According to the knowledge management study of thirty-one projects in twenty-four companies conducted by Davenport, De Long, and Beers (1998), the most important factors for successful implementation of knowledge management projects are: having a knowledge-oriented culture; creating an organizational infrastructure that systematically supports knowledge management; finding effective motivational tools; and developing senior management support. These factors contribute towards building a successful knowledge-centric organization.
Building a knowledge-centric organization via a knowledge management framework has several key elements as critical success factors. The basic building blocks are creating an awareness of knowledge management; performing knowledge management benchmarking to see what other similar organizations have done; developing a knowledge taxonomy that serves as a vocabulary and structure in which to construct the knowledge management system; developing a knowledge management strategy; and pinpointing target areas for greatest use of knowledge management activities. Then, the next level involves selecting appropriate knowledge management technologies and tools, developing a knowledge management organizational infrastructure, and building and nurturing online communities of practice (CoP). Afterwards, knowledge management pilots can be conducted and measurements made, along with instituting a change management process within the organization. Finally, full implementation of the knowledge management systems, processes, and practices can be made, while constantly sustaining and extending a knowledge sharing culture.
Agresti (2000) indicates that the knowledge management implementation critical success factors fall into three main areas: leadership, project characteristics, and organizational context. Under leadership, top management involvement and commitment are essential and employees must perceive genuine commitment to the goals of the knowledge management initiative through the actions of the organizational leadership. Business users, not the information systems staff, should drive the knowledge management projects. These initiatives should be tied to line-of-business practices (Agresti, 2000).
For project characteristics, the knowledge management team needs people with specific skills. The knowledge management team members need to understand the sociological and technological issues associated with knowledge capture, document management, and corporate networked infrastructures (Agresti, 2000). Key success criteria in the organizational context are a technological infrastructure and a "knowledge friendly" culture. Knowledge management requires change in behavior and organizational values to allow for a knowledge friendly environment. Also, providing for sustainment is an important success factor for the knowledge management programs to survive (Agresti, 2000).
In order to evaluate how well the knowledge management initiatives are doing, metrics need to be developed. For example, the American Productivity and Quality Center looked at a set of knowledge management indicators that included such measures as:
Customer Relationships: quality customer retention, growth rates.
Human Resources: quality employee retention, rate of investment in intellectual capital (such as training expenditures, employees on sabbatical, employee development plans in progress).
Strategic Alliances: value-added from joint ventures, and associations with learning institutions, customers, suppliers, and competitors.
Innovation: new products/services launched, exited product/service lines, prototypes in test, information value-added to products/services.
Process Improvements: best practices imported from elsewhere, best practices exported to others, cycle time and cost reductions, productivity and quality improvements.
At British Petroleum, they used various knowledge sharing metrics (Lee, 2000):
Number of links per respondents
Frequency of advice seeking
Individuals with highest number of nominations (i.e., identifies the true experts)
Ratio of internal to external links (how inward-looking or otherwise a business unit is)
Proportion of total contacts that are inward (how sought after the knowledge of that business unit is)
Proportion of total contacts that are outward (which business units seek help the most)
Number of shared documents published
Number of improvement suggestions made
Corporate directory coverage
Number of patents published
Number of presentations made
For the ABC Foundation, customized measures will need to be developed, such as the improvement in cycle time in getting a grant reviewed, approved, and funded; customer satisfaction in using the e-grants system; increase in colleague and consumer interaction and collaboration via the online communities; development of innovative ideas in the Foundation's core competencies; and others.