Serious attention to this buzzword pays off

Knowledge management is not a playful buzzword but a dynamic initiative companies need to take more seriously if they want to harness their most valuable corporate asset: knowledge.

Currently companies are doing a poor job of managing knowledge or putting it into action to produce value, the head software and professional services at Fuji Xerox, Trevor Yardley told delegates at the CIO Magazine Conference in Sydney last week.

Yardley said the process begins with regular face-to-face meetings with stakeholders to identify those who need to leverage and access critical business information.

He said documents and the knowledge held within them become of latent value if employee access is slow or inhibited.

Four factors will be pivotal to the growth and prosperity of an enterprise: the knowledge that they have and continue to acquire; the technology and systems they use within the business; the people they can attract to the business and retain; and the documents that the business uses.

Citing a recent survey by the Brookings Institute, Yardley said intangible assets like knowledge made up 69 per cent of a company's market value in 1999 compared with 17 per cent in 1978.

"While companies may assume that governing their collective intellectual assets is easy, they overlook the obstacles to managing information effectively.

"There's a human barrier to that - not all people want to share information. In organisations where knowledge is power or hoarding is common, they might not want to give up their valuable information," Yardley said.

"Companies need to create an environment where people can readily collaborate, share information and therefore work constructively together. These principles encapsulate the whole knowledge management model which successful Australian companies are using today."

Examples, he said are Baulderstone Hornnibrook and Collection House Ltd which have invested in KM initiatives that are tied to different areas of the business like product development and intellectual asset management.

Yardley said both companies expect significant returns from their KM investments by using tools like Web-based KM and document management software to manage tenders, ensure secure document distribution and the streamline file management.

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