Lots of Data, Very Little Information and almost No Knowledge?

I believe and everyday practice has proven it as well that the information system design is successful only when we part with ...

I believe and everyday practice has proven it as well that the information
system design is successful only when we part with the local point of view and
start to consider multiple functions and disciplines, bearing in mind the
relation between the components and the shell and, simultaneously, the impact
of the system upon individual parts. In the same way, much will be more
transparent, when we realise that the information technology is here for the
information, not for the technology.
This general shift in reasoning confirms the transition from the
function-oriented to the process-oriented implementations of transaction-based
systems, the extension of the analytical systems, stressing the
information-flow control, mutual links and continuity of information and last
but not least the birth of numerous initiatives collectively called knowledge
management. Knowledge management within an organisation is a comprehensive
program providing guidelines how to enhance application of information
potential stored within the information systems and leverage in this manner
knowledge kept within the minds of company staff.
Knowledge Management a New Concept with a Long History
I dare to state that knowledge management is a trade as old as the mankind
itself. Aeons ago, there were dialogue mechanisms among the senior clansmen; we
are aware of the knowledge preservation using, for example, folk stories and
-maybeeven in the fairy tales and various wisdom. Transmittal of information
and knowledge is a basis of education systems. Within the second half of this
century, knowledge recognition is the core of system and knowledge engineering.
We have witnessed the popularity of expert systems as well as of the artificial
intelligence systems. Quite recently, a wave of company "know-how" management
passed by.
Information and/or Knowledge Management
The concept "knowledge management" has occurred as a twin to that of
"information management"; within this context, its novelty can be understood.
The information management has evolved from information system development
control to the management of information stored within the information systems.
Knowledge management then shows another step towards stressing the information
content not only stored within the operational transaction systems, but that
proactively processed using numerous newly emerging information technologies
called sometimes knowledge technologies. Knowledge management is a stage within
the development of the information management; it represents higher level of
processing of knowledge-enriched information. However, few people realise that
without mastering information management it is impossible to be successful in
knowledge management.
Enabling Role of Digital Technologies
The digital technologies play in the area of knowledge management an enabling
role. Without them, it would be impossible to store and analyse information, or
to conceive an environment for acquiring knowledge and transfer it. The
convergence of digital technologies the information, communication and media
technologies currently taking place is an important catalytic element in
inception of a "knowledge management" concept. However, unfortunately as usual,
a number of IT vendors jumped on the correct bandwagon and, under the label
"knowledge management", they are ready to sell you almost anything.
Knowledge Management Definition
Despite the fact, that the concept of knowledge management has not yet settled,
all agree that it is aimed at maximised utilisation of the intellectual assets
and increased performance of an organisation. This fact by itself suggests that
knowledge management melt together a strategic view of business of an
organisation together with human potential. One can logically expect from the
information technologies that they would support the realisation of this
maximising task. In the domain of initiative control for knowledge management,
the usual starting point is experience and practice in the field of information
The concept "knowledge" has become so popular that it is used as a marketing
label for products that have only a little in common with knowledge. Knowledge
is a resource that cannot be filed into a folder, since it has different
meaning and value depending upon the context. It must be applied differently in
time and differently for different people, teams and organisations. Knowledge
has come to being by setting numerous information into context; thus it is
defined within the context with the other information, it has been evolving and
it is not final. That is why it is more complicated to transfer it in
comparison to information. Knowledge means more than retrieving information; it
includes into information processing assumptions and experience.
Intellectual Assets
Under intellectual assets we understand especially:
lKnowledge and information kept in the minds of organisation staff, which
includes information concerning clients and customers, products and services,
own organisation and competitors;
lInformation stored within the OLTP and OLAP databases in the information
systems of the organisation;
lProcesses used by the organisation embedded, as a rule, into the
process-oriented applications;
lRules stored into the business logic of the enterprise applications;
Perception of customers together with their knowledge covering an organisation.
