Managing Knowledge in Projects

Subject: Management
Pages: 17
Words: 4750
Reading time:
19 min
Study level: PhD

Abstract

Knowledge management is a critical aspect of project management that involves collecting data, processing it to meaningful information, and sharing it with relevant entities to enhance coordination and ensure that all activities are aligned with the goals that should be achieved. In this paper, the focus was to discuss the value of alignment of knowledge management and project management. The study shows that a project manager can only achieve success if there is an effective knowledge management system that makes it possible to gather needed information and share it with all the relevant stakeholders. It is evident that knowledge is an asset that defines the ability of a firm to manage the market competition. As such, proper investment should be made in creating, sharing, and protecting it from unauthorized individuals who may want to use it for selfish gains. The researcher recommends that a project manager should identify specific employees highly skilled in digital data management and cyber-security to ensure that data is effectively managed and protected for the benefit of the project.

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Introduction

Knowledge management is one of the important aspects of project management. According to Huhtala et al. (2015), knowledge management refers to the efficient management of data within an organizational context. Many firms are embracing a new method of operation that takes the form of project management. In this strategy, a company would develop a short-term goal that should be achieved within one year. A team would then be selected and assigned the responsibility of ensuring that the set goal is achieved. In a highly competitive business environment, this strategy helps in ensuring that the overall vision of the firm is realized through these short-term goals. Top management is able to set specific resources for the project and determine if a value is realized on completion of the project. It becomes easy to know, within a short period, whether the firm is taking the right direction towards success. Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood (2015) argue that this new approach of operation has made project management very popular.

Having the right information about a project is critical for achieving success. Kloppenborg (2015) states that when undertaking a given project, one of the most important factors that the project manager should take into consideration is how to collect, process, store, and share relevant data from the field. The team should understand what to expect and steps that should be taken to ensure that every activity is undertaken within the set timeline. Audretsch, Link, and Walshok (2015) argue that successful firms know how to design their products based on the expectations of the market. In this paper, the focus is to analyze knowledge management in project management. The researcher will look at the importance of having an effective knowledge management system when undertaking projects. The underpinning principles and concepts of knowledge management will be discussed in this paper. The paper will also outline the value of aligning knowledge management with project management. The researcher will provide recommendations based on information gathered from respondents.

Literature Review

Knowledge management in project management is a topic that has attracted the attention of many scholars over the recent past. In this section of the report, the focus is to review findings made by other scholars in this field. Kloppenborg (2015) argues that it is advisable to avoid reproducing information. The goal of every researcher should be to introduce new knowledge or address inconsistencies in the information that is available in a given field. That can only be realized through a review of the existing literature. It is expected that the information that will be made available through this project will be vital to project managers who are always under pressure to ensure that they achieve specific goals within a set time and use resources made available to them.

Underpinning Principles and Concepts of Knowledge Management

Understanding the underpinning principles and concepts of knowledge management makes it easy to understand why firms and project managers need effective knowledge management systems that can enable them to achieve specific goals. Lock (2014, p. 34) defines knowledge management principles as an “enduring set of guidelines for managing knowledge that is established by an organization, program or team.” As shown in the definition, the guidelines must be set by an organization based on factors such as organizational culture, forces that a firm is facing in the market, and government policies. The following are fundamental principles and policies that every organization should take seriously.

Knowledge is a valuable asset

One of the most important principles of knowledge management is the concept that knowledge is an asset. It takes time and resources to develop meaningful information. Once knowledge is developed, it should be treated as an asset that must be protected from third parties. According to Pauleen and Wang (2017), every single company started out as an idea. The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo are some of the largest beverage companies in the world. Their most important asset is just a concept, which is the knowledge of how to brew different soft drinks. The companies have protected this knowledge through patents and proper knowledge management skills to ensure that rival firms do not come up with similar products.

