The professionalization of knowledge Management

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Table 6 shows the closely-related information-related skills of Data Management, Content Management, and Records/Archives Management made up 15.5% of all job skills. All of these three sub-categories can be considered as important components of a firm’s codified knowledge, but should be considered as “stock” rather than “flow” and therefore do not represent its total knowledge at any one point in time.

Table 6 Information-Related Job Skill Categorization and Examples

Major Categories

Sub Categories

Skill Examples

Data Management

Data Analysis

Analyze company, customer and external data to understand existing and changing load and energy buying behavior of customers; perform database mining, analysis, modeling and reporting

Data Tracking & Data Processes

Plan, direct, or coordinate activities in such fields as electronic data processing, information systems, systems analysis, and computer programming

Data Storage

Creating/sizing database storage structures and database objects; Monitoring database usage and optimizing database performance; Planning for and actual backup and recovery of database information

Data Warehousing

Demonstrated knowledge of data warehousing concepts

Database Creation & Maintenance

Demonstrated experience with metadata creation and meta tagging; indexing; database creation and maintenance; knowledge management initiatives


Work with the business unit to understand their data requirements and have a pulse on the market needs to facilitate data strategy

Administration and Support

Perform accurate analysis and effective diagnosis of client issues and manage day-to-day client relationships at peer client levels

Content Management

Development and Implementation

Work with Content Management team to create meaningful information architecture and user interface design

Use and Evaluation

The content management process manager provides leadership and project management for development and implementation of Enterprise Content Management and Output processes

Content Project Management

Gather and analyze data, research troubleshooting options, design and implement content solutions

Knowledgebase Content

Deliver user-friendly content documentation to business owners and technical development teams for approval and implementation

Administration and Support

Clear understanding of the issues surrounding knowledge management, internal document management, and web content management in a global environment

Content and Document Management

Act as the subject matter expert while developing automated information sharing and alerting other NetOps centers of severe or critical issues with a method of information sharing, joint collaboration or other online capabilities.

Document & Records Management

Manage Records & Archives

Thorough knowledge of requirements gathering and documentation and demonstrated ability to translate requirements into design

Document Management

Clear understanding of the issues surrounding knowledge management, internal document management, and web content management in a global environment

Table 7 shows the Project Management category, which totals 14% of all the job skills.Many hiring organizations commonly combine knowledge management and project management expertise within their organization, as they are complementary skills. Many of the skills for the project management category related specifically to KM tasks. Knowledge Collaboration and Sharing and Knowledge Documentation and Retention were seen as important skills for project managers.

Table 7 Project Management Job Skill Categorization and Examples

Major Categories

Sub Categories

Skill Examples


Project Life Cycle

Evaluates project life cycle and uses broad knowledge of various management functions to anticipate organizational impact


Provide leadership and mentorship to project team members

Scope and Deliverables

Responsible for defining scope and content of project and identifying work deliverables and milestones. Leads proposal definitions and develops statements of work

PM Tools & Software

Manage and assist with internal projects using project management methodologies and enterprise project management software

Track Project Status

Project assessment and initiation, resource procurement and planning, project implementation, leading and motivating a cross-functional team, milestone planning and tracking, ensuring that projects are progressing according to quality standards

Risk Assessment

Resolve project risks and issues configuration management practices and quality control

Policies & Guidelines

Establish project management policies and guidelines that improve an organizations ability to execute IT projects with greater consistency, accuracy, and efficiency

Provide Consulting & Develop Strategy

Provide project management consulting support to federal government agencies. Provide project implementation support, including the development of project scopes, estimating, and the development of communication plans and procedures

Management and Coordination

Works closely with sponsors, stakeholders, users, technical team leads, and management to coordinate project activities and provide support for core project management functions

Knowledge Collaboration and Sharing

Must possess excellent business and technical writing skills and strong discipline to document designs, ideas and changes for knowledge management and sharing

Knowledge Documentation and Retention

Manage the implementation of change management projects including stakeholder management, organizational development, knowledge management, resistance issues, cultural issues, and communication issues

The key finding that emerges from this analysis is that, unlike research that posits a so-called “knowledge chain model,” attempting to identify so-called “primary” and “secondary” activities in knowledge management (Holsapple & Jones, 2004, 2005), the actual job skills required in knowledge management positions are so inextricably interwoven among the diverse activities that engage people, information, and technologies within an organization that a better way of visualizing them is the Venn diagram shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1 The Knowledge Management Environment


There are two important points to be made about the findings from the job analysis. The first is that, as explained above, knowledge management involves an integral interweaving of an usually wide variety of skills, both hard and soft, which may explain why it has not to date been easily recognized through the customary means of a single educational credential. The second is that, despite the fact that much emphasis in the preceding has been on identifying major competency areas, there remains a critical issue in the development of knowledge management as a profession to be discussed.