Knowledge Management
Knowledge management represents a strategic application of intellectual assets
of an organisation, ensuing from recognised experience and skills of
organisation staff together with relevant information resources within and
outside of an organisation, as well as from recognised influence of knowledge
upon the increase of performance and profitability of a company. The basic set
of issues related to knowledge management:
lHow to make an effective use of substantial volume of data concentrated within
existing information systems?
lHow to preserve company know-how and knowledge of the staff?
lHow to conceive company culture so that the staff can share information
lHow to prevail in knowledge over the competition?
lHow to profile relevant information and knowledge to individual staff members?
lHow to prevent information overload?
lHow to protect company knowledge from the competition?
How to Get Hold of Knowledge Management
As it ensues from the very definition of knowledge management, it should be
grasped at several levels:
d)Human resources and organisation,
e)Computer and information resources and technology (system media).
The following subchapters analyse individual levels in deeper detail.
Knowledge Strategy
The knowledge strategy builds a framework ascertaining that all levels of
knowledge management within an organisation are included into an overall
consistent context and that it will be managed from top downwards.
Simultaneously, it provides the management with tools to set up priorities and
feedback loops that by themselves are considered as a key element in knowledge
A knowledge strategy typically contains (at the top granularity level):
Assessment of Current Knowledge System within an Organisation
It ensues from the classical system analysis aimed especially at:
lBenchmarking the level of information management already achieved Systems. In
this manner, we can obtain information on the level we find ourselves at the
data-information-knowledge chain. A summary of current information strategy put
into context of the business strategy of an organisation is a component part of
this benchmarking.
lMapping internal resources of information and knowledge. Among those belong
resources in the digital format as well as human resources, informal
authorities and informal communities within a company.
lMapping external resources of information and knowledge. Here belong both
information retrieved e.g. from newspapers or Internet, and external training
delivered to company management.
lDetermination of basic information and knowledge flows linked to business
processes. Here belong also knowledge chains of the customers, suppliers,
allied partners and competitors. The existing knowledge flows usually tend to
be fragmented and are not mutually interconnected. An immediate improvement can
be usually achieved by filling in the gaps in the existing, however broken
knowledge chains.
lIdentification of achieved results in the field of knowledge management. Here
belong e.g. patents held by the organisation, new products, respectively
shortened innovation cycles, new services. Despite the fact that knowledge
applied to development of new products need not be definable and measurable,
the results of their application can be tangible. Here belongs also company
reputation as well as all other components of intellectual assets of an
lIdentification of investment into the intellectual assets: It is necessary to
find out how much is e.g. a training for the staff, how much is an investment
into the analytic systems and technical systems for information sharing, for
example groupware. How much has been invested into acquisition of information
on the competitors, which strategic analyses have been done or, for example,
how much the organisation pays for information delivered from outside; what is
the education level of organisation staff. From the total amount of these
investments, it is possible to deduce the importance of knowledge management
within said organisation.
Definition of Targets and Expected Results when these Are Achieved
Targets are defined in relation to business intentions of an organisation. The
targets must be set in such a manner so that individual staff members should
profit from their achievement, not only the organisation as a whole. Knowledge
management is aimed not only at the measurable and tangible values and
benefits, however, it also evaluates things where value assessment is not
assumed; nevertheless they represent such value. In case of targets where it is
hardly possible to define measurability of their achievement, it was found that
these measures could be replaced for the purposes of knowledge management with
the outputs without which it would be impossible to achieve the pre-determined
Future Design of Knowledge System in an Organisation
It is a simple projection of targets and planned outputs as determined within
the previous stage to the current status of the knowledge system. The result is
a new shape of the knowledge system, similar to that examined during the
evaluation of current status of knowledge system within the organisation. The
key aspect is to design future internal and external sources of information and
knowledge together with determination of future outline of information and
knowledge flows within the organisation.
A new element in designing future outline of the knowledge system within the
organisation is the search for the genetic code of the system. The genetic code
pre-determines natural behaviour of the system and it has a lot in common with
company culture and company values. The initiatives of knowledge management are
aimed at creation of a new genetic system of the knowledge system based upon
information and knowledge sharing within the all-enterprise scale.
