Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Knowledge and Talent in a People-Ready Business

Knowledge management is back in vogue, this time to help companies cope with crushing competition and the pending retirement of an entire generation of skilled workers. The technology is much improved, but organizations must be willing to change their practices and culture in order to succeed.

By Dan Rasmus 
 
 
Use Your Knowledge

Knowledge is now as valuable as financial and physical capital in the creation of business value.

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The first time around, knowledge management was hardly a smashing success. When organizations several years ago tried to take advantage of the experience and insights of their workers, they captured information in large, structured data systems for access and retrieval. Unfortunately, those systems were often cumbersome and difficult to use, leading to low levels of participation and abandoned knowledge bases. Workers also suspected their own positions might be at risk after they shared their personal insights and knowledge.

Today’s intensely competitive global economy is forcing everyone to reconsider knowledge as a competitive differentiator. Change happens too fast for people and organizations to rely exclusively on structured processes and the rigid IT solutions that support them. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on retiring baby boomers. The high turnover of the “Millennial Generation” right behind them will create new challenges for maintaining knowledge capital at work.

The technology behind knowledge management today is considerably more mature than 10 years ago. So, too, is our growth in understanding about the role of knowledge in empowering people. Rigid, structured systems for data capture can easily be supplemented with more user-friendly applications that provide better integration into day-to-day work.

However, technology alone is not enough. Microsoft believes that organizations must also be willing to change their practices and culture in order to succeed. This article summarizes the Microsoft vision for possible knowledge solutions and architectures that will support teams and organizations over the next decade.

Simplifying the Knowledge Work Environment
Organizations can improve how they manage their people by enabling knowledge transfer and by simplifying the information work environment. Simplification can be achieved at different levels, ranging from personal information management to team knowledge sharing to simplification of business processes and workflows.

Integrated collaboration and communication can simplify the way people interact and help them adapt more rapidly to change.

Automation of rote information work processes such as status reporting and project notification can reduce the burden of “information overload.” Integrated collaboration platforms can also help team members simplify and coordinate their activities using shared workspaces, calendars, and schedule services. Presence data for real-time communications helps bridge the challenges of time and distance, while subscription services and automated alerts help ensure awareness of new information or the need for immediate action.

Workers in structured environments such as call centers benefit from flexible knowledge management systems that augment their existing IT applications. Increasingly easy to use, such tools include ad hoc communication, open-ended information search, and informal environments for sharing knowledge such as blogs and wikis. Integrated collaboration and communication can simplify the way people interact and help them adapt more rapidly to change.

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