Thursday, September 6, 2007

Intranets and Knowledge Sharing

The intranet is a tool designed to facilitate an environment in which those with access can share knowledge. Commonly used within organisations as a resource that most, possibly all, people can access, the intranet offers easy access to general information and also acts as a resource that facilitates knowledge sharing.

In his above paper, published in May 2004, James Robertson provides an overview of five approaches that are key to the intranet becoming a driving force in the area of knowledge-based activities, rather than a ‘dumping ground for business documents’.

One of these key areas, communities of practice, developed by Etienne Wenger, focuses on the sharing of knowledge ‘between peers and within small groups’. This practice would encourage the sharing of experiences and issues common to those within the group. Robertson states that it should be the responsibility of the group to manage the knowledge within their area and this ‘could involve the creation of a knowledge base or content respository’. Such knowledge could then be shared with others as necessary, or stored. Robertson cites four technologies suitable to construct knowledge bases: content management systems; collaborative environments; wikis and specialised community of practice tools.

Robertson’s suggestion of building a home page for the community of practice to promote its use throughout an organisaiton could be key in encouraging users to network at various levels. These include, but are not exclusive to, collaborating on a project, searching for information, knowledge sharing or even social connections. Once understanding of this method of knowledge sharing is clear, it is likely to become vital in a number of aspects. It would engender a spirit of team building and develop trust as those collaborating rely on the accuracy of their peers’ information.

This online tool is one that can, theoretically, save time spent attending meetings; users can add their questions and comments from their own computer and those involved would have the opportunity to seek out relevant information to cite online. It is a resource that is already in use, however, in many organisations could be defined and refined to be of greater relevance and value to the individual organisation.

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