This chapter provides a brief introduction about the research topic along with the research aims and objectives in detail. Further in this chapter, the scope of research, personal interest and the motivation to choose this particular research topic are all discussed briefly. Finally, the dissertation structure content of the six chapters is highlighted.
1.1 Introduction to the Topic
The use of Internet and Intranet technologies within an organisation has changed drastically over the past ten years. Modern organisations are striving hard to maintain an appropriate strategy towards knowledge management in order to provide the employees of the organisation with the data related to their work. The main use of using a company’s knowledge-base by employees is to help them develop their skills in all aspects and at the same time helps an individual to learn from any mistakes highlighted during projects undertaken. All past experiences and solutions provided at that time are recorded so experts can analyze these mistakes and make sure that they are not repeated in any of their future product developments or assignments.
This research will evaluate whether knowledge management is an effective way to enhance an organisations profit and at the same time achieve employee training and development. Furthermore this research will evaluate whether Intranet and Internet services within an organisation play an important role in knowledge management process.
1.2 Personal Interest and Motivation
During the learning process at the university, the author was exposed to different modules of Information Technology (IT), such as, Project Management, IT Management, Knowledge Management and Professional Issues that prevail in the present IT industry. Among these modules the author developed a kind of affection with the subject of Knowledge Management and wished to know more about it. Therefore the author has chosen to taken up this opportunity to explore this research topic and gain further understanding of knowledge management in more detail. This has not been an easy task, but with good guidance and advice from my mentors, tutors and my loved ones it has helped to finalize this topic choice and commence the research work.
1.3 Main Topics Discussed
In this section, the main topics and sub topics discussed in the literature review are listed: Introduction to Intranet and Internet Services, Information Technology (IT), Impact of the Intranet on Organisations, Knowledge Management Studies, Knowledge Management, Types of Knowledge Management, Benefits of Knowledge Management Implementation in Organisations, Knowledge Circulation Process (KCP) for Organisational Performance and Management of Knowledge. All the above main topic and sub topics are related to one another which gives a complete understanding about the topic and its necessity within today’s organisations. With this understanding a survey questionnaire is formulated which is analyzed at later stages of the research work/discussion.
1.4 Scoping of the Research
The main purpose of this study is to evaluate whether knowledge management systems are necessary in today’s organisation and also the study is to point out the important features of knowledge management when implemented within organisations. This research topic has been a major attraction for many researchers; a lot of studies have been carried out on this topic. At present, the author’s research identifies a few opinions about the topic and its importance within the scope of an organisation.
1.5 Aims and Objectives
The main aim of this research study is to evaluate whether knowledge management is important in today’s organisations and also to discover whether knowledge management helps in employee development and learning processes. Furthermore, the research also provides a chance to evaluate the role of the Internet and Intranet technologies in implementing knowledge management. Below is a list of objectives:
- To understand the research topic in depth
- Provide a clear understanding of the role of Internet and Intranet technologies
- Seek information in relation to Knowledge Management
1.6 Structure of the Dissertation
The dissertation structure is divided into six chapters and the contents of each chapter are briefly discussed below:
In this chapter, a brief introduction concerning the topic is discussed. Furthermore, the aims and objectives of the research topic are detailed, personal interest/ motivation, scope of the research, main topics and sub topics related to the research topic are discussed. Finally, the chapter concludes with a dissertation outline, this provides the reader with a structure of the research work that will be carried out.
This chapter mainly focuses on the literature review based on the research topic. The discussion focuses on the analysis of a variety of researcher’s views and different author’s opinions about the chosen topic area. Additionally, literature on knowledge management systems, types of knowledge management, and benefits of knowledge management when implemented within an organisation, knowledge circulation process, Internet and Intranet services within organisations are all briefly discussed.
In these chapter different research paradigms, research strategies and data collection methods are discussed briefly, out of which only appropriate research paradigm, research methodology, research strategy are chosen based on the topic. Further in this chapter, assumptions and ethical issues are also discussed.
In this chapter, the data collected from participants are gathered together, the data is stored in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and the data is then analyzed by relating it to the research aims and objectives in order to meet them.
This chapter includes a brief discussion of the analysed results of the obtained data from participants. The data is represented in the form of graphs and each graph is followed by a discussion.
This is the conclusive chapter. In this chapter, the obtained results are compared to that of research aims and final conclusions are drawn from the analysis. The discussion focuses on relating to and linking the survey data to the aims and drawing conclusions. Finally, the chapter suggests future recommendations.
