Managing Knowledge/Knowledge management systems Taking Apple Inc. similar organization reference: 1.Review efficiency effectiveness Apple’s / selected organization’s knowledge management systems: â€¢ Identifying knowledge requirements Apple/selected organisation’s managers leaders.
Knowledge management systems
Historically, the labor force would be represented from people paid low wages and expected to operate the machines and to implement the decisions as taken and instructed by the managers. Throughout the past recent decades nevertheless, the society has modernized and it came to raise more challenges and opportunities for the labor force. For instance, legislations were developed to protect the employees, technologies evolved to allow an increase in operational efficiency and the economy shifted from industry and manufacturing to services.
Today then, the employees are the most valuable organizational assets and the economic agents make intense efforts to train and retain them (Lawler and Ulrich, 2008). One specific endeavor in this sense is represented by the corporate efforts made in the sense of knowledge management. This project as such sets out to assess the knowledge management systems at Apple Inc. And to propose some recommendations as to how this organization could further develop its knowledge management systems.
2. The knowledge management system at Apple Inc.
Since its foundation in1976, Apple Inc. has pushed one limit after the other and has managed to become the indisputable leader of the IT industry. Today, Apple’s managerial model is complex and multifaceted, to focus on dimensions such as innovation and product development, cost efficiencies and product affordability, customer relationship management or human resource management.
And at the level of all these dimensions, Apple places an increased emphasis on knowledge management, understood not only as the management of information, but more so the creation of a material and immaterial environment in which information can thrive. Within the specialized literature, a universally accepted definition of knowledge management has yet to be devised and agreed upon, but the scope of commencing to understand the concept is well served by the definition below:
“Knowledge Management (‘KM’) comprises a range of practices used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge. [â€¦] Knowledge Management programs are typically tied to organizational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage innovation, lessons learnt transfer (for example between projects) and the general development of collaborative practices. Knowledge Management is frequently linked to the idea of the learning organisation although neither practice encompasses the other” (Knowledge Management Online).
At Apple Inc., knowledge management systems are essential given the nature of the operations conducted and the industry in which the company operates. In such a setting then, it is now necessary to assess the effectiveness of the knowledge management systems at Apple Inc. from three distinctive levels, namely:
The knowledge requirements of the Apple leaders
The acquisition, creation and conversion of knowledge at Apple Inc., and last
The policies and procedures to protecting and disclosing information
2.1. Knowledge requirements
Apple is a knowledge intensive company, its very advancement having been based on innovation and knowledge. This virtually means that the level of knowledge within the firm is increased and the processes of knowledge management are intense.
In terms of the knowledge requirements, these are also increased as the Apple employees are expected to possess two different sets of skills. On the one hand, they are expected to possess vast technical skills in their specific field of operations. On the other hand, they are expected to possess valuable people skills (Website of Apple Inc., 2012). At the level of the employees, the people skills are necessary to ensure an adequate interaction among the employees themselves, but also between the employees and the customers. The organization recognizes the need for strong customer services and invests in the acquisition of knowledge that would allow the employees to improve the quality of the interaction between the company and the customers.
At the level of the Apple Inc. managers and executives, the people skills — including good communication skills or empathy — are necessary in order to best communicate amongst themselves, but also to best represent the interests of the organization in meetings with various categories of stakeholders, such as the general public, potential investors, business partners and so on.
At the general level, Apple places an increased emphasis on the technical and non-technical skills of the people it employs, be these managerial or non-managerial. The company as such relies on an internal culture based on high knowledge levels and expects these levels to be met by its employees, and to be support systems to the company’s attainment of its overall objectives, including the increase in market share and distribution of products.
“The Company believes that sales of its innovative and differentiated products are enhanced by knowledgeable salespersons who can convey the value of the hardware and software integration, and demonstrate the unique solutions that are available on its products” (Apple Inc. 2011 Annual Report)
2.2. Knowledge acquisition, creation and conversion
The knowledge creation process at Apple Inc. is formed from three distinctive stages, namely knowledge acquisition, creation and conversion. At the level of knowledge acquisition, the company strives to acquire all the resources necessary in the process of knowledge generation. At this stage, increased emphasis is placed on hiring the individuals with the highest levels of knowledge or purchasing and creating the infrastructure to support the management of knowledge. At this level then, the company focuses on laying the environment where knowledge would be further created.
