Strategic Knowledge Management Models and Tools in the Public Sector: Evidence From the University Setting

Strategic Knowledge Management Models and Tools in the Public Sector: Evidence From the University Setting

Filippo Zanin (University of Udine, Italy) and Giulio Corazza (University of Udine, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9639-4.ch012

Abstract

Universities are a particular public entity where knowledge is a critical competitive resource. One of the main economic and social aims of universities is the generation of new knowledge for supporting innovation activities of knowledge capital-intensive industries. For ensuring the implementation of effective knowledge transferring process, management control systems tools, typically adopted in the private businesses sector, may effectively be used in public sector. In particular, the adoption of strategic performance measurement systems (SPMS) become important in public sector because it should affect organizational performance. Management studies have not taken into account explicitly the role of the SPMS in the public sector. This study aims to fill these gaps and demonstrates how SPMS influence organizational performance by supporting the strategic plan implementation of Ca' Foscari University of Venice. More specifically, the authors analyze how the use of SPMS facilitate strategic control and the mobilization of strategic organizational knowledge into a coherent strategic intent.
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Introduction

Universities are a particular public entity where knowledge is a critical competitive resource, because their business practices are essentially knowledge-based and knowledge workers are the most relevant resource (Marin et al., 2016). One of the main economic and social aims of universities is the generation of new knowledge for supporting innovation activities of knowledge capital-intensive industries (Perkmann, Walsh, 2007). The University-Industry link has taken up considerable interest in knowledge management literature (Mansfield, 1991) and an emerging stream of research focuses attention on the factors underling the variety of knowledge transfer mechanisms between university and industry (Gertner et al., 2011). For this reason, the concept of “entrepreneurial university” is becoming of fundamental importance in the scientific debate since Universities are seeing as both knowledge-producing organizations and disseminator of knowledge to the economic and social context. For ensuring the implementation of effective knowledge transferring process, management control systems tools (MCS), typically adopted in the private businesses sector, may effectively be used in public sector. MCS aim at monitoring the objectives in the development and implementation of a strategic action. In particular, the adoption of Strategic Performance Measurement Systems (SPMS) become important in public sector within the process of strategy formulation.

Most research on SPMS is focused on organization’s profitability, market share, net asset, working capital, revenue measures and cash flow measures. These performance indicators design in the business sector may not necessarily be applicable to the public sector. Especially SPMS seems not to be studied in the University system. This may be attributed to the lack of the application of the concept of strategic planning in the University context.

This study tries to fill these gaps by demonstrating how SPMS influence organizational performance by supporting the strategic plan implementation of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. More specifically, we analyze how the use of SPMS facilitate strategic control (by connecting strategy implementation with the goal fixed by the members of the executive board) and the mobilisation of strategic organisational knowledge into a coherent strategic intent.

In the first phase of the research the tool of the strategic maps was used in order to point out the strategic intent, subsequently organisational strategy was operationalised into strategic objectives and actions. Lastly, the introduction of SPMS in 2010 was analysed in order to highlight the link between corporate strategy and key performance indicators.

The Italian University setting is a particular research topic within the public-sector domain. The large majority of Italian Universities are public bodies as they depend on other bodies, such as Ministries, to define the scope and the architecture of their primary activities and are influenced by regulatory and legal framework that produce disciplinary effects in corporate governance. Moreover, they acquire financial resources from government funds and the recent spending cuts put them into competition with one another for funding. A recent reform is stimulating a radical change in the management policies of this particular educational public body. Ca’ Foscari University of Venice has been recognized by the Italian Government as a successful organization because it was able to apply the recommended strategic changes by implementing a SPMS system. Thus, Ca Foscari University of Venice represents the ideal field for testing our research hypothesis.

The analysis confirms the possible implementation of these systems and highlights their positive impact on the strategy implementation process. In the case study, the adoption of SPMS has allowed to achieve the strategic goals and to improve the control on the overall organization.

This analysis makes a significant contribution to the literature by examining the process of SPMS implementation in the public bodies. It combines studies from many fields and tests the research questions on a specific case study. Our results have implications for a wide range of university policy areas.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Competitive Strategy: The way through which an organization competes in its environment.

Open University: The concepts that underline the continuous exchange with the environment which is essential because knowledge is viewed as a driving force for economic development.

Management Control Systems: A tools for supporting the decision-making which main objective is to sustain the firm competitive advantage.

Knowledge Strategy: The way through which an organization manages its knowledge bases for strategic purposes.

New Public Management: Research approach that sustains the feasibility of the translation of managerial tools and practice from private sector to public sector.

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