Which international companies have implemented knowledge management?

Knowledge management in German companies - an inventory

Of Prof. Dr. Kurt W. Koeder

and Norbert E. Rohleder

Contents overview

Knowledge as a sustainable resource gains in value creation processes

more and more important. It is true that the transfer of knowledge in companies is not

Invention of the late 20th century, but to systematically record it,

processing and using is particularly important for global companies

become a necessity. German companies also have to, want to

survive in the international market, generate and distribute knowledge in a targeted manner.

Large amounts of knowledge are lost in the organization every day

and must laboriously be recovered. The companies have responded

but a study by the Mainz University of Applied Sciences shows that the systematic use

knowledge as a resource is far from being taken for granted.

In the fall of 2003, 65 executives and decision-makers were selected

from different industries such as financial services (e.g. Deutsche Bank,

Dresdner Bank, Allianz), automobile manufacturing (e.g. DaimlerChrysler, BMW), pharmaceuticals

(e.g. Merck, Bayer), telecommunications (e.g. Siemens, IBM), energy supply

(e.g. RWE, EWR) and trade (e.g. Quelle, Karstadt) surveyed. The response rate

of the anonymously conducted survey was 32 percent. There are those

Financial service providers are well represented with eight companies.

The size of the companies surveyed ranges from less than 1,000

up to over 50,000 employees and the majority of them implement one

Annual turnover of over 500 million euros.


Discussion status and concept development

Successfully implementing new management strategies requires theoretical acceptance

Knowledge and practicable implementation concepts. That also applies to that

Knowledge management. Therefore, the participants were initially asked

what significance knowledge management has for you, what significance it does

Topic in the company and whether practice-oriented concepts have already been developed

were. Despite the intense discussion about knowledge as a resource

In the last few years the respondents judged the importance of knowledge management

rather cautious. A third assumes that knowledge management

is present in the minds of most companies, but at least scarcely

half think knowledge management is just a trend, and 5 participants

even believe that knowledge management is a new term for well-known strategies.

However, three respondents believe that the topic is generally overrated

only a small proportion and at least four respondents promise themselves for the

Future great successes from the implementation of knowledge management concepts

in your company.

Even if 15 of the companies surveyed assume that knowledge management

gain in importance for them in the next two to three years

the current status of the topic is rather low. And four

Companies that have been dealing with knowledge management for a long time forecast that

that the importance of this topic will stagnate in their company, for

a company will even lose its importance in knowledge management. This current

Assessment indicates this against the background of the positive forecasts

point out that most companies have so far only dealt with knowledge management in a rudimentary way

have dealt with. Since no extensive experience is available so far,

they therefore still see opportunities to start corresponding initiatives.


That knowledge management has not yet established itself in many companies,

can also be seen in the state of the theoretical and conceptual discussions

Development. It is true that three quarters of those surveyed are aware that the issue is rethinking

in the direction of knowledge culture and strategy means, but on the specific design

it is mostly missing. Only one company offers an independent one

Definition and describes knowledge management as “knowledge about the

Handling knowledge as a resource ”. A total of 19 participants close

conforms to the definition of

Knowledge management. You see it as a complex strategic management concept,

with which a company can use its relevant knowledge holistically, target-oriented and future-oriented

designed as a value-adding resource. The knowledge base is made up of the individual

and collective knowledge consciously, actively and systematically developed to enable them

contributes to the achievement of corporate goals. One participant restricts

one that “knowledge management is often only the IT-technical implementation of the

Knowledge management means and currently still means cultural and strategic elements

be ignored".

It can be seen here that the internal discussions within the organization are often about

does not go beyond the specifications of the discourse in the specialist literature.

This is currently being pursued, but so far for your own company

not adapted. So it is not surprising that only a few of the companies surveyed

be able to present a concrete concept for the implementation of knowledge management.

After all, five of the companies have a knowledge management strategy

and another four are planning one for the future. But only one company

states that it has defined knowledge management as a model. Such a positioning

but is the prerequisite for holistic strategic knowledge management

and documents its importance and importance on a broad basis. Here too

confirms the assumption that to date knowledge management has tended to be through

individual initiatives as holistic and comprehensive concepts in the company

is integrated.


The lack of comprehensive knowledge management concepts is also reflected in the target definitions.

It is true that corporate goals associated with knowledge management are defined

- with know-how improvement and increased efficiency (16 mentions each)

The medium to long-term goals clearly dominate here. But

The formulation of the goals is exhausted in half of the companies

in general statements or declarations of intent. Only in three of those surveyed

Companies are more precisely documented and described the goals. These results

suggest that it is only very sporadic in large German companies

Target agreement systems for knowledge management activities exist and

companies are still a long way from management by knowledge objectives

are. Knowledge management is, as the state of strategy development suggests,

apparently implemented more often at the operational level than at the management level


Despite the lack of a comprehensive concept and the only selective guidance

Discussion is the external technical debate around the topic

Knowledge management observed intensively. So companies use a big one

Range of different sources of information to identify new developments on the

Track area. In the first place are trade journals and that

Internet and books. For the implementation of a company-wide

Knowledge managements are preferably written information sources, however

hardly sufficient. An exchange of experts and a visit would be necessary here

of relevant seminars and conferences. Of these possibilities

however, only some of the respondents use it.


Sources of information used on the topic of knowledge management


Sources of information used on the topic of knowledge management

When developing new projects, companies usually also refer

external consulting services. But only two of the companies surveyed gave

to get support from external consultants in their knowledge management

allow. Another company speaks of occasional and project-related

Support or use of internal consulting services.

In view of the very inconsistent implementation in many companies so far

of a knowledge management system, it comes as no surprise that there are only six

of respondents say whether their expectations have been met.

This shows that a cross-divisional integration of

Knowledge management has so far not been sufficiently successful. Be complained before

especially the lack of recognition of knowledge management experts as a professional group,

the non-optimal use of existing IT instruments, the lack of adoption

a strategic knowledge management concept and, associated with it, the inadequate

Structuring and organization of knowledge management. To state positively

the companies, among other things, an improved culture of trust and increased transparency,

information transfer across departmental boundaries and preservation

explicit know-how.

The organizational integration


Another indicator of the state of knowledge management in a company

is its organizational integration and systematic implementation. A

systematic and datable introduction of knowledge management can be tight

half of the companies surveyed. The other respondents

only use individual elements of a knowledge management concept or do without them

on the strategic anchoring. It is noteworthy that companies that already

Began the introduction of knowledge management at the end of the 1990s,

are all companies with a very high number of employees. Apparently

the large companies recognized at an early stage the need to

Using knowledge as a resource in a targeted manner and implementing appropriate concepts.

However, it cannot be said that the timing of implementation

actually means the development and use of new tools or already

existing systems, such as yellow pages or search engines, which, given

reclassified the topicality of the topic as systematic knowledge management


In two thirds of the companies surveyed, the initiative went for the

Knowledge management from HR or management. This leaves

the presumption that knowledge management, at least in its theoretical

Alignment, seen not only as an IT topic, but as a company-wide one

Management method is understood. But possibly also dominates after

as before department-oriented thinking in the company, so that from the departmental level

little initiative for an interdepartmental or cross-departmental one

Knowledge management runs out.


Five companies state that knowledge management by one accordingly

designated department is processed and supervised. In four companies is

the topic is assigned to a project and in three companies it is the area of ​​responsibility

of human resources. Knowledge management is usually at the top of the hierarchy

of the establishments. It can be assumed that the execution responsibility

is often delegated to certain areas of the company, however

the (top) management reserves the right to make groundbreaking decisions and

organizational changes.

Among the primary users of the implemented knowledge management system

Almost half of the companies surveyed are responsible for sales

and the management as well as the personnel area including training and further education.

If you compare the information on users and initiators, it becomes apparent that knowledge management systems

have a fairly broad user base. This underlines their cross-sectional function

in all areas of the company and proves that knowledge management at least

is already part of operational practice in large companies.

However, it also becomes clear that the generation of knowledge is in contrast

is delegated to certain organizational units to use knowledge. This is how it works

for example from sales as one of the strongest users of knowledge resources

did not take an appropriate initiative.

The organizational integration indicates that the introduction

of knowledge management in none of the surveyed companies to the visible

Corporate organization and culture has had an impact, even if such effects

To characterize knowledge management. This suggests that

the implementation of knowledge management possibly already with area-specific

Initiatives, but certainly with organizational knowledge management concepts

is a lengthy process that hesitates the business organization

and culture. For a successful knowledge management is

Patience required from everyone involved.


The practical implementation

In the absence of broad strategies, knowledge management systems are often only

implemented selectively. A typical knowledge management process has therefore become

so far only trained in a few large companies.

Knowledge management process for a large German insurance group

Despite the lack of process descriptions in almost all of the companies surveyed

can be some important aspects in maintaining and creating the corporate

Hold on to knowledge. First of all, what are the options?

a company provides to individual knowledge in organizational too

transform. And although these possibilities are many, answered

only just over half of the participants responded to this question. In the foreground

the exchange of information and

setting up IT infrastructures. The exchange of information takes place

especially through workshops, meetings, seminars and contributions in

Employee magazines instead. In the context of the IT structures, the use

of the intranet, technology platforms depicting workflows and the web

Called based training. Over half of the companies use search engines

and portals or newsgroups as well as mail systems and mailing lists. Ten companies

state that they use e-learning. There are also customer relationship management systems for ten companies

Components of knowledge management. As more information systems come

Lists of Frequently Asked Questions, workflow systems and document or

Content management systems in use. However, each plan five

Companies, in the future more expert databases (Yellow Pages)

and use data warehouse systems.


Used and planned information systems for knowledge management

Given the wide range of transformation options mentioned

can be assumed that the company against the background of their

Organizational process planning per se take appropriate measures,

to convert individual knowledge into collective knowledge without being superficial

To pursue concepts for knowledge management. However, the answers are indicative

point out that knowledge management often involves the presence and use

corresponding IT infrastructures is equated and only as a synonym

for knowledge documentation and widespread knowledge dissemination via

Databases is understood.

