Knowledge audit: findings from a case study in the energy sector
2013-10-04T08:27:46Z (GMT) by
Knowledge audits are important processes through which organisations can understand what knowledge is needed, available and used for their current activities. They can also identify what knowledge is missing and how this omission restricts the organisation’s activities. Hence, knowledge audits can surface initiatives to improve the knowledge management (KM) processes of an organisation and, in turn, improve efficiency and effectiveness. An iterative cycle of knowledge audits allows for the organisation’s changing environment to be taken account of and for appropriate modifications to be made to the knowledge base. Despite the importance of knowledge audits, literature relating to their undertaking is sparse. This paper addresses the scarcity of such literature and reports the findings of a knowledge audit commissioned by an organisation that brings together public bodies and private organisations with the aim of maximising the collective knowledge, expertise and experience of its diverse members to address a nationally recognised research agenda. The audit included collecting qualitative data from a series of in-depth interviews with a representative sample of employees from the four main departments within the organisation. Interviewees were asked about their own roles, procedures and knowledge needs; they were also asked about their department’s knowledge requirements and about knowledge interfaces with external partners. Views about the culture and structure of the organisation were also sought. Results were analysed at a departmental level to form two knowledge maps per department – one illustrating the knowledge required by the department, the knowledge shared with other departments and the mechanisms for sharing this knowledge; the other illustrated knowledge flows with external partners. The maps were then used in conjunction with the interview transcripts to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each department’s knowledge activities. This process focussed on the impact of organisational culture and structure as well as the effectiveness of technological and ‘soft’ solutions for knowledge sharing. Following from the departmental analysis, a cross department comparison enabled best practices and company-wide weaknesses to be identified. Seven resulting recommendations were made that would support the sharing of departmental best practices and address organisational weaknesses: 1. Developing a holistic approach to knowledge sharing 2. Nurturing the organisational culture 3. Clarifying the strategic message 4. Improving the organisation of information 5. Improving the availability of staff 6. Developing inter-departmental communication 7. Commissioning future knowledge audits In addition to reporting the outcomes and outputs of the process, the paper also highlights challenges of the process and includes reflections on the suitability of the selected data collection and analysis methods for a knowledge audit.