Chief Knowledge Officers

Chief Knowledge Officers

Richard T. Herschel (St. Joseph’ s University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch086
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Abstract

Knowledge management (KM) refers to a range of practices used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness, and learning across the organization. KM typically takes the form of programs that are tied to organizational objectives and are intended to lead to the achievement of specific outcomes such as shared intelligence, improved performance, competitive advantage, or higher levels of innovation. Knowledge management focuses on developing and maintaining intellectual capital across the organization. It attempts to bring under one set of practices various strands of thought and practice relating to: • Harnessing the effective use of data, information, and know-how in a knowledge-based organization and economy • The idea of the learning organization • Various enabling organizational practices such as communities of practice and corporate yellow page directories for accessing key personnel and expertise • Various enabling technologies such as knowledge bases and expert systems, help desks, corporate intranets and extranets, and content management systems (Wikipedia, 2007). Beginning in the 1990s, the person responsible for directing and coordinating these activities for organizations was oftentimes designated the chief knowledge office (CKO).
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Introduction

Knowledge management (KM) refers to a range of practices used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness, and learning across the organization. KM typically takes the form of programs that are tied to organizational objectives and are intended to lead to the achievement of specific outcomes such as shared intelligence, improved performance, competitive advantage, or higher levels of innovation.

Knowledge management focuses on developing and maintaining intellectual capital across the organization. It attempts to bring under one set of practices various strands of thought and practice relating to:

  • Harnessing the effective use of data, information, and know-how in a knowledge-based organization and economy

  • The idea of the learning organization

  • Various enabling organizational practices such as communities of practice and corporate yellow page directories for accessing key personnel and expertise

  • Various enabling technologies such as knowledge bases and expert systems, help desks, corporate intranets and extranets, and content management systems (Wikipedia, 2007).

Beginning in the 1990s, the person responsible for directing and coordinating these activities for organizations was oftentimes designated the chief knowledge office (CKO).

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Background

The role of a CKO was created and promoted by consultants in the late 1990s to develop a firm’s knowledge infrastructure, to promote knowledge capture, storage, and distribution, and to act as a symbol that employees look to for guidance in a knowledge management culture. Bontis (2002) states that the CKO position was intended to help a firm to leverage its intellectual capital by:

  • Promoting stability in a turbulent business environment

  • Enabling the speedy delivery of products and services

  • Creating high efficiency in the knowledge value chain by sharing of resources and realization of synergies

  • Enabling the separation of work so that specialization is feasible

The CKO job description frequently encompassed a number of different responsibilities. For example, the CKO might be responsible for leading executive management to develop an enterprise knowledge strategy, validating this strategy across the enterprise, and then ensuring that its evolution complements and integrates with business strategy. The CKO might also be charged with setting priorities and securing funding for knowledge management programs as well as defining policies for security, usage, and maintenance of intellectual capital. Depending on the organizational culture, the CKO could also act as the chief advocate for KM as a discipline—walking and talking the program throughout the enterprise and assisting executives and senior management in building and communicating personal commitment and advocacy for KM (Davenport & Prusak, 1998).

Rarely did the CKO come from an information systems or human resource organization. In fact, CKO backgrounds were quite varied, though most had substantial experience with their firm and knowledge of the firm’s industry. Whatever their background, CKOs were supposed to straddle business and information technology (IT) with a mandate to convince workers that it is good to share information and to work with IT to build applications to support such sharing (Earl & Scott, 1999).

In 2001, 25% of Fortune 500 companies had a CKO and 80% of Fortune 500 companies had a knowledge management staff. Forty-two percent of Fortune 500 companies anticipated appointing a CKO within the next three years (Flash, 2001).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Tacit Knowledge: Knowledge that is uncodified and difficult to diffuse. It is hard to verbalize because it is expressed through action-based skills and cannot be reduced to rules and recipes. Tacit knowledge is the same as implicit knowledge.

Customer Capital: Customer relationships, brands, trademarks, etc

Explicit Knowledge: Knowledge that can be expressed formally using a system of symbols, and can therefore be easily communicated or diffused. It is either object based or rule based

Knowledge Management: A program for managing a firm’s intellectual capital by systematically capturing, storing, sharing, and disseminating the firm’s explicit and tacit knowledge

Human Capital: That in the minds of individuals: knowledge, competences, experience, know-how etc

Business Intelligence (BI): A business management term, which refers to applications and technologies which are used to gather, provide access to, and analyze data and information about their company operations

Structural Capital: “That which is left after employees go home for the night”: processes, information systems, databases etc

Intellectual Capital: Can be divided into three categories.

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