A crucial aspect when implementing a knowledge management system

is the involvement of employees. While in relevant publications

Incentive systems linked to knowledge transfer are repeatedly required,

to motivate employees to generate, pass on and use knowledge,

there seems to be a lack of practical implementation of these recommendations. Just

seven of the companies surveyed answered this question, with only

a performance-based remuneration and an improvement system with bonus payments

are mentioned as incentives. One of the companies justifies the absence

corresponding incentive systems so that the problems are greater than

be the benefit. However, the companies surveyed value their willingness

your employees to pass on their knowledge, anyway as high a. It is

but it should be borne in mind that here, above all, the personal, not systematized

Exchange between employees, e.g. within a team or a

Working group, in, before and after meetings or discussions or during

the working hours.


The emerging trend, the practical implementation of knowledge management

to concentrate ostensibly on the use of appropriate technologies,

but not consistently integrating the human factor is also shown in

the achievement of goals. So the goal is knowledge transparency in most

of the companies surveyed, i.e. the companies have a good

Overview of the skills and knowledge of your employees

and about the collective competencies of your organization, the level of

However, knowledge distribution is rated as rather low. The employees have

therefore only insufficient access to the knowledge available in the company.

This implies a need for improvement in the exchange of knowledge, for example

by creating communities of practice, breaking down barriers

the personal distribution of knowledge, e.g. through the implementation of

Incentive systems, or setting up appropriate infrastructures.

As a cause for the low distribution of knowledge and as an obstacle to the

Almost all respondents mentioned successful implementation of knowledge management

a selection of given answers existing ego-isms of knowledge. As another

Identify barriers that define leadership behavior (15 responses)

and insufficient exchange of information and experience (12 mentions). But not

only too little knowledge, even too much, can be successful knowledge management

hinder: An oversupply of information (12 mentions) and too long search times

For relevant knowledge (11 mentions) the respondents also indicate

as disruptive factors. To curb these obstacles, it is obvious

necessary, the existing IT systems in the company are even more target-oriented

to use or expand and to integrate it into systematic knowledge management.


When evaluating the practical implementation of knowledge management, it is interesting to

that the transfer of knowledge in smaller operational units, such as teams or work groups,

apparently presents no difficulty. It can be concluded,

that mainly corresponding instruments and forums, such as communities

of Practice, promote the exchange of knowledge and experience and thereby the

Force generation of knowledge. It is therefore a good idea to do project-related internal work

or to implement cross-border personal networks in which appropriate

Employees communicate and cooperate over a longer period of time,

exchange ideas and thereby share knowledge and learn from one another. To this

This way you can possibly reduce the product development times

reduce and realize an earlier market entry. Such or similar

Communication hubs appear in the company

but still too little considered and it can be assumed that this is why

Employee potential is not fully exploited and possible

Synergies remain unused.



The study showed that knowledge management in German companies is no

It is a fashionable topic, but has permanent significance as part of corporate governance

will have. However, the implementation of knowledge management systems suffers

of missing strategies and cross-divisional concepts as well as

a lack of integration of employees. It must therefore be the aim of management

be to develop holistic knowledge management concepts that are all relevant

Take modules into account and support them with modern technologies

become. The management of knowledge must not focus on processes and technologies

limit, but must shape a variety of soft factors. This

includes on the one hand the development of suitable motivation and incentive mechanisms,

which promote the willingness of employees to actively share knowledge

to operate. On the other hand, a knowledge-oriented corporate culture must be established

that the individual and the organizational knowledge as one if

not the most important factor in increasing competitiveness


The increasingly cross-company provision of services in company networks

must thereby be taken into account that the relationships with the cooperation partners

move more into the focus of management efforts. The management

the organizational form network wins alongside the management of the sole proprietorship

therefore in importance.

In order to be able to counter the deficits in the area of ​​knowledge management in a targeted manner,

research must provide further explanations and solutions.

Findings are needed to make motivational mechanisms and incentive systems attractive

about how individuals in the work environment are required to participate

be moved to knowledge management and to the explication of implicit knowledge.

Such findings would also have to be particularly relevant in relation to collectives,

be it departments or project groups within an organization or

but actors within a corporate network are generated.


Another requirement for research is the potential use of knowledge management concepts

to make it quantifiable. With the help of quantitative values, the

Investment in knowledge management systems even in a bad economic environment

Justify them much more easily than with general qualitative statements.

For this purpose, controlling concepts for knowledge management would have to be developed

become. However, this presupposes that knowledge is identifiable and assessable

and ultimately made measurable.

The large German companies have the importance of knowledge as a resource

recognized. This shows the interest in the topic. However, it is lacking

in many cases the explicit consideration of knowledge management

as part of corporate governance. Those who will succeed will be

It is possible to achieve a competitive advantage through targeted management of knowledge resources

To provide services and to optimally meet customer needs.