Synergy: Mobile Devices and Knowledge Management
Traditionally, knowledge management (KM) in a business context focuses on offering organizations a pragmatic but formal approach to increase productivity, improve customer service and reduce human knowledge loss. Over the years, a library of KM ‘best practices’ have highlighted successful knowledge-focused implementations recognizable as both specialized standalone solutions and business systems embedded with KM functional components. However, these legacy applications, for the most part, have shown signs over the years of too narrow functional footprints, lack of real integration with enterprise-wide business systems, and weak and inflexible collaboration capabilities.
Current market intelligence reveals an outsized percentage of large and medium-sized companies nationwide still lack the capacity to supply employees real time access to corporate systems during their down time (scheduled and unscheduled) while working on company premises and offsite.
The hypothesis is that organizations generally amplify the intensity of their corporate operational and financial risk when employees are restricted by ‘location and time’ to access important information required to support mission-critical decisions. In the current economy where innovation and speed are critical strategic assets, the contours of industry are changing rapidly, demanding quicker, more insightful and effective decision-making during a 24-hour business cycle. To come to the point, the provision of employees with ‘any time access’ to vital corporate information and documents is viewed as a critical success factor (CSF) for maintaining or attaining competitive market or product advantage and market leadership.
KM & Mobile Context
A significant problem identified many decades ago during KM’s infancy was the seemingly lack of appropriate automation support to harvest and realize the full organizational knowledge-influenced value. The problem with a good number of KM solutions is that they require a focus on KM as a unique process or discipline. Unfortunately, it’s just not the way we work as our personal working activities usually involve being somewhat chaotic and unsystematic along with forgetting things.
Technology executives and bloggers alike recognize, appreciate, and believe that mobile devices provide a powerful new set of tools to extend the corporate reach beyond the traditional business boundaries of location and time based on the KM mobile synergy.
KM is re-emerging as a valuable approach to support the wide mass of mobile users who rely on these dynamic devices to support their business as well as personal decisions from the mundane to the complex.
Dynamic Mobile Environment
In recent years, smart phones have evolved from unsophisticated communication devices to powerful hand-held processors. Currently, they support mastery and recall a wide range of information that encases our work and social interactions. In 2009, for the first time ever, smart phones were reported to be used at a higher percentage for accessing and using content than for calls.
The integration of KM and mobile can accomplish two goals, that of making KM ubiquitous (moving away from the desktop) and that of making mobile computing useful (focusing on the user and assisting actively).
Currently, we are witnessing a rebirth of KM as a truly convenient and practical approach to personal KM with ‘widgets’ representing the new access points to fulfill our ‘just-in-time’ need for actionable information and knowledge. In summary, the intent of KM mobile is to enable people to do what they do best – access new and familiar situations and arrive at situational decisions in real time.
Knowledge in the mobile environment is created by transforming the traditional knowledge value chain into knowledge ecology. Each component within the ecology is interrelated with every other element endlessly. Knowledge creation and creativity resulting from regular use of knowledge ecology should differentiate the most innovative product development and service businesses of the future.
Within a strategic KM mobile view, organizations are involved in significant paradigm shifts from supporting sizeable investments in packaged and customized KM systems to mobile-based KM apps that make possible the real-time fusion of explicit information contained in situational mobile apps with the individual’s tacit knowledge resulting in faster and more successful decisions.
It is well understood that the best decisions are achieved by spending less time on information gathering and more on the thinking process (bringing together explicit knowledge and actionable information and combining with internal tacit knowledge).
A challenge for technology executives is keeping employees pro-actively informed of mission-critical and rapidly changing information all within a corporate control and information security approach. To address this need, companies are leveraging smart mobile devices to push critical information to employees in the field.
They send information updates (trigged by specific events or activities) to individuals and provide documents through e-mail alerts and text messages with a link to the downloadable document. Videos, presentations and audio clips are also distributed.
Given that mobile KM apps generally don’t require the employee universe to adjust their unique work habits or require significant learning curves to become proficient, they’re more likely to be accepted and used. This makes it easier for people with different roles and skill sets to use the same information in an assortment of contexts; while the same information is expected to be viewed by a larger number of people.
KM & Mobile Value Proposition
The key benefits generally realized from KM mobile use include:
• Increase relevant information and knowledge access for immediate decision-making by employees, customers, and partners.
• Facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing among business groups
• Retain and enrich institutional knowledge as intellectual property
• Overcome organizational and geographical boundaries to conducting business
• Shorten cycle time for mission-critical processes thereby increasing employee productivity
In conclusion I will leave all with a favorite Peter F. Drucker quote – “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”