The source of a sustainable competitive advantage for any organization is derived from the access and subsequent exploitation of resources, and today, knowledge is being heralded as the most important of such resources that is available to organizations (Drucker, 1993). For the larger and mature organizations, often process capability knowledge is the primary source of advantage, whereas for the organizations seeking to grow and out-grow competition, in addition to process capability knowledge, knowledge management focus would also include market knowledge, rapid product development, or the creation of knowledge through research. However, it is important to recognise that even mature organizations need to create knowledge to avoid falling into the stagnancy pit. This is exactly what knowledge management attempts to provide more succinctly to the organizations. Knowledge management aims are to create conditions under which competitive advantage can be maintained, by creating, acquiring, retaining and exploiting the knowledge for the welfare of the organisation.
Knowledge management is the way organizations today are attempting to make the otherwise intangible knowledge tangible and distributable, throughout the organization, in search of the illusive competitive advantage. Today, in this evolving world where insights on data or business intelligence plays an extremely crucial role for the sustainable development of an organization, knowledge management has become a key area of focus.
Beckett et al. (2000) has provided an interesting framework by which many organizations are actually managing their data within with a growing focus to manage the data outside the organization also. Through research, the authors highlight how effective knowledge management can provide a wider scope of continuous improvement to obtain benefits for the parent organization, by providing higher quality information, better quality information, removing information asymmetry, and subsequently increasing the levels of organisational expertise which can be applied to it to create substantial improvements for the organization.
The sole focus of organizations today is to convert internalized tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, so that it can be commoditized and less dependency is there on an individual for being the source of knowledge. With a high attrition rate in organizations across industry, it becomes extremely pertinent that knowledge once created within the organization stays inside the organization and does not become unusable once the creator of the same changes base, within or outside the organization. That is the sole objective of the initial knowledge management systems.
For improving the knowledge management practices within the organization, companies today are increasingly adopting rewards systems, collaborative systems, post-project reviews, knowledge mapping, establishing communities of practice with cross-project learning platforms, creating expert directories, competence management systems, best practice transfer, mentor-mentee relationships, knowledge fairs, formal knowledge repositories, measuring and reporting intellectual capital, knowledge brokers, social media and social network mining systems.
While it is important for organizations to understand the importance of knowledge management systems, even one aspect that many organizations often overlook is using the knowledge outside the boundaries of the organization, but within the value chain. Realizing this, the recent focus has been the development of customer knowledge management systems, where customer tacit knowledge is use to co-create value for the customer in the best possible way, and finally value for the company. Another group of stakeholders who are being introduced into the knowledge management realms are the supplier networks, where knowledge management is often used to create otherwise non-contactable value for the stakeholders. The way forward for knowledge management systems into the future is to capture the tacit knowledge outside the organization but within the value chain (and within multiple stakeholders) to create value for both.
Today, it is pertinent that all the senior executives of organizations realize the potential benefits of effective introduction and management of knowledge management systems, that can benefit the organization. Today, while organizations are facing increasing levels of competition due to the effects of greater competition, knowledge management provides an important way for organization to utilize the most valuable resource available to them, to gain competitive advantage.