Skip to main content

Über dieses Buch

Information and knowledge have profoundly transformed businesses, organizations and society. Knowledge management promises concepts and instruments that help organizations to provide an environment supportive of knowledge creation, sharing and application. Information and communication technologies are often regarded as the enabler for the effective and especially efficient implementation of knowledge management. The book presents an almost encyclopedic treatise of the many important facets, concepts and theories that have influenced knowledge management and integrates them into a framework consisting of strategy, organization, systems and economics guiding the design of successful initiatives. The third edition particularly extends coverage of the two pillars of implementing knowledge management initiatives, i.e. organization and systems.




1. Motivation

The transformation of organizations into knowledge-intensive and knowledge-aware organizations takes place at an ever-increasing pace. Knowledge as the key resource, not labor, raw material or capital, changes production functions in organizations significantly. Knowledge represents the key concept to explain the increasing velocity of the transformation of social life in general and the way businesses and social institutions work in particular (Drucker 1994). Estimates at leading research organizations suggest that up to 60% of the gross national product in the United States is based on information as opposed to physical goods and services (Delphi 1997, 10). In the last decade, this percentage is likely to have further increased which is reflected by a large number of studies that report similar or higher values. The big share is not surprising as it is estimated that the knowledge-intensive construction and development process of new products and services potentially determines 80 to 90% of the resulting production costs (Scherrer 1999, 131).

2. Goals

The leading research question of this book therefore is: To what extent can information and communication tools and systems support holistic knowledge management initiatives aimed at improving an organization’s way of handling knowledge?

3. Procedure, Methods and Overview

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, knowledge management is a field that is still far from being consolidated16. The substantial complexity and dynamics of the field have turned theory-based investigations into knowledge management as well as knowledge management systems into challenging enterprises. During the last decade, researchers, with varying backgrounds as described above, and practitioners, especially in knowledge-intensive businesses such as professional services companies, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, chemical, computer and telecommunications companies, have shown considerable interest in the field of KM. Consequently, it seemed appropriate to answer the research questions of this book on the basis of a combined theoretical and empirical investigation of KMS.

Concepts and Theories


4. Foundation

Recently, knowledge management has received a lot of attention in scholarly as well as in practitioner-oriented literature and in professional services companies as well as in business organizations of all industrial sectors. Due to the large demand for concepts and theories to support a systematic intervention into the way an organization handles knowledge, the field has attracted researchers from different disciplines and has absorbed a wide array of research questions and approaches to solve these questions. This chapter is devoted to give an overview of the roots of knowledge management, the historical development of the literature and practice in some of its predecessors, especially organizational learning and organizational memory approaches.

5. Strategy

Considering knowledge as the key resource in an organization has substantial strategic implications. It seems evident that an organization’s strategic choices have to consider the way it handles its knowledge assets.

6. Organization

As shown earlier, a KM strategy describing the strategic intent of a KM initiative has to be implemented with the help of organizational instruments. This section is devoted to the organizational design of a KM initiative. Figure B-22 proposes a model of the tasks and flows in knowledge management. The model builds on the concepts and theories depicted in section 4.1.1 - “From organizational learning to knowledge management” on page 22. In particular concepts and approaches from the following research fields were integrated within the model.

7. Systems

KMS were defined in section 4.3 - “Knowledge management systems” on page 82. In the following, first the technological roots of KMS are reviewed (section 7.1). Then, the contents of KMS are analyzed along with their structure, the types of media used, a maturity model for knowledge elements and some aspects of quality of contents (section 7.2). The definition of KMS is detailed with the help of a review of KMS architectures that have been proposed in the literature or have been implemented as standard KMS platforms. Based on this analysis, an amalgamated architecture for a centralized KMS is presented. The architecture is discussed in detail with the help of a structured list of KMS functions that will be used in the empirical study (section 7.4). As an alternative to this ideal architecture for a centralized KMS, an architecture for a distributed or peer-to-peer KMS is presented (section 7.5). The development of tools and systems will be discussed in a structured way leading to a classification of KMS (section 7.6). Finally, the important integration layer is discussed in more detail, reflecting on meta-data and ontology management as well as the Semantic Web (section 7.7).