Plan of Initiatives in Knowledge Management
The global program realised by partial initiatives of knowledge management is a
reflection of knowledge strategy at the management operative level. The
initiatives in the field of knowledge management require like all other
initiatives aimed at success a clearly defined project frame, i.e. the subject
matter, time and financial scope together with the targets we intend to
achieve. It is advantageous to set up partial targets in a measurable form. The
projects lead to design of changes within current information strategy, since
it is necessary to include new information, communication and knowledge
technologies into it.
Benefits and Incentives for Employees and Workgroups
The knowledge management is much more concerned with people and their
experience than the information management. Everyday practice has shown that it
is necessary to support and motivate the staff to a change in behaviour and to
a new approach to leverage their knowledge potential. Nobody surrenders his
knowledge without incentives to others since he perceives this as a threat to
the values of his labour. However, as long as the staff members are evaluated
according to their ability to transfer their knowledge onto the others, the
knowledge management becomes a natural component of their work.
Information and Knowledge Processes
According to my experience, it is advisable to determine three basic categories
of processes
1.Data processes
2.Information processes
3.Knowledge processes
As it was already mentioned above, the level of information management is
evaluated according to which categories of processes are found in a company and
how they are managed. From the point of view of knowledge management it is
necessary to stress that there is a fundamental mistake in assumption that it
is possible to introduce processes falling into knowledge management category
while the information processes are simultaneously absent. A number of
companies would like to manage their knowledge; however, they have not yet
matured to system management of information. It is the same paradox as
implementing analytical tools transforming data into information while
forgetting the necessary data sources. Knowledge management level can be
achieved only via information and data management.
Data Processes
As data we classify all representations irrespective of their information
contents. The data processes ensue from the filtration of empirical data that
are most commonly physically measurable. The filtration represents a purposeful
selective projection of available data into a database of an organisation. In
this manner, the primary data basis is defined. This basis is supplemented,
using inference processes, with data that can be unambiguously derived using
algorithms from the primary elementary data.
Information Processes
Information removes an uncertainty measure on the recipient side, it tells
something new and comes to being by joining data together. The information
processes join the primary and derived data into the aggregated data having
higher informative value. In this manner, information removing uncertainty
measure on the recipient side comes to being. Using analysis of mutually
related information and through their sharing, we can achieve rules applicable
to situations qualified by the links and relations that have been found among
information, including the information content achieved. The rules can be
usually algorithmically expressed. They are usually classified to explicit
If we set the obtained information and rules into context with other
information and rules, we arrive at knowledge. Using value analysis of
discovered and acquired knowledge, we can arrive at a system of mutually
interrelated rules representing a behaviour philosophy of an organisation. The
philosophy is understood as a scientific approach to functional principles of
an organisation based upon values and benefits. It is based upon creed,
assumptions and theories constructed of knowledge relevant to given set of
We can say in general that the knowledge processes work with "soft" information
forms. It is true in practice that there is no clear-cut boundary between data,
information and knowledge. In the same manner, it is impossible to categorise
strictly all information processes.
Knowledge Management Initiatives
Successful Initiatives Have Narrowly Defined Scope
Frequent phenomena going together with knowledge management initiatives are
unrealistic expectations. They are mostly related to a dream of solving many
issues at the same time, which is supported by marketing slogans describing
immense possibilities of knowledge technology tools. However, the solution of
knowledge management is a "soft" problem requiring knowledge covering
enterprise culture, sources of enterprise brain-power, information flows both
formal and informal, organisation structure, leading personalities and business
intentions of an organisation and its vicinity.
The successful initiatives of knowledge management usually have relatively
narrowly defined scope and aim at a partial, well-identified issue with
specific target. Typically, they are aimed at new product innovation or at
improvement of customer service. On the other hand, the efforts to create a
global solution at once for all activities of an organisation are not usually
successful due to its complexity. Most initiatives belonging to knowledge
management are aimed at the issue how to interconnect various information
sources and how to integrate work teams. However, the knowledge management is
closely related to a number of non-technical issues requiring detailed
knowledge of an organisation.
