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B. Describe the role of IT in knowledge Management?

Information technology (IT) has made it easier to acquire, store, or disseminate


knowledge than ever before, many organizations are employing IT to facilitate s
haring and integration of knowledge. There are two basic approaches to KM for wh
ich IT can provide support: codification and personalization with the codificati
on approach, more explicit and structured knowledge is codified and stored in kn
owledge bases. The main role of IT here is to help people share knowledge throug
h common storage so as to achieve economic reuse of knowledge. An example of suc
h IT tools is electronic knowledge repositories. With the personalization approa
ch, more tacit and unstructured knowledge is shared largely through direct perso
nal communication. The main role of IT here is to help people locate each other
and communicate so as to achieve complex knowledge transfer. Examples of such IT
tools are knowledge expert directories and video-conferencing tools. Both these
KM approaches are fundamental to understanding the role of IT in KM.
If properly used IT can accelerate knowledge-sharing capabilities in both time a
nd space dimensions. Locality, timing, and relevancy factors determine the exped
iency and the strength of IT's role in KM initiatives. On the other hand, due to
the difficulty of incorporating most of human behavior aspects in technology, I
T cannot fully put into operation many of KM's humanistic features. Therefore, I
T cannot be considered the magic bullet that makes a KM initiative a complete su
ccess. Hence, IT has to be part of a balanced and integrated set of components.
Too much emphasis on technology without incorporating the other critical element
s could easily result in a failed system. Furthermore, codifying knowledge with
the power of the existing IT and without the support from socio-cultural inputs,
will result in de-contextualization, i.e. ''knowledge dilution''. IT must be ac
companied by social networks such as communities of practice and other human int
erventions to create the requisite synergistic effects.
In summary, - Technology should be seen as an enabler to KM. IT tools are used t
o capture, codify, store and distribute knowledge throughout the organization. I
T tools such as Internet, Intranet, Extranet, Email, Electronic Data Management
Systems (EDMS), Decision Support Systems, Expert Systems, Groupware, Wikis, Webl
ogs, and other shared networked and net-based technologies are used to leverage
KM processes in the organization. IT provides member in an organization the plat
form to communicate and to get access to the right information at the right time
for the right purpose. Therefore, there should be a balance between knowledge m
anagement initiatives and engagement of IT tools and infrastructure in order to
exploit the benefits of KM to the fullest. By focusing on IT as the most integra
l component of KM, may jeopardize the potential benefit from KM activities and m
ay lead to failure in KM implementation.
The following provides few examples of the role of IT in many companies worldwid
e:
Buckman Laboratories has spent $7,500 per employee each year, for its more than
1,200 employees, to facilitate a global e-communication network (K'Netix) that l
inks specialists to field staff. K'Netix has several forums to support COP devot
ed to various business areas (e.g., TechForum has about 20 sections devoted to a
reas such as pulp and paper, and industrial water treatment). Likewise, British
Petroleum has invested $434,000 to develop Connect, a knowledge yellow pages tha
t helps employees to locate required expertise. In addition, global community kn
owledge is assembled across the organization to leverage expertise on maintenanc
e of oil drilling platforms and reservoir modeling.
Shell has an Expertise Directory that acts as a clearing-house and signpost for
both knowledge seekers and contributors. To facilitate communication among its s
ubsidiaries, Shell developed Global Networks, which comprised collaboration tool
s like LiveLink and Microsoft Exchange. Although these organizations have invest
ed heavily in IT to support the personalization approach to KM, they also practi
ce the codification approach to a lesser extent. For example, Shell Global Netwo
rks has different degrees of codification for its three forums. The best practic
e forum has a greater degree of codified knowledge whereas the discussion forum
has minimal codified knowledge.