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Research paper Performance of knowledge

Research paper Performance of knowledge

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Performance of knowledge management
practices: a causal analysis
Halil Zaim, Ekrem Tatoglu and Selim Zaim
Abstract
Purpose\u2013 The main purpose of this paper is to investigate the effects of knowledge management (KM)
infrastructure and KM processes on the performance of KM practices.
Design/methodology/approach\u2013 The paper is based on personal interviews, data were collected
from 83 managers from a single case study of a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM)
operator in Turkey.
Findings\u2013 The paper \ufb01nds that hypotheses were tested using structural equation modeling. Test of

hypotheses revealed that both KM processes and KM infrastructure positively and signi\ufb01cantly in\ufb02uenced the performance of KM practices. These \ufb01ndings tend to corroborate our conceptual model and are also in line with the existing literature. KM infrastructure was found to be more signi\ufb01cantly affecting KM performance than KM processes, indicating that the context and background of KM is more important than the application aspects of KM.

Research limitations/implications\u2013 The \ufb01ndings in this paper cannot be generalized due to the case

study approach. It may not be claimed that both KM processes and KM infrastructure solely determine the performance of KM practices. Instead, there are many other factors that may in\ufb02uence KM performance, which are somewhat beyond the scope of this research.

Practical implications\u2013 The paper shows that the evaluation of KM performance is expected to
increase the effectiveness, ef\ufb01ciency and adaptability of KM efforts so as to add more value to the
overall performance of the organization.
Originality/value\u2013 In this paper there is little or no empirical evidence investigating the in\ufb02uence of KM
infrastructure and KM processes on KM performance. This paper recti\ufb01es this imbalance by clarifying
the link between KM infrastructure, processes and performance.
KeywordsKnowledge management, Intellectual capital, Turkey
Paper typeResearch paper
Introduction

Knowledge and intellectual capital (IC) are considered as organizations\u2019 primary sources of production and value, while tangible assets such as land, machinery and equipment are rarely their most valuable competitive assets (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Davenport and Prusak, 1998). Knowledge management (KM) has recently emerged as a discrete area in the study of organizations and frequently cited as an antecedent of organizational performance. With successful implementation of KM practices that organizations are able to perform intelligently to sustain their competitive advantage by developing their knowledge assets (Wiig, 1999).

There is a wide range of studies on the process-related issues such as creation, development, codi\ufb01cation, storage, distribution, sharing and utilization of knowledge. A great deal of research attention has been given to the efforts for developing a comprehensive model of KM in recent years. There exist, however, relatively rare empirical evidences investigating the in\ufb02uences of KM infrastructure and KM processes on

PAGE 54jJOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT jVOL. 11 NO. 6 2007, pp. 54-67,Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1367-3270
DOI 10.1108/13673270710832163

Halil Zaim is based at Fatih
University, Faculty of
Economics and
Administrative Sciences,
Buyukcekmece, Istanbul,

Turkey, Ekrem Tatoglu is

based at Bahcesehir
University, Faculty of
Business Administration,
Besiktas, Istanbul, Turkey,
and Selim Zaim is also
based at Fatih University,
Faculty of Economics and
Administrative Sciences,
Buyukcekmece, Istanbul,

Turkey.
KM performance. Relying on a case study, this paper attempts to rectify this imbalance by
clarifying the link between KM infrastructure, processes and performance.

The paper is organized into \ufb01ve sections. The next section provides a brief review of the relevant literature and sets out the research model. The third section presents the methodology followed by the analyses and results. Conclusions are in the \ufb01nal section.

Literature review

The area of knowledge management is still in its early stages in terms of developing its theoretical base with contemporary KM approaches representing largely extensions of either organizational learning or business information systems. It has been widely accepted among scholars and practitioners that KM infrastructure and processes have considerable in\ufb02uences on the performance of KM practices. There is a rich array of research on the technological, cultural and organizational issues, which can be considered as the components of KM infrastructure. IC has also a unique place in the KM literature where it can be viewed as the most valuable competitive asset in contemporary business world (Wang and Chang, 2005).

While the existing literature de\ufb01nes KM in a number of ways (see, for example, Wiig, 1997; Cortada and Woods, 2000; Scarbroughet al., 1999; Malhotra, 2000a; Darroch, 2005), the focus of KM is on the integration and coordination of individuals\u2019 knowledge, i.e. the appropriate management of current organizational knowledge and the creation of knowledge (Diakoulakiset al., 2004). The following subsections brie\ufb02y review the previous literature on the related issues including KM infrastructure, KM processes and KM performance.

KM Infrastructure

Knowledge management infrastructure is considered as the backbone of KM (Davenport and Vo\u00a8 lpel, 2001). Almost every successful organization that applies KM realizes the need and importance of an explicit and supportive infrastructure to assist KM practices (O\u2019Dell and Grayson, 1998). Hence, it is acknowledged that the ef\ufb01cient and effective application of KM requires a strong and appropriate KM infrastructure (Tiwana, 2000), which is composed of four components: technology, organizational culture, organizational structure and intellectual capital.