Long-term Nature of Initiatives in Knowledge Management
From the duration point of view, the knowledge initiatives are rather a
long-term program where individual partial steps are scheduled approximately
semi-annually or annually. With the growing importance of knowledge management
for the business of an organisation, the necessity for continuous knowledge
management grows as well. To stress that, some organisations typically those
whose business heavily depends upon the intellectual assets such as
organisations with highly-developed research and development component,
telecommunication carriers, pharmaceuticals, system integrators and of course
consulting companies have introduced organisation knowledge system using
long-term programs acting as large iteration cycles.
Knowledge Manager
Knowledge management initiatives represent such strategic activities that they
require support from the top management, respectively from the company board of
directors. Despite the fact that in most cases the initiation and management of
knowledge initiatives falls within the responsibility of IT department
officers, the main persons in these projects are, at the strategic level, the
top management of the company and, at the operation and tactical level, the
officers from the marketing and sales department. However, this state of
affairs is usually not effective in organisations based upon intensive and
systematic utilisation of knowledge.
Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) Role
Current information manager (CIO-Chief Information Officer) has apart from his
technical role to provide for functionality and development of information
technologies also an information role, i.e. the responsibility for the
development of information stored within the information system. Thus his
function has shifted towards the strategic management of the organisation and
is no more perceived as mere IT services. The role of the CKO is still nearer
to the top management of an organisation. If we recognise that the knowledge is
the key to competitive advantage of an organisation, it is sure that the CKO
position is just bellow the company CEO.
The basic responsibility of the CKO should include:
lConception of the knowledge strategy and its continuous updating.
lControl of knowledge management initiatives conceptualised by the knowledge
lDesign and control of processes forming, sharing and utilising explicit
knowledge within given organisation, i.e. knowledge already mapped that is
known in the organisation.
lDesign and creation of company environment as well as initiatives supporting
detection, examination and transfer of "tacit" knowledge, i.e. that that cannot
be expressed in words and the organisation is usually not aware of their
lDesign of company infrastructure necessary for realisation of knowledge
processes. It is performed at the architecture level and usually in close
co-operation with the information manager. At this point, the information and
knowledge strategy of a company are interconnected.
The comprehensive target is a purposeful maximisation of intellectual assets of
the company performed in accordance with the business intentions.
CKO Characteristics
The CKO usually does not direct his own team but he works with all staff of the
organisation that participates at the knowledge system. That is why he must
possess interdisciplinary skills and be able to work in virtual organisation
structures. He must be well versed in business intentions of the organisation
and in principles of organisation structure and management system.
Simultaneously, he must be able to work conceptually and creatively, to
perceive new ideas and work them out. For the task of knowledge initiative
control, he must be also experienced in project management and know modern
information technologies. He should be a personality capable to sway his
colleagues with his zeal; on the other hand, he must be capable to listen to
the opinion of others since he is frequently in charge of his colleagues
dialogue. In his task he also acts as a strategic consultant and education
Technology Infrastructure
Technology is vital for support of information and knowledge flow as well as
for storing of explicit knowledge, i.e. those that can be coded and written.
Progressive communication technologies are important for improved flow of
unexpressed (tacit) knowledge that cannot be written and usually represent a
knowledge how to perform some complicated activity that cannot be described by
an algorithm, for which it is necessary to have practice and experience kept in
peoples minds.
From the technological point of view, we classify as tools for knowledge
management the shared applications processing "soft" information. Among them,
following tools belong:
lTools for information retrieval and information push.
lElectronic document management system.
lWorkflow processing.
lImplementation of groupware and company Intranet. Control of co-operation of
workgroups in geographically distributed locations.
lIntegration of information for decision support and management into data
lCreation of analytical OLAP applications and data mining applications.
lManagement of knowledge transfer using electronic discussions.
lVideoconferences for creation of virtual teams.
However, in knowledge management it is not possible to rely solely upon
technologies alone. A number of knowledge management initiatives aim at
introduction of knowledge-based technologies into an organisation without
stressing content processed using these technologies. It is necessary to
realise that knowledge management is not a technological issue. Without
clarification of targets that we intend to achieve when introducing
technologies and without guiding the staff to such utilisation of technologies
so that the targets be actually fulfilled, the technologies alone will not
improve the knowledge management level in the company.