Currently, these firms are making billions of money because of the knowledge they have on preparing the products. Facebook and Microsoft are also large companies that directly attribute their success to the knowledge they have about meeting specific needs of people. As Azanza, Moriano, and Molero (2013) put it, the biggest secret of success in the business arena is to identify a need in the market and develop a unique way of meeting the need in the best way possible. Once a strategy has been developed on how to meet a need in the market, the new knowledge must be treated as an asset. It must be protected from other parties to ensure that the firm has an edge over its market rivals. Treating knowledge as an asset would mean that the management would invest enough resources in data management.

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Knowledge should be stored in a central database

The second principle that the project management team should take seriously is the need to store data in a central database. As an asset, knowledge should be used for the benefit of all departments within a firm. The fact that knowledge must be protected from external users does not mean that it should not be shared internally within a firm as would be necessary (Nicholas & Steyn 2017). Knowledge can only be an asset if it is used appropriately to achieve specific goals within a given period that it remains relevant. As such, it should be stored in a central database that can easily be accessible to all the stakeholders. Having a centralized database does not mean the information will be misused or be accessible to unauthorized individuals. O’Reilly et al. (2014) advise that when dealing with sensitive information, it may be necessary to identify specific trusted individuals who should have direct access to the information. Such individuals should use the information to develop strategies and concepts that would be applied in their relevant departments to achieve specific objectives.

Knowledge should be retained

Knowledge should be retained given that it is an important asset. As new concepts emerge, the existing knowledge may become irrelevant in one way or the other. Instead of discarding such information, it should be updated and improved based on the new concepts. The strategy makes it easy for the top managers to redefine the existing strategies instead of eliminating them. It will be easy to understand areas that need improvement and the kind of skills needed to achieve such objectives. It saves time to improve the current organizational strategies than to develop new ones. It also ensures that there is some form of continuity within the firm.

Knowledge is sustained

Sustainability of knowledge is another important principle that should be taken seriously by the project manager and team members. It is expected that resources will be needed when developing new knowledge. However, that should be done based on the availability of resources. The process of collecting, processing, storing, and sharing data should be done using the minimal amount of resources possible. In fact, Gao, Chai, and Liu (2018) argue that using emerging technologies can help to cut the cost of data management. Instead of having to send field officers to collect data from people in the market, a firm can easily monitor the online activities of the targeted customers to understand their changing tastes and preferences. Digital databases have also simplified the storage and sharing of data.

Knowledge is secured

One of the most important principles of knowledge management is the need to ensure that it is secured. Just like other assets within the firm, knowledge will always be the target of criminals and other market rivals. Firms such as Amazon.com, Yahoo, Facebook, and Google are spending billions of dollars to secure their information (Campbell & Göritz 2014). These firms are aware of the fact that the integrity of their firm and the ability to achieve competitive advantage depends on how well they can secure their information from rival firms and criminals who may have sinister goals. In a society where data management is going digital, cyberspace poses numerous threats that must be managed effectively by the firm. Care should be taken to ensure that third parties could not access the information within the database.

Knowledge is measured

As an asset, knowledge should be measurable. The project management team should ensure that they understand the nature of the information that is needed to execute a given task. They should know when they have inadequate information about an issue of interest and what should be done about it. For instance, when investigating a market niche, the team should know the exact facts that should be collected such as the market size, purchasing capacity, tastes and preferences, and their location. In case the team lacks important facts about such a target market, the project manager should have appropriate measures on how to address the inadequacies.

Work produces knowledge

This principle holds that work done produces knowledge. Many people often believe that the only way of producing knowledge is through conducting research or through secondary sources. Although the two strategies are critical when gathering knowledge, experience is also another rich source of knowledge. The more team members conduct a given activity, the more they learn new skills that can enhance their productivity. Cankar, Tomi, and Cankar (2013) emphasize the need to document new knowledge that is gained through experience in the workplace. The new concepts should be made available to other new employees to ensure that they do not make similar mistakes as that of their predecessors.

Knowledge should be improved

The last principle looked at in this paper is the concept that knowledge should be improved. The emerging technologies have created a volatile business environment where one concept that is relevant today may become obsolete after a short period. Once new knowledge has been developed, there should be a constant desire to improve it. Knowledge gained from external sources and the experience of the employees should be used to improve the existing knowledge. The primary goal of this principle is to ensure that the firm always has the most recent information that would yield the best results if implemented.

