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Knowledge audit and KM-audit – two sides of the same coin? by Danie Hechter

The terms knowledge audit and knowledge management audit (KM‐audit) are often used interchangeably. However, the two processes are distinct and serve entirely different purposes. The goal of a KM-audit is to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of ongoing KM practices and processes within an organisation, while a knowledge audit refers to a systematic process of identifying knowledge assets and their relationship across an organisation.

Knowledge audits help organisations determine what knowledge they currently have, how they utilise knowledge, and what knowledge they will need in the future. The knowledge audit process consists of the following steps [1]:

1. Identify what knowledge currently exists in the organisation or department:

(a) Determine existing and potential knowledge sinks, sources, flows, and constraints, including environmental factors.

(b) Identify and locate explicit and tacit knowledge within the organisation or department.

(c) Build a knowledge map of the taxonomy and flow of knowledge in the organisation or department. The knowledge map relates topics, people documents, ideas, and links to external resources, in respective densities, in ways that allow individuals to find the knowledge they need quickly.

2. Identify what knowledge is missing in the organisation or department:

(a) Perform a gap analysis to determine what knowledge is absent to achieve business objectives.

(b) Determine who needs the absent knowledge.

3. Provide recommendations from the knowledge audit to management, regarding possible improvements to the knowledge management activities in the organisation or department.

Questions to extract the information needed to identify what knowledge currently exists in a targeted area include [1]:

1. List specifically the categories of knowledge you need to do your job.

2. Which categories of knowledge listed in question 1 are currently available to you?

For each category of knowledge you specified in question 1 . . .

3. How do you use this knowledge? Please list specific examples.

4. From how many sources can you obtain the knowledge? Which sources do you use? Why?

5. Besides yourself, who else might need this knowledge?

6. How often would you and others cited in question 5 use this knowledge?

7. Who are potential users of this knowledge who may not be getting the knowledge now?

8. What are the key processes that you use to obtain this knowledge?

9. How do you use this knowledge to produce a value added benefit to your organisation?

10. What are the environmental/external influences impacting this knowledge?

11. What would help you identify, use or transform this knowledge more effectively?

12. Which parts of this knowledge do you consider to be (a) in excess/abundance, (b) sparse and (c) ancient/old/outlived its useful life?

13. How is knowledge currently being delivered? What would be a more effective method for delivering knowledge?

14. Who are the ‘experts’ in your organisation housing the types of knowledge that you need?

15. In what form is the knowledge that you have gained from the experts?

16. What are the key documents and external resources that you use or would need to make your job easier?

17. What are the types of knowledge that you will need as a daily part of your job (a) in the short term (1–2 years) and (b) in the long term (3–5 years)?

By identifying the knowledge assets that contribute to core processes, an organisation can focus its KM efforts on knowledge assets at various levels of criticality rather than managing everything regardless of its significance.

1. Liebowitz, J. et al., 2000. The Knowledge Audit. Knowledge and Process Management, 7(1), pp. 3-10.


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