This chapter has provided a brief outline of the dissertation structure where the researcher as well as the reader can gain a quick understanding about the work that has been planned. Additionally this chapter has introduced the topic chosen, highlighted the aims and objectives and briefly discussed the main topics within the study that will hopefully provide a clear understanding for both the author and the reader. Furthermore, this chapter also discusses the author’s personal interest/motivation behind choosing this particular topic area and the scope of the research. In the next chapter, literature on the research topic is analysed and discussed this: includes opinions of different researchers and authors.
The use of intra-organisational information by employees is widely recognized as an essential part of knowledge sharing within organisations. This way of sharing knowledge helps an organisation to tackle supporting operational and strategic corporate decision makers within the organisation. Intranet technology has proven to be one of the effective ways of accessing and disseminating data or knowledge available within the organisation (Lai and Mahapatra, 1998).
The main problem that an organisation faces is the decision-making capability. Managers who are responsible for decision making within a project lifecycle are unable to make appropriate decisions due to the required data not being available. Due to large amounts of data that are available within the organisation, organisations are striving hard to find appropriate tools and techniques to manage their knowledge. Although, techniques such as data warehousing and digital libraries are implemented within the organisation, but these services are limited to a certain range. In order to manage these kinds of situations within an organisation, better solutions are evaluated and the term Intranet evolved (Tan, et. al., 2003).
Expertise has identified services offered by the Intranet, some of these services that can be utilized are: alternative approach of managing dispersed enterprise data and decision support services. Intranet usage integrates individual, group, departmental, corporate communication and information sharing tasks together and provides a solution or option for each and every individual who uses it. Organisations have developed in terms of managing data available within their departments, sharing of knowledge within their departments, communication within company employees and sharing of knowledge are available for decision making was found to be improved (Lai and Mahapatra, 1998).
Intranets can develop the collaboration among employees who are working for an organisation by creating networks of share spaces which are developed based on common understanding. Employees of an organisation can use this service as a medium to share available knowledge and expertise amongst each other. They have the opportunity to interact with their team and share their advice on work carried out. Though the main use of the Intranet in an organisation was meant to be for data sharing, but the extra features with the use of Intranet in organisations made it popular and these services are widely used in organisation irrespective of their market area (Khasnabish and Saracco, 1997).
Strategic engagements that are held by an organisation have seen a new topic that has emerged in the knowledge based view of an organisation. This provides us with a theoretical basis on how a knowledge based resource plays a vital role in increasing the sustainable competitiveness of the firm. It also provides us with a clearer picture of how changes could be brought about to ensure no hassle in the process of knowledge management (Hoegl and Schulze, 2005). If an organisation constantly checks on its resources and promotes knowledge based perspective that postulates a competitive advantage and also builds on the privately developed resources, then tacit and explicit knowledge in an organisation will exist. At the same time, the knowledge based view or perception of an organisation assumes that the present knowledge assets exist at any time provided a valid opportunity for sustainable competitive advantage (Kebede, 2010).
The use of previously existing assets along with the creation, accumulation and sharing the new assets amongst the other individuals would happen in an easier way by employing Information Technology and an Information System (IS) in that particular organisation, this is considered here. In an organisational view, it can be explained in a convincing manner the reason why a certain number of organisations or firms are more competitive under the prevailing market conditions (Kebede, 2010). Knowledge assets pertaining to a particular organisation are all dependent upon the quality of organisational knowledge and also the intangible assets of the organisation in general. This generally depends on the methods that are used to store the knowledge within the organisational limits and the extent of its usage within its employees.
There is a serious need for metrics and statistics to justify all knowledge management initiatives that are taken up on priority within an organisation. Taking the knowledge management process a step forward would help senior management to justify and also help them improve their ability to manage the knowledge assets in a better manner. The benefits that are extracted from the knowledge management are all intangible and there is one method of measurement called the Balanced Scorecard. This would take both the perspectives like Financial and also the others (e.g. customers or internal business processes, innovation and learning etc.) (Liebowitz and Megbolugbe, 2003).
However it is not a justifiable fact to relate knowledge management initiatives to performance. One cannot relate knowledge management with performance in every situation within organisational life, There is a need to have a superior metrics system to assess knowledge management performance, with also the ability to clear it; and also at the same time it also suggests futuristic and strategic actions for an organisation to take up. This not just keeps the work organised, but also improves the performance for the knowledge management process.
2.1 KM Studies
The discussion that is taken up in previous sections of this dissertation briefly highlights that knowledge management is built on multiple disciplines such as management, computer science and information systems theory. It also has been reviewed in previous knowledge management literature at the start and the same are summarized in Table 1 below by Lee et. al., (2005).
