What is a Knowledge Inventory?

March 12, 2007

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If you’ve ever cooked anything, or attempted to like i have. The first thing you need to do is take a look at the recipe ( the knowledge audit ) . Once you’ve done that you need to make a list of the various ingredient ( the knowledge inventory ) . Unless you do this you might end up with something completely different from what you started out trying to accomplish.

So what is a knowledge inventory? well, as the name suggests its a kind of stock taking to identify and locate knowledge assets around the organization. This includes the explicit and the very difficult to locate tacit knowledge sources.

The best way to make a comprehensive list of knowledge sources is to segregate it by explicit and tacit knowledge.

Some of the questions you might want to ask when identifying explicit knowledge sources are :

  • What explicit knowledge already exists? – categories of documents, databases, intranet libraries, links etc.
  • Where this knowledge is located? – locations in the organizations and the various systems that house the information.
  • Access and Organization – How is the knowledge structured and how easy of difficult is it for people to locate this information, and do they have access to it as well.
  • Purpose and relevance – why does the information exist? how relevant is it to the users?
  • Usage – who uses them? how often ?

Identifying tacit knowledge sources is an entirely different proposition. Unlike explicit knowledge, tacit knowledge is much more difficult to quantify. Though there are a few questions you could ask to create a rough map of where it exists.

  • Who we have – The numbers and categories of people working in the organization.
  • Where they are – Identifying where people are located is extremely important when building a tacit knowledge map
  • What they do and what they know – job profiles, expertise areas and so on.

The above questions should give you an excellent place to start collating the list of knowledge sources you have in your organization. Once this is done you can move on to the next step of identifying the gaps after comparing this information to the information you’ve garnered from the knowledge audit.


Identifying Knowledge Requirements

March 8, 2007

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As with any initiative you need a place to start, a solid foundation before you can proceed. This foundation is the first and most important step in a Knowledge Audit, it’s purpose is to gain a clear and precise understanding of what knowledge the organization and its people need to meet their goals and objectives.

You need to have a systematic approach defined when tackling something as complex as a knowledge audit. Break down the information gathering approach to ensure you capture as much detail as possible. This can be done using questionnaire based surveys, interviews, group discussions or a combination of these.

The biggest hurdle when composing questions is that knowledge is seen as a conceptual entity and therefore rather difficult to articulate. To overcome this you need to focus on issues like user goals, objectives, activities and decisions that are made on a day to day basis.

Keep in mind, the questionnaire that you use in interviews and group discussions is just a rough guideline to gain insight to the users day to day activities. The more flexibile you are with the questions the more information you are bound to receive. So don’t hesitate to ask deeper more probing questions when you feel there might be some information you could use.

The end goal of such an audit is for you to be able to get a clear picture of what information and knowledge a person uses in his day to day activities, thereby allowing you to tie it into a framework you create at the end of this excercise. The whole purpose of this exercise is to make the end users job easier. Compromising on the audit at this stage could have serious repercussions later on.

The need for a Knowledge Audit

March 7, 2007

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The traditional definition of an Audit is to check performance against a standard, as is the case with financial audits. However a knowledge audit works a little differently, its more of a qualitative evaluation. Its essentially an investigation of an organizations knowledge “health”.

For those of you who are confused between a content audit and a knowledge audit : a content audit is focused primarly on the content in the organization. It just identifies what content exists and what doesn’t. Details like what the content is used for isnt really looked into. A knowledge audit on the other hand looks at problems and puts the information in the context of the problem.

The reason a knowledge audit is so vital is because it gives an organization a comprehensive picture of its strengths and weakness, allowing it to focus its efforts in the right direction.

Some of the questions addressed during a knowledge audit are as follows:

  • What are the organisation’s knowledge needs?
  • What knowledge assets or resources does it have and where are they?
  • What gaps exist in its knowledge?
  • How does knowledge flow around the organisation?
  • What are the blockages that prevent knowledge from flowing across the organization ( people, process , technology ) ?

Once you start asking these questions a clear picture of your organizations knowledge structure will start emerging, and using these results can help you establish processes and systems to tackle certain shortcomings.


Some of the key benefits of a knowledge audit are as follows:

  • It helps the organisation clearly identify what knowledge is needed to support overall organisational goals and individual and team activities.
  • It provides evidence of the extent to which knowledge is being effectively managed and indicates where improvements are required.
  • It provides an evidence-based account of the knowledge that exists in an organisation, how that knowledge moves around in, and is used by, that organisation.
  • It provides a map of what knowledge exists in the organisation and where it exists, as well as revealing gaps.
  • It reveals pockets of untapped knowledge.
  • It provides a map of knowledge and communication flows and networks.
  • It provides an inventory of knowledge assets, giving a clearer understanding of the contribution of knowledge to organisational performance.
  • It provides vital information for the development of effective knowledge management programmes and initiatives that are directly relevant to the organisation’s specific knowledge needs and current situation.

Future posts will tackle issues like , How do you go about a knowledge audit?, creating a knowledge map …..