Although IT plays a major role in capturing and sharing intellectual capital, successful knowledge-management initiatives also involve changing business practices.
"Ninety percent of what knowledge management is today and will be about in the future concerns corporate culture more than technology," says Jim Wessely, a senior consultant at DuPont & Co. in Wilmington, Del. "Technology is an enabler, but the cultural aspect is the bigger issue."
It can be difficult to get employees to participate fully in a structured knowledge-management environment, say experts. "There's a typical reluctance to share because knowledge is power," says Nigel Meany, engineering services manager for Oasis in Aberdeen, Scotland. Meany is spearheading the knowledge-management efforts at Oasis, a division of oil drill and design manufacturer Hughes Christensen Co. in The Woodlands, Texas.
Businesses can overcome some of the reluctance that employees feel by making the process of cooperation as simple and unintimidating as possible, says Meany. A pointer: People are more inclined to share information in one-on-one settings than in group environments, which can be intimidating, Meany says.
John McElfresh, director of electronic business with Schneider Automation Inc., recommends a personal touch. "We'll keep demonstrating the system and take phone calls from people who are looking for information," he says. Schneider, in North Andover, Mass., also created a CD-ROM--part marketing and part tutorial--that it sent to everyone who would use its knowledge-management system.
Sometimes it's not the unwillingness to share information as much as the lack of time to do so, says Doug Kalish, chief knowledge officer with services firm Scient Corp. in San Francisco. To combat that, Scient has employees called knowledge liaisons who participate in every client engagement and who direct staff members to use its knowledge-management system.
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