupware.  Other KM applications are Skype, Social Networking, RSS and podcasting, to name a few.  This paper discussed blogging as a KM application.  Blogging is a useful application available to organizations to allow employees to share their knowledge and experiences on blogs.  It also allows for other to participate on a blog by writing comments and hereby fostering discussions and subscribing to a blog of interest with RSS (Real Simple Syndication).  A study reported that 53% of companies who responded on a survey, indicated that they implemented blogging (Ward : 2005).  Another study reported as much as 89% of companies implemented blogging or plan to implement (Guidewire Group : 2005).  Blogging is becoming a useful tool for organizations managing their knowledge.

The advances in Information Technology has had a huge impact on information and knowledge management by making available repositories of information and knowledge to people worldwide through the use of technologies.  “ICT allows the movement of information at increasing speeds and efficiencies, and thus facilitates sharing as well as accelerated growth of knowledge” (Becerra-Fernandez & Sabherwal. 2006:1). IT provided the technology, but the available knowledge now needs to be managed.  Knowledge Management aims to create, share and apply these vast quantities of information to become knowledge in the hands of the users.

 

4. References

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Responses

  1. A very comprehensive analysis of current KM technologies and tools indeed.

    However, KM also still remains of victim of technology. CMS and Blogs still deal with knowledge at the level of unstructured and under codified documents. With the exponential growth of knowledge particularly informal knowledge, these technologies are proving to be inadequate and inefficient. It is time that we looked at alternative frameworks that improved the ease and efficiency and even associated costs in accessing and using knowledge You may read more about it at http://infotwines.wordpress.com


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