Knowledge Management Cases in Asia/Knowledge Management Pioneer of Non Government Organization in Asia
Leung Ka Shun (Karen),Wong Sze Nga (Clara), Wong Kuan I (Jessica), Chu Hang Tim (Kanas), Pang Ho Wing (Wing)& Kwong Tsz Wun (Joanne)
- 1 Abstract
- 2 Introduction
- 3 Literature Review
- 4 Research Methods
- 5 The Case Study of NGO in C&Y
- 6 Findings & Analysis of the Case Study
- 7 Conclusions
- 8 Acknowledgements
- 9 References
There is relatively little information on knowledge management in the public sectors, thus the knowledge management theories and frameworks applied in the public sectors are not well understood. This report aims to study on the knowledge management strategies in public organizations in Asia.
In the literature review section, we demonstrate a general study in the Non Government Organization (NGO) sector. We focus on the tools and strategies the various organizations employed and how the operational problems being solved and the improvement being made after engaging such tools and strategies. The review also discusses the future trend and development of knowledge management.
To achieve an in-depth study, C&Y was chosen for our case study. We focus on how Knowledge Management (KM) is implemented in the C&Y, a non government organization (NGO) which belongs to the social service sector in Asia. We identify the core issues and challenges the C&Y faces in delivering effective public policy, particularly challenges presented by increasing community expectations.
C&Y is the first NGO to implement the KM programme in Asia. In the case study, we are going to look at the degree of importance of KM implementation to NGO and commercial organizations. Besides, we investigate how the C&Y develops a complete new KM programme in compliance with the typical organizational assessment - People, Process and Technology (PPT) perspective. Also, we explore how the PPT is used for developing KM strategies, tools and activities. Besides, the case study also examines the benefits, problems, responsibilities and technological aspects that are entailed in managing knowledge in the organization. Moreover, the current situations, continuous improvement, and development trends of KM programme are also discussed.
Implementing the KM programme in NGO is a ground breaking issue. And this case has been the typical model for the other NGOs to carry out KM programme.
In the 21st century of the information society, Knowledge Management (KM) holds the key to success of the company. Knowledge now become more valuable assets than others which gives out the ultimate contribution to a range of company activities high from making strategic decision and low to operational process, and which is called “Intellectual Capital” and deemed as “Business Intelligence” in profit making company presents the ability to maintain and manage the knowledge kept and used in the organization. For the same token, it is known as “non-profit Intelligence” in non-profit organization.
Non-profit organization operated differently from commercial company, like the financial report is primary tool to measure how successful the KM involved. However, it is invalid to apply to the non-profit organization which purpose is not for profit making. In addition, less attention is given on educating the officers to be the knowledgeable generators as to deeply understand the particular issue, problems, challenges within KM. (Paul, 2003). The development of KM in non-profit organization is challenging and should be tailored to implement to attain the success of the sector.
It is worth to study the non-profit sector (generally called non-government organization (NGO)) in Asia. In 2004, a structured KM implementation has been carried out by the C&Y in Asia. The C&Y provides social services for the children and youths. The specialty of flexible and heterogeneous services provided in nature that the explicit knowledge is difficult to be captured, in addition to the internal challenges in budget policy, early retirement policy and high turnover of the new staff against the high demand for social services in the public, all of these increase the need for KM embedded in C&Y to maintain the services continuously provided in good quality with controllable budget.
This chapter is about how knowledge management can be applied in Asia NGO -- C&Y. The content center around the special needs of the organization, general and unique constraints faced, and analysis of the strategies used to implement KM project. Lastly, some recommendations are suggested to work with the challenges and to forecast the trend of KM development in the future.
“Knowledge management (KM) has become a standard practice in industry, but for government agencies, information centers, libraries and non-governmental organizations, it is still a fairly new concept.” (Mclnerney, C., 2002) Non-governmental organizations (NGO), the non-profit sector, now are “involved in a deep renewal process that is changing both the structure of the sector and its internal workings” (Borzaga and Santuari, 2000; Lester, 1999; Ryan, 1999; Rifking, 1997). They are required to deliver tailored and high-quality services in order to overcome environmental complexity and scarcity of resources. So they implement knowledge management to share knowledge among workers in the spirit of learning, renewal and innovation.
Knowledge management is concerned with the exploitation and development of the knowledge assets of an organization with a view to furthering the organization’s objectives. The knowledge to be managed includes both explicit and tacit knowledge, which are documented knowledge and subjective knowledge respectively. Management entails all of those processes associated with the identification, sharing and creation of knowledge. This requires systems for the creation and maintenance of knowledge repositories, and to cultivate and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and organizational learning.
