KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SUPPORTING THE DEVELOPMENT OF SMALL AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISES: A CASE STUDY
Knowledge has been widely recognized as an important source of competitive advantage and performance improvement. Many empirical analyses on the implementation of Knowledge Management (KM) by large organisations have been published (Buckman, 1998; Davenport & Volpel, 2001; Forcadell & Guadamillas, 2002; Martiny, 1998; Petrash, 1996), while little attention has been given to small businesses despite their importance and specificity.
The work reported in this paper is part of a research programme aimed at investigating the implementation and practices of KM, that intend to provide additional insights and useful directions to small companies.
Thus, a longitudinal case study has been carried out for three years in order to explore the implementation of a KM project in an Italian SME. The Company chosen is family owned, with their main products being fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. In the last 10 years this company has grown in sales with an average annual rate of 20%.
The project examined focuses on the management of mainly explicit knowledge through ICT instruments, that are codified, stored, reclassified and shared in and outside the Company, with the main objective of supporting executive, managerial and operative decisions that are also taken at top level.
Therefore, it can be classified as an explicit approach to KM, while the tacit approach is essentially focused on unstructured information and tacit knowledge residing in individual experiences (Hansen, Nohria and Tierney, 1999).
Key elements that form the foundation of the company project are analysed, with particular emphasis on managerial practices, organizational aspects and the ICT instruments adopted.
In addition, major barriers and facilitating factors influencing the effectiveness of the KM company initiative are discussed. The empirical analysis suggested an interesting result showing that the adoption and especially the design of a KM system is able to point out organizational inefficiencies and therefore stimulate organizational learning and radical organizational improvements as well. In conclusion, organizational, managerial and technological competencies are needed to be able to develop a KM project.
Buckman R. H., (1998), “Knowledge Sharing at Buckmun Labs”, Journal of Business Strategy, Vol.19, No.1, pp.11-15.
Davenport, T.H., Volpel, S.C. (2001), "The rise of knowledge towards attention management", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 5 No.3, pp.212-21.
Forcadell, F.J., Guadamillas, F. (2002), "A case study on the implementation of a knowledge management strategy oriented to innovation", Knowledge and Process Management, Vol. 9 No.3, pp.162-71.
Martiny, M. (1998), "Knowledge management at HP consulting", Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 27 No.2, pp.71-7.
Petrash, G. (1996) “Dow's Journey to a Knowledge Value Management Culture”, European Management Journal, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp365-373.
Hansen M., Nohria N., Tierney T., (1999), What's your strategy for managing knowledge?, Harvard Business Review, March-April, v. 77, n. 2, p. 106-116.