Defining Process-oriented Knowledge Management Strategies

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Along which basic lines could an organization which plans to invest in knowledge management proceed? What general initiatives can be suggested for knowledge management? First, an array of knowledge management goals and strategies is presented taken from theoretical and empirical studies which are then related to each other in the light of what we call a strategic intervention into an organization’s way of handling knowledge. We then make the case for the integration of process orientation into a comprehensive multi-dimensional framework for knowledge management strategies. Process-oriented knowledge management initiatives are designed to provide employees with task-related knowledge in the organization’s operative business processes. We argue that with this......

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  1. Knowledge and Process Management Volume 9 Number 2 pp 103–118 (2002) DOI: 10.1002 / kpm.136 & Research Article Defining Process-oriented Knowledge Management Strategies Ronald Maier* and Ulrich Remus University of Regensburg, Germany Along which basic lines could an organization which plans to invest in knowledge management proceed? What general initiatives can be suggested for knowledge management? First, an array of knowledge management goals and strategies is presented taken from theoretical and empirical studies which are then related to each other in the light of what we call a strategic intervention into an organization’s way of handling knowledge. We then make the case for the integration of process orientation into a comprehensive multi-dimensional framework for knowledge management strategies. Process-oriented knowledge management initiatives are designed to provide employees with task-related knowledge in the organiza- tion’s operative business processes. We argue that with this framework the resulting process- oriented knowledge management strategies address the integration of the resource-based view of an organization — which is the main focus of knowledge management — with the market-oriented view — which is implicitly brought about by process orientation. Copyright # 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. INTRODUCTION activities implemented in organizations which often lack a strategic perspective. KM seems to Knowledge Management (KM) and Organizational ‘absorb’ all kinds of theoretical approaches as well Memory (OM) are concepts well known from as practical activities, measures and technologies organizational science and learning theory. Many without thorough consideration of their strategic approaches have been developed which claim to or business value. We hypothesize that an organi- guide organizations to use their common or shared zation should follow a complex KM strategy as memory in a more efficient way (for extensive part of a comprehensive business strategy. A KM surveys of existing KM or OM approaches see strategy can be described using several dimensions Lehner, 2000; Maier and Lehner, 2000). With the derived from a theoretical and empirical survey of advent of advanced database technologies, net and KM activities, measures and technologies. communication technologies, especially the so- Process orientation is a perspective widely called ‘Intranet’ or ‘Web’ technologies, as well as accepted in organization science. Recently, there dedicated knowledge management systems (KMS, have been a number of attempts to integrate KM for a list of systems see Maier, 2002), sound infor- and process orientation (cf. Davenport et al., 1996; mation and communication technologies exist Allweyer, 1999; Eppler et al., 1999). However, until to support organizational processes of creating, now there has been no link between the two acquiring, organizing, distributing and applying concepts on the strategic level. Organizations knowledge. which have already implemented a process- There are already a large number of KM oriented organizational design can use process- orientation as one of the strategic dimensions. The *Correspondence to: Ronald Maier, Department of Business goals of this paper are: Informatics III, University of Regensburg, D-93040 Regensburg, Germany. E-mail: $ To lay out a framework that shows the strategic Copyright # 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  2. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management options an organization has with respect to KM. material and publications can be downloaded The framework details the very general classes from the URL: http://www-wi.uni-regensburg. of KM strategies suggested in the literature (see de/yoms. e.g. Hansen et al., 1999). The list of KM goals which we used in the $ To address the integration of the resource-based empirical study was derived from case studies view of an organization incorporated into KM documented in the literature (see e.g. Davenport initiatives with the market-oriented view. In et al., 1998) as well as empirical data found in order to accomplish this we make the case for studies on KM (e.g. Earl and Scott, 1999; ILOI, the integration of process orientation into a 1997; Bullinger et al., 1997). The questionnaire strategic framework for KM. contained, among others, the question: ‘How The paper is structured as follows. The next much does your organization aim at the following section describes the state of the art of KM goals?’ In most of the organizations so far KM is strategies on the basis of an empirical investigation an internal activity that is focused (almost) exclu- performed by one of the authors and a literature sively on the organization-internal knowledge review on theoretical and empirical studies. Then base. With the exception of ‘improving innovation’ we will motivate process orientation as the starting which can be seen as a very general goal those KM point for the formulation of a KM strategy. The goals that are focused strongly by most if not all derivation of a process-oriented knowledge man- organizations primarily try to agement strategy from a general business strategy (1) Improve the handling of existing knowledge in is outlined. The fourth section describes a set of documents or in people’s heads: ‘improve trans- dimensions of KM strategies. The fifth section parency’ (17 organizations strongly aim at presents the complete framework with all dimen- this goal), ‘improve access’ (14), ‘improve sions including the process-oriented dimension documentation’ (13) and ‘retention of knowl- and some hints for the application of the frame- edge’ (14), or to work. The final section concludes the paper and (2) Improve the sharing of knowledge: ‘improve gives an outlook on a future research agenda. knowledge sharing’ (12), ‘improve commu- nication’ (13). Twelve out of 18 organizations (=66.7%) aimed STATE OF THE ART OF KNOWLEDGE at eight or more KM goals strongly at the same MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN time. Thus, it seems that KM initiatives are PRACTICE currently very broadly and vaguely defined pro- This section presents some empirical results con- jects. cerning KM goals and strategies as well as the Additionally, we asked ‘To what extent does relationship to business strategy. The results were your organization achieve the following goals?’ The obtained in an empirical study which was con- rates of achievement of most of the KM goals were ducted by one of the authors (for a detailed ranked on average between 3.71 and 4.63 (on a description of the study and its results see Maier, 7-point scale with 7 being the highest score) 2002) and in a literature survey on other empirical showing a medium level of achievement. Thus, it studies the results of which are presented towards seems that the KM efforts of the responding the end of this section. The empirical study organizations, on average, still have some way to ‘knowledge management systems ’99’ investigated go until the more advanced benefits can be the state of the art of the use of KMS in the 500 harvested. largest German companies and the top 50 banking Concerning the relationship of KM initiatives to and insurance companies which resulted in the business goals, the highest benefits are estimated development of concepts, scenarios and reference to be in the rather ‘soft’ areas like ‘improve custo- models for the management of KMS in organiza- mer satisfaction’, ‘improve speed of innovation’ tions. From a total of 504 questionnaires sent out, whereas the quantitative criteria do not achieve 73 organizations responded (response rate: 14.5). equally high estimates (e.g. ‘reduce costs’, In 22 of the 73 responding organizations (30.1%) ‘improve growth of organization’). It is interesting KM was well established. To check this percen- to note that two of the three highest-ranked goals tage, we did a telephone survey of 243 organiza- (‘improve customer satisfaction’, ‘improve produc- tions originally questioned that showed that this tivity’) are also typical business process reengi- percentage is representative of the sample. The neering goals. questionnaire (in German) together with related Additionally, we asked how many business 104 R. Maier and U. Remus
  3. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE processes the organizations targeted with their KM KM is either integrated within the overall busin- initiatives. It is not surprising that only 13 ess strategy or treated as a separate business respondents (65% of those responding to this strategy in parallel with other strategies. question) answered this question whereas 7 (6) Customer-focused knowledge: the aim of this respondents indicated that they did not know strategy is to capture knowledge about cus- how many business processes were targeted. In tomers, their needs, preferences, businesses the remaining 53 cases the organizational design of and their reactions to actions taken by the the KM initiative was not (yet) detailed enough to organization etc. cover this aspect. Of the 13 respondents 9 did not (7) Intellectual asset management strategy: the aim focus on business processes, but supported all of this strategy is the enterprise-level man- business processes throughout the organization. agement of patents, technologies, operational The other 4 respondents focused on 2, 3, 4 and 10 and management practices, customer rela- business processes (1 case per answer). As tions, organizational arrangements, and hypothesized, it seems that process orientation is other knowledge assets. not yet focused in most of the KM activities of (8) Innovation and knowledge creation: research and German organizations despite the fact that most development is focused to enhance innova- organizations had already undergone business tion and the creation of new knowledge. process management programs in the past. The state of the art of KM strategies in practice There are also a number of authors who can be described as follows. There are already a pragmatically suggest a series of KM instruments, large number of initiatives in organizations under activities or efforts as ‘strategies’. They neither way. They combine very different approaches and detail the link to business strategies nor do they singular activities which are supposed to deliver distinguish between strategies, on the one hand, business value by improving the way an organiza- and instruments, activities or efforts to implement tion handles knowledge. KM in practice seems to strategies, on the other. Most of these authors base be an effort that comprises all kinds of different their findings on empirical studies investigating activities, measures and technologies. Unfortu- KM initiatives in organizations. Examples are (see nately, it seems that organizations do not pay Ruggles, 1998, p.85f; Hansen et al., 1999, p.278f; much attention to the strategic value of their APQC, 1996, pp.18ff): initiatives or the link between KM activities and (1) Map sources of internal expertise: the issue is to the business strategy or competitive advantages. make knowledge assets visible, to increase Thus, it is unclear how a resulting KM strategy can managers’ attention; the focus is on the be characterized and detailed. personal side of the knowledge in an organi- zation, e.g. expert directories, skill databases, yellow pages. PROCESS-ORIENTATION FOR (2) Establish new knowledge roles: create a separate KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT organizational unit, create positions or roles STRATEGIES responsible for knowledge-related tasks, such as knowledge broker or knowledge engineer, We will first briefly review the advantages of pro- assign personal responsibility for knowledge. cess orientation before we address the resource- (3) Create a (virtual) work environment which based view and the market-oriented view of an enables the sharing of tacit knowledge: the issue organization, and finally discuss a process- is to create virtual workspaces, networks of oriented KM strategy. knowledge workers which provide an alter- native environment to the co-located work- space, thus enabling the sharing of tacit Advantages of process orientation knowledge. The process-oriented view offers the following (4) Support knowledge flows in an organization: advantages for a KM initiative: knowledge seekers and knowledge providers should be connected using systems and tools $ Value chain orientation: The process-oriented view which provide for a balancing of pull and combines the task-oriented and the knowledge- push of knowledge. KMS are needed which oriented viewpoint into a value chain-oriented adapt to usage and communication patterns perspective (see explanations above). Knowl- of knowledge seekers and providers. edge that contributes to value-creating activi- (5) Knowledge management as a business strategy: ties can successfully be linked to business Process-oriented Knowledge Management Strategies 105
  4. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management processes. Thus, knowledge can be offered to $ Process controlling: A problem in KM is trans- an employee in a much more targeted way. At parency about costs and benefits. Pragmatic the same time, information overload can be approaches to knowledge controlling could avoided, since only information relevant to the profit from a process-oriented approach. Some value-creating activity is filtered and made approaches within the field of active based available (see Schreiber et al., 1999, p.72; Bach costing (Scheer 1998, pp.66ff) seem to be appro- et al., 1999, p.27). priate and have to be adapted to knowledge- $ Context relevance: Processes can provide part of intensive processes as well. the context that is important for the interpreta- $ Designing and introducing KMS: The analysis of tion and construction of process-relevant business processes can be a good starting point knowledge. That includes knowledge about to design and introduce KMS (see Nissen et al., processes that is to be stored together with 2000, p.40; cf. CommonKADS methodology for knowledge derived from processes during their knowledge engineering and management, operation. Schreiber et al., 1999). Information derived from $ Widely accepted management methods: There are at processes can also be used to specify KMS least ten years of experience in reengineering more precisely (e.g. process-oriented navigation business processes. The adaptation of activities structure, process-oriented knowledge maps within business process reengineering (BPR) for and knowledge structure diagrams). the specific needs of reengineering knowledge- intensive business processes (cf. Davenport et al., 1996) can be a promising area. This Knowledge management and business strategy includes adapted process models, expanded modeling activities (cf. Remus and Lehner, The so-called market-based view was most pro- 2000), reference models and tools (cf. Allweyer, minently developed and pushed by the frame- 1999). Expertise in BPR is readily available for works proposed by Porter (e.g. the well-known organizations. five-forces model, Porter, 1980, p.4; the value $ Improvement in handling of knowledge: Next to the chain, Porter, 1985, pp.36ff; the diamond, Porter, advantages resulting from an organization’s 1990, p.71f). These frameworks help to analyze the analysis of its own business processes, such as organization’s environment, namely the attractive- clarifying tasks and promoting an integrative ness of industries and competitive positions (for view, process-orientation can lead to a more the following see Porter, 1980, pp.3ff, 1985). In targeted improvement in the handling of knowl- its extreme form, the market-based view almost edge in terms of Knowledge Process Redesign exclusively pays attention to the competitive posi- (KPR) (see Davenport et al., 1996; Allweyer, tion and it is mostly only in the implementation 1999; Eppler et al., 1999). phase that the organizational resources are con- $ Process benchmarking: The comparison of very sidered. The main focus of a strategy in the successful knowledge-intensive business pro- market-based view is to select an attractive cesses can be a good starting point for activities industry and to position an organization attrac- in the field of KPR. Since these weakly struc- tively within this industry through one of the two tured processes are often difficult to describe, generic strategies cost-leadership or differentia- efforts in this field seem to be quite reasonable. tion. Along with the two possibilities of industry- An example is the success of the MIT process wide activities versus a concentration on a specific handbook which also includes many typical niche within the industry, a resulting set of four knowledge-intensive business processes (see generic strategies is proposed. Malone et al. 1999). However, criticism of the one-sided orienta- $ Support for process-oriented knowledge manage- tion of the market-based view resulted in the ment: Knowledge processes that handle the development of the resource-based view (see flow of information between processes can Wernerfelt, 1984; Prahalad and Hamel, 1990; be implemented and established organization- Barney, 1991; Grant, 1991; Leonard-Barton, 1992). wide (e.g. by creating the position ‘process The central idea of the resource-based view is owner’). Knowledge processes can manage that an organization’s success is determined by the knowledge as service processes for the opera- existence of organization-specific unique resour- tive business processes. The implementation of ces. As opposed to the market-based view, compe- process management which also comprises the titive advantages thus are not due to a superior idea of continuous process improvement (CPI) positioning of an organization in an industry, but can integrate the life cycle models of KM. to superior quality of resources or a superior use 106 R. Maier and U. Remus
  5. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE of the organizational resources. The postulated factors in their strategy. A typical example would heterogeneity of resources in different organiza- be a diversification into industries with which the tions enables sustained competitive advantages and organization is not familiar. From a resource-based is determined by the individual historical devel- view an exclusive market-oriented strategy can opments of the organization. Examples are the result in a fragmentation and erosion of the development of specific material and immaterial organizational knowledge base. This is due to the resources, the creation of complex organizational danger that competencies needed for the new routines which in turn causes specific historical strategic business unit cannot be integrated with trajectories and lead to unique idiosyncratic com- the existing organizational knowledge base binations of resources in organizations (see because often there is a lack of competencies (or Barney, 1991, pp.103ff). simply time!) to evolve, manage and integrate A framework for a knowledge management these separate knowledge bases. strategy can be based on the traditional SWOT Figure 1 gives a more detailed picture of the analysis in which strategy is seen as balancing the relationships between knowledge management external environment of an organization (its and a simplified version of the strategic manage- Opportunities and Threats) with its internal cap- ment process (Schendel and Hofer, 1979, 15). The abilities (Strengths, Weaknesses, see Zack, 1999b, first step of this process is the identification of the p.126). The external environment can be described key resources related to knowledge management. by Porter’s well-known five forces model (see At the same time the competitive environment has Porter, 1980) which represents a market-oriented to be analyzed in order to provide a focus for the strategy. The internal capabilities are studied identification of the resources. Resources are only under the lens of the resource-based view of an meaningful and valuable, because they allow organi- organization. Knowledge is commonly believed to zations to perform activities that create advan- be one of the most important, if not the most tages in particular markets (see Porter, 1991, important strategic resource of an organization. p.108). Knowledge management supports the Consequently, there is broad agreement in the identification, development and acquisition of management literature that KM has to be solidly knowledge-related resources. Zack’s concept of linked to business strategy and ultimately to the knowledge gap can be found on this level. creation of economic value and competitive advan- The next step is the selection of strategically tage in order to be a sustained effort (see e.g. Earl relevant resources in order to provide organiza- and Scott, 1999, p.36f; Zack, 1999b, p.142). How- tional competencies or capabilities. Resources are ever, this link has not been widely implemented in only indirectly linked with the capabilities that practice (see Zack, 1999b, p.126 and the empirical the firm can