Organizations that succeed in knowledge management are likely to view knowledge as an asset and to develop organizational norms and values, which support the creation, and sharing of knowledge. (Rowley, 2000). There are three key elements of knowledge management should be considered by public sector. They are people, processes and technology. “People are the most important component, because managing knowledge depends upon people’s willingness to share and reuse knowledge.” (CIO Council, 2001)
Techniques and tools for KM is a key lever however it is not independently used, KM strategy must be coherent and integrated with a comprehensive strategy whose goal is to pursue excellence, highlight the mutual relationships among the planned improvement programmes. (Lettieri et al., 2004). At the very first beginning, developing the concept of strategy mapping is the initial point to facilitate the KM strategy, which is commonly used in public and private sector as a tool for their stakeholders to visualize, communicate, focus effort, test assumptions and measure progress to achieve the strategic objectives. It also becomes effective to be used in non-profit companies in three perspectives as a standard balanced scorecard: building customer loyalty, building business and developing employee commitment. (Howard, 2003)
General KM Strategy and tools are “use of success stories”, databases, archives, manuals or “people’s minds” are activities to codify and store knowledge (Lettieri et al., 2004). Stoll (2004) suggests that there is a need to enhance internal and external knowledge-capturing methods as well as face-to-face sharing opportunities, It is to develop relevant topics of conversation for meetings and facilitate online discussion in between meetings. The tool will provide members the forums, an online calendar of events, the ability to uploading and downloading files, polling capabilities, an updatable member roster, and an area to share useful links, facilitating the communities of practice and develop knowledge database are important.
In the KM World & Intranets Conference in 2003, a brilliant KM Reality Award obtained by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has given a proof, a multilingual database of images and information on missing children has formed the network, NCMEC is able to transmit images and information instantly to law enforcement throughout the United States and to other countries around the world in each other’s native language, also technological advancements, training workshops, programme development, research and evaluation help to explore the method of using experienced-based database to find missing children. (KMWorld & Intranets 2003 review, 2004). This successful case revealed that Taxonomy has a great responsibility to contribute linking the desired content, it is sort of textual analysis to manage the knowledge to a conceptual framework for acquisition and sharing. C., Lee, W. & Wang, Y (2005) suggested the multi-facet taxonomy system (MTS) for effective management of unstructured knowledge, the relationships among the related concepts to the actual classification can be further expanded for the terminal concepts.
Besides database, intranet is a common tool used to share knowledge inside organization. In California, 14 non-profit libraries which are the part of the community foundation, volunteer center and management support organization and formed the California Management Assistance Partnership (C-MAP). The specialists share the best practices and lessons learned through meeting, conference calls and the C-MAP intranet. With an upgraded knowledge management system, the non-profit information services group could share its collective knowledge with other non-profit centers throughout the stated. The system could then be implemented to coordinate the work of nonprofit information providers across the nation. (Larson et al., 2005).
Liz (2005) pointed out that non-profit organization also needed to leverage “nonprofit intelligence” which is called as “business intelligence” in commercial world. It supports sophisticated analysis and insights for the non professionals to make decisions and demonstrate the value of services to the stakeholders. CPAs is one of the software tools to manage the business intelligence well by offering extensive data mining services, solution houses multiple data marts. Embedding with the Personalized Knowledge Management (PKM) concept is the trend for the software development, Alotaiby (2005) further elaborated with PKM presentations which can create the greater sense of familiarity and comfort with the system, and facilitate the advanced learning opportunity from portal, the standard-driven e-learning system which can assist the traditional learning with collaborative learning. Keeping up with the market trend also is one of the KM strategies and should not be ignored.
On the other hand, identified the problems and realized the potential obstacles in the organization or outsides can further tailor how the KM strategies and tools can be found in the NGO. Problems can be found in the process of sharing approach. According to Dalkir (2005), people will not lose credit for a knowledge product they created. Individuals are commonly rewarded for what they know, not they share. The reason why the experienced staff is unwilling to share is because they are afraid other people do not understand or accept their knowledge. “An organization’s main implementation challenge stems from the absence of a “sharing” culture and employees’ lack of understanding KM and the benefits it offers.” (Cong, Pangya, 2003).
Lemieux & Dalkir (2006) stated that non-profit artistic organizations have the problem of lacking resources and financial resources to purchase KM-related tools. That also happens in NGO that they have no formal team to classify and create captured knowledge. Without government support, it is difficult to maintain the KM systems and operations. As the same time, Increasing number of experienced staff retired and increasing number of contract staff left due to the innovation of government policy contributed to the difficulty in Building up organizational memory, “helps people do their jobs and save time through better decision making and problem solving” (Dalkir, 2005).
Although particular problems might be existed in different organization, measuring outcomes and benefits of KM is crucial because it helps to demonstrate the value and worthiness of a KM initiative to the managers, employees and stakeholders.
According to Ellis (1997), traditional measurement techniques that emphasize solely on financial performance can be misleading as Lin and Tseng (2005) found that the market values of many companies are higher than their accounting values. Chong and Choi, 2005 also stated the k-economy has to be based on intellectual capital which can not be captured by balance sheets, so just sharing with the same point with Austin and Larkey (2002), measuring the core competencies and distinctive abilities of employees would require the removal of traditional means of quantification Besides, the future usage of KM evaluation is heavily dependent on both the quality of the metrics and whether output generated by the metric management would provide tangible value addition to the organizations. This section describes the popular methods used by organizations for measuring the performance of KM strategies.