8. Economics

The determination of costs and especially the assessment of benefits of KM and KMS is still in its infancy. Many authors have contributed to the description and explanation of the substantial differences between standard economic theory and information economics. Examples are negligible marginal costs or network effects (e.g., Gersbach 1991, Hirshleifer/Riley 1992, Lehner et al. 1995, 179). Our understanding of the economics of knowledge or competence is even more “primitive” than our understanding of information economics (Teece 1998a, 291).

9. Summary and Critical Reflection

Part B was dedicated to the investigation of the state of theory of KMS supported KM initiatives. The analysis revealed two major classes, namely human- and technology-oriented KM. Table B-30 summarizes the distinctions made. The second and third columns contain examples illustrating human-oriented and technology-oriented KM according to approach, perspective taken, focus area678 and definition of knowledge679, KM strategy and goals680, roles, tasks, KM instruments, focus of modeling and organizational culture681, architecture, contents, type and functions of KMS682 and finally evaluation objects, aspects, categories and procedures683.

State of Practice


10. Related Empirical Studies

This section presents an overview of a number of empirical studies on KM and/or KMS. The studies were selected on the basis of their
  • focus: Studies on knowledge management were selected that included information and communication technology supporting this concept or studies focusing on KM tools and systems;
  • availability: There are several studies of professional services companies which were too expensive to be bought by the author’s Department, e.g., IT Research 2000.

11. Research Design

The main goals of the empirical study were two-fold:
  • the investigation of the state of practice of the use of KMS in large German organizations,
  • the investigation of concepts, scenarios and strategies for the management of KMS in organizations.

12. Strategy and Environment

This chapter will first analyze several variables describing the organizational and business environment in which the KM initiatives are embedded (section 12.1). Then, the state of strategic considerations within KM will be studied with respect to KM goals that the initiatives target, as well as estimations to what extent these goals are actually achieved and to what extent these goals are documented and systematically evaluated (section 12.2).

13. Organization

This chapter will first investigate important aspects of the structural and process organization of the KM initiative (section 13.1). The second section of this chapter will deal with important dimensions of organizational culture, willingness to share knowledge and turnover in employees (section 13.2).

14. Systems

This chapter will focus ICT instruments supporting a KM initiative77. Section 14.1 will study to what extent organizations applied Groupware and Intranet platforms as well as KMS. Then section 14.2 will focus on the contents of the KMS, their type, size, media used and their structure. Finally, section 14.3 will investigate the state of practice of KMS in detail with respect to KMS functions implemented and the frequency with which they were used in the organizations.

15. Economics

To determine the economics of a KM initiative is a challenging task. In the following, some results will be presented that shed some light on the expenses and estimated benefits of KM initiatives. In general, the situation in German companies by the time of the study can be described as follows128.

16. Summary and Critical Reflection

This chapter summarizes the results of part C. First, Table C-55 gives an overview of the results for all the hypotheses tested. Then the most important findings will be distilled as theses about the state of practice of KMS supported KM initiatives.

Conclusion and Outlook


17. Scenarios

Undoubtedly, knowledge management is currently a very lively and dynamic field drawing the attention of numerous research disciplines that all have their special perspective on KM. Moreover, vendors of software tools and systems happily extend their offerings to include more or less sophisticated KM functionality or simply re-badge their existing systems, e.g., business intelligence, data mining, Intranet, Groupware or content management systems, just to name a few, as knowledge management software. This situation provides for an overwhelming amount of approaches, concepts and theories in the literature, tools and systems on the market as well as Web sites focused on KM that a prospective KM user can draw from.

18. Outlook

Knowledge management systems neither contain knowledge, nor do they manage it. This fact has provoked substantial and partially justified critic from proponents of the human-oriented KM fraction. Despite its pragmatic foundation as an integrated set of information and communication technologies supporting knowledge management and the many unresolved questions, the term KMS seems to provide a powerful metaphor that is able to draw the attention of researchers from multiple disciplines and practitioners with diverse backgrounds alike.


Weitere Informationen

Premium Partner