generate. A competency or capability studies cited there). This is due to the lack of consists of an integrated, linked and networked set strategic models to link KM efforts (in the sense of resources, a ‘team of resources’ (Grant, 1991, of knowledge-oriented processes, organizational p.120). Knowledge management aims at lever- structures and instruments, culture-related activi- aging resources, e.g. by concentrating them upon ties and the implementation of technologies) and a few clearly defined goals, accumulating resour- business strategy. ces through mining experience and accessing other KM activities are performed with the help of firms’ resources, complementing resources, con- knowledge processes like knowledge identifica- serving them to use resources for different pro- tion, knowledge organization and knowledge dis- ducts and markets and recovering resources by tribution (see Probst and Raub, 1998, p.51). Besides increasing the speed of the product development the advantages of the resource-based view for a cycle time (see Grant, 1998, p.126). business strategy and also for a KM strategy there Figure 1 also shows a circle model visualizing is the danger that an organization focuses (almost) the four dimensions of capabilities: skills and the exclusively on its internal resources. The respec- organizational knowledge base, technical systems, tive shortcomings are well described under the managerial systems and the values and norms concept of core rigidity (see Raub and Romhardt, associated with organizational knowledge (see 1998, cit. Barton, 1992). Core rigidity means that an Leonard-Barton, 1992, p.113f). Capabilities can be organization does not consider market-oriented compared to the competition. Capabilities and com- factors, like new business fields, customer groups, petencies are considered as core if they differ- new competitors and therefore might loose com- entiate a company strategically. The resulting petitiveness. capability differentials give rise to competitive On the other hand, it is also not advisable that advantages which can be realized by applying the organizations exclusively consider market-oriented competencies in selected strategic business fields. Process-oriented Knowledge Management Strategies 107
  6. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management Figure 1 Relationship between knowledge management and competitive advantage Knowledge management supports the integration strategic business units or fields of core competencies. of resources into capabilities, the valuation of That means that processes can be designed guided capability differentials and drives the dynamics by market- as well as resource-oriented considera- of the organizational learning cycle as sustained tions. capability differentials require continuos improve- The market-oriented corporate strategy is ment of the competencies. strongly oriented towards customers and markets Instead of following these extreme positions, which is all the more emphasized by the concept we suggest to balance market- and resource- of process-orientation. The latter means the design orientation. Therefore, an organization should of customer-related business processes. In this case organize its internal resources according to a the design of business processes is guided by resource-based strategy by managing knowledge- delivering value to the customer who triggers and based resources with the help of KM activities. receives the output of the value chain (=‘end-to- Simultaneously, it should choose competitive busi- end view’, see Davenport et al., 1996) and does not ness fields, customer groups, products and ser- focus on organizational core competencies. vices according to a market-based strategy. With respect to the resource-based corporate The definition of corporate goals and corporate strategy which is at first oriented towards internal analysis identifies, on the one hand, strategic factors process orientation can provide a useful business units (SBU) and, on the other hand, fields means to avoid the danger of ‘core rigidity’. This is of core competencies. These tasks are at first due to the fact that the implementation of business independent of the organizational design which processes inherently considers market-oriented represents the next step of the strategic manage- factors because of its ‘end-to-end view’ from ment process. Besides designing the organizational customer to customer. structure it is necessary to design the correspond- The following generic types of core competen- ing tasks and workflows. This can be done by cies can be used to design core and service defining business processes. processes in the resource-based strategy (see Business processes can be organized in terms of Scholz and Vrohlings, 1994, p.102). 108 R. Maier and U. Remus
  7. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE $ Competence of creation: analysis of markets, for products and services, in Porter’s terms systems definition of products and services. of activities (Porter, 1996) that make a difference $ Competence of realization: realization of services, visible for the customers (external perspective). On procurement, production, offer add-on services. the other hand, strategic knowledge assets help to $ Competence of transaction: develop markets, orient the development and management of core logistics, order fulfillment, maintenance. competencies (internal perspective). Strategic knowledge assets guide the design of These core competencies are directly noticed by business processes. As discussed above, the design customers and are organized by customer-oriented of business processes can be guided by SBUs or by core processes, in other words the business core competencies. Strategic knowledge assets processes serve to transform core competencies bridge the gap between SBU’s and core competen- into process outputs, i.e. products and services for cies. In the following we will discuss two scenarios the customers. from which organizations can start to formulate a If we compare both approaches to design process-oriented KM strategy. The two scenarios business processes it might well be that the two represent the two extreme positions of an exclu- resulting sets of business processes are equal sive market oriented or resource-oriented strategy independent of the orientation of the strategy that as the starting point for the implementation of a guided the design process. process-oriented KM strategy. A typical example is the order fulfillment pro- Scenario 1: If an organization so far has applied cess which can be derived directly when customer an exclusive market-oriented strategy, then external needs are considered or the generic competence of determinants such as customers’ demands, the transaction as described above is bundled in organization’s market position and competitors’ the order fulfillment process. Clearly, resource- process designs are explicitly considered in the orientation and market-orientation are related as process design. One of the most important factors business processes require core competencies to towards customer orientation is the consideration deliver marketable products and services. of individual requirements and is implemented, for example, by the management of variants and complexity and in the idea of triage to organize Process-oriented