For the long term development of KM, Caldwell, F. (2004) forecasted the government agencies and non-profits are making significant investments in Knowledge Management (KM). It is because KM will increasingly become an important aspect for efficiency improvement and service enhancement in nonprofit organizations. But we may ask that where is the knowledge management going in the future.
According to Ronald Young, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Knowledge Office of Knowledge Associates International, he predicted that the knowledge management’s methods, processes, tools and techniques will become better and more automated. And, the knowledge management will focus more on coaching and developing the professional knowledge management team in the future. Also, the intelligent agentware will replace the costly knowledge categorization and indexing. (Young, R., n.d.)
Buckman, R. H. (2005) also predicted the direction of the knowledge management will be developed into three possible aspects. Firstly, Buckman thought that the organizations will focus on semantic software; this is one of the semantic search engines. This kind of search engine can help the individual knowledge workers to improve their abilities to find out what they need when they need. Secondly, the knowledge management will implement the virtual work in the future. It is because virtual work will be an organizational norm. It can make the staff to transfer, access and share the information or knowledge more effectively and efficiently. Therefore, the organization needs to provide more virtual training and tools for the staff. Thirdly, he also predicts that the organization’s staff will be as consumers. It is because the staff require more users-friendly system for working. Then, it can make the staff to know where they can find out the information quickly and increase the productivity. It makes the system to become a people-centric system rather than an organizational-centric system (Buckman, R. H., 2005). We can see that the new stage of KM is the arrangement and management of content through taxonomy construction and use, and also use information technology to make KM more efficiently and effectively. (McElroy,M.W.2002)
As to establish the KM within the organization, they need to identify why they need KM and what kinds of KM strategies, tools, activities and evaluation approaches they need to implement into the programme. Also, they need to face many problems and find the solutions to solve the problems. Moreover, they also need to make sure that the KM programme is running smoothly.
As a Knowledge Management Pioneer, C&Y is the first NGO to implement the KM programme. In this case study, we are going to explore how C&Y implement the KM strategies, tools, activities, evaluation approaches. Also we are going to see what kinds of problems they need to face and what kinds of benefits they gain in the KM programme. Finally, we are going to provide some suggestions for the C&Y's KM programme.
The results of the study are highly based on the qualitative findings from the semi formal interviews, field observation of the platform and document analysis. Those involved an evaluation of the KM development in C&Y between the pre (1999-2004) and post periods (2004-2007), by this, the methodologies were designed as followed:
The first interview at the I.T Consultants Company with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), he has been voluntarily involving in the project as a consultancy, the details and milestones of the KM platform project in C&Y from 1999 to 2004 was shared within that three hours interview.
The second interview at the C&Y's headquarter with the Knowledge Development Officer (KDO) was held in the next week of the first meeting, and the IT consultants also sit in to realize the current situation of KM development in the C&Y. Since the project has been ended for 2 more years, some reflection, comparisons and feedbacks of KM development in C&Y was generated. The interview was ended in two hours.
- Field Observation
Since the second interview held in the C&Y's headquarter, so the current KM platform could be demonstrated in the workplace and instant feedbacks and experiences can be observed in the real study field.
- Document Analysis
The sources for the Documentation Analysis are ranged from the C&Y documents, scholar journal articles, websites and some case studies center around to the NGO KM development.
The Case Study of NGO in C&Y
Background of C&Y
C&Y is one of the Non Government Organization (NGO) to provide the social services for children and youths. C&Y has over 800 staff members and 50 community service locations. Their major target groups are children and youths from 2 to 35 years old.
In the past, C&Y had mainly provided the services to take care of their education, food and living. C&Y would also help equip them some living skills, such as weaving basket and needlework in order to improve their living standard.
Now, the society and economy have been growing rapidly, C&Y has changed their services. They provide a safe and supportive place for children and youths. They can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for their life. Also, C&Y provides more educational and counseling services for the children, youths and their parents. The C&Y focuses on:
- Healthy development of children and youths,
- Nurture children and youth to be responsible citizens,
- Take the special measures to resolve family crises,
- Help children and youth to fight for rights and welfares.
Also, C&Y provides many programmes in physical recreation, technology, the arts and personal growth for the children and youths. Therefore, C&Y has provided many innovative and diversified services for children, youths and their parents. The services include:
- Integrated Services for Young People
- Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme
- After School Care Services
- School Social Work
- Family Life Education
- Outreaching Social Services
- Campus Services
- Counselling Centre
- Hotline Counselling Services
- Children’s Home
C&Y has provided many different professional services for the children and youths, it helps them to grow in a healthy life and prepare them to face the challenges in the future.
Findings & Analysis of the Case Study
After interviewing with the Chief Executive Officer from IT Consultants Company and Knowledge Development Officer (KDO) from the C&Y, we have collected much more information about KM programme in C&Y. In the following, we are going to explain our finding and analysis of the KM programme in C&Y, including the reasons and processes of implementing KM programme, KM tools and strategies, evaluation, benefits, obstacles and suggestions in C&Y.
