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Over the last few years, it is notably observed that businesses are grabbing interest through online (internet) transaction (business) due to increasing utilization of information and communication technologies in different sectors. Knowledge management in this manner is the notion of communicating proper knowledge (e.g. vision) at the right time to the right people to carry out own duties aptly (Yee-Loong Chong et al. 2014). Advanced technology has provided ample scope to design knowledge management mechanism (communication network and collaboration) as per organizational requirements having positive impact over the organization. Knowledge management technologies are used aiming towards enhanced communication, collaboration among all the entities related to business. The current study primarily aims to evaluate (critically) the role and impact of knowledge management technologies on business operation in special reference to H & M. Efforts will be made to have a comparative discourse on communication and collaboration technology as inseparable part of knowledge management.
H & M is a well known multinational clothing company (retail), best known for its wide range of clothing products targeting men, women as well as children. It is notable that the company holds significant presence in online shopping that is accessible in more than 32 countries. As per the data of 2017, it has a median target of 275.00 including high estimate of 335.0 and low amounting to 160.00 respectively. As per overall scenario share-price forecast depicts 12.57% increase. The company also expects dividends increased by 0.97%. As per the goal set, the company underperformed comparing to the expectations however; annual revenue of 101.70 bn (2016) is ensured that is greater than the previous year (markets.ft.com, 2017). While taking a glance at the company, it could be averred that development of the employees is one of the focused are where knowledge plays greater role using information and communication technologies. Skill development, training programs are implemented to fulfill this purpose in collaboration with knowledge.
In order to hold competitive position in the market, companies need to share knowledge among the responsible persons to be effective. It is also significant to make the knowledge explicit and understandable to all bases of personnel. In the last decade, it is notably observed that companies are showing tremendous interest to implement knowledge management architecture within the organization to make the procedure easier. It is also been adopted as one of the crucial parts of organizational strategy (Hislop, 2013).
Holsapple (2013) noted that knowledge management is not managing knowledge fulfilling individual’s purpose but the prime aim is to set value by refining firm’s knowledge in order to meet organizational goal. Modern organizations use technologies (ICT) and tools in knowledge management considering various aspects such as strategy, culture, management and technology. It is all about human interaction where technology is an inseparable part (Alegre et al. 2013). It accelerates opportunities for the firm to circulate knowledge among teams from any place and any time. Communication and collaboration technologies are seen to be used widely for this purpose. It should be mentioned that both the mentioned technologies are web based and designed to serve purpose such as intranet and internet. In addition to that video conferencing, mobile technology, telephone comes under this. As new technology is emerging, therefore these work as intelligent agents contributing towards better search, summarization and spread of information from one source to another.
Figure 1: Knowledge Management Mechanism
Information and communication technology plays greater role while designing knowledge management mechanism that allows flow of information from one sphere to another with ease. It accelerates the speed and makes the process faster providing chances of implementing advanced applications (e.g. knowledge portal). Through communication technology it is aimed to spread information (data and facts) regarding problems, truths, believes and know-how. It is also comprised of practice, strategy, methods and approach (Becerra-Fernandez and Sabherwal, 2015).
Figure 2: Knowledge Pyramid
Integration of communication technology in this manner includes expert system, database decision-support system, management information system and lesson-learned system. However, due to the emergence of knowledge management the traditional concept of organization learning has been altered. Debates are there regarding the role of IT in KM but no one argues on the need of IT in KM. H & M gives focus on the knowledge management (technologies) for better communication and shared approach, assuring goal of the company. Communication technologies are listed below in the table to develop a lucid understanding.
Table 1: Communication Technology
It is already been mentioned that H & M is actively involved in online marketing providing ease to the customers to shop more frequently visiting their well-designed website. In order to avoid any conflicts, there should be a proper communication network (two-way) where end audience gets the chance to give their feedbacks. Through establishing intranet and data warehousing, the company ensures shared information among the staffs that lead towards fulfilling organizational goal.
