Knowledge refers to the set of skills, facts and information that an individual has acquired over time concerning a subject, an organization or a process. This leads to familiarity which this individual gains through experience and over time.
Knowledge management is the process by which knowledge is systematically identified, captured, organized, shared and effectively used to achieve organizational objectives. It also refers to the field of study that is concerned with understanding knowledge capture, organization and use within organizations. KM consists of a set of strategies and approaches that are used to create safeguard and use knowledge assets that include people and information. This allows knowledge to flow to the right people in a timely manner and allow them to create more value for the enterprise.
The critical success factors helps to ensure that the essential issues and factors are covered during design and implementation phase in adopting KM. According to Kemboi et al, (2012) there are two critical success factors that influence institutionalization of Knowledge Management (KM) in Kenya. These factors include the following :
a) Organizational practices
Kostova, T., & Roth, K. (2002) defined organizational practices as organizations’ routine use of knowledge for conducting a particular function that has evolved over time under the influence of the organization’s history, people, interests, and actions. Organisational practices comprise of a set of activities undertaken consistently overtime to eventually develop common practices of an organization.
The critical success factors in this category include the following:
- Management support – Support of management plays a critical role in the success of every project being undertaken within the organization. KM programs also require the essential approval of management especially during design and implementation phases.
- Knowledge strategy – The existence or lack of a KM strategy is a critical factor in developing KM programs in an organization. A clear and well planned KM strategy is crucial in driving success in KM (Liebowitz, 1999). In a multi-case study conducted by Akhavan et al (2006) on critical success factors, results from four out of six companies sampled showed that the KM strategy has to be closely linked or integrated with the organization’s business strategy if it is to be successful.
- Business Process Reengineering (BPR) – In order to successfully adopt KM, it is necessary that the existing procedures of conducting daily business activities in an organization are evaluated and redesigned. The core objective of BPR is to come up with new procedures that are more creative and efficient in delivery of services and value addition. Depending on specific cases, BPR may be a critical success factor in adoption of KM.
- Organizational culture – The organization needs to cultivate the culture of sharing knowledge even before KM is adopted. Essential factors that will encourage sharing involve identification of knowledge experts and creating an environment of openness, trust, respect and motivation for sharing.
- Expert networks – The identification of experts in all aspects of organizational processes is essential when developing KM. these networks can be developed in form of specialized committees, communities of practice and knowledge teams. A sound technological system should also be in place to facilitate knowledge sharing within and outside these teams. A culture of transparency should also be cultivated for success.
- Storage – Organizations need to be able to develop mechanisms by which they capture, organize and store their knowledge for referencing purposes and form an organization memory. This can easily be done for codifiable explicit knowledge using knowledge repositories but a great challenge for tacit knowledge residing within people’s minds. This challenge can however be solved partly by developing skill or expertise databases.
- Knowledge audit – This an essential activity of monitoring and evaluation of KM systems. Knowledge audit helps to determine value of knowledge by analyzing its adoption and use, opportunities and gaps within it that require to be filled. This is important as it helps the management to determine the effectiveness of KM in their organization.
- Reward and motivation – The ability of individuals in an organization to effectively share knowledge is mainly voluntary. It therefore requires that employees are given adequate motivation that will push them to voluntarily share what they know with others without being pushed by mechanisms put in place by management. This may include ranking of contributors on the knowledge repository, offering awards e.g. Company of the Year Awards (COYA) among other reward and recognition techniques.
b) Technological infrastructure
IT is an essential factor that facilitates sharing of knowledge especially on a large scale and within teams that are geographically distributed. Some of the success factors associated with IT include the following:
- Content – The content of the system should be user centered by focusing on the needs of its users. Establishing great content for a system involves having processes in place to acquire, manage, validate, and deliver relevant information, when it is needed.
- Standard platform – Some organizations have the tendency to develop highly customized systems that are hard to update. The downfall for such systems is that they are not easy to accommodate new technologies emerging in the industry. Industry standard systems on the other hand readily adapt to new standards and technologies. They have a wide user community that can exploited for support and organizations can avoid the costly customized systems that quickly become obsolete.
- Simplicity – Users always get frustrated using a system if it takes longer than usual to find what they want. The User Interface (UI) is an important aspect in design and implementation of knowledge systems and repositories. It should be easy to navigate and make use of standard industry terminologies that the end users can easily understand and associate with.
- Training – People are the most important elements of a KM system. It is therefore imperative that they are adequately equipped with the necessary skills to make use of it. Training. As stated by Hasanali, (2002) best-practice examples reveal that the central KM group should spend most of its time (after deployment) teaching, guiding, and coaching users how to use the system to interact, communicate, and share information and knowledge with one another.
- Approach – The people involved in establishing the system should take time to fully understand the needs of the users of the system. The fully understood needs of the users should form the basis for formulating the objectives of the project. If these objectives are not met, then the project is said to have failed.
- Others – Other factors identified in the study included access to computers, document management, knowledge management software, establishment of a resource center and availability of internet and access to the intranet resources.