The reasons of KM is needed
C&Y is the very first non-government organization to implement KM in Asia. Under the scarcity of resources and financial stress, they have tried to make use of everything they have in order to survive and to keep operating. The goal is to share knowledge among everyone in the organization to get things done in the shortest possible time and least resources. KM programme was what they have adopted to sustain their assets – employees’ knowledge. Two main reasons, which are brain drain and practical needs, were considered before starting the programme.
- Brain drain
In the social services sector, most of the social workers work at the frontline. They are dealing with different kind of people. Skillful techniques help them equip themselves. Many of the experienced staff could act as a mentor to help novices. However, the fact is that increasing number of experienced staff retired. Besides, number of contract staff would leave their job within a specific time frame because of many reasons including job security, salary and government vacancy. When staff leave, they would carry with their experience and knowledge which are the valuable assets in C&Y. That means the organization cannot sustain the performance that they always do in this circumstance. It directly affects the quality of services provided. At the end, C&Y would not retain any corporate memories.
- Practical needs
C&Y pointed out that there are increasing number of social problems. Unfortunately those problems are getting complicated which means the demand for experienced social workers has been increasing. Moreover, many cases they deal with are in urgent involving one’s life. Therefore, C&Y has thought about that if there is a place or a platform or an access point would store some kind of emergency or handy information for every staff to tackle with the cases in the shortest time would definitely improve their services. Within the organization, because of the culture built, experienced or senior staff are not willing to share their knowledge with other staff. Reasons determined include workload increased, busy schedule, job security and psychological bahaviour. Once junior or contract staff come in, they would not have enough time to pick up duties. Trainings are then provided but it is time consuming and costly.
Implementation of the KM programme
C&Y started to implement the KM programme in 2000 and finished in 2004. In 2000, C&Y ’s senior management started the exploration of KM. They are referred to many books and articles to realize what KM are. Also, they consulted some KM experts and IT consultants to get some advices. At the end of 2001, C&Y submitted their KM proposal to the Social Welfare Department (SWD) to apply for the Business Improvement Project Fund. This funding is Special One-off Grant (SOG).The aim of this funding can help the C&Y to develop the KM programme in IT aspects in order to facilitate organization management and delivery of services with higher quality, efficiency and customer satisfaction.
In April 2002, the SWD approved the KM proposal. In May, C&Y formally started the KM programme. Project steering committee, project management team and pilot teams were set up to implement the KM programme. In order to change the organizational culture and promote KM programme, some staff members briefing sessions were provided. At the same time, knowledge mapping and process design were proceeding. Pilot teams were responsible to identify the common sets of core services and map out knowledge assets, e.g. practice wisdom and domain knowledge, in order to finish knowledge taxonomy. Between October and December, C&Y started to select I.T supplier for fulfilling their I.T needs for facilitating knowledge sharing.
In 2003, after selecting the I.T supplier, the KM platform was designed and installed, Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003. In May, the Microsoft designated the I.T professionals to teach the C&Y's I.T staff about operating the KM platform. Then, the I.T staff of C&Y would hold the training sessions for the C&Y's staff such as social workers and administration staff and teach them how to use the KM platform. In December, the whole formal implementation KM programme was set up. They started to run the KM programme in C&Y and made the evaluation about the implementation of KM programme. After evaluating the KM programme, C&Y wrote a post-implementation review report and submitted to the SWD in March 2004.
- Current situation
Today, the KM programme is still running in C&Y. We find that they work very hard to keep improving and maintaining the whole KM programme. C&Y would launch many community of practice (CoPs) such as Play Therapy, Family-based Service, Outreaching method and Service Learning. They are initiated and formed by respective teams in order to share knowledge. The staff would share their own knowledge base on their experience, works and interests. These are very useful in the performance of their daily work.
Also, C&Y is still devoted to the development the KM and sharing culture. Many different kinds of KM tools and activities are developed such as Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), Near Miss, Personal Sharing, KM Market, New Staff Briefing Sessions, Award and Annual Review Meeting. These KM tools and activities do not only encourage the staff to share their knowledge in different channels, but also they can identify what kinds of problems and outcomes in the KM programme and find out the solutions to improve the KM programme.
In addition, C&Y keep improving the KM platform. For example, they keep improving the platform’s interface design to make it more users friendly. Certainly, the content of platform is updated regularly. Also, C&Y is using Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003. But now, they are considering upgrading the version of the KM platform to Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2007.
However, C&Y encounters many difficulties when they make improvement in the KM programme. They would not have enough resources (budget and manpower) to upgrade the technologies such as hardware, software and networking operating system. Also, each staff has their own job duties and tasks, all the staff are voluntary to involve the KM programme. The contents of KM platform are depended on the staff's spontaneity to provide different kinds of information such as documents, articles and PowerPoint. That means the C&Y does not have a formal role to manage the KM programme such as screening. Then, some materials will not be classified in the appropriate location on the KM platform. At the same time, C&Y would also need tackle ways to sustain the enthusiasm and the level of participation of sharing practices among the staff.
Therefore, we can see that C&Y is devoted to the continuous improvement for their KM programme. They try to develop more KM tools and activities for the KM programme in order to improve the quality of management, services and programme in the organization. In the development of KM programme, it would appear many new challenges that they have to confront.
KM strategies and tools in C&Y
C&Y is providing the social services which involved high human interaction with clients, so the strategies used to implement KM is more people-oriented. To ensure the exact information of clients obtained, knowledge and experience located to handle the social cases effectively and efficiently, the typical organizational assessment – People, Process and Technology (PPT) is used as the direction for the strategies formed. (Kern, 2000)
The situation shows that needs and requirements of the organization or individual affect the process of knowledge flow, while technology is tailored to smooth the process to satisfy the needs. On the other hand, high technology also leads to the change on how knowledge can be formed, so the interactive relationship between PPT is revealed.
(Collison & Parcell, 2004)
Existence of Brain Drain and practical need inherited in the organization reveals the need for KM, through the KM identification and sustainability of KM practice, then the KM awareness is established and reaching to the cultivation of sharing culture is the ultimate goal. Steps by steps are the rhythm towards high pressure in nature.
- Performance in Matrix
- Skills development
- Enforcement of participation
- Promote enthusiasm
As to smooth the process to locate the right resources at the right time, the process layout should be structured with the consideration between the common practice of the staff and formal process of the organization.
- Stick to the Taxonomy structure
- Maximize codification for greater sharing
With the aid of Technology to ensure the KM function in good practice of RAS - Reliability, Availability and Serviceability, which means the knowledge or information provided is corrected within the capable system in always operated in normal with less malfunction.
- Focus to the Personalized Knowledge Management
- Maintain efficiency of Data Warehouse
According to PPT, there are some tools and activities are set in order to implement KM in the organization. They are:
- Online platform
C&Y adopted the Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to build up their online platform where many knowledge sharing activities performing. The online platform is the one of tools that the C&Y has been using to implement knowledge management. Once staff has got an access right, they can access anytime anywhere. It does facilitate the knowledge management which goals are to share information and experiences among staff in the organization.
Staff would find much information there, for example, official notices and upcoming events. Besides, they can upload documents to specific folders. And there are several folders in the front page of the platform which are Near Miss, Discussion Forum, KM Market, Personal Sharing, My Site and Knowledge Bank.
Here we would take a look at some of them. In the Near Miss folder, it is believed that documents are very useful to everyone. It stores information or things happened that everyone has the chances to encounter, for example, how to handle a table tennis table safely. As mentioned by the KDO, an accident almost happened when a little child walked past a folded-up table tennis table. As the locks of the table had not been locked properly, one half of the table fell down while the little child was walking past the table. The table almost hit the little child directly but luckily, a woman came along and saved the little child in time.
In the Personal Sharing section, everyone has to share a piece of information, no matter a PowerPoint or a document or a hyperlink whatever one thinks they are useful, half a year at least.
Inside KM Market, information uploaded goes into different sub-categories by subject. Taxonomy is used in the Knowledge Bank folder. We can see inside there are Emergency Handbook and Poverty. Staff could share their views in the Discussion Form where interactions happen.
According to KDO, knowledge shared on the platform has not been screened. As a matter of fact that there are not much sharing activities and amount of information shared is not huge, there is no one responsible for checking on what are uploaded. Besides, every posting has got its signature. This approach would definitely avoid lousy pieces. They might wish to do screening and organizing when the number of item increases. On the other hand, there is no restriction for the scope of information or knowledge uploaded. Because of the nature of the C&Y which deals with different kinds of people and cases, the broader the better regarding as the information stored.
It is a sharing session based held by a team of people to control the focus on knowledge sharing with the speaker, then to codify it and upload to the internet. The idea for Elicitation came from the China Light and Power Company Limited (CLP) in 2006. And C&Y has once used this tool to elicit the knowledge from the organization officer, the length of the process was three hours long, however, ten hours was spent to codify it as written words. Then the video is split into several sections and uploaded to the platform for the staff convenience. The comments received projects it is a useful way to enhance the knowledge learning, however, the process take time and indeed not much staff have ever clicked it, they even claimed that the section is long although it just ten or twenty minutes.
- After Action Review
Leading activity is one of the job duties for the staff, the skills and knowledge involved are personalized and hard to share without actually being involved. After Action Review (AAR) involved the process note taking by someone observing the activity led, then, mark down the strengths and weaknesses with objective view, also the process is recorded. Then that tacit knowledge is codified and uploaded. This tool is commented as not reflecting the truth of the techniques used for leading activity. Since the staff might feel nervous and unable to perform in the normal quality when they notify their action is recorded, moreover, scared human resource is further occupied by assigning a staff sit aside to observe the whole activity.
- Exit Interview
Before the experienced staff gets retired or the contract staff left the organization after working for a specific period, there will be an Exit Interview prepared for them. It is a face to face interview held to directly extract the knowledge, useful practices, experiences accumulated from the head of the staff. Some tacit knowledge is disclosed and codified into the audio recordings, and then put into the platform as explicit knowledge for the exiting staff's learning. Part of the interview questions are tailored made for the staff's working spectrum. This method is treated as the last chance to extract knowledge from the experienced staff, and supposed to be introduced in this coming year.