Table 1: KM studies, (Lee et. al., 2005)
There are few prior Knowledge Management studies that relates with the Managerial and the Social issues. These issues have brought about the needed change and also brought about the necessary importance into place on specific processes and activities within knowledge management such as the knowledge acquisition, generation, storage, distribution, application and also its measurement (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). On the same grounds, the research agenda and also the general perspective of knowledge management based on the literature review are all addressed with the priorities that were set for them without any deviations. There are few points that have taken the managerial perspective and have requested the reasons as to how a ‘learning organisation’ could obtain sustainable competitive advantage.
Work needs to be conducted within the organisation to develop the same knowledge as there would not be any single individual in an organisation who has all the required knowledge. It is not predictable when an individual working with any certain organisation would choose to leave it, for the offer of a better poosition. Hence relying on a single individual for his knowledge could lead to very drastic effects. The way or the process within which the knowledge has been acquired and the way it is assembled and restructured particularly provides a definite competitive advantage for an organisation. As per the scholar Kebede (2010) states, the process of learning was the only sustainable competitive advantage and there has been a single learning situation that is resulted in organisational knowledge (or memory).
Corporate memory has a remarkable effect on the present decisions that are taken and also plays a vital role in the success of an organisation’s operations and the responses to the changes and challenges. There are numerous attempts that are made and numerous methodologies that were put in place to improve and revive the present learning’s and learning capabilities of the individual employees in an organisation, this helps an organisation become a ‘learning system’ (Kingston and Macintosh, 2000). In the process of improving an organisation’s learning capabilities, there were problems that were identified at various stages of the process by a considerable number of scholars. These identified reasons and issues were then studied to give a better environment to resolve the same. There are also studies that mentioned the relationship of role of Information Technology in Knowledge Management (Lee and Kim, 2001) & (Kingston and Macintosh, 2000).
There is a general consideration that a Knowledge Management System (KMS) is a specialized Information System for knowledge management using the latest available technologies (e.g. the Internet, Intranet, data warehouses, software agents) to synchronize, facilitate and also to expedite organisation wide knowledge management. Knowledge Management System research primarily consists of general and also conceptual principles, case studies, scenarios and thesis of such systems of a few organisations. A study by Lee and Kim (2001) states that how a KMS can enhance the effectiveness of the teams that sit and analyse the complex, non-recurring problems by improving all the trouble some areas and also improving the way these teams compositions evolve. Knowledge mining would be the synonymous phrase that could be used as like Data mining. Using this we would be able to see our self in a situation where you can provide the right information to the right persons at the right time (Kingston and Macintosh, 2000).
The strategic use of the Internet for all such knowledge management activities is well dealt with in lot of activities. There has been a point that was mentioned regarding the usage of the Internet and Intranet in developing the distributed Knowledge Management systems by (Goodman, 2006). XML (Extensible Markup Language) was developed to transport and store data, this is considered as an ideal tool for knowledge retrieval and for use in knowledge management.
2.2 Impact of the Intranet on Organisations
Intranet services are growing rapidly within every possible sector of business due to its wide range of benefits. Some of the impacts where Intranet has changed the business strategy are listed below:
- It is less expensive to implement as it runs inside the organisation’s network.
- Excellent performance enhancement can be achieved because of limited user access
- Employee performance is increased due to availability of necessary resources and advices due to better communication with their expertise.
- Effective communication amongst the employees
- Efficient knowledge sharing process within different departments of an organisation
- Helps to maintain effective customer relationship
- Immediate access of data regarding organisational data and documents is possible with the help of Intranet service (Bernard, 1996).
WEB is known as World Wide Web. It is a hypertext document which can be accessed over the Internet. With the use of these links an individual can actually access almost everything, right from an mp3 (MPEG- Moving Pictures Experts Group) file to video files. Different types of documents and books can be read or downloaded using this process. With the help of this facility an individual can perform some of his daily tasks in a different and a convenient way.
The use of the Internet and web technology has changed the entire scenario of database management within an organisation on any given day. Due to the popularity of the web, a newer version of World Wide Web is launched and named it as the second version of it. With the help of web 2.0 one can experience a user friendly approach while accessing the Internet. The quality of web pages that are available is different and more exciting when compared to earlier version of web (W3c, 2010).
