Journal of Knowledge Management Practice, August 2005

Systematic Knowledge Auditing With Applications

Cheung Chi Fai1, Ko Kam Chin2, Chu Ka Fu1, Lee Wing Bun1, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University1, Johnson Electric Group2


Many knowledge management (KM) programs failed because the organizations are lack of understanding of their knowledge needs. Knowledge audit can reveal the organization’s KM needs, its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and risks for the implementation of KM. Although knowledge audit has been identified as an important activity in the knowledge management, there is lack of a systematic approach in its conduction and the audit practice varies with different industries and companies. This paper presents a systematic knowledge audit approach which has been successfully trial implemented in a prestigious motor manufacturing company.

1. Introduction

Many organizations are familiar with managing their operations, marketing, finance, sales or even supply chain. However, it is far from adequate for them to win in the very dynamic and highly competitive markets nowadays. In face of such an arena, those that want to succeed must be innovative. Leveraging on organizational knowledge and learning to create new knowledge and to demonstrate uniqueness in capability for innovations have become the critical strategic issue for organizations that capitialize on innovation. In recent years, many organizations have focused on KM and use it as an enabler for such capabilities. It is found that if knowledge is managed well, organizations can leverage on their knowledge, internal and external, for creation of new knowledge and innovation. It thus helps them to create values to the organizations. Sony, Yahoo, Japan NASDAQ and Whirlpools are examples of corporations that have attained these through successful implementation of their KM initiatives.

In manufacturing industries, effective KM can help the production and operation functions to quickly find out the best process for producing products. Also, it can help design engineers to generate new designs in shorter periods of time. So innovative products with lower cost of production can be launched to markets more quickly and it can help companies to gain the edge in the competitions. Unfortunately, many companies that practiced KM failed. The failure of many KM programmes in these companies can be attributed to their lack of focus and their lack of understanding of their knowledge needs (Guptara, 2000). Should a company not know what knowledge it has and what knowledge is important, it is not only difficult but also risky for the company to implement the KM strategies. It may waste resource to develop tools or policy that the organization does not desire. At the end of day, capital and resource are spent, but no return is received. Then the KM strategies are totally failed.

As a result, one of the critical steps in the KM area is to conduct a knowledge audit. The definition of knowledge audit is defined by National Electronic Library for Health (2005) as a qualitative evaluation into an organization’s knowledge ‘health’. It provides an evidence based assessment of where the organization needs to focus its KM effort. Hence, the organization’s KM needs, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and risks are revealed for the implementation of KM. Liebowitz et al. (2002) stated that the objectives of knowledge audit is to know what knowledge does the company has, what knowledge is missing, who needs this knowledge and how will they use the knowledge so as to solve the targeted business problem.

Although a wide variety of approaches have been proposed in conducting knowledge audit with varying levels of coverage and details (Debenham and Clark, 1994; Wiig, 1995; Frappaolo and Koupoulos, 2000; Hylton, 2002a and 2002b; Liebowitz et al, 2002; Tiwana, 2002), there is lack of systematic approach for knowledge audit and the practice varies with different industries and companies. In this paper, a systematic knowledge audit approach is presented and its trial implementation in a selected reference site is also discussed.

2. A Framework For The Systematic Knowledge Audit

Figure 1 shows the framework of systematic knowledge audit. Basically, it is composed of eight phases which include orientation and background study, KM readiness assessment, conduct survey and interview for evidence collection, building knowledge inventory, knowledge mapping, audit result analysis, knowledge audit reporting and continuous-based knowledge re-auditing, respectively.






















Figure 1: A Schematic Diagram Of Structured Knowledge Audit

2.1. Orientation And Background Study

The aim of this stage is to have an overall understanding of the organization to be audited and to define the organization’s KM goals in order to customize the knowledge audit program. The organization has to fill in an “Organization Brief” and sit for a buy-in meeting. A core KM project team is formed and mutual agreement on KM audit scope is sought in the meeting. The expected deliverable for this stage is a knowledge audit plan which provides the details of the audit, the scope and a set of customized knowledge audit tools. Some background information related to the audit should be also collected such as the organization chart, workflow, information and communication technology infrastructure, etc.

2.2. KM Readiness Assessment

After conducting the orientation and background study, it comes to the second part of the knowledge audit which is KM readiness assessment. The aim of conducting KM readiness assessment is to measure the readiness of the organization for KM implementation. It also aims at studying the appreciation of their culture towards the issue of knowledge sharing, management motivation, communication preferences, organizational learning ability, the culture, and related organizational barriