Understanding, Envisioning Role of Technology in Knowledge Management

ACIES Innovations
November 15, 2020
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It is important that when we see something grandeur, we don’t get carried away by the frills, but hold our ground, look at its eyes, try to understand it and then make decisions and opinions.

Like Library Sciences, another major influence in the practice of KM has been technology. As practitioners, we are inundated with technology and the push of technology. As a matter of fact, most of the recent developments in KM has been dictated by technology companies and their products.

In this blog, I focus on the role of technology and what we should focus on.

Technology always results from a necessity or answers an unsaid necessity. It is an applied science, where the know why (not always) gets translated into know-how in the form of tools/machines etc. Tools/machines include both virtual and physical avatars. Human’s love affair with technology can be said to have started when they found that stone can be used as a weapon. From there on technology grew as the human’s know-how and know why about different concepts grew. Technology helps us do what we do, faster, in a repetitive manner. It helps us do what we cannot physically or mentally do on our own. Where we are now is a result of our ability to evolve and leverage technology.

Technology in simple terms is the collection of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. From the perspective of this blog, technology means the software and physical tools that can be used to perform any task.

Now let us understand some aspects of technology.

  • Technology can drive the growth of a field: Technology can have a huge impact on the way a field grows. For example, with development in technology that helps humans to see objects that are too small to see, Cell Theory and allied fields took proper shape.
  • Absence of technology can hinder the growth of a field: As a corollary to the earlier statement, we can also say that growth of a field will be negatively impacted if it does not have relevant technology.
  • Technology for a field and generic technology: There can be technology dedicated to a specific field of interests or technology that cuts across fields of interest. For example, technology related to storing electric power has application across many fields of working, while technology related to blood transfusion, may be very specific to the medical field.
  • Technology is driven by return on investments: While we may find institutes and research labs working on pure science, the growth in technology is mostly driven by return on investment. Hence if there is no money or no benefit, then there will be no technology in that field.

Now let us look into KM as a field and how technology helped and where it is going.

KM as a concept has been there for ages. However, KM function and its relevance grew only by 2000 as a result of development in technology related to content management. Entrepreneurs found that content generation in Organisations is increasing drastically, including digital content and there is a huge market available. Many companies jumped in to benefit from this. As a result, KM function started getting visibility. One can say that formal KM functions started spurting in many Organisations mostly as a result of this technology.

The next major boost for KM came in the form of enterprise social networking. While sharing and collaboration have been there in Organisations, social software took this to another level and helped the process of sharing become virtual. These tools got rid of the geographic dependency and time dependency that typical sharing and collaboration interventions had. These two technology boosts were very closely aligned with the KM field, including the theories and thought process governing the KM field.

However, then we could see a dissociation happening between technology and Knowledge Management after that. It was very prominent with Big data and analytics related development. While KM conferences were heavily focusing on Big data and analytics there was a sense of disenchantment among the practitioners. To a large extent, they could not associate with this technology, as it was not aligned to the KM concepts taught to them by legacy KM.

Growth of technology did not stop there and the KM related technology has moved to the current era of AI, IOT, Virtual reality, Augmented reality. We are getting into the age of data-driven Organisations, digital assistants and tools that can build insight on behalf of employees. Searching for content is no more the requirement, need of the hour is to push the relevant content and find insights automatically based on employees knowledge and information need.

The key take away from this is that:

  • Technology in KM is focusing only on areas where there is commercial viability
  • Technology focus in KM is not driven to grow KM field, but milk the KM market. Commercial Organisations are behaving like predators or hunters and not farmers
  • Many fields in KM are not growing due to the absence of proper technology and perceived commercial non-viability. Ex: Fields like Knowledge audit, lessons learned management, knowledge embedding etc.

This is probably the last stage of technology on the KM planet. It may leave the KM planet and will take content management and social networking related piece with it. With the growth in technology, content management and social networking may not need KM practitioners to manage it. It will be done by the tools. However, with a lack of focus on creating technology on other areas of KM, the true KM may never evolve unless we catch hold of technology by its collar and make it work for us.

Technology is a servant and not a master, however, it will work only for those who can show it money or at least invest in it. The need of the hour for KM fraternity is to work with research labs, academic institutes and focus on evolving technology in areas which commercial Organisations have ignored.

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