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More Focus Needed On People, Process And Culture

Media release from Infinity Solutions Ltd

Survey of Knowledge Management in NZ shows more focus needed on people, process and culture

A recent survey of Knowledge Management (KM) practices in New Zealand organisations indicates greater focus is needed on people, process and workplace culture if KM initiatives are to have the best chance of succeeding.

The survey, conducted by business services company Infinity Solutions Ltd, covered KM at fifty public and private sector organisations of varying sizes and from a broad range of industry categories. Infinity Solutions intends to produce the survey annually to track KM trends and progress in New Zealand.

The survey defined Knowledge Management as a set of business processes that enables the systematic and integrated creation, capture, access and use of an organisation's knowledge assets, including expertise, insight and experience of individual employees as well as databases and documents, for business benefit.

Infinity Solutions Manager of Knowledge Management Rose Boyle said there was often sole emphasis on Information Technology when New Zealand organisations implemented KM initiatives.

"There is an impression that technology plays the biggest role in the success of KM. However, it is generally believed two-thirds to three-quarters of KM success is attributable to people, process and cultural factors. If these aspects of KM are left unaddressed then good results are likely to be more elusive.

"The most important element of successful KM is having an environment that encourages people to share knowledge, and being able to manage that knowledge well. But while our survey showed organisations were eager to have people contribute and share their knowledge, it also revealed most organisations did not measure knowledge contribution and sharing or reward people for it.

"The organisations that have actively fostered a knowledge sharing culture all indicated their efforts had contributed to better business results. So this is a message that other New Zealand organisations could certainly learn from."

Ms Boyle said many organisations had KM initiatives in place, and awareness and adoption of KM practices appeared to be picking up in New Zealand.

"In general, New Zealand is not as far down the track as some other countries in implementing KM initiatives, but our survey showed there is a lot of investigation and planning being done here. Within the next year or two many organisations will be putting their plans into action, so I see KM having an increasing influence in shaping workplace practices.

"New Zealand organisations have tended to take a pragmatic approach to KM and just get on and do it, usually starting out with a pilot group before introducing KM practices across the business. In many cases they don't call what they are doing 'Knowledge Management' - they use their own different terms."

Ms Boyle said most organisations surveyed were clear about the benefits they expected from implementing KM, including improvements in quality, productivity and decision-making as well as increased innovation. Organisations were less driven by concerns about revenue or the effects of staff loss.

"The benefits gained by organisations that had implemented KM initiatives were generally in the areas they expected, such as better quality, decision-making and innovation.

"It was interesting to note that survey responses were often rather tentative in attributing benefits to KM. This may be partly due to some difficulties in measuring things like innovation, or caution about linking results to something new like KM."

Survey participants were also asked to identify constraints in implementing KM initiatives.

"The constraints identified would be stumbling blocks in many projects where significant changes are involved - lack of in-house skills, lack of understanding of the benefits, poor funding and little commitment from senior management. The good news is most respondents believed their organisations encouraged knowledge sharing, were receptive to change and aware of the tangible benefits of KM," said Ms Boyle.

Survey results indicated that, in general, the knowledge deemed most important to an organisation tended to be captured and stored using more sophisticated means such shared electronic files or systems. However, most survey participants still found accessing important information difficult.

"A common problem is that useful information is often stored with irrelevant and outdated information. People are finding they have to trawl through a lot of irrelevant information to find the nuggets that are important," said Ms Boyle.

"There was also a big discrepancy in the high importance organisations placed on the personal skills and experience of their employees, and the sophistication of storing this knowledge. The knowledge tended to be in individual files or just in people's heads, which of course makes it difficult for other people in the organisation to access and make use of.

"This raises two important issues. First, when a lot of corporate knowledge and personal skills are kept only in people's heads, there can be a big impact on business when people leave. Secondly, the organisation doesn't 'know what it knows' - there may be people right in front of you with important knowledge you aren't aware of, or it affects your ability to access the right people at the right time."

Ms Boyle said the survey had highlighted the importance of strategy and clear responsibilities when implementing KM initiatives.

"Of the organisations we surveyed, those with a formal documented strategy rated their success at implementing KM noticeably higher than organisations with an informal strategy or no strategy at all.

"It is also beneficial to have an individual or a department that holds responsibility for driving and resourcing KM in the organisation. However, some organisations we surveyed had responsibility for KM sitting across several positions or no particular position at all, and most had no dedicated KM budget."

Overall there appeared to be no strong differences in survey results between the public and private sectors or between large and small organisations.

Infinity Solutions provides Knowledge Management and Human Resources expertise and technology tools for organisations requiring support in implementing or maintaining KM.


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