Process-oriented knowledge management in SMEs
Against the background of global competition and increasingly dynamic markets, the importance of knowledge has been growing dramatically, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). SMEs have to be more innovative, flexible, and efficient to successfully cope with typical challenges such as growing competition and rapidly changing demand patterns. In the past, knowledge management has been successfully implemented and developed by large enterprises in particular. In contrast, knowledge management for SME is not a matter of course yet. However, current survey results affirm that activities in the area of knowledge management depend less on the size of an enterprise or its industry, but rather on an enterprise's business strategy and core competencies. In the light of these results, SMEs seem not to have disadvantages regarding the implementation of knowledge management because of their size or industry, but rather because they need to take strategic decisions to implement such solutions and have difficulties in doing so. Against this background, the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology started the initiative "Fit fur den Wissenswettberb" to support especially SMEs on the way to the knowledge society. In the course of the initiative, the research institutes Fraunhofer IPK and Fraunhofer IFF initiated the project " ProWis - Prozessorientiertes und integriertes Wissensmanagement in KMU". Within this project, researchers designed methods meeting the specific needs of SMEs allowing the implementation of process-oriented knowledge management at reasonable efforts. Building up on the developed methods, both institutes accompanied 15 SMEs during the implementation of knowledge management and used the findings from these implementations to refine the methods. The results of the project are summarized in the guideline " Praxisleitfaden Wissensmanagement", which is freely accessible to interested parties and enables SMEs to systematically and autonomously implement knowledge management. Based on the aforementioned results, this article illustrates the process-oriented implementation of knowledge management according to the ProWis approach and, by means of a case study, leads the reader through the single steps of the implementation process towards a business process-oriented knowledge management.