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sharing organizational knowledge
Knowledge sharing across the organization is increasingly used as a strategic tool, to boost customer service, decrease product development times, and to share best practice. Computer systems that are networked across organizational boundaries can improve the flow of information and knowledge to meet business goals. Intranets (an internal Internet) are seen as user-friendly and cost effective ways of achieving this. However, technology is merely the enabler. It is people who turn its potential into bottom-line benefits. This briefing outlines the role of Intranets in knowledge sharing and suggests guidelines for achieving their potential.
Rapid Spread of Intranets
The Internet, a global network of over 10 million computer, has seen rapid use in its commercial application over the last few years. Its ease of access, the World Wide Web and universal standards have all helped fuel its growth. The same technology can be applied within an organization. Its low cost and ability to work on many machine types has allowed organizations, many for the first time, to connect their disparate 'islands of information'. Many companies are now using, or planning to use the Intranet as their preferred computer platform for a wide range of applications.
Intranets and Knowledge
Intranets offer several facilities that aid knowledge sharing:
An important point to note is that an Intranet is not just a formalized electronic library at one extreme, nor totally informal publishing on the other. It can convey information in many forms, not just Web pages but documents, tables, spreadsheets and images. It can host applications and databases. Above all, it provide connectivity that allows knowledge workers to collaborate, wherever they are located.
Creating Shared Knowledge
Intranets by themselves do not create shared knowledge. They need the application of specific knowledge management techniques and processes. These include:
A key component is often a knowledge web; experts who collectively help refresh and refine the organizations evolving reservoir of knowledge.
Examples of Success
Many companies have applied Intranet and similar knowledge networks to enhance the flow of organizational knowledge, and to more widely exploit it to create business value. Some examples are:
Our research and client work has identified some key factors that need addressing in a successful Intranet implementation. These include, but are not limited to:
Usually, intranets evolve, not in a controlled and planned way, as with a major IT project investment, but along a dynamic and evolutionary path, determined by the users themselves, with some appropriate 'nudging and steering' from an experienced knowledge networker.
Challenges and Issues
The biggest challenge reported by practitioners is that of changing a prevailing culture from "knowledge is power" to "knowledge sharing is power". Such a culture can be changed, over time, in a variety of ways. These may include:
It is good human networking that makes intranets effective, not technology. Addressing the organizational and human factors are a key aspect of every successful Intranet project.
Management Insights are publications of David Skyrme Associates, who offers strategic consulting, presentations and workshops on many of these topics.
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