Besides, in order to sustain the staff’s enthusiasm to participate knowledge sharing in the organization, there are some ways C&Y are used. They are:
- Commitment and support from the top management
The clear understanding and commitment from the top management is important to establish the direction of knowledge management. Then, the middle management can forward the objective to the staff and smooth the way to implement it. For example, the regional officers realize the coming deadline for the articles should be uploaded, and put this message in the very first beginning to remind staff. This will give out a sign the importance of sustaining the enthusiasm in the organization.
- Balance score card
As C&Y is a NGO, to measure the company achievement according to the vision and strategies of the company‘s activities can not base on financial outcomes, it also includes the counting on human issues that drive the outcomes. So that the participation to the company activities is counted, for example, number of articles has to be uploaded to “Personal Sharing” as instructed from the top management. Gradually the enthusiasm can be maintained and cultivating the sharing culture.
- Statistical record
The statistics of using the platform are collected by the system provider. The top three staff who have login to the platform mostly are award with the present. Besides, the award will be publicized in the monthly newsletter. Although the prized staff not intentionally plans to get the prize as they said the time out session always requires them to login. However, they are more aware of the KM platform and its importance, finally, the enthusiasm cultivated and increase the participation. Besides, measures of the participation often indicators of future performance.
- Employee Appraisal
Using the KM platform is treated as the technology part in employee appraisal. It forms a direct effect to force the employee to access to it. However, it only carries 3 points to the final appraisal, and it may not be effective to every employee. Several staff may feel it is more time effective to gain more points from other parts. As a whole, this way is effective to increase the awareness of the platform content, and sharing culture is facilitated by implementing it.
In C&Y, they are very difficult to evaluate their KM programme’s outcomes. It is because they are not a business organization; they would not use the profits to evaluate how successful the KM programme. Also, C&Y provides the social services and programmes for the children and youths. The staff in the organization mainly are social workers, so they would need more diversified data, information and knowledge to support their works. C&Y would store and share different kinds of information and knowledge within the organization. Therefore, it is very difficult to make the evaluation for their KM programme, such as usefulness of documents and articles. But C&Y would also make the evaluation for the KM programme base on the following aspects:
- Counted time-saved, cost-saved and work space-saved
C&Y would measures the duration of schedule involved in the projects , cost involved and work space of the organization have been shortened or saved after implementing the KM programme. It can help the organization to know that how the KM programme helps to save the resources and make the staff to work more effectively and efficiently.
- Counted inputs and outputs figures of documents and articles
C&Y would count the numbers of documents and articles that have been uploaded, accessed or downloaded in the KM platform, Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003; to the staff. It can be evaluated by the utility rates of the KM platform and knowledge sharing situation within the organization. Balance scorecard is a method to count the number of inputs and outputs of the documents and articles of each staff.
- Number of core services sessions and programmes increased
C&Y would also count the number of core services sessions and programmes that have been increased after implementing the KM programme. Then, C&Y can estimate how the KM programme helps the organization to increase the core services and programmes and the degree of improvement the staff’s performances in the works.
- Personal express views
C&Y would ask the staff to express their views about the KM programme, such as the KM platform and networking. The organization would estimate the degree of usefulness, user-friendly and stability of the KM platform and networking. It helps to assess the KM programme and makes improvement.
C&Y does benchmarking to evaluate their KM programme in order to maximize the performance of it. They evaluate which aspects can be improved in the KM programme. On the other hand, C&Y acts a benchmarking organization for the other NGOs. Successful aspects can be shown in the KM programme.
Evaluation is important part in the KM programme, C&Y uses some KM measurement techniques to assess how well the organization is progressing. The programme will then run more effectively and efficiently.
The obstacles of C&Y in implementing KM
As a pioneer in the implementation of KM in NGOs, several kinds of obstacles have been identified while implementing and running the KM programme.
- Lack of KM background
The staff in C&Y mainly are social workers, but not KM professionals. Actually, they may not understand what KM is. Therefore, when they decided to implement the KM programme, they needed to spend much time to understand what KM is and how to implement it, such as codification. Also, after implementing the KM programme, the responsible staff of KM programme needed to promote the KM programme for the other staff in order to let them know what KM is and the advantages of the programme.
- Delay of Time Schedule
The project time schedule was delayed. It is because C&Y needed to take time for redesigning the project management structure and KM Process Design. In the project management structure, they found that the KM programme did not match the original plan, such as tasks, resources and manpower. Therefore, they needed to spend more time for redesigning the project management structure of the KM programme.
In the KM process design, they found that the partition of the knowledge subject is not in line with their mind of usual practices, it was inconvenience to the them. The staff could not make sure that the documents, articles and PowerPoint were classified in which part on the KM platform. Therefore, they needed to prolong KM process design.