Apparently, KM is more than a technological toolkit, though technology is clearly an integrated part of KM (Thierauf, 1999) and availability of certain technologies plays an instrumental role in catalyzing the KM movement (Davenport and Prusak, 1998). Indeed the phenomenal growth of new technologies makes it easier to implement KM systems (Binney, 2001). Accordingly, the technological issues are cited as one of the most exciting and promising aspects of KM projects (Gottschalk and Khandelwal, 2003; Reyes and Raisinghani, 2002).

KM practices take advantage of a large spectrum of technologies (Lindvallet al., 2003). Nevertheless KM technologies in general can be classi\ufb01ed into two main categories, namely \u2018\u2018the core technologies\u2019\u2019 and \u2018\u2018the supporting technologies\u2019\u2019. The core technologies are the ones, which are speci\ufb01cally designed and developed for sophisticated KM requirements, whereas the supporting technologies are those, which are not speci\ufb01cally designed for KM but are useful for KM implementations.

One of the most important and challenging aspects of KM is to enhance the development of a collaborative, trustworthy, emphatic and helpful organizational culture. The executives and scholars agree on the importance of a knowledge-friendly culture for the success of KM (Hauschildet al., 2002; Skyrme, 1999). It is because knowledge is a context-dependent social concept (Lang, 2001) and a large part of organizational knowledge is embodied in social processes, institutional practices, traditions and values (Fayard, 2003; Boisot, 1998). Therefore, no matter how powerful the tools and functions of KM are, it is of no use without willing participants and a supportive social and cultural environment (Koulopoulos and Frappaolo, 1999).

VOL. 11 NO. 6 2007jJOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENTjPAGE 55

While the cultural resistance is generally cited as one of the most important barriers to an effective implementation of KM (Sveiby and Simons, 2002), it is still contemplated as the neglected or underestimated side of KM applications. Therefore, it is strictly recommended for organizations to place a special emphasis on the social and cultural issues for the successful implementation of KM practices (Bhatt, 2001).

The dimensions discussed in this paper pose some speci\ufb01c organizational design challenges if knowledge is to be managed effectively (Narasimha, 2001). The appropriate organizational structures and guidelines as well as technical and non-technical expedients of which the organization has disposal constitute another building blocks of KM infrastructure (Beijerse, 1999). Nonetheless, there is no single appropriate organizational structure for KM. Some scholars suggest a radical re-design for KM (Malhotra, 2000b), while others think that it is not necessary. However, instead of highly centralized, control-based and rigid hierarchies, more \ufb02exible, decentralized and trust-based organizational structures with empowered workers are highly recommended in the KM literature (Maier and Hadrich, 2006; Malhotra, 2005).

Finally, the KM literature clearly exposes that knowledge resources have been increasingly seen as an integral part of organizations\u2019 value creating processes. In a similar vein, companies have become aware of the importance of IC of their own (Guthrieet al., 2003). IC can be de\ufb01ned as \u2018the sum of all the intellectual material of a company\u2019\u2019 \u2013 knowledge, information, intellectual property including trademarks, patents and licenses, experience and integrity, personnel competencies, collective brainpower, etc. \u2013 that is captured and leveraged to create value and that can be converted to wealth and pro\ufb01t (Stewart, 2001; Harrison and Sullivan, 2000; Bontiset al., 2000). Though there are a variety of different components that constitute IC, an increasingly popular classi\ufb01cation divides intellectual assets into three categories: human capital, structural capital and customer capital (Skyrme, 2002).

KM process

In our conceptual framework, KM is composed of four main processes, which are namely: knowledge generation and development; knowledge codi\ufb01cation and storage; knowledge transfer and sharing; and knowledge utilization.

The ability to generate knowledge and diffuse it throughout the organization has been recognized as a major strategic capability for gaining sustainable competitive advantage (Roth, 2003; Beveren, 2002). Thus, knowledge generation that is considered as the major focus of KM includes all the activities that aim to originate novel and useful ideas and solutions by which new knowledge is generated for the organization\u2019s bene\ufb01t (Abou-Seid, 2002). It can be de\ufb01ned as the process of conscious and intentional generation of knowledge under speci\ufb01c activities and initiatives \ufb01rms undertake to increase their stock of corporate knowledge (Davenport and Prusak, 1998).

Knowledge development, on the other hand, is the process of either converting the innovative and creative ideas into actions, goods and services or the development of goods and services for a higher customer value (Shaniet al., 2003).

Knowledge is meaningful when it is codi\ufb01ed, classi\ufb01ed, given a shape, put in a useful format and stored. Only then, it can be used by the right person, at the right time, in the right way (Nemati and Barko, 2002). That is why one of the core processes of KM is the codi\ufb01cation of knowledge according to the type, purpose of knowledge \u2013 in favor of the organizational objectives and priorities \u2013 and storage of knowledge for the access of the employees at present and in the future (Davenport and Prusak, 1998). However, it is also vital to remember that organizational knowledge is dispersed and scattered throughout the organization. It is found in different locations, in people\u2019s mind, in organizational processes, in corporate culture; embedded into different artifacts and procedures and stored into different mediums such as print, disks and optical media (Bhatt, 2001). Therefore capturing, codifying and storing of knowledge are suggested as the most challenging aspects of KM.

PAGE 56jJOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENTjVOL. 11 NO. 6 2007

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