If knowledge management is similar to such previous short-lived fads such as re-engineering and total quality management, its espoused practices will be largely imposed by top management and hired consultants and will be unlikely to become embedded to the organization itself or persist over time. The people filling the various positions described in the job postings analyzed above will tend to consider themselves as practitioners of specific skills, such as data management, supposedly relevant to the production of “commodified knowledge” (Bryant, 2006). In that case, there would be good reason to agree with those critics such as Wilson (2002) who argue that knowledge management is simply a novel term for existing information management practices, and that the business of corporations continues to be the production of goods and services rather than any meaningful form of “knowledge.” However, the fact that the major categories here are such key organizational components as “management,” “strategy,” and “information” highlights the opportunity that exists for knowledge management as a true profession. If those people bearing the “knowledge management” title do in fact begin to think of themselves as knowledge management “professionals” involved in the ethical and mindful sharing and development of information by knowledgeable people throughout the organization (Sheffield & Guo, 2007), it is possible that they will begin to work towards the development of a knowledge management “ethos” that will focus on all aspects of knowledge management, not merely the profit-making and taking ones (Harris, 2005). The emergence and increasing membership of the new knowledge management associations are is very positive signals in this regard.

In his influential work on the development of professions, The System of Professions, sociologist Andrew Abbott (1987) argued that most professions emerge over time from actual problem-solving in a particular area and struggle to claim jurisdiction over a given field of problems. Abbott emphasized the role played by efforts to control new technologies and new kinds of knowledge in these struggles. In one of the book’s case studies, Abbott explored the evolution of the “information professions” in both the “qualitative information task area” (e.g., librarianship) and the “quantitative information task area” (e.g., accountancy), and came to the conclusion that the potential areas of information jurisdiction were too broad to be claimed by a single constituency within the information professions. In the 20 years since the publication of The System of Professions, new technologies, new kinds of knowledge, and new problem-solving opportunities have arisen in today’s organizations, leading to this focus on knowledge management (Prusak, 2001).

The question of what exactly defines a “profession” and, specifically, a “knowledge professional” in today’s knowledge community remains an open one (Darr & Warhurst, 2008). But, as Lester (2000, p. 91) points out, it also provides the opportunity for:

[A] reconstructed professionalism [in which] professionals might typically: be engaged in problem-setting or identification and “managing messes”, as well as problem-solving and developing creative ways forward; demonstrate autonomy of thought and decision-making within the context of working with other professionals, clients or employers as partners in an agreed endeavour; be able to transcend the boundaries of their discipline or specialism, and work with issues holistically while contributing their particular expertise and skills; engage in continual learning and development at a number of levels, from basic updating to re-evaluation of their overall practice and envelope of capability; go beyond uncritical acceptance of a professional code, to a deep-rooted commitment to personal ethical standards and professional practice principles.

The “problems” and “messes” that await a true knowledge management profession are indeed largely found in today’s management, strategy, and information practices involving the aggregation of knowledge in both the public and private sectors. The recent catastrophes in the credit, energy, financial, healthcare, housing, security, and transportation areas all attest to that. Peter Drucker, who coined the term “knowledge worker” in 1959, said some 40 years later: “[T]here is no such thing as knowledge management. There are only knowledge people. Information becomes knowledge only when it is in the hands of somebody who knows what to do with it” (Drucker 1959, 1999). The question remains as to whether knowledge management can emerge as a profession that is willing to deal with all the implications of knowing what to do in order to “manage” knowledge.


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Betsy Van der Veer Martens, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Knowledge Management program at the University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies, where she teaches in the areas of competitive intelligence, digital assets, and information architecture. Her background is in business-to-business publishing and marketing research.

Suliman Hawamdeh, Ph.D., is a professor in the Knowledge Management program at the University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies. Dr. Hawamdeh founded and directed the first Master of Science in Knowledge Management program in Asia at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He was the founding president of the Information and Knowledge Management Society (iKMS) from 1998-2003. He is the founding Chair of the International Conference on Knowledge Management (ICKM).

Dr. Hawamdeh is the founding editor-in-chief of the first refereed journal in knowledge management, The Journal of Information & Knowledge Management. He is also the editor of a book series on Innovation and Knowledge Management, published by World Scientific.

Dr. Hawamdeh was the Managing Director of ITC Information Technology Consultant Ltd. in the period from 1993-1997.
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