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Knowledge-Creating Process

When discussing the knowledge management process, it is important to understand the process through which knowledge is created. Pica (2015) argues that one should understand how to engage explicit and tacit knowledge. A project manager should understand the four types of creating knowledge. Socialization is one of the processes of creating knowledge. It involves tacit to tacit knowledge, as shown in figure 1 below. In this case, new knowledge is created through interaction, observation, discussion, and spending time together (Rogers 2016). Externalization is another process of creating knowledge.

It involves linking tacit to explicit knowledge. It relies on models and metaphor analogy. It is a situation where a person uses the knowledge gained through experience to undertake a given task. The combination is another process of knowledge creation. In this case, knowledge is transformed from explicit to explicit (Schwalbe 2015). It is a popular approach of interdepartmental data collection approach. The last process is internalization where knowledge moves from tacit to explicit. It emphasizes learning through sharing. Information that is gathered by one department of the firm is shared with other departments to enhance harmony and create effectiveness in normal operations. This approach encourages on-job training as a way of ensuring that workers acquire new skills that would enhance their capacity to deliver a quality outcome in their respective assignments.

The knowledge-creating process
Figure 1. The knowledge-creating process (Pitagorsky 2008, p. 2).

Results and Discussion

Project managers have an important responsibility of ensuring that team members have access to the right information at the right time to inform every action they take. According to Sheldon and Daniele (2017), in the current competitive business environment, there is always pressure on the project managers to ensure that they achieve project goals within the shortest time possible using the available resources. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that the team develops a clear pattern of acquiring the right knowledge and making it available to the members as and when needed. The following is a standard and systematic approach that a project manager should embrace to ensure that the team has the right information to guide them through various tasks.

Acquiring the Data

The first step in knowledge management is the acquisition of data. Once a project has been commissioned, the team must ensure that they gather the relevant data from various sources to enable them to achieve the goals. In this case, data should be directly related to the project being conducted. For instance, if the project involves introducing a new product in a new market, the team will have to take time and collect information that would enhance the success of the new product in the market. The team should establish the size of the market. In this respect, the aim will be to determine the number of people who are willing and capable of purchasing the new product that is about to be introduced in the market.

Facts such as their tastes and preferences towards those specific products should be defined in very clear terms. As Snyder (2013) put it, the team should understand the need that these potential clients want to be met. The next step in the data acquisition process would be to assess how effective the product is in meeting the identified needs. The ability of the new product to be successful in the market depends on how well it meets the desires of the customers. The team should also evaluate the nature and level of competition in the market. In this case, individual members will be assigned the task of determining the value that rival firms offer, their pricing strategy, market concentration, and their popularity within a given region. The information will help the firm to understand the challenges that it should expect once it starts its operations in the market. Finally, the team should evaluate external environmental factors that may have direct negative consequences on the firm’s operation in the market. Issues such as government policies, security in the region, and any other relevant information should be collected.

Organizing

The next step of knowledge management in the organization. A significant amount of information can be collected from the field depending on the focus of the team. However, Carvalho (2015) advises that the information should be properly organized based on relevance before being refined. Information about the expected quality should be sent to the production department of the firm. The department will be informed about the current quality of products in the market, the expectations of customers, and the popularity of the existing brands. Such data will help them reevaluate the level of quality of products that the firm intends to deliver in the market. Information about the competitive nature of the market should be delivered to the marketing department that will use it to plan countermeasures to promote the firm’s brand and products. Information about the stability and security of the new market should be delivered to the top management unit of the firm so that a proper decision can be made on whether it is advisable to explore the new market or not. The goal at this stage is to ensure that information collected from the field is delivered to the right department.