2.4 Knowledge Management
Knowledge management in general tries to organise and make available important information like the know-how, wherever and whenever it is actually needed. This includes processes, procedures, patents, reference works, formulas,
best practices, forecasts, fixes and the like (Maglitta, 1996). This process is not only used for managing organisation’s knowledge base but also looks for the proper management of the same. Utilization of this knowledge within the organisation at right time and at the right place is also ensured as a part of its activities. Success of an organisation depends less on developed products and more on the appropriate utilization of available information, appropriate sharing of information when needed. Thus knowledge management plays a vital and a key role for all these years and it will be change the future of managing the knowledge within an organisation as well (Kebede, 2010).
2.4.1 Types of Knowledge
Mainly there are of two types of knowledge that is available for the individuals of an organisation and they are:
This knowledge can be expressed in terms of specific language and is normally expressed in terms of data or formulae. The information obtained can be stored within the Organisational premises easily and reused whenever there is any need for it.
This type of knowledge is completely opposite to explicit knowledge. Knowledge is more personal and cannot be stored. It ‘indwells’ in a comprehensive cognizance of the human mind and body (Kebede, 2010). In simpler words, this type of knowledge is held within an individual and is not available for any other individuals of the organisation. This kind of knowledge in an individual builds a dependency on him and then the works would actually finish in a slower and un-organised manner.
2.4.2 Benefits of KM Implementation in Organisations
One can expect an interactive environment around the organisation where people strive for knowledge and also to show their skills, some benefits of KM implementation are listed below:
- Provide new ways to collaborate.
- Boosts up productivity.
- Leads to innovation within the organisation.
- Overall profitability.
- Motivation and encouragement within employees.
- Reusability of resources (Dalkir, 2005).
2.4.3 What are Knowledge Based Systems?
Human-centred would be an apt definition for a Knowledge Based System. Knowledge Based Systems derive their roots from the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and there are evident attempts from scholars to understand and also to imitate human knowledge in Computer systems. In whatever way we see, a Knowledge Based System falls short of the human intellect and the human touch. The system lacks creative powers like reproducing the same knowledge and also the learning capabilities are relatively primitive (Dreyfus, 1986). Compared to a human as such, there is no comparison with the Knowledge Based System. There is a wonderfully acknowledged fact that the intelligence of a Artificially Intelligent System is quite different from human intelligence.
There are a second set of definitions that are defined and which only looks for the characteristics in the architecture of a Knowledge Based System. In such a way of defining a Knowledge Based System, it mainly categorizes four components namely:
- Knowledge base
- Inference Engine
- Knowledge engineering tool
- A specific user interface and is often natural language based (Ramirez and Antonio, 2007)
The core of a Knowledge Based System is defined by the first two components namely the Knowledge Base and the Inference Engine wherein the former one is an active collection of ‘formal knowledge’ or an active database with lots of ‘formal knowledge’, its primary purpose being how that data may be used in Practical life. The latter part, inference engine on the other hand defines the ways in which the knowledge base can be put to use to help resolve the situations at hand for an organisation (Ramirez and Antonio, 2007). The remaining two factors are just the added supplements for the Knowledge base and the Inference engine as these offer instruments for filling the Knowledge base with knowledge and act as a dedicated user interface for the user to understand and view the knowledge.
Characteristically a Knowledge Based System user interface has to provide the basic know how and should also question itself letting the system explain its behaviour when the system deals with any particular problem. Definitions of a Knowledge Based System that are defined on the basis of architectural peculiarities are not at all satisfactory as compared to the definitions that are defined on the basis of human intelligence, there is an obvious resistance in the way they actually work with such definitions also (Akerkar and Sajja, 2009). The difference in the definitions could be seen when we consider a system based on neural nets and there are no separating aspects of a knowledge base, inference engine. There would hardly be any difference between the knowledge base and an inference engine in such cases where neural nets are considered for a system. Such definitions take the wrong meaning historical form chosen in several Knowledge Based Systems for the hallmarks of such systems.
There is also a third set of definition that is given to a Knowledge Based System to indicate all the organisational IT applications that prove helpful and needful for managing the knowledge assets within an organisation. Few examples for such kinds of Knowledge Based Systems could be expert systems, groupware, data warehouses or even the Intranet. The mentioned applications in an organisation provide the individuals all the information that is needed to them to help them in all their day-to-day activities. These definitions are flatly rejected as these lead to the erosion of the meaning of the term Knowledge-based system. Knowledge Based System in our view is not just any IT system that is used to deal with the Knowledge that is present with an organisation (Leondes, 2000).