Collaborative technology as being one of the in integral parts of knowledge management fosters collaborative use of technologies and tools. As sharing knowledge is critical component of successful knowledge management, hence collaborative technologies are catalyst to strengthen the architecture of KM (Holsapple, 2013). The introduction of technology in the field of knowledge management is ensured to make the tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. As per the needs and requirements of the organization, tools of KM are selected. Utilization of collaborative technology frames the mechanism and ensures the explicitly of knowledge through the following diagram.
Figure 3: Mechanism of Collaborative Technology in KM
In this context, intranet could be averred to establish socialization by including multimedia technologies such as visual, audio, animation and graphics respectively. Visual technology might be helpful at the time of the possibility of language barriers. Hyperlinking is another technique that enhances the use of metaphors. Content of conference can be converted into web of knowledge for the users in future (Yee-Loong Chong et al. 2014). For instance, the recorded materials can be accessed by individual whenever they need to access. Besides, hypermedia is another useful technology in KM to record informal knowledge. These provide shared information that significantly promotes collaboration enhancing organizational learning. Graphical representation, business information, financial information, business case studies are restored by implementing collaborative technologies. The following table illustrates the collaboration technologies used in knowledge management.
Figure 4: Illustration of QuestMap mechanism
Apart from that, document library and knowledge sever technology may also be useful as the part of collaboration technology. Documents library archives the documents for future use and the knowledge server spreads knowledge across the organization.
Analysis made in the above section, elucidates that knowledge management plays crucial roles as being a part of business strategy aiming towards establishing enhanced communication network and ensured shared knowledge leading towards fulfilling organizational goal. It is noted that H & M actively participates in online business transaction where knowledge plays decisive role and use of technology to design intranet smoothen the communication process. Another example of TRI, INC could be provided, where the organization has created milestones in using technology in knowledge management to make it more effective. While it is talking about retail industry, adequate circulation of knowledge is required across the supply chain so the different layers (hierarchy) present within the organization. Retail industry has altered itself from resource-based industry to knowledge based industry encouraging new methods of training, personalized training programs etcetera (Holsapple, 2013). Due to creativity that exists in clothing industry, value is added to the design of products and selection of raw material. Thereby, knowledge flow is ensured from production to supply chain regardless of geographical barriers.
Figure 5: Knowledge Management Framework and Output
The figure portrayed above is the KM mechanism and the outputs that are ensured through implementation of proper technology. At a glance, supply chain management of the H & M could be viewed, where knowledge management is an integral part being the source of competitive rivalry. Through utilization of proper knowledge, demands of the customers are determined that enhances the supply chain management. In addition, data sharing with the supply chain accelerates efficiency of workflows. Customer may ask for immediate answer hence, shared knowledge provides with better opportunity to satisfy the customer. Hislop (2013) commented that implementation of technologies and proper knowledge management framework enhances the overall performance of the supply chain satisfying more number of customers. It is also notable that implementation of the technology such as hyperlinking and hypermedia would alter the pattern of information search. Many of the scholars have also encouraged introduction of informal styles and foster the notion of changed culture within the traditional format. The fashion clothing industry has become competitive due to presence of several competitors with creativity therefore ability to transform, transfer and create information is paramount behind success. Thus, knowledge is being considered as the valuable asset and the source of completive advantage. For H & M, statistics forecast that organization could increase the share price and KM plays decisive role in this manner. From the discourse on role and impact of the knowledge management, some of the important points could be listed down.
Implementation of technology also requires holistic mindset then only the value of employing technologies such as knowledge management tools are utilized to attain desired goals. H & should be more committed in the collaborative nature of information sharing and should also be committed towards nurturing corporate culture that supports sharing knowledge.
The study illustrates the role and impact of knowledge management technologies on the chosen firm H & M. from the discourse made, it is noted that implementation of modern technology and use of tools enhances the knowledge management mechanism. The role of communication and collaboration technologies is depicted from where it could be seen that technology plays integral part while forming the knowledge management architecture within the organizational context. There are some areas identified where rooms for further improvements are there so mechanism proposed through the study might be helpful for the company to design a proper knowledge management framework facilitating technologies.
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