At a secondary level, the company strives to create the knowledge by combining and using all the resources laid out throughout the previous stage. At this level, they also place more emphasis on actual means of creating more knowledge, through programs such as internships, employee training or other educational programs through which they strive to improve the overall process of knowledge generation (Apple Inc. 2011 Annual Report).
Last, in terms of knowledge conversion, this is best applied at the level of the Apple products, which are created based on the knowledge generated throughout the previous steps. At this level, the knowledge is transferred onto the products, such as the iPhones, iPads or iPods, which gain more market share as a result of design and knowledge integrated (Knowledge Today, 2011). What is notable about Apple’s process of knowledge creation is that, despite its layered structure, the process is a cyclic one and often times, the three stages of knowledge creation are developed in parallel.
Another important process in the conversion of knowledge is represented by the means in which the company allows its customers access to the knowledge the company has acquired and created. In this setting, the knowledge created is transferred to the customers at the level of products and services. The Apple products are vast and they integrate technical as well as business knowledge. But aside from the products, the company also makes the knowledge available at the level of services. Customers can as such contact the company in a direct manner, by calling their technical support office or by contacting the company’s online customer support service. Additionally, the organization transfers its knowledge onto customers through discussion forums as well (Becerra-Fernandez and Sabherwal, 2010).
At the level of the products, it has sometimes happened for errors to exist in the design or functioning of the items. While Apple has strived to acknowledge and rectify these errors, it has also happened that the company did not do so in a transparent manner. A relevant example in this sense is represented by the technical errors on the Apple store, which lead to the crushing of several applications upon launch. These errors had been caused by the DRM bug and had been reported by customers, but the company removed the negative reviews from the website (Adhia, 2012).
2.3. Protection and disclosure of information
Apple will sometimes solicit personal information from its customers and will use to improve the quality of their products and services, but in accordance with all norms and regulations of data privacy and disclosure. Some examples of customer data that might be solicited include the name of the customers, their email addresses, the telephone numbers, the mailing addresses or the credit card information. Within the United States, in some special circumstances, such as the expansion of the commercial credit line, the company could also solicit the social security number.
In terms of the means in which the company uses the collected information, these include the following: keeping customers posted on new offers, product announcements, updates on the software products or upcoming events; improvements in product development or customer services; notifications of changes in terms, conditions and so on; and last, the usage of the personal data for internal audits, data analysis and research.
In terms of information disclosure, the company may sometimes disclose personal information to its strategic partners or other entities, as solicited by the legislation. Apple as such discloses information to service providers, such as firms engaged in information processing, credit extension or product delivery. The data is as such only disclosed when necessary for the benefit of the customer or when this is imposed by law. In all other circumstances, Apple Inc. ” takes precautions — including administrative, technical, and physical measures — to safeguard your personal information against loss, theft, and misuse, as well as against unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, and destruction” (Website of Apple Inc., 2012).
Ultimately, to ensure that the customer data is best protected and preserved, the company has created an organizational commitment to data safeguarding. This commitment is implemented at the corporate level and all employees are trained to adequately handle the information.
Based on the analysis conducted above, it is now useful to forward some recommendation on how Apple Inc. could go about in the further improvement of its knowledge management systems. As it has been so far revealed, the knowledge management at Apple is based on the acquisition of knowledge and the creation of a solid knowledge base to be further integrated in the completion of the Apple products and the delivery of the Apple services. At this level as such, the knowledge management system of Apple is centered and strong.
Nevertheless, some issues are observed at the levels of knowledge management transparency. On the one hand, there is an issue related to the limited availability of information of the company’s approach to knowledge management. This very trait has impeded the in depth completion of the current project, due to scarcity of available information. The company’s reticence to disclose such data is understandable in terms of competitive issues, but it also distances the company from its shareholders.
On the other hand, another problem with knowledge management is represented by the company’s manipulation of data in its favor. The most relevant example in this sense is represented by the recent situation when the company removed negative reviews from its website. In this setting then, the recommendations would revolve around propositions to address the lack of transparency and the manipulation of the knowledge offered to the stockholders, rather than to propose improvements in the acquisition of technical knowledge, which is already strong.