Refining

The next step of knowledge management is the process of refining information collected from the field. Each department will be responsible for refining the raw data to transform it into meaningful information (Tan & Perleth 2015). Taking the above example, the marketing department will have to process the information about the level of competition and come up with a strategy of overcoming it. If it is established that competition is stiff in the market, then the department can come up with strategies most appropriate for the firm. It can be niche marketing, price leadership, or the use of other incentives that would enable the firm to gain a competitive edge over its rivals. Customers should be convinced that the new firm is offering something that other companies in the market do not. The production department should also make use of the raw data from the field to define the products that the firm delivers to the market. Of interest should be to establish the superiority of the existing products in the market and come up with necessary improvements that can help attract more customers. The top management unit will have to evaluate the information about the political stability and security in the new market and determine if it is advisable to operate in it. It may have to develop measures that can be applied to deal with the identified threats.

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Disseminating

When each department has refined information from the field and established measures that should be taken to achieve strategic goals, information should be made available for the relevant officers within the project. As Cox (2013) explains, all the departments within a firm must ensure that their activities are properly coordinated to avoid misunderstandings. When the marketing department has evaluated the level of competition and developed proper measures to counter it, the department should engage other relevant departments to ensure that the set objective can be realized. If the decision is to deliver high-quality products to a small niche in the market, the production department should be informed of the same. Instead of delivering average quality products, the team should focus on spending more resources to deliver top quality that meets the needs of the selected niche in the best way possible. Information should be made accessible to all the relevant departments at the right time. Having a shared database where all the relevant stakeholders can access the information they need would be appropriate.

Measuring Usage and Benefits

The project manager should understand that information may only be relevant and beneficial within a given period, after which it should be discarded. For instance, there was a time when the United Arab Emirates relied heavily on regional airlines to facilitate the movement of people into and out of the country. The competition was very low. However, that is no longer the case. The country currently has one of the most robust aviation sectors in the world, with the Dubai International Airport currently considered one of the busiest globally (Wang & Rafiq 2014). It means that information that was collected about the country’s aviation sector about 20 years ago may no longer be valid and reliable. As such, a project manager should know when it is appropriate to discard information because of the emergence of new concepts. The primary objective in this stage is to ensure that only relevant information is maintained in the database. It means that the team may need to maintain a regular review of the market to understand if there are fundamental changes of facts.

Improving the Process and Content

The final stage is to improve the process and content in the entire data management system. First, the team will need to evaluate the process. The goal of this evaluation is to establish if the process used to gather data is the most effective in terms of cost, reliability, and use of technology (Warburton 2013). In case the team establishes that the process has a few weaknesses because of various factors such as the emergence of new technology, then it should propose ways of improving it. The project manager should ensure that the current process being used is the most effective and reliable one. Secondly, the team should assess the content of the system. In this case, the team will focus on continuously improving the content of the system to ensure that the team has the most current information relevant to the activities that should be undertaken.

Synthesis of Findings

The findings of the study show that there is a close relationship between knowledge management and project success. When a project manager comes up with an effective system of collecting, processing, storing, and sharing information, the chances of achieving the desired outcome are improved. Irrespective of the nature of the project that a team is undertaking, the significance of project management cannot be underestimated. This section also looks at the value of alignment of knowledge management to project management.

The Value of Alignment of Knowledge Management with Project Management

Skilled and experienced project managers understand that a project cannot be successful if the team fails to align knowledge management to the goals of a project. Having a system that would facilitate effective data collection is critical. The following are some of the main benefits of alignment of knowledge management.

Informed decision-making processes

One of the greatest values of aligning knowledge management to project management is that the team will make informed decisions (Hana 2015). When making strategic and tactical plans, the project manager should have the right information that would guide him or her in the process. For instance, the manager will need the right information about the market forces to come up with effective strategies. It eliminates cases where the project manager makes erratic assumptions that may have devastating consequences on the firm.

Improved coordination

Having improved coordination within the firm is another benefit of the effective knowledge management system. Creating a central data repository makes it easy for all the relevant project members to have access to the information they need to undertake various duties. When a given task is completed, the information will be made available to all members immediately so that the next task can be undertaken. The project manager will be in a better position to understand specific areas that need improvement in a given project.

