A goal of knowledge management is to capture and share knowledge wherever it resides in the organization. Leveraging the corporate collective know-how will improve decision making and innovation where it is needed. The proliferation of data, information and knowledge has created a phenomenon called “Big Data”. Knowledge Management when applied to Big Data will enable the type analysis that will uncover the complete picture of the organization and be a catalyst for driving decisions. In order to leverage an organizations Big Data it must be broken down into smaller more manageable parts. This will facilitate a succinct analysis, which then can be regrouped with other smaller subsets to produce “big picture” results.
Volume, Velocity, and Variety are all aspects that define Big Data.
Volume: The proliferation of all types of data expanding many terabytes of information.
Velocity: The ability to process data quickly.
Variety: Refers to the different types of data (structured and unstructured data such as data in databases, content in Content Management and Knowledge Management systems/repositories, collaborative environments, blogs, wikis, sensor data, audio, video, click streams, log files, etc.).
Variety is the component of Big Data in which KM will play a major role in driving decisions. Enterprises need to be able to combine their analyses to include information from both structured databases and unstructured content.
Data, Information and Knowledge
Since the focus here is about leveraging knowledge management techniques to extract knowledge from Big Data, it is important to understand the difference between data, information and knowledge: Data, I often refer to as being represented by numbers and words representing a discrete set of facts. Information is an organized set of data (puts context around data). This can result in an artifact such as a stock report, news article, etc. Knowledge on the other hand emerges from the receiver of information applying his/her analysis (aided by their experience and training) to form judgments in order to make decisions. Erickson and Rothberg indicates that information and data only revel their full value when insights are drawn from them (knowledge). Big Data becomes useful when it enhances decision making, which in turn is only enhanced when analytical techniques and an element of human interaction is applied (Erickson and Rothberg, 2014).
In a February 26 2014 KM World article titled “Big Data Delivering Big Knowledge” Stefan Andreasen is Chief Technology Officer at Kapow Software indicates that “To gain a 360 degree view of their ecosystem, organizations should also monitor user-generated data, public data, competitor data and partner data to discover critical information about their business, customers and competitive landscape” (Andreasen, 2014). The user-generated data, public data, competitor data and partner data provides the variety of data needed to be analyzed by KM and it’s this type of data that will be examined more closely.
Customers are sharing information about their experience with products and services, what they like and don’t like, how it compares to the competition and many other insights that can be used for identifying new sales opportunities, planning campaigns, designing targeted promotions or guiding product and service development. This information is available in social media, blogs, customer reviews or discussions on user forums. Combining all this data contained in call center records and information from other back-office systems can help identify trends, have better predictions and improve the way organizations engage with customers (Andreasen, 2014).
Public information made available by federal, state and local agencies can be used to support business operations in human resources, compliance, financial planning, etc. Information from courthouse websites and other state portals can be used for background checks and professional license verifications. Other use cases include monitoring compliance regulation requirements, bill and legislation tracking, or in healthcare obtaining data on Medicare laws and which drugs are allowed per state (Andreasen, 2014).
Information about competitors is now widely available by monitoring their websites, online prices, and press releases, events they participate in, open positions or new hires. This data allows better evaluation of the competition, monitor their strategic moves, identify unique market opportunities and take action accordingly. As a retailer for example, correlate this data with order transaction history and inventory levels to design and implement a more dynamic pricing strategy to win over your competition and grow the business (Andreasen, 2014).
Across your ecosystem, there are daily interactions with partners, suppliers, vendors and distributors. As part of these interactions organizations exchange data about products, prices, payments, commissions, shipments and other data sets that are critical for to business. Beyond the data exchange, intelligence can be gleaned by identifying inefficiencies, delays, gaps and other insights that can help improve and streamline partner interactions (Andreasen, 2014).
To comb through the various sources of user-generated data, public data, competitor data and partner data leveraging KM analytics (data analysis, statistics, and trend analysis) and content synthesis technology (technology that categorizes, analyze, combines, extracts details, and re-assess content aimed at developing new meanings and solutions) will be necessary.
Applying KM to Big Data
Knowledge Management has the ability to integrate and leverage information from multiple perspectives. Big Data is uniquely positioned to take advantage of KM processes and procedures.
These processes and procedures enables KM to provide a rich structure to enable decisions to be made on a multitude and variety of data. In the “KM World March 2012” issue it was pointed out that “organizations do not make decisions just based on one factor, such as revenue, employee salaries or interest rates for commercial loans. The total picture is what should drive decisions”. KM enables organizations to take the total picture Big Data provides, and along with leveraging tools that provide processing speed to break up the data into subsets for analysis will empower organizations to make decisions on the vast amount and variety of data and information being provided.
The emerging challenge for organizations is to derive meaningful insights from available data and re-apply it intelligently. Knowledge management plays a crucial role in efficiently managing this data and delivering it to the end users to aid in the decision making process. This involves the collection of data from direct and indirect, structured and unstructured sources, analyzing and synthesizing it to derive meaningful information and intelligence. Once this achieved it must be converted it into a useful knowledge base, storing it and finally delivering it to end users.