In addition, the problem of KM platform’s stability was found in the User Acceptance Test. C&Y found that the KM platform was unstable and too risky. Therefore, they needed to spend more time to solve the problems. Then, it made the time schedule delayed.
- Lack of tailor-made KM software
On the market, there was no tailor-made software for KM. Therefore, they have to find the suitable software to adopt. After choosing the I.T supplier, Microsoft, C&Y decided to select their software Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to be the C&Y’s KM platform. In the mean time, C&Y has to discuss with Microsoft about designing and pricing of the programme according to their needs.
- Lack of formal team for the KM programme
C&Y does not have a formal team to manage the whole KM programme. When C&Y decided to implement the KM, a working group was set up; they were Project Steering Committee, Project Management team and pilot teams. However, they were disbanded after implementing KM programme. Knowledge was classified by experience staff. That means C&Y does not have a formal team to manage the classification scheme. The knowledge gaps could not be identified and there was no mechanism to fix it. Also, they have not acted on analyzing and reworking information. It cannot help to clarify what C&Y has known and what it needs to know.
Moreover, the contents of KM platform are depended on the staff’s spontaneity to provide different kinds of information such as documents, articles and PowerPoint. Then, the knowledge may not be classified in an appropriate space. This affects the effectiveness of retrieving for knowledge by staff.
In addition, as they don't have a formal team to mange KM programme, there is no screening process for different knowledge. As a result, the knowledge which is not useful for the organization cannot be filtered.
- Lack of appointed organizational structure to follow up
After disbanding the Project Steering Committee, Project Management team and pilot teams, C&Y only appoints a staff to be the KDO to handle the matters of KM programme. But, this KDO also is a social worker, he has another duties and tasks in the C&Y. He is voluntary to put effort into the KM programme. Thus, he cannot engross in the development of KM programme.
In addition, although the C&Y’s I.T department also helps maintain the operation of KM platform, the I.T department only has five staff. Not only supporting the operation of KM platform, but they also need to support the whole C&Y’s I.T operations. Therefore, they cannot provide support to the KM programme fully. Therefore, it makes the works of KM become decentralization.
- Lack of user-friendly concept in KM platform
The KM platform is not user friendly. It is because staff need to login the website every time when they open a new page. Also, the KM platform would logout automatically if he or she no long uses the platform in the session time. Then, the staff would need to login again. This is really irritating and time-consuming.
- Lack of resources
C&Y is NGO, they are accepted the Lump Sum Grant (LSG) arrangements from the SWD. They should manage the financial issues carefully. Sometimes, resources (budget and manpower) would be assigned to some emergence services and programmes. Thus, scarcity of resources might affect the performance of KM programme.
We can see that C&Y has encountered many obstacles in implementing and running the KM programme. Therefore, C&Y need to keep devoting to the continuous improvements for the KM programme.
The benefits of C&Y in implementing KM
Although there are difficulties and obstacles during the process of implementing and running KM, there are considerable advantages and benefits of the KM programme in C&Y.
- Building effective communication
The KM platform, i.e. the SharePoint Portal is set up and works successfully which contributes to the effective communication between the staff in the organization. The shared explicit knowledge can be employed on the jobs and results in effective and smooth operations and speed up the creative responses. Thus, the capability to solve problems and sudden issues are improved. The resources and budget were utilized in a proper way which resultes to cost-saving.
- Enhancing the knowledge sharing
In addition, the culture of knowledge and experience sharing is established and firmly rooted in the organization; it is vital to support the sustainability of KM project. Both the implicit and explicit knowledge are retained as corporate memory. The problems of brain drain and the loss of knowledge can be mitigated. The increasing cost because of the high turnover rate is also eased gradually.
- Benchmarking for the other NGOs
Furthermore, as the KM pioneer in the social service sector, C&Y acts as the leader to share the experiences and practices of how to initiate KM to other NGOs in the same industry, and it is reputated as the typical benchmarking studies.
- Smoothing the process
KM programme facilitates the process of activities run smoothly and effectively, it shortens the gaps between the plan and actual activities implemented, that is highly contributed to the resources and budget arrangement with the information resources supported, the productivity and effectiveness at work are formed.
- Getting positive feedbacks
There are positive feedbacks and personal statements from the staff which is a good testimony that the staff foster the effective work habits after the KM programme has been carried out.
Those benefits are agreed by both the staff and management. The KM project achieves the preliminary success and achievements, most importantly, the improved productivity and effectiveness are witnessed.
C&Y is a pioneer of KM in NGOs; many NGOs in social welfare sector would choose them to be the benchmarking object when they decided to implement the KM programme. However, C&Y has some obstacles or difficulties in implementing and running the KM programme. Therefore, we are going to suggest some recommendations for C&Y in order to improve the quality and management of KM programme.
- Setting up a formal team
Formal team is needed to be involved in operational process in KM programme. Formal team should constitute with a full time KDO and I.T staff to handle all the matters of KM programme. They can spend more time and put more effort to the KM. It will then improve the quality of KM programme and make the KM works more effectively and efficiently.
