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Donna Kennedy | Matt Devine | Vito Cangelosi |                                                                                                                         Problems

Problems with Processes, Policies, and Technologies

     Problems with knowledge management in institutions are plentiful. Physical and psychological problems exist which block the transfer of knowledge across an organization. Universities themselves have issues with converting codified knowledge into useful, organizational information (James, 2000). Existing cultural and bureaucratic issues impede progress because of the unwillingness of faculty in information sharing. They feel by sharing knowledge, that they will lose a sense of power (Wiig, 1999). There are also problems with faculty members hoarding already limited resources, distancing themselves from the learning process, and not being grounded in various subject areas. Faculty members who possess knowledge in a particular discipline often cannot share their knowledge with other faculty members because of their lack of subject matter competence (Tippins, 2003) .

     Within institutions, problems with sharing knowledge result from faculty?s lack of awareness of where knowledge is present. They do not know how or who to approach to gain an understanding of subject matter. When a knowledge source is identified, faculty members often lack the necessary time to conduct a thorough investigation of the information. Problems with resources as a result of decreased budgets limit conference opportunities, guest speakers, and database spending (Tippins, 2003) .

     When selecting KM software for higher educational institutions, Chapman, Coukos, and Pisapia (2001) found that many products do not accomplish the tasks described by vendors. Even the most complete products, Lotus Knowledge Discovery System, Intraspect, and Hummingbird?s Technology Fulcrum, have problems. They do not follow each of the steps in the three step approach, capturing, categorizing, and transferring knowledge.

     Another problem with technology and KM focuses on the use of course management systems (CMS) in higher education. WebCT, which is a popular CMS package, limits access to the students and instructor only. Both Schlager and Fusco (2003) agree that technology should not force people into such strict roles. After a course is completed, the community which disseminated knowledge is no longer intact and can be easily deleted.

     Regardless of KM system selected, an evaluative framework that focuses on goals and requirements must be established prior to its implementation. A thorough and exhaustive analysis of the type of knowledge an organization desires for management alleviates the capturing of irrelavent knowledge and reduces the consumption of resources. A strategy that considers all stakeholders in the design and development process typically experiences success. Al-Ghassani, Kamara, Anumba, and Carrillo (2004) reinforce the value of exhaustive analyses in their study on successful strategies for KM system development. The authors consider the value of relationships between users, enablers, sources, and resistors as the primary hurdle towards KM system success. When relationships are ambiguous and not clearly defined, the KM system fails at inception.

     In order to combat relationship and other relevant problems, Al-Ghanssani, et al. (2004) developed a system architecture that addresses common issues found at each stage of the KM development process. Figure 1. illustrates the recommended architecture and emphasizes the user interface as the knowledge capture conduit. Each section is designed to identify issues that prohibit the capture of knowledge and the discovery of a KM problem. The first section, "Type of Knowledge", refers to the knowledge an organization needs to manage along with the form and underlying drivers of knowledge capture. The second section, "Characteristics of Knowledge", consists of a set of dimensions that explore the characteristics of the knowledge interest, location, and how it is acquired. The third section, "Sources and Users", examines where knowledge is generated and stored along with factors that encourage and prevent the transfer of knowledge. The fourth section, "Current Processes - Restate the Problem" looks at existing knowledge capture methods within an organization in order to determine whether successful KM capture components exist. All four stages combine to form a robust information storage space that can be utilized for generating reports and organizational decision making. A failure in any of the sections described may undermine the effectiveness of the KM system and possibly lead to extensive waste of resources and knowledge. However, when such an architecture is implemented properly, problems with KM systems can be immediately addressed and alleviated.

Figure  1. KM system architecture describing developmental approach.

From "An Innovative Approach to Identifying Knowledge Management Problems," by A.M. Al-Ghassani, J.M. Kamara, C.J. Anumba, and P.M. Carrillo, 2004, Enginneering, Construction and Architectural Management, 11(5), p. 352. Copyright 2004 by the Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Adapted with the permission of the author.

A Success Story

Virginia has wisely decided to implement The Commonwealth of Virginia Knowledge Center - a leaning management system that incorporates over one hundred state and government agencies. Virginia?s Knowledge Center includes Veterans affairs, Child Care Centers, Attorney General Office, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Taxation, Virginia?s State Lottery, Department of Forestry, Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, etc... Training, developmental opportunities designed to promote professional and personal growth, and job placement are among the initial purposes of the Virginia?s Knowledge Center. State employees must register on the LMS as part of their knowledge training, however, the LMS is free and open to the public.