The definition of a Knowledge Based System that provides the most satisfactory organisation-centred viewpoint comes when we focus on the “Knowledge Modelling”. Key activity in building a Knowledge Based System in that case is to find a formal model that allows the description of knowledge at a conceptual level or at the knowledge level itself, aiming at uncovering the basic schema linking the central concepts of a given domain in a particular organisation (Akerkar and Lingras, 2008).
The best suited examples of formalisms for the knowledge representation are the production rules, predicate logic, frames, neural nets and objects. The definition of a Knowledge Based System as an outcome of the knowledge modelling process is very useful and it actually does not direct any discussions pertaining to the organisational values of it to the characteristics of the technology as such. The actual goals of knowledge modelling process could be achieved only by examining the elements of knowledge validly and then has to be described in any of the formalisms for knowledge representation (Ramirez and Antonio, 2007).
Given the focus on the process of knowledge modelling not only aids in gaining the best insight into the characteristics of the knowledge, but also guides the discussions concerning the pros and cons of the use of knowledge. It then leads to the identification why or in which aspect of formalisation is not possible or not advisable (for example, it reduces the flexibility or does not do justice to any specific intricacies). The knowledge modelling process thus acts as a vehicle to show and focus thought about the organisational knowledge and also its functionality. The basic aim is to explore that part of the organisational knowledge and how to capture in the formal schemata, and to describe the benefits and the pitfalls that are implied.
There are associated benefits of having a Knowledge Based System in place in an organisation. These act as a way to retain the knowledge even after an individual who has created/compiled it has opted out of the organisation or in their absence. These systems could be used for the new comers in their on-job training purposes to fetch whatever the details that are needed of them. There is a consistent way to improve the decision making process and also helps in increasing the availability of the needed expertise. They provide the building blocks or the ‘Corporate Memory’ and also promotes of knowledge sharing etc. If the knowledge is well documented under KBS, the sole repository for all such information and knowledge then there wouldn’t be any potential rivalry between these two. If there is any discrepancy then the risks that have to be incurred is not imaginary also (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). Then those would not be considered the failure of a KBS installation but would unnecessary and undesirable side effects of a successful KBS implementation. Stating to the earlier point, these mainly derive from the fact that KBS totally depends on the determining and storing of the knowledge at a given point of time.
It would be very tough and would be next to impossible to assess all the critical empirical assessments of the harm that a KBS may cause to an organisation. Considering such a point, there would be a definite negative impact on Job satisfaction and also on the labour quality. Once a KBS is implemented in an organisation, there should be an established value that has to be assigned to the same. The friendliness and the rivalry that exists between the KBS and the knowledge that is with held in the hands of an organisation are like the two poles of a continuum. The whole responsibility of having the data be accessible over the Internet/Intranet for all the individuals of an organisation is solely taken up by the organisation. The main area that is concentrated here in this discussion would be the organisational value of KBS, its assessment, and the effective know how process. There should be a proper and a systematic way to respond to all the questions that could be raised on the three issues (Akerkar and Lingras, 2008).
Firstly there should be an assessment of the role and the value of the knowledge of the organisation; the measures of their activation. Only after this is done, there would be a proper understanding of the things that are to happen at a later stage in an organisation. Knowledge management is the whole process of considering and implementing measures that would be dealing with the organisational knowledge. There is always a need to have a suitable definition of this concept.
Secondly, the provided definition for a KBS has to be appropriate to the context of investigation of the organisational aspects of knowledge. The relationship between the knowledge management and Knowledge Based Systems has to be established and the same should stand on sound grounds. If there are any mismatches found in the definitions, it would affect drastically on both the knowledge and the method through which the knowledge management is achieved.
Thirdly, with a proper assessment of the value of a KBS, it needs a careful description of how a KBS relates to the other aspects of an organisation and the disposition of its knowledge. There is also a question that remains unanswered that is the earning that a KBS can obtain the tools that are used for knowledge management. To do all this, there is a particular framework that has to be presented.
2.5 Management of Knowledge
There is a certain need for every organisation to crave for more knowledge than what is acquired by an organisation as it has to survive the competition that exists in the market. Every individual that is linked with any process of an organisation, they have to perform their day-to-day activities and routines; it may even add value to the work that an individual does. The knowledge that is acquired or retained within the organisational limits could be put into use by all the individuals in their day-to-day work. The knowledge that is already retained by an organisation has to be used in all the present scenarios and at the same time there are to be ardent efforts to create new knowledge or information are the only two core areas of concern for any organisation that is considered for this research study (Frappaolo, 2006). The knowledge that is acquired and maintained within an organisation should be relevant to the work that an individual works on and the same differs or changes over the time without any doubts.
An organisation maintaining the