knowledge management three variants of a process that differ in the strategy amount of complexity encountered in different So far we have discussed KM strategies and markets, situations or inputs (Hammer and corporate strategies in an isolated way. We then Champy, 1993, p.55f). proposed to integrate resource-based and market- In this scenario, a process-oriented KM strategy oriented factors when designing and implement- will guide the process design on the organizational ing business processes. In this section we will level and consider the organization’s resources in show in detail how to integrate the resource- the bundling of core competencies in separate based and the market-oriented view into what we knowledge-intensive business processes and/or call a process-oriented knowledge management knowledge processes in the sense of service pro- strategy. cesses for the organization’s business processes. Figure 2 presents a framework that integrates These newly designed processes are managed, for market-orientation and resource-orientation with example, by centers of competence (see Topfer, ¨ the help of a process-oriented KM strategy. 1997) or specific KM roles, such as knowledge Market-oriented factors are considered in the brokers, subject matter specialists, best-practice definition of strategic business units. Simultaneously groups or communities-of-interest. organizational core competencies are defined. A Scenario 2: If an organization has exclusively process-oriented KM strategy should be able to applied a resource-based strategy, then business balance both orientations, by considering the processes are derived from core competencies. organization’s core competencies when defining Thus, knowledge processes that manage core strategic business units. Additionally, a process- competencies supposedly are already defined. To oriented KM strategy has to select strategic business avoid core rigidity we have to additionally units which are needed for the development of consider market-oriented factors. (complementary) core competencies. These tasks In this scenario, a process-oriented knowledge are guided by strategic knowledge assets which are management strategy and the definition of strate- developed and managed by KM activities. A gic knowledge assets have to consider these strategic knowledge asset is a concept that views external factors in the definition of knowledge- core competencies in the light of their application intensive business processes. An example is the Process-oriented Knowledge Management Strategies 109
  8. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management Figure 2 Process-oriented KM integrates the resource-based view and the market-oriented view of an organization bundling of competencies in business processes design of business and knowledge processes that that make a visible difference to the organization’s avoid the problems of core rigidity in the case of customers. This can be institutionalized in so- resource-orientation and strategic ‘over-stretching’ called centers of excellence visible to the customers of competencies in the case of market-orientation. or in specific KM roles, such as boundary spanners The strategic knowledge asset was introduced as and cross-organizational expert networks and the concept connecting strategic business units and communities-of-interest. core competencies and thus relates the external To sum up, the role of a process-oriented and internal perspective resulting in core compe- knowledge management strategy is to guide the tencies visible to the customers. 110 R. Maier and U. Remus
  9. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE A process-oriented knowledge management especially for knowledge-intensive business pro- strategy cesses (cf. Stabell and Fjeldstad, 1998, p.415). A central point of all these approaches is the The relevance of an integrated view on process orientation towards value creation. Generally, a orientation and KM is underlined by strong knowledge management strategy which uses pro- dependencies between these two approaches on cess orientation as the primary perspective to the operational level. Knowledge is created within analyze an organization is strongly dependent on the operative business processes and shared with the following requirements and conditions: other business processes. On the other hand, knowledge also plays a crucial $ The core business of the organization which is role when an organization decides to implement the about to design a knowledge management stra- concept of process management. The development tegy is viewed and managed using a process- and distribution of process knowledge (see below) oriented perspective. Business processes are in improvement or change processes is a key factor modeled and described and therefore visible for successful continuous process improvement for the employees. which contributes to the adaptation of an organiza- $ Process-oriented management activities have tion to environmental change. already been carried out (e.g. business process In a study conducted by the Fraunhofer institute reengineering, business process improvement, in Berlin the German Top 1000 and European Top process management). Process-orientation in 200 companies were questioned about what KM general and these activities in particular are activities they applied in connection with business well known and accepted by the employees. processes (see Mertins et al., 2001, pp.97–123). One Some weak spots in handling knowledge have interesting result is the close relationship between been identified. There are some measures and core competencies and the starting point of KM indicators of the process which are collected initiatives with respect to the number of business regularly (e.g. time, cost, quality). processes. Organizations were asked how many Process orientation can and should be seen as an business processes contributed to their core com- additional dimension within a bundle of possible petencies. More than two thirds of the companies dimensions describing a complex KM strategy, said that between two and five business processes especially for process-oriented organizations. The contributed to their core competencies. Similarly, framework presented in the next section is more than half of the companies started their KM intended to provide the integrating basis for the initiative in two or three business processes, 20% description of a process-oriented KM strategy. even focused on one single business process. If we assume that the duration of KM projects increases with the number of business processes involved DIMENSIONS OF PROCESS-ORIENTED we can hypothesize that companies try to gain KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT ‘quick wins’ in knowledge management and there- STRATEGIES fore avoid large and complex KM projects. Not surprisingly, the companies targeted their KM In the following a number of strategic options to initiatives initially on those business processes the implementation of KM activities are discussed. These options make up a framework comprising which in their view also contributed to their core six dimensions which can be used to classify KM competencies (see Mertins et al., 2001, p.101). strategies. These results once again show the close relation- ship between core competencies, core business processes and KM activities in practice. Topics/content Certainly, the application of process orientation in general and a process-oriented KM strategy in KM strategies can be distinguished according to the knowledge content, the type of knowledge that particular has limits. The traditional perspective is focused. In order to position an organization which considers business processes is the model of against its competitors, the following three cate- value chains by Porter (1985). The organization is gories of knowledge can be distinguished per area analyzed in terms of value creating activities, of competency, or per strategic business unit, which basically rely on the underlying business division, product line, function or market position processes. However, expanded value configuration (see Zack, 1999b, p.133f): models like the value shop and the value network are suitable instruments to analyze and des- $ Core knowledge: the minimum knowledge com- cribe new alternative value creation technologies, monly held by members of an industry; also Process-oriented Knowledge Management Strategies 111
  10. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management considered the basic industry knowledge bar- Instruments and technology rier to entry. Instruments for knowledge management influence $ Advanced knowledge: enables an organization to all levels of intervention, i.e. the underlying be competitively viable; competitors may gen- corporate culture, the organizational structure, erally hold about the same level, scope or quality of knowledge, but knowledge differen- roles, processes and the use of information and tiation can take place with competitors holding communication technologies (ICT). There are lots specific knowledge. of different types of instruments involved in KM- $ Innovative knowledge: enables an organization to initiatives, as, for example, yellow pages and skills lead its industry and to significantly differ- directories, expert networks, communities, lessons entiate itself from its competitors. learned, best practices, content management (see Maier, 2002). Along these lines a large number of ‘dimen- As opposed to the content-oriented approach sions’ can be distinguished which describe various described above, several authors propose a classi- types of knowledge. These dimensions are outlined fication of technologies supporting KM. Table 1 by pairs (e.g. tacit versus explicit or narrative contains a list of KMS classes. For each of the versus abstract knowledge, see Table 1 below) classes there are a number of application systems which can be used to describe knowledge pro- or tools respectively which are already available cesses or process steps. These knowledge pro- on the market (the list was established by a cesses are transformations of knowledge of one theoretical and empirical assessment of currently type into knowledge of the opposite type of one available KMS done by one of the authors, see and the same pair. In our framework a number of Maier, 2002, see also Ruggles, 1998, pp.82ff): knowledge dimensions are distinguished with respect to the corresponding main ‘‘area of $ Knowledge repositories (knowledge element manage- intervention’’ – organization, systems, content etc. ment systems; knowledge management suites): (see e.g. Romhardt, 1997, pp.10ff, Eppler et al., Hyperwave Information Server and Portal, 1999; Zack, 1999, pp.46). OpenText Livelink, SAP Knowledge Ware- house; $ Knowledge discovery and mapping: e.g. IBM Target group Intelligent Miner USU Knowledge Miner Data- KM strategies can also be classified according to prise DataBroker; the main target group focused: $ Knowledge transfer and e-learning: e.g. Hyper- wave E-Learning Suite, Lotus Learning Space; $ Employee rank: the strategies differ in which $ Meta-search systems: InQuery (Open Text), K2 level of employees is considered as the primary Enterprise (Verity); focus of KM activities: employee – manager – $ Collaboration: e.g., Lotus Notes; executive. $ Visualization and navigation systems: e.g. Brain, $ Employee life cycle: one could imagine special knowledge-related activities, e.g. starter pack- InXight Correlate K-Map; ages for KMS, communities specially designed $ Community builder: Community Engine (web- for newly recruited employees, time reserved fair); for employees facing retirement to document $ Push-oriented systems: Push Application Server lessons learned or to act as a mentor, or for (Backweb). employees preparing for or immediately after These KMS are operated on the basis of an completing a step in their career. (organization-wide) information and communica- $ Employee role: the strategies differ in what roles tion infrastructure, in most cases an Intranet- of employees are focused, e.g. role-specific platform, on which information sharing between packages for KMS, communities linking (virtual) teams both within the organization and employees who are on about the same career across organizational boundaries with allies, sup- track, like high potentials, functional specialists, pliers and customers is possible. The KM instru- internationals etc. ments and systems described above can be $ Organizational scope: at least four scopes can be classified as follows (see Zack, 1999a, p.50): distinguished (the corresponding technologies are given in parentheses): core group (work $ Integrative knowledge management instruments and space) — organization (intranet) — organiza- systems focus knowledge as an object as the tion and partners (extranet, virtual private primary medium for knowledge exchange and network) — unlimited (Internet-communities). comprise the following KMS: 112 R. Maier and U. Remus
  11. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE Table 1 Dimensions of process-oriented KM strategies Strategic dimension/ sub-dimension Value (examples) Topics/content (1) Competiveness $Core knowledge vs. advanced knowledge vs. innovative knowledge (2) With respect to the content $Narrative/concrete vs. $Universal vs. particular knowledge of knowledge scientific/abstract knowledge (3) With respect to a holder of $Knowledge valuable for $Communicable vs. non-communicable knowledge or valuing storing vs. knowledge knowledge not valuable for storing $Organization internal vs. organization $Implicit/tacit vs. explicit external knowledge knowledge $Personalized vs. codified knowledge (4) With respect to the $Relevant/authorized/formal/ $Knowledge spanning functional areas organizational design dominant vs. irrelevant/ vs. knowledge restricted to a not authorized/informal/ functional area minority knowledge $Focused vs. scattered knowledge $Secret/confidential vs. public/ $Individual/personal vs. collective/ open knowledge public knowledge $True/supported vs. false/ $Knowledge vs. counter-knowledge unsupported knowledge (5) With respect to systems $Accessible vs. not accessible $Electronic/computer-resident vs. not knowledge electronic/not computer-resident $Codable vs. non-codable knowledge knowledge (6) With respect to the $Preserved vs. newly acquired $Knowledge vs. not knowledge knowledge life cycle knowledge $Existing vs. new knowledge (7) With respect to business $Knowledge about the process vs. knowledge within the process vs. knowledge processes derived from the process Participants and communities (1) Employee rank $Employee vs. manager vs. executive (2) Employee life