- Technological audit
Technical team need to have a technological audit regularly to ensure the validity of technology is used within the organization. Requiring staff to login in every webpage shows the symptom of technical problem in technology. The team may need to carry out the audit to scan out the problem by checking the network, hardware, software etc. Then user can just login once to browse any part of the portal no longer need to login every time. Technology should be improved to provide user-friendly KM platform for the staff.
- Building up a standardized knowledge taxonomy
KM taxonomy should be built up with the synergy effort of the social welfare sector. It is because a classification scheme is very important for codification. If the knowledge taxonomy can be established by the social welfare sector, it can be an authority tools and regard as the standard guideline for the social workers to identify knowledge. For example, as battered child syndrome is classified under domestic violence according to taxonomy guideline, the service sector stakeholder can easily locate it without confusion. Therefore, a standardized coding system can help to classify knowledge subject within the KM programme in C&Y, thus, information searching can be more effective.
- Changing proportion of appraisal for staff
The proportion of the element within the personal appraisal should be altered in order to increase the enthusiasm of using KM platform indirectly. Increase the numbers of appraisal criteria related to the platform usage, e.g. numbers of files uploading, suggestions given etc. Also, the participation in IT Platform in balance scorecard should be adjusted to higher proportion, so the staff are awarded of using KM platform. Besides, the rewards are given for these two evaluation methods can increase the use of the KM platform.
- Increasing number of reviewing meeting
The number of meeting of KDO and I.T consultant should be increased. The meeting held each year is not enough, it is because the technology change is very fast in this information society. And new information should be updated with the pace. Therefore, the meeting for half a year should be held.
- Forming strategy to sustain staff
The methods should be added to sustain new staff in order to decrease the turnover rate. For example, giving more reward for staff that had performed well in their works. The organization can hold more activities in order to give more communication between staff. It can increase the sense of belonging within the organization. Staff sustained implies that knowledge can be sustained too.
Personnel strategy should be formed to prevent the new staff from leaving at the end of their contract. Apart from the monetary reward, non-monetary reward such as providing more career development for the staff can be included. The organization can hold more activities in order to build up the social network between staff. It can increase the sense of belonging within the organization. So they can apply what they learned and continuously contribute to the development of KM.
These suggestions for improving the performance of KM programme in C&Y. If C&Y can improve the performance of their KM programme, it can help C&Y to facilitate corporate management and delivery of services with higher quality, efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.
Those are the suggestions focusing on the People, Process and Technology aspects, and we believe those suggestions are feasible to make improvement for their KM programme, finally, the services can be provided in higher quality and delivered efficiently and effectively.
We are now moving steadily from information age to knowledge age where knowledge has been recognized as the most important aspect in human life. Organizations are starting to understand and appreciate knowledge as the most valuable asset in the competitive environment. In an article in Harvard Business Review, Nonaka (1998, p21) began with the simple introductory words “In an economy, where the only certainty is uncertainty, the one sure source of lasting competitive advantage is knowledge.
Bailey & Clarke (2000, p235) claim that “Leveraging knowledge, particularly tacit knowledge, is the key to sustained the competitive advantage in the future.” Knowledge is an attribute of people or communities or societies. Knowledge comes as a person uses information and combines it with their personal experiences.
Although KM has been widely discussed, there is relatively very little information on KM in public sector. The ultimate objective of KM in public sector organizations is for providing quality services rather than profit making in other non-public sector organizations.
The importance of KM to NGOs & private sectors
After the analysis between the public and private sector, facilitating KM is more important in public sector, as they are providing social services to the public under the restricted resources and budget, and it is vital to learn the organizational knowledge and contribute to the KM to support continuous development of KM. Employees are identified as the key knowledge repository in the public sector than others. As an public organizations, like C&Y, more difficulties are encountered by them than the private sector organizations.
C&Y is the forerunner of implementing KM in the public social service sector, there is a trend for the other NGOs in the industry, they are going to start carrying out their KM programme, as the industry senses the importance of KM and the benefits and advantages KM might bring to them.
Besides, Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is the new trend and innovative concept to the industry. Employees consolidate and share their own tacit knowledge in the platform, i.e. personal websites, portal and other people can browse and acquire knowledge and finally, some tacit knowledge turns into explicit knowledge.
C&Y, as the pioneer to develop the complete new KM, there are many challenges ahead, such as the problems of how to sustain the enthusiasm and the how to improve the level of participation of sharing practices among the employees, apart from those personnel problem, the problems also involved how to design and operate the IT sharing platform in order to enhance the productivity, the technical problems of the portal, the loss of knowledge assets in the organization because of the increasing number of experienced staff retired and contract staff leave their jobs.
Developing KM is a long-term journey. It needs time and effort to establish an effective and standardized KM programme. For C&Y, we observe that there are existing and potential KM problems and issues, which are retarded by the restricted resources and financial supports. Those pressures impede the development and advancement of KM. However, KM is vital to the social service sector. If the problems of limited resources have not yet resolved, the growth of KM will be at a standstill.
We thank the CEO of I.T Consultants Company and the KDO of C&Y for having interviews and sharing their experience with us.
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