Recently, Knowledge Management (KM) has emerged in the Business Studies literature as one of the most debatable concept. In reality, while KM seems to be successfully implemented in large organizations, it is largely neglected by small and medium sized firms (SMEs). Moreover, in order to compete, like any large enterprises, SMEs need to retain appropriate and up-to-date knowledge or else there may be knowledge leakage and consequent losses in efficiency, productivity and competitiveness.

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Nevertheless, they tend to be more vulnerable to problems of high staff income and knowledge retention. Thus, this knowledge should be properly supervised, distributed and maintained in the organization. This research aims at addressing the gap in perception of efficacy of KM and its real implementation in SMEs. Because in SMEs operations, they depend on the driving force of the managers so the study was decided to understand their current perceptions, requirements and awareness in terms of KM (Nunes et al.,2005).

Literature review

From the literature, definitions of knowledge management vary broadly. Thus, in order to be able to propose KM, literatures in KM classify knowledge in different types. Even in this way, knowledge is divided and typified in different ways. For example, some authors distinguish knowledge by technical and strategic types, (Liebeskind, 1996 taken from Nunes et al., 2005). However, the more common classification of knowledge is explicit knowledge, implicit knowledge and tacit knowledge (Srikantaiah & Koenig, 2000; pp. 223; Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka &d Konno, 1998; Cavusgil et al., 2003 taken from Nunes et al. 2005).

KM in organizations is a process composed of managing knowledge critically to meet existing needs, spotting and exploiting existing and acquired knowledge assets and to develop new knowledge in order to take advantage of new opportunities and challenges (Quintas et al., 1997 taken from Nunes et al.,2005). In general, KM must be seen as a strategy to supervise organizational knowledge assets to support management decision making, to enhance competitiveness and to boost capacity for innovation and creativity (Zyngier, 2004).

Research setting

KM is a very new concept in Vietnam in general and in Vietnamese’s organizations and firms in particular. But there are only a few small beginning steps, and the concept has been introduced to very limited audiences. Some large foreign companies may be applying it, since it is already used in their parent companies abroad. However, KM is still new to other kinds of organizations, even the research institutes.

Recently, some practices in the country have laid down a good promotion for KM applications in the future, including the application of KM in the SME sector especially in knowledge-intensive-firms (APO, 2008). This is the reason why I choose Vietnam as a context for the research and I will focus on two established Information Communication Technology (ICT) companies, as representatives for Vietnamese’s knowledge-intensive organizations.

The study’s focus is the managers’ perception of knowledge management (KM) thus I will take an interpretive approach, using two knowledge-intensive companies as case-studies, both of which are distinguished by the need to process and use knowledge on a daily basis in order to remain competitive. The two companies, FPT Corporation and CMC Corporation, are the leaders in ICT sector in Vietnam, both are based in the capital city. The case studies will be analysed using a qualitative research methodology, composed of interviews and concept mapping, thus, gaining a characterization of understandings and perceptions of managers concerning the value of KM for SMEs.

Since this study seeks to understand the perceptions and perspectives of mangers of SMEs, I feel that questionnaires or surveys would not provide the depth of exploration needed to understand these perceptions. Since then an interpretivist approach with real interviews and dialogues, qualitative method will be used in order to enable the understanding of the social world of those companies as the human activity systems being studied. Moreover, qualitative approach best suit with the requirement of the research of an understanding of the subjective experiences of individuals in these human activity systems, including the individuals’ consciousness and subjective perceptions.

Data collection

Two knowledge intensive SMEs, within the capital city, will be selected as case studies. Interviews will be used as the data collection method and this will be consisted of 3 sets of interviews for each company (these companies will be referred to as Company A, FPT Corporation – which has 12300 employees and operation throughout Vietnam- and – Company B, CMC Corporation – which is active nationwide and employs more than 1600 employees). Interviews will be conducted with the CEO, Operational Manager and the Technical Director/IT Manager of each company. The method of data collection by interview is selected because it can enable frank, anonymous and face-to-face investigation of issues with the interviewees.

It is expected that the interviews will provide the researcher with a chance to investigate and explore deeper into the subjective perceptions and understandings of the interviewees, here, an combination of detailed, reflective, hypothetical and leading questions will be used to further explore the responses as proposed by Keats (2000; pp. 35) and Warwick (1984; pp. 7) taken from Nunes et al., (20005).

The interviews are aimed to get the answers from those companies’ managers about their perception of KM about KM as business value, knowledge dissemination and transfer, knowledge use, knowledge construction, organizational learning, knowledge embodiment and finally KM barriers – the seven concepts. This is the guidelines for the interviews are adapted from theoretical of KM models proposed by McAdam and McCreedy (1999), Prichard et al. (2000) and Smith et al. (2003).

The interviews will be led in-loco in the companies. Prior to the interview, interviewees will be guaranteed anonymity, asked for taped record and will be provided with an “aide memoir” that contains an explanation of the main KM terms that may appear in the discussion. The aide memoir will be then discussed with the interviewee to make sure that both the researcher and the interviewees have a proper understanding of the prospect, focus and the direction of the interview. Taped recording will help the transcripts typing process, eliminate the loss of information. The interviews will be followed by post – interview process of building a common understanding of the results obtained and fine – tuning the interview scripts accordingly.

Data Analysis

The data analysis will be performed by interpretation and coding of data and representation through concept maps. Different interview scripts and the coding of the transcripts will both be framed by the model proposed by famous KM authors stated in the data collection part rather than letting codes emerge without a clear theoretical stance. The model will be used as concept characterization to conduct the coding process.

The final concept characterization will thus be based on those seven key concepts including further elements, systems and sub – systems. This characterization will then be presented through concept maps. These maps will be helpful as they provide explanatory tools and an efficient method to share, discuss and represent qualitative data. They can also form an essential role in gibbeting the rhetorical presentation, description and discussion of data that form the findings of the research.

In summary, the interview process, transcript analysis and concept mapping will be done step by step, as: Step 1. Definition of the theoretical model  Step 2. Selection and definition of key concepts Step 3. Accordingly design of the interview scripts Step 4. Conduct the interviews in two selected organizations A&B Step 5. Transcription of the interviews Step 6. Representation of each individual interview using concept map with regard to the hierarchy of elements, systems and sub systems Step 7. Collecting of elements, systems and sub systems into the key concepts by merging the individual interviews Step 8. Consequent re-arranging of relationships and inter-dependencies Step 9. Interpretation of key concept mapping and formulation of findings

Finally, there will be a concept map contents seven key concepts irradiating from the center of knowledge management. Each concept will be characterized with their own elements, which in turn will be link to organization actual implementations. The findings will be emerged through the seven concepts and thus should be divided into seven finding sections. The whole concept map will provide a holistic view on knowledge management and its implementations and perceptions in two Vietnamese leading IT companies.

References

1. Cavusgil, T.S., Calantone, R.J., Zhao, Y. (2003), “Tacit Knowledge transfer and firm innovation capability”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 18, No. 1; pp. 6-12.

2. CMC Corporation. Official website. Available at: http://www.cmc.com.vn/ [Accessed on 01/05/2011]