Awareness, use and cultural issues of KM in UAE organizations
Al-Yahya (2009) believes that knowledge is identified as the most essential organization’s asset and source of wealth and creates a competitive advantage. Actually, in today’s competitive business environment an organization requires vast experience of deploying its corporate assets effectively to achieve its set goals. In light of this, the term knowledge management was coined as an integration and continuous improvement of organization knowledge. Knowledge management (KM) is the sundry of activities that involve developing, seizure, sharing and making good use of the organization knowledge (Al-Yahya, 2009). KM can take an array of dimensions such as the organization culture,management support, reward and vision clarity, infrastructure, information systems, and policies and procedures among others. It is concerned with the continuous integration between employees, management, and customers that bring a convergence of a perspective that can be used for the organization’s benefit.
According to Behdja and Nacuer (2008), knowledge management is gaining immense prominence in the education and business world in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Al-Yahya, (2009) states that knowledge management as not been received in an outburst in U.A.E as compared to the western countries. However, the global financial crisis has fueled the Arab world into investing into systems and procedures that would aid in business survivor. Knowledge management has been one of the organizational functions that have been introduced in the UAE business world. Skok and Tahir (2010) acknowledge that despite the awareness of KM in UAE, the concept still remains unpopular and requires immense implementation. Therefore, this paper aims at identifying the extent in which KM has been induced in UAE’s organizations whether private or in public sector. It involves a comparison of findings garnered from interviews conducted on three different organizations in UAE. Most of the responses were from senior officers as they were not comfortable with distributing the questionnaires administered to their subordinates. The main aim was to understand the KM cognizant, managerial attitude towards KM, and the extent in which the KM tools are used in UAE.
Organizations’ background and rationale
The research was carried out in diversified organizations in order to gain in depth a clear reflection of KM awareness and cultural issues in UAE. Information was uncovered from both public and private sector where two organizationsare under government’s control the other two is privately owned. Actually, the three organizations include identity authority, petroleum mining company, and the police force department all based in UAE. Firstly, Dubai Police Force dates back to 1956 and it jurisdiction area is the Dubai city in UAE. It has around 25,000 employees with an array of departments with separate defining roles. The organization is entitled with the security of the residents and visitors; bearing in mind that Dubai is increasingly being accepted as a major tourist attraction site.
The second organization is the Emirates Identity Authority (also referred to as Emirates ID) which is a federal government organization in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This authority was established in 2004 to take over the implementation of a national identity management infrastructure from the Ministry of Interior and roll out the project throughout the country. Emirates ID has at least 60 service centers with around 1,400 employees and its main duties include registering citizens, issuing identity cards, and digital credentials that are electronically supported (Al-Khouri, 2014). The last organization in which KM interview was conducted is the Mubadala Petroleum that was established in 2012 after incorporating and merging with the Mubadala Oil & Gas business unit. The organization manages around 398,000 barrels of oil in a day across the global supply chain. These three organizations reflect the findings that have been identified in this research in regards to the awareness of KM in UAE.Interviews were conducted on employees on different rank and position; however, for the private sector it was conducted with middle managers.
Knowledge management awareness
The Dubai Police Force was confident enough that the organization has an insight of knowledge management. In fact, the organization had established a Skills Investment program in 2003, a Knowledge management department in 2005 and a curriculum department in 2009 (Al-Khouri, 2014). The knowledge department was reputed after the organization realized the need for sharing information across departments. According to their organization structure; the organization is headed by the Chief of Police and General Security. Knowledge sharing concept is largely embedded in the General Department of E-services. The average rating for the importance of intellectual capital or knowledge management in Dubai Police Force was 3 out of the highest rating of 5.
The question about the role of knowledge management in enhancing organizational success was open-ended and received an intriguing response. Most stated importance of knowledge management in the force was the integration of intelligence information and information that could be used to mitigate an emergency or a security breach (Behdja & Naceur, 2008). This information sharing across the department could aid in police success by ensuring there is immediate emergency response and mitigation. The trust among departments is relatively not satisfactory as most of the communication happens on an upward movement but downward trend only happens in receiving orders. Therefore, the rating here was given a low of 2. There was no a KM champion chosen in the organization despite the presence of a KM department.
The Emirates Identity Authority on the other hand argues that the use of KM practices helped it to achieve its overall organizational development insights. According to Al-Khouri (2014), Emirates ID had not realized the use of knowledge management despite its existence in the organization. In 2009, there was a change in organization management with the new team pushing for better information sharing practices. The new management team aimed at fusing knowledge management practices in the organization in order to yield significant results in their move to award UAE residents with the new electronically supported identification cards and documents. As per the interviews’ results, there is a considerable KM awareness in this organization as it was given a high rate of a 4 out of the possible 5. The main reason was that Emirates ID purpose was to integrate all the UAE citizens using electronic identification for easier access and efficient service provision. This meant their information could be accessed easily and archived by the government. It would only be possible when the 60 Emirates ID centers shared and managed information in order to achieve their main goal. Most of the communication here happens through an online platform which makes the ease of communication very important. There is a reasonable trust between departments where job security is determined on the confidentiality of this information.
Mubudala Petroleum has a department referred to as the information management service that is segmented into various sub-departments. The existence of knowledge management is acknowledged and understood by only the employees who work under this department. Therefore, the importance of intellectual capital was given a low rating of 2 out of 5. Due to the large size of the organization, most of the employees are confined into their departments and they may sometime fail to understand what happens in the other departments. However, they indicated that they offer knowledge freely to the juniors and subordinates.
Social knowledge management issues
There is knowledge sharing activities that happen in a work environment and they differ from one organization to the other. They enable people to socialize and exchange piece of knowledge. The Mubudala Petroleum displayed an intriguing response where formal meetings and mentoring programs rarely happens. One to one conversations are limited to people of the same level where unofficial discussions and informal meetings happen. Sharing activities were generally rated “sometimes” as people are indulged into their roles most of the time and formal information is rarely communicated. This culture discourages the sharing of information especially with employees of higher ranks and positions(Bhojaraju, 2005). The main reason for this was identified as the presence of numerous subcultures, multiple languages, and over-reliance on verbal communication in the country. Emirates ID displayed a strong information sharing culture within the organization. There are numerous information exchanges through emails, telephone, intranet and consulting with each other. The participants felt that the organization culture helps in information exchange. The only barrier that received a 3 and above in this organization was lack of education about KM and its benefits.
The police force acts differently where formal meetings regularly happens and the officers get plenty of time to have one to one conversations especially when on patrol. They also go through internal training course and the use of internet enabled communication avenues that enhance information sharing. Generally, the police department asserted that they communicated regularly and culture did not act as a barrier to their organization. Similarly, police work involves communicating with a number of entities during their investigation processes and delving information about an event. Their culture allows them to constantly share information as the information gathered will definitely be forwarded to another department. For example, the information acquired from the investigative department can be forwarded to the forensic department.
Managerial issues in regards to KM
The Emirates ID recognizes knowledge management as a strategic resource that has the capability of creating improvement in business performance, customer relationship, and even meeting organization targets. An idea raised by an employee is acted upon by the management is acted upon by depending on its viability (Bhojaraju, 2005). The organization has established ways in which ideas are collected and are used in strategic planning. They rated this issue with a three and a four for how the organization provides resources of seeking information. The company prioritizes on recognizing a person who has brought an idea that is viable in the organization. Mubadala Petroleum is so keen on rewarding and encouraging ideologies. The organization ensures that ideologies that lead to profit maximization, saving costs, and even increasing efficiency are handsomely rewarded. This happens through promotions, salary increment, recognition and rewards. It received a 5 in supporting and encouraging ideologies from the members of staff. Interestingly, the police force only received an average rating of 3. The police force believes that volunteering information and ideology is part of an employee’s responsibility. Therefore, the best mode of reward includes recognition. All the three organizations shown equality when it comes to training and there was neither segregation nor disparity. Employees explained that the organization helped them to acquire knowledge through training and availing resources. The internet has been used as in important tool of delving information.
Technological KM issues
Technology advancement is among the issues that have been either achieved or acknowledged during the 21st century. Technology helps in achieving efficiency and effectiveness within the organizational operations. It has been cited as accelerating factor that enables tacit knowledge to be converted diligently to explicit knowledge. In the interviews’ respondents presented, it was quite evident that organizations used both oral and written processes. The police force for example requires both verbal and recorded knowledge sharing process within the organization. It requires the police to verbally explain a scenario in support with recorded information that can be used for future reference. Intranet type of technology is readily available in the force with a secluded technological department for E-services. Intranet is used in sharing information within the organization without involving the external stakeholders. Dubai police force also acknowledged the presence of extranet in the organization where information was shared among trusted partners. There is use of sharing forums such as video conferencing which enables communication with stakeholders from a different geographical location. The force also monitors social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as it is a source of information. The use of technology was given an average score of 5.
Social media is a strong tool in the business world making it the most popular communication tool in Mubadala Petroleum Company. It is used for marketing and acquiring customer response that is used in enhancing efficiency. Similarly, the newly formulated platforms such as blogs and websites are useful especially in creating an external connection between the organization and external environment they have been given a rating of 5. Internally, the organization uses emails, intranet way of searching data, and lessons learned case databases. Emirates ID uses intranet more than the social media sites as it is concerned with sharing confidential information. The use of email is predominant in the organization. Interestingly, the technological systems are up-to-date and do not present any complexity in their use.
As observed, knowledge management assumes that an organization’s success largely depends on formal controls, sufficient technologies, communication tools and social environments, and ways of managing knowledge. It is simply turning implicit knowledge (available but hidden information) to explicit knowledge which will be of benefit to all stakeholders. UAE is on the forefront in ensuring that knowledge management is formulated in the business environment. Actually, it is evident that the public sector is indulging into these changes as much as in the private sector. Sharing information is an integral part of organization success and UAE is striving hard to rip the benefits of KM. Although KM was recently introduced in UAE, the organization is still showing positive results in the level of KM awareness, use and organizational culture.
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