Qualification in knowledge management: organising, sharing and increasing knowledge
Knowledge management in an organisation or company is a complex task; some interesting continuing education degree courses are available in the subject. Employees’ knowledge is the fourth production factor in the age of the ‘shareconomy’ and has become one of the most important and most durable resources for companies, and is thus key to their future viability.
Knowledge is the only resource that increases when it is used – according to Gilbert Probst, Professor for Organizational Behavior and Management at the University of Geneva. But knowledge is also a resource in the minds of people which should be available to others. This applies equally to small and large firms, craft businesses and large corporations, political parties or institutions in development cooperation. And that brings us directly to the ‘shareconomy’. The word describes the change in the understanding of society from ‘having’ to ‘sharing’ – and was the keynote theme at the CeBIT 2013, the world’s largest information technology exhibition, in Hannover.
Knowledge management helps safeguard an organisation’s knowledge
The fact that an international computing trade fair tackles information management in the ‘shareconomy’ demonstrates the huge importance of knowledge management for business and society. A recent study by the business consultants Fraunhofer IAO and the IT-industry association BITKOM entitled ‘Fachkräftemangel und Know-how-Sicherung in der IT-Wirtschaft’ (‘Lack of specialists and securing expertise in IT’) surveyed 203 IT and communications companies. The results revealed that the companies lose around 11 billion Euro in turnover through loss of knowledge and skills.
A study by the Zentrum für Weiterbildung (Centre for continuing education) at the TU Dortmund University, Lehrstuhl für Weiterbildungs-, Sozial- und Organisationsmanagement (Chair for continuing education management, social management and organisational management) carried out an international comparison of IT-based knowledge management by questioning 42 experts from academia, business, associations, politics, consulting and trade periodicals. The participating countries included Germany, Lithuania, the UK, Denmark, France, the USA and Hong Kong. The study showed that in the coming years knowledge management will remain a very current topic of great relevance around the world. In Germany – in contrast to many other countries – even at this early stage people are already intensively addressing the topic of knowledge management.
‘Productivity from knowledge is becoming a major challenge for management,’ says Sebastian Eschenbach, head of the master’s degree course in applied knowledge management at the Burgenland University of Applied Sciences in Austria on the news portal ‘Die Presse’. He added that at present in companies and organisations one would find few people explicitly calling themselves ‘knowledge managers’ because the field is still too young. Eschenbach predicts an increasing need for ‘hybrid’ specialists ‘who have a technical, social, arts or economics background coupled with additional training as ‘knowledge professionals’. The master’s degree course in applied knowledge management at Burgenland University of Applied Sciences is intended to meet this demand.
Knowledge management and demography
Knowledge can be lost through employees who leave the firm, for example. Another major problem that affects not only Germany, but all industrialised countries, is ageing workforces. This is because the average age in many companies is high, and many key posts are not being filled because specialists are in short supply. The Berlin-Institute for Population and Development describes the situation in Japan as follows: ‘The ageing employees often include the bearers of important knowledge, and experts whose approaching retirement leads to loss of knowledge and experience – especially if a large cohort in which unusually many children were born, such as Japan’s baby-boomers, all retire at the same time and a firm has to cope with the departure of several people with knowledge simultaneously.’ Therefore knowledge management and information management are becoming more important – as is human resource development in firms both at home and abroad. And the career prospects for knowledge managers are expanding accordingly.
What does a knowledge manager do?
The qualification of ‘knowledge manager’ (or director of intellectual capital, or director of knowledge) is one of the specialised professions in IT. Knowledge management is at the interface between IT, management and internal corporate communication. For this you need IT expertise, structurally-based thinking and communication skills, and if possible also skills in personnel organisation.
The in-service course leading to the qualification of knowledge manager is aimed at this area of work. As there is a wide range of tasks, the target group are people with a basic university education in a range of possible subjects: engineers, IT specialists, experts in communication and the arts, and also experts and psychologists. As specified in the profile, the curriculum includes IT knowledge (intranet, content management systems, workflow and groupware programs), plus the economic and psychological aspects of knowledge management.
Continuing education in knowledge management as master’s degrees
‘Knowledge Management is one of the hottest topics today in both the industry world and information research world’, says an introduction to the topic of knowledge management at the University of North Carolina (UNC). If you are looking for degree courses in Germany and other countries, you can find a large amount of information and interesting options.
For working students, one central element of the master’s degree course in knowledge management at the Chemnitz University of Technology is project work while studying. The project can be conducted within the student’s company or organization, or in a partner company of the members of the Scientific Advisory Board. Numerous other universities offer similar master’s level courses, for example the RWTH Aachen University, whose course is called ‘Education and Knowledge Management ’.
The one-year MBA in Information & Knowledge Management at the VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands offers internships with projects that are carried out jointly with companies such as Philips, Rabobank, IBM, Ordina, KPMG, Secondlife and eBay. The Master’s course in Information & Knowledge Management at the Vienna University of Technology is aimed primarily at graduates with a bachelor’s, master’s or ‘Diplom’ degree in the field of IT or business IT.
Knowledge management for working specialists and managers
The master’s course in knowledge management is aimed at people in full-time employment. It is designed for specialists and managers with the objective of developing skills in general management and expertise for the efficient use of knowledge as a resource in companies and other organisations. The interdisciplinary degree course culminates, for example at the Chemnitz University of Technology, with the university qualification of ‘Executive Master of Knowledge Management’ and is accredited by the Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation (FIBAA).
Discussion on knowledge management in the community
Is there a knowledge manager in your organisation? Or are you planning to introduce knowledge management in your company? What have you achieved already? How well do the employees accept it? And are there any cultural differences from the way knowledge is handled in Germany? Join in the discussion with us and other alumni on knowledge management in the Community group ‘Studium und Forschung’.