Eliminating time wastage

Knowledge management eliminates time wastage when undertaking a given project. When information is shared, cases, where some tasks are left undone, would be reduced or eliminated (Kloppenborg 2015). It creates an environment where everyone understands his or her task and the time within which the project should be completed. Digitizing the database and making it accessible to all the relevant team members eliminate the need to make physical movement when looking for information. Improved coordination also eliminates wastage of time.

Improved performance

The ultimate outcome of aligning knowledge management with project management is that there will be improved performance. Improved coordination of activities, elimination of time wastage, and improved decision-making would result in improved performance within the firm. The project team members will find it easy to complete all the activities assigned to them within the right time.

Critical Analysis of Facts

Managing knowledge in projects is one of the important ways of achieving success. The review of the literature shows that project managers have the responsibility of ensuring that they have an effective knowledge management system that would facilitate effective collection, processing, and sharing of information at the right time and with relevant project team members. Information should meet the needs of the project. It may be necessary to apply the relevant theory to ensure that the desired goals are achieved. The knowledge management system shown in figure 2 below can be applied to achieve the desired goal. It is necessary to analyze all the aspects of the model.

KMS success model
Figure 2. KMS success model (Pitagorsky, 2008, p. 4).

Qualities Knowledge Management System

System quality

The quality of the system defines its ability to collect the relevant data. According to Young (2013), an effective data management system should be easy to use, have a proper backup in case the main system is compromised or damaged, and be able to avail information to all the stakeholders whenever it is necessary. The system should also make it easy to update data when it is necessary.

Information quality

The quality of the information available within the system should not be compromised. The project manager should ensure that proper information is collected that outlines what various project team members should do when undertaking various activities. The aim of the project manager should be that the information in the database should give the firm a competitive edge over rivals.

Service quality

As shown in the model above, the system should offer quality service to the team members. It should make it easy for the head of one department to coordinate with other colleagues without having to visit their physical offices. At the same time, it should ensure that confidential information in the database is protected from individuals who are not authorized to have access to them.

User satisfaction

The system should be beneficial to the user. In this case, all the project team members should feel that the system is making it easier for them to conduct their activities than would be the case if it were not used. Despite the diversity that may be common in the team, the project manager should make an effort to ensure that everyone feels taken care of when designing the architecture of the data management system.

Perceived benefits

The perceived benefit of a system often defines the willingness of the top managers to invest in it. The top managers are often keen on investing in a project that would have direct financial benefits to the firm. As such, the project manager should ensure that the proposed model of knowledge management clearly outlines the benefits to ensure that it is approved. Huemann (2016) warns that the perceived benefit should be realistic to avoid cases of disappointment when implementing it.

Net benefits

Finally, the knowledge management system should prove to be as useful as was promised in the proposal stage. The perceived benefits should be demonstrated as soon as the new system is introduced. The overall performance of the team should be improved or the cost of operation lowered soon after the introduction of the new system. It is the only way of assuring the financers that the system is delivering what was promised.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Knowledge management in projects is critical in achieving specific goals within a set timeline. As shown in this paper, project management has become a common strategy through which firms undertake specific activities within a given time. The strategy makes it possible to determine the profitability of a firm and the effectiveness of various processes taken to achieve the objectives of the firm. The study shows that for one to manage a project successfully, it is important to have an effective knowledge management system. The system will ensure that the team members can have access to the right information that explains what they should do at a specific time to achieve specific goals. The project manager should always remember that the output of every team member is directly affected by the nature of the information received. The following recommendations should be taken into consideration:

  • The project manager should work closely with the financiers/departmental heads to ensure that proper investment is made in developing an effective data management system based on emerging technologies.
  • Project members should be taken through training to ensure that they understand how to use the system to retrieve and share critical information with colleagues.
  • The database should be updated regularly to ensure that relevant information is made available to the team.
  • Measures should be taken to secure the database to limit the ability of unauthorized individuals to have access to confidential information.

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