cycle $Newly recruited employees vs. employees facing retirement vs. Employees on specific step of careers (3) Employee role $Technical expert vs. e.g. insurance: $Single role vs. multiple roles underwriter, secretary (4) Organizational scope $Core group vs. organization vs. organization and partners vs. unlimited Instruments and technology (1) Integrative instruments $Lessons learned $Content management $Best practices (2) Interactive instruments $Yellow pages $Expert networks $Skills directories $Communities (1) Integrative systems $Knowledge repositories $Meta-search systems $Knowledge discovery and $Visualization and navigation systems mapping (2) Interactive systems $Collaboration, knowledge transfer and e-learning $Push-oriented systems $Community builder Culture (1) Social mechanism for $Law and order model vs. $Market model vs. exchanging knowledge $Family culture model vs. $Discourse model (2) Degree of sensitivity $High vs. low of interest KM organization and processes (1) KM structural organization $Informal initiative $Separate organizational unit $Project (2) KM role $Chief Knowledge Officer/ $Boundary spanner knowledge manager $Community manager $Knowledge broker $Subject matter specialist Process-oriented Knowledge Management Strategies 113
  12. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management Table 1 Continued Strategic dimension/ sub-dimension Value (examples) (3) KM activities $Knowledge creation vs. $Knowledge distribution vs. $Knowledge acquisition vs. $Knowledge application vs. $Knowledge organization vs. $Knowledge evolution vs. $Knowledge formalization vs. $Knowledge worker/participant $Knowledge controlling (4) Knowledge processes $Content management process $Project debriefing process $Community management process (5) Business process focus $Single process vs. multiple processes vs. all processes (6) Business process type $Process complexity $Core, service and management processes – Instruments: lessons learned, best practices, con- of knowledge and the way of knowledge tent management; sharing specific to groups. This eases sharing – Systems: knowledge repositories, knowledge within groups and hinders sharing between discovery and mapping, meta-search systems, groups. visualization and navigation systems; $ ‘Market model’: knowledge is considered a resource the value of which is determined Interactive knowledge management instruments and based on supply and demand. It is not the systems primarily support interaction among flows of knowledge that are designed with people to facilitate the exchange of tacit knowl- edge: respect to their contents, but the framework in which the market transactions (here: the – Instruments: yellow pages and skills directories, exchange of knowledge) take place has to be expert networks, communities; guaranteed. – Systems: knowledge transfer and e-learning, $ ‘Discourse model’: the goal is to achieve ‘objective’ collaboration. truth, material, normative findings as well as to achieve consensus about the valuing of these findings. Knowledge development is based Cultural environment solely on the power of convincing arguments. Certain aspects of organizational culture can Another factor is the ‘degree of sensitivity of promote or hinder the handling of knowledge in interest’ (see Frese and Theuvsen, 2000, pp.32ff). an organization. A KM strategy, on the one hand, This factor is partly influenced by the organiza- has to consider the cultural environment in an tional culture, especially the relationship between organization and, on the other hand, the imple- the executives and representatives of the employ- mentation of a KM strategy will have effects on the ees or unions respectively and the openness of cultural environment (see e.g. von Krogh, 1998). A the employees towards organizational change and KM strategy promotes a particular cultural envir- partly influenced by laws and regulations (e.g. onment which is thought to be conducive for the the German Mitbestimmungsrecht). The two ends intended KM activities. This can be, for example, of this factor are (see Frese and Theuvsen, 2000, a particular ‘social mechanism for exchanging p.33): knowledge’ (see Geißler, 1999, p.56f): $ High degree of sensitivity of interest: making a $ ‘Law-and-order model’: power, rights and privi- proactive management of potential conflicts in leges determine the practice of sharing knowl- the course of change necessary. edge. The power system in an organization $ Low degree of sensitivity of interest: which means standardizes the distribution, sharing and that there is no need for conflict management. handing-on of knowledge. $ ‘Family culture model’: the sharing of knowledge KM strategies have to take into account the is determined by interpersonal sympathy and sensitivity as it will strongly affect the success of antipathy as well as traditional, unwritten KM measures. An example is the willingness to moral obligations. There are all kinds of group share knowledge, which can be negatively influ- relations that lead to informal standardization enced by a high degree of sensitivity of interest. 114 R. Maier and U. Remus
  13. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE Structural organization and processes single business process may have some advan- tages concerning the acceptance for further KM Structurally, a KM initiative can be organized as activities for other business processes. ‘Quick a separate organizational unit (competence center wins’ that show significant improvements of knowledge management, center for business the handling of knowledge in one business knowledge), as a project or as an informal initiative process are important success factors for the (e.g. a community of employees interested in KM). implementation of organization-wide KM efforts In our empirical study, the following KM roles (cf. Bach et al., 1999, p.30). have been identified (see Maier, 2002): $ Type of knowledge process: KM strategies can $ Chief Knowledge Officer/knowledge manager: highest address different types of knowledge pro- ranked role in knowledge management, denotes cesses (cf. Maula, 2000). The term process is the head of KM in analogy to the Chief used in a variety of ways in the context of Information Officer, the head of IT. KM. Knowledge processes support the flow of $ Knowledge broker: helps participants to locate the knowledge between business processes and knowledge or experts needed, helps to navigate between business units as well as the (business- the organizational knowledge base. process-independent) creation and collection of $ Subject matter specialist: has particular expertise knowledge. This can be knowledge processes in one particular area and serves as gatekeeper supporting the collection, processing and stor- of information and knowledge quality assurer, ing of information as an outcome of conven- expert in one or more topics and linking pin to tional business processes. An example for a agencies and research institutions. typical knowledge process would be the pub- $ Boundary spanner: has to network fields of lication of a knowledge element in the corpo- competencies and broker contacts between rate intranet. experts in different fields needed to realize There are a number of authors who suggest a new business ideas. series of activities or a life cycle associated with $ Community manager: responsible for the func- KM (see e.g. Nissen et al., 2000, pp.29ff; Probst tioning of the community, has the ‘last word’ in et al., 1998, pp.47ff; Davenport and Prusak, the set up of policies and norms, e.g. about 1998; Zack, 1999b). KM life cycle models participation in the community, its organiza- basically divide KM into six phases (see tion, about themes and topics, the discussion Table 1, see also e.g. Nissen et al., 2000, p.30; style etc. Probst et al., 1998). Thus, a KM strategy can be $ Knowledge worker/participant: all persons that are characterized by the type of knowledge activi- affected by KM initiatives. We differentiate ties or processes it (primarily) focuses. participants from users with respect to the $ Type of business process: The question which application of KMS because of their active types of processes are promising candidates for involvement in the KMS’s functioning. process-oriented KM initiatives is strongly related to the identification of knowledge- KM strategies can also be described according to intensive business processes. Eppler et al. sug- the process focus and the type of business and gest some characteristics describing knowledge knowledge processes supported: intensity of business processes (see Eppler et al., 1999 and Davenport et al., 1996, p.55). Within $ Process focus (project focus and starting point): the group of knowledge-intensive business KM projects can be distinguished according to processes we can distinguish between simple the process scope that is focused. The focus on and highly complex processes and between processes can stretch from a single process over management, core and service processes. a number of processes to an organization-wide perspective, including all relevant business processes (core and service). Defining a project starting from operative business processes DISCUSSION OF THE DIMENSIONS instead of knowledge processes is much more targeted towards the value-creating activities of Table 1 gives an overview of the framework an organization because the isolated definition showing all dimensions presented in the previous of knowledge processes is often not practicable section together with their sub-dimensions and (cf. Bach et al., 1999). examples for possible values along the sub- The process focus is dependent on the dimensions. The framework can be used as a starting point of a KM project. Starting with a checklist to detail KM initiatives. The dimensions Process-oriented Knowledge Management Strategies 115
  14. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management which we included in our framework describe dimensions that are crucial for the definition of a different levels of analysis. We can distinguish complex KM strategy. To integrate the different between dimensions (e.g. KM organization and dimensions (procedures, starting points and per- processes), sub-dimensions (e.g. KM role, knowledge spectives) of these approaches we proposed a process) and values (e.g. ‘knowledge broker’, framework where the most important dimensions ‘boundary spanner’, ‘subject matter specialist’). were put together. The dimensions are strongly interdependent (e.g. We then made the case for an additional KMS support different types of knowledge, colla- dimension: process orientation. The main advan- boration tools focus more on the exchange of tage of a so-called ‘process-oriented KM strategy’ implicit knowledge, whereas knowledge reposi- is that it provides an integration of the resource- tories organize codified knowledge. based view and the market-oriented view of the How does our work relate to the popular organization. The balancing of the two views is differentiation between personalization and codifi- guided by the concept of strategic knowledge assets cation strategies made by Hansen et al. (1999)? Our which are developed and managed by KM activi- framework can be used to detail these two ties. Strategic knowledge assets view core com- strategies using a vertical cut in the sense of a petencies in the light of their application for combination of values for all sub-dimensions of products and services that make a difference our framework. Some examples are: visible for the customers (external perspective) The personalization strategy can be detailed by, and help to orient the development and manage- for example, the values ‘implicit knowledge’ and ment of core competencies (internal perspective). ‘not computer-resident knowledge’ of our dimen- Strategic knowledge assets in turn guide the sion type of knowledge whereas the codification design of business processes. strategy is focused on the values ‘explicit’ and Along which basic lines could an organization ‘computer-resident’ knowledge. which plans to invest in KM proceed? What In the dimension instruments and technology the general initiatives can be suggested for KM? codification strategy can be detailed by the sub- These were the questions we posed at the begin- dimension integrative KMS and the personalization ning of our paper. The framework can be seen as strategy by the sub-dimension interactive KMS. We an initial step in answering them. The next steps can also assign the values in the sub-dimension will be to use this framework to empirically assess social mechanism for exchanging knowledge (dimen- different KM strategies which have proven to be sion cultural environment) to the two strategies. successful. Thus, future research should address For example the ‘law and order model’ and the the following issues: ‘market model’ correspond to the codification strategy, whereas the ‘family culture model’ and ‘discourse model’ are strongly related to the $ On the basis of this framework combinations of personalization strategy. In the case of process values on the dimensions that ‘fit’ together, i.e. orientation and type of knowledge process the differ- KM strategies that have proven to be successful, entiation in personalization and codification strat- will have to be identified theoretically and egy influences the design of, for example, the empirically. knowledge processes (e.g. ‘knowledge distribu- $ A procedure describing the application of the tion’ can be done person-to-person — personaliza- framework has to be developed and empirically tion strategy — or via knowledge repositories — tested. codification strategy). There are many unresolved research questions in the area of KM concerning not only KM strategies but also the organizational design of CONCLUSION KM, usefulness of the content of KMS, architec- tures and classification of KMS, differences in In this paper we have given an overview of design and management between KMS and more existing approaches to develop KM strategies as traditional information and communication sys- found in the literature. We also reported the tems and, last but not least, the economics of results of an empirical study which showed that the application of KMS. Our framework is seen currently KM activities in organizations are linked as an instrument to support both theoretical neither to a well-defined KM strategy nor directly and empirical investigations into systematic inter- to a business strategy. We then analyzed KM ventions in an organization’s way of handling initiatives, activities and efforts with regard to knowledge. 116 R. Maier and U. Remus
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