Knowledge management (KM) is an important factor in organizational competitive advantage (Ichijo & Nonaka, 2007). Unfortunately, traditional KM initiatives frequently fail when they are included in the work processes of organizations (Stewart, 2002). One of the factors responsible for this is that these initiatives are not well aligned to the real knowledge needs of the organization’s knowledge workers. Thus, it is important to seek approaches to help to align KM initiatives to the real work processes of organizations (Maier & Remus, 2002), considering what is important for their knowledge workers (Dalkir, 2005; Wiig, 2004). In this chapter, we describe the knowledge flow identification methodology (KoFI), a methodology, based on process engineering techniques, that has been developed to aid in the study of organizational processes from a knowledge flow perspective. The methodology proposes a set of steps and tasks that can be carried out to analyze knowledge flows in business processes; thus, helping to identify issues such as the knowledge workers’ needs, the knowledge (and its sources) that is principally involved in the processes, the working tools that may (positively or negatively) affect the flow of knowledge in the process, or the problems that may be restricting the good flow of knowledge in the process. To exemplify the usefulness of the KoFI methodology, we provide a brief description of some of the results obtained from the application of the methodology, in real settings, in which it was helpful for various purposes, including: the design of a multiagent-based KM system, the development of a knowledge map for a process, the identification of the manner in which to integrate a tool currently used in an organization as a basis for a KM strategy, and for the development of an organizational knowledge portal.
The integration of KM into organizational processes has been considered one of the most important research approaches for the present and future of KM (Scholl, König, Meyer, & Heisig, 2004). It can be found in literature, some works addressing the integration of KM in organizational processes. Maier and Remus (2002), for instance, have studied different approaches for process-orientated KM strategies, and have developed a framework that is useful for characterizing them. Some other authors have proposed process-modeling approaches for studying the knowledge involved in organizational processes, most of which have been designed to aid in the development of KM systems (e.g., Bera, Nevo, & Wand, 2005; Kim, Hwang, & Suh, 2003; Nissen & Levitt, 2004; Papavassiliou & Mentzas, 2003; Smith & McKeen, 2004; Strohmaier & Tochtermann, 2005; Woitsch & Karagiannis, 2002). Most of the approaches we have found in literature are orientated towards developing specific KM systems, or they require special tools for using them. We have not found work focused on understanding the knowledge requirements of a process rather than on proposing specific solutions. Before proposing a specific approach for managing knowledge in an organization, it is important to analyze the organizations’ work processes from a knowledge flow perspective (Nissen, 2002), since supporting knowledge flow should be the main focus of KM (Borghoff & Pareaschi, 1998).
Key Terms in this Chapter
KoFI: Knowledge flow identification methodology
Knowledge Flow Facilitators: All those mechanisms or entities that interfere in the transfer of knowledge within an organization’s processes.
Ontologies: Conceptual models for specifying meanings of, or knowledge about, a common domain.
Knowledge Flow: The transfer of knowledge from the place it is created or stored to the place it needs to be applied.
Problem Scenarios: Textual descriptions of problems observed in a specific situation. They are presented in the form of a story that illustrates the problem and offers possible alternative solutions.
Knowledge Source: A source from which knowledge, with practical applications can be obtained, such as know how, know what, know where, and so forth.
Process Modeling: An activity in which a process is represented through a formalism called the process modeling language, which facilitates its analysis and abstracts the important aspects for the process analyzer.
Knowledge Management: A discipline focused on providing technologies or techniques to help organizations to store, process, disseminate, and reuse their knowledge in order to take advantage of it.