Strategic Role of Knowledge Management
Potential Loss of Competitiveness
Most organisations do not perform knowledge management today. They
underestimate formation, acquiring and sharing knowledge. Doing this, they can
suppress or prevent intellectual development within an organisation and it can
happen that they will lose in comparison to the competition the intellectual
assets they possess today. Unless they catch up in time the world-wide trend
stressing information and knowledge management and invest insufficiently in the
initiatives of knowledge management, they will have problems how to survive in
the competitive environment. Among the manifestations of insufficient knowledge
management belong, for example, long innovation cycles, uncompetitive products
or loss of clients when key officers of the company leave. Increased
competitiveness achieved due to intensive knowledge management is demonstrated
today in the areas directly dependent upon knowledge such as consulting
companies, financial institutions or software companies. Knowledge management
is extremely necessary in locations where there are frequent changes and
business is not secure and with high risk.
Key Role of Information Technologies
Knowledge management is not a technological issue; however, it is related to
the human issues and intellectual assets of an organisation. It concerns more
information within the information systems and utilisation of potential hidden
in the information, communication and media technologies. However, engineering
and technologies play an enabling role and simultaneously add to the
possibility of supply of the knowledge designs from outside. We can thus say
that without information and communication technologies it would not be
possible to realise the knowledge initiatives effectively.
Current status in information and knowledge utilisation in organisations can be
characterised as "lots of data, little information and almost no knowledge".
Most of organisations have at their disposal knowledge technologies. They have
also amassed large volume of data from the operation systems during time.
However, there are reserves in utilisation of information stored in current
data sources and in utilisation of potential in experience and knowledge of
people. Knowledge sharing plays and will play more and more vital part for the
Knowledge as a New Strategic Source
The state with a large volume of more or less isolated data sources is quite
logical, since the information technologies are today in an era of information
superhighway the aim of which is to create mass information and communication
technology (ICT) connectivity. At the peak of this era, there will be not only
fusion of information and communication technologies but convergence of digital
technologies. Interconnection of information and communication technologies
with the mass media technologies will commence within the coming decade an era
of information content when knowledge management will have the same importance
as the financial management today. Knowledge management programs and
initiatives can very quickly leverage knowledge as a strategic source yielding
decisive values to business and can attract attention from the traditional
sources such as financial capital, labour and natural resources.
Time to Start
As the practice of current pilot initiatives in knowledge management shows that
it is impossible to introduce knowledge management to the organisation in a
complete scope and at once, today is the right time to think over the knowledge
and intellectual assets. The highest obstacle to overcome is the enterprise
culture and company philosophy that does not support information and knowledge
9 1397 / darn

Types for Control of Initiatives in Knowledge Management
InitiativeHazardsTips for elimination / decrease of hazard

TargetsŇ Targets too complexŇ Select an incremental lifecycle with a feedback
to the whole entity.
Ň Vaguely defined targetsŇ Select partial target for each incremental step.
Ň Define targets that are realistic and measurable.
Ň Analyse well all related projects.

Subject matter,Ň Subject matter not clearŇ Do not start a knowledge initiative
without previous conception.
timeŇ Initiative too technically orientedof a document for the comprehensive
knowledge strategy.
and financialŇ Deviation from the time scheduleŇ Aim at first at the
information and knowledge chains.
scopeŇ Uncontrolled price / costs of the initiativerather than at their support
using technologies.
Ň Limit individual steps within a fixed time schedule.
Ň Analyse the added value of each step of the initiative
in relation to the price of this step.

ControlŇ Loss of straightforward managementŇ Enforce project organisation with
defined roles, of the initiativeof the initiativeresponsibilities and powers.
Ň Uncontrolled transfer and sharingŇ Commence the initiative with written
of information concerning the initiativeŇ Inform regularly the pre-determined
group of officers on the initiative progress.
Ň Introduce project control outputs.

ExpectatioŇ Missing the effects of achieved targetsŇ Inform regularly on
achieved success / failure of the initiative.
andŇ Ignorance of initiative success / failureŇ Ask the key officers for a
feedback to the initiative
measurementstatus currently achieved.
of achievedŇ Adjust the targets strategically and regularly along
targetswith the progress of your knowledge of success
/ failure of individual partial steps.

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