From the Knowledge Management perspective, Knowledge distribution is a critical process in organizations. As many of the other Knowledge-related processes, it has received basic support from Information Technologies in the form of databases and repositories, client-server systems and other standard IT. Nevertheless, most basic IT tools fail to provide the flexible environment Knowledge distribution needs to be effective in many organizations. In this chapter we review some very advanced IT that are being proposed for supporting Knowledge distribution processes. Even though they are not mainstream technologies nowadays, they show actual trends that are expected to materialize in future generations of IT for Knowledge distribution.
The key factors that determine success in companies and national economies rely on effectiveness in gathering and managing knowledge nowadays (United Nations, 2000). In economies based on knowledge, creation, distribution, and use of information to generate knowledge increases opportunities for development. In this context of increasing economic importance of knowledge, Knowledge Management (KM, Beckman, 1999) has emerged with the goal of taking advantage of information and knowledge every company owns. Most authors in KM agree with the need for executing the processes of generating, storing and distributing knowledge.
The process of generating knowledge encourages continuous improvement and growth through innovation, generation of new ideas, pattern recognition and development of new processes (Ruggles, 1997). Storing process implies keeping information in the organization repository; this is the organizational memory of the company. Finally, distribution has the goal of making available useful information to the members of the company in the shortest time. This fact allows users to access the information no matter where they are.
One of the strongest catalysts of KM has been the necessity for managing large amounts of information efficiently (Carrillo, 1999). Aside from the importance of generating and storing the necessary information in order to generate knowledge, the efficient distribution of such information has become a relevant subject last years. In companies, sharing knowledge resources via distribution is essential for two reasons: first, because it avoids duplicating efforts to obtain and maintain knowledge. Second, because it encourages consistent decision-making since all employees have access to the same knowledge (Probst, Raub & Romhardt, 1999).
In spite of its importance, most of the information stored in a company repository is never used since it is not distributed efficiently. Nowadays, one of the most challenging issues is the time spent by employees searching for information already stored in their repositories (Dalkir, 2005). Introduction of IT in every aspects of society has allowed storing and generating gigabytes of information, however, it hardly reaches relevant people at the right time. According to Sarnikar (2007), in order to accomplish an efficient information flow, proactive KM technologies are required; these technologies should automate and control distribution of information. Although many techniques of distribution and filtering have been developed last years, providing the right knowledge to users in the right context, continues being a complex issue (Sarnikar, 2007).
We can safely conclude that IT has not supported in a satisfactory way Knowledge Distribution (KD) processes. In this situation, solutions could come from several fronts:
Develop and refine KM strategies that could improve KM processes efficiency with the current IT sophistication level;
Introduce more flexible and sophisticated IT tools that could provide a more flexible and better support to KM processes.
In this chapter we investigate the second possibility, though having in mind that KM strategies refinement is also an essential issue, which is being explored by researchers and practitioners (Liebowitz, 2005).Top
Many IT tools and strategies have been used for supporting KD. For the sake of classifying them, we could identify two “pure” strategies for sharing knowledge that they support (Albino, 2004)
Key Terms in this Chapter
Social Networks: The set of human relations in an organization, which exist independently of whether or not they are analyzed; as a discipline, social networks is the study of those interrelations.
Virtual Spaces: A simulated place in an information system, like a working group. Some virtual spaces incorporate virtual reality concepts, but in enterprises it is not common practice
Asynchronous Tools: Information tools where it is not necessary the participation of several involved parties at the same time.
Ontologies: Definition of classes of objects, attributes, properties and relations to other objects, expressed in Semantic Web markup languages such as OWL.
Digital Repository: Set of interrelated electronic documents, stored in files or a database, usually classified in categories and other criteria, that stores knowledge useful to an enterprise or other organization.
Enterprise Portals: Specialized websites, common in big enterprises, where a logged-in user can access a wealth of information services.
IT (Information Technologies): Set of technologies related to electronic information processing.
Negroponte’s Delegation: A human user can delegate a task to a synthetic agent, meaning that the latter is going to carry it out on behalf of the former.
Taxonomies: Tree-like classifications.
Symbolic Information: Information written as sequences of symbols, which is normally text, as opposed to images, sound, etc.
Knowledge Management: Discipline that studies the efficient use of knowledge in enterprises and other organizations.
Collaborative Work Platforms: Computer-based systems which help users to interact so they can collaborate to perform tasks in an organization.
Information Filtering: Process that eliminates (filters out) part of a given information, leaving just what is believed to be useful.
Forums and Boards: Electronic discussion lists, where participants can “post” a new comment, respond to a previous post, etc.
Semantic Web: A set of technologies aiming to allow machines to reason about the content of internet documents.