Firms in the know on knowledge

Knowledge management is here to stay, as businesses accept that it is not merely the latest management buzzword, according to a new survey by KPMG. Only 2 per cent of respondents said that knowledge management was a fad, compared with nearly a third in a similar survey a year ago.

However, only 43 per cent had a knowledge management initiative in place and companies still reported adverse effects from failure to capture knowledge effectively. This was shown by the effects of a key employee leaving: 43 per cent or respondents said that an employee leaving had damaged a relationship with a key client or supplier, 14 per cent had lost “vital” information and 13 per cent had suffered a significant loss in income.

However, those organisations that had suffered such damage were, as a result, more likely to have started work on knowledge management than those organisations that had not.

Companies value customer information most highly – with 93 per cent rating it as an “important” or “very important” area of knowledge – followed by markets, products, competitors and employee skills. However, when it comes to storing this knowledge in an accessible way – such as in electronic formats – this order was reversed. Internal company information tends to be stored in electronic formats and widely disseminated while external information tends to remain locked in people’s heads.

The survey also demonstrated that while companies are well supplied with the infrastructure for knowledge management there is still a significant shortfall in exploiting it (see diagram).

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