It is first necessary to review some options of strategic directions, and then recommend the most suitable course of action. At this level then, the following propositions are currently available:
The development of a company disclosure policy that is more opened and more flexible
The acceptance of negative inputs as well
The preservation of the current status quo.
Each of the alternative courses of action is characterized by its own advantages and disadvantages, as revealed in the table below:
Opened and flexible company disclosure
Increased flexibility and openness, leading to better perceptions from the stakeholders
Changes in organizational operations, leading to operational inefficiencies due to resistance to change
Acceptance of negative inputs
Improved company image
Improved reliability from customers
Possibility for more knowledge acquisition through feedback
Increases sensitivity to outside forces
No additional efforts and investments
Limited trust from the stakeholders
Lack of transparency
Despite the disadvantages revealed, the recommendation is for Apple Inc. To engage in the creation of a more open and flexible knowledge sharing system, in which they are more transparent about their information and in which they also accept the negative inputs as sources of future development.
All in all, Apple Inc. is one of the largest companies in the global market place and its success has been due to complex managerial mechanism that places emphasis on a multitude of dimensions, including the management of knowledge. KM is a more and more commonly used concept among both practitioners as well as academicians, yet a formal definition has yet to be devised and universally accepted. Despite this, knowledge management is understood as an integrated effort made by organizations in order to create knowledge and to manipulate it in order to attain their pre-established organizational objectives.
Within Apple, the knowledge management system is centered on the acquisition and consolidation of technical information, and from this angle, the knowledge management system is powerful and stable. Shortages are nevertheless observed at the level of transparency and knowledge sharing with the various categories of stakeholders. At this level, it is recommended for the company to become more opened and flexible in terms of information sharing and this recommendation is based on the gradual uniformization of technologies; as more and more companies gain access to technologic development, their product offering become similar (Gopalakrishnan and Qadeer, 2011). This virtually means that Apple Inc. will have to focus on the generation of other competitive advantages and means of satisfying and attracting customers.
Adhia, P., 2012, Apple removes negative reviews, for the DRM bug affected apps, All Things Apple, http://allthingsapple.me/apple-removes-negative-reviews-for-the-drm-bug-affected-apps / last accessed on July 18, 2012
Becerra-Fernandez, I., Sabherwal, R., 2010, Knowledge management: systems and processes, ME Sharpe, ISBN 076562351X
Gopalakrishnan, G., Qadeer, S., 2011, Computer aided verification: 23rd international conference, Springer
Gottscalk, P., 2005, Strategic knowledge management technology, Idea Group, ISBN 1591403367
Holsapple, C.W., 2004, Handbook on knowledge management 1: knowledge matters, Birksauser
Karagiannis, D., 2002, Practical aspects of knowledge management: 4th international conference, Springer, ISBN 3540003142
Lawler, E.E., Ulrich, D., 2008, Talent: making people your competitive advantage, John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 0787998389
McInerney, C.R., Day, R.E., 2007, Rethinking knowledge management: from knowledge artifacts to knowledge processes, Springer, ISBN 3540710108
Miller, R., 2012, Apple: iDataCenter power will be 100% green, Data Center Knowledge, http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2012/05/17/apple-idatacenter-power-will-be-100-green / last accessed on July 18, 2012
Myers, P.S., 1996, Knowledge management and organizational design, Routledge, ISBN 0750697490
2011, Apple without Steve Jobs: How the new CEO can ‘think different’, Knowledge Today, http://investor.apple.com/secfiling.cfm?filingID=1193125-11-282113&CIK=320193 last accessed on July 18, 2012
Apple Inc. 2011 Annual Report, http://investor.apple.com/secfiling.cfm?filingID=1193125-11-282113&CIK=320193 last accessed on July 18, 2012
Apple certified Macintosh technician (ACMT) certification, Website of Apple Inc., http://training.apple.com/certification/acmtlast accessed on July 18, 2012
Definitions of knowledge management, Knowledge Management Online, http://www.knowledge-management-online.com/Definition-of-Knowledge-Management.html last accessed on July 17, 2012
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