Know-how versus know-why
Of course IT is not the only way of transferring knowledge. In fact, there are two types of knowledge and they need the application of separate methods in order to transfer information effectively. In this division, IT solutions actually work for only one kind. The first one, the so-called know-how is explicit knowledge that can be found in manuals, handbooks and databases. This hard information is more tangible and can be accessed or transmitted in rather direct ways – and IT works perfectly for that. The other type, the know-why, on the contrary, is the tacit knowledge. It focuses on irrational ways of acting in business: clues or insights coming from employees’ very own experience, their trusted instincts and creativity. This intellectual potential is of course not easy to be transferred by IT tools, therefore what is applicable here is the social transfer.
Tacit knowledge, which is often represented as a flow, is rather shared than transferred, and it usually takes place in informal conditions. In its natural habitat it occurs through employee networks, discussions and other social interactions. Although these aspects of sharing are not as codified as in the case of explicit knowledge, in the modern world they can be facilitated by providing the most basic IT solutions such as e-mails, corporate chats, and other socialising tools.
In-company knowledge transfer
The chain of processing knowledge (especially of the explicit kind) within a company does not simply consist of the miraculous appearance of a piece of information followed by its immediate implementation in business. It is a more complex series of events, when very often knowledge needs to be preceded by scientific research or expert analysis, and only then succeeded by technology, applications and finally ready products. At all these stages, IT can be a crucial factor in facilitating a successful move to the next stage in the chain.
One example of a technology tool that can be of help in uncovering knowledge are artificial neural networks used in data mining and knowledge discovery. Before knowledge gets processed and handed down further within a company, it has to be arrived at and this is where pattern-finding IT solutions will prove themselves most effective. They can be used for forecasting, novelty finding, classification and other sorts of data processing. Once the conclusions are drawn, they need to be stored and transferred in the further stages of knowledge management.
In the simplest and most narrow definitions, focusing on the in-company point of view, knowledge transfer can be referred to as interaction between employees aiming to exchange important company information. These transfers are facilitated by the already mentioned most basic IT solutions (e-mails, corporate chats, wikis, other sorts of groupware). Their maintenance is critical for day-to-day flow of information, but there are also deeper ends to IT’s part in business knowledge transfer.
Cloud technologies may come in handy as they are one of the most powerful knowledge management tools nowadays. Employees without advanced IT skills can access solutions that enable them to publish and share information, as well as connect with others. Companies offering such cloud services are almost tailor-made for different businesses. Whether you need to administer shared documents, manage sales reports or pass on critical knowledge, it all can be stored in or transferred through clouds that are easy to use, especially if they are SaaS-based (Software as a Service) and can be accessed via the Internet.
Knowledge transfer can also take place in mobile environments, although the concept is still in its infancy. In Poland more and more employees leave their desks and perform tasks remotely or in the field, and even in these situations knowledge can be transferred on the spot. Laptops, smartphones and increasingly more often wearables are there to serve the purpose, provided the company has engaged in some sort of knowledge platform or application. Having centralised knowledge database and individual mobile devices that can access and contribute to it can be a huge facilitation.
Cross-organisational knowledge sharing
This tricky aspect of knowledge transfer is always approached with wariness. After all, corporate secrets are sacred, but what if we do not want to reinvent the wheel and simply need to check with others whether we are headed in the right direction? Companies are not fortified castles anymore; in fact, cooperation between big international players has always been a real thing – have you heard about General Motors and Toyota forming New United Motor Manufacturing back in the 1980s? The primary reason for that was for General Motors to learn all about lean manufacturing, so… knowledge transfer!
IT’s role in supporting mutual efforts is crucial. Not only does it assist the flow of necessary knowledge, it also secures what needs to be secured, e.g. know-how that is not necessary to be shared within a specific project. Here, again, cloud solutions are perfect for establishing such collaborations, as they allow to build automated workflows in safe but also easily accessible environments. Multiple providers are there to ensure it is done properly, but Polish companies can also design custom-made systems for this kind of transfer.
IT as knowledge
A recent study by Stack Overflow for infoShare indicates that Poland is the biggest IT hub in this part of Europe. Every fourth software developer coming from Central and Eastern Europe lives and works in Poland, which speaks volumes of the country’s significance on the technology market (Central & Eastern Europe Developer Landscape, 2017). There are over 250,000 programmers here, a huge talent pool with fresh graduates of computer science studies powering it every year even further, not to mention foreigners attracted by the possibilities offered in Polish IT. No wonder that companies from abroad also decide to transfer some of their IT processes to Poland – and with them, knowledge spreads all over the country.
Some could say that moving activities to Poland under the outsourcing banner is not always associated with knowledge sharing, but in the case of IT – it definitely should and, luckily, it is! Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO) is all about confiding critical knowledge in the hands of a new facility. This does not only include operational knowledge that needs to be transferred immediately and technology tools are the primary means for that; it is also about key knowledge transfer which allows for outsourcing core processes – a model perfect for the higher level in the outsourcing cooperation process (Perechuda & Sobińska, 2013), which without a shadow of a doubt Poland has entered.