Thursday, January 09, 2014

Codifying knowledge

Carrying on from yesterday's post, I see that calling the issue a battle between ERP and EUC is not really correct. What I am doing when creating a program is codifying knowledge: in yesterday's example, I know how to check whether inventory has been added with/out shipping costs, whereas someone else might not know how to check. By writing that program, I have enabled anyone to check whether the cost of a part includes its shipping costs (at least, for the last time that the part was purchased).

I am reminded of another example: the comptroller approached me a few years ago and asked for my help in creating a complex report. This report was taking him about three workdays every month to prepare. It took me maybe a complete workday to program the report (including debugging; this is a long time, in programming terms) to his satisfaction. The comptroller now saves three workdays a month, and creation of that report is not dependent upon him.

In another context, this morning I edited the minutes of a meeting I attended the day before yesterday, and one of the points was about the amount of knowledge required by a worker on the production line. Theoretically, the knowledge that the worker has about a given product should be as little as possible; the product should not require a specific worker in order to be produced. The instructions which tell the worker which product to assemble should also tell him how to assemble the product. At the moment, they don't, but we're working on it.

So by not using EUC, we have enabled two major gains: we have saved time and we have institutionalised knowledge. All of this goes back to one of the most viewed blog entries which I have written, about knowledge hoarding. We are still trying to provide the correct environment so that the knowledge that Ms X. will become less relevant.

All of the above reminds me of the course in Knowledge Management which I took at least 10 years ago. Along with the lectures, we were each given a copy of the book 'Working Knowledge' by Thomas H. Davenport and Laurence Prusack; my copy was published in 1998, over 15 years ago; Amazon lists an edition from 2000; I doubt that there are few differences between the first and second editions, and I also doubt that there would be many changes should a new edition be published now. Anyway, chapter four is entitled "Knowledge codification and coordination" and begins with the sentence The aim of codification is to put organisational knowledge into a form that makes it accessible to those who need it

I think it will be worthwhile to read this book again. 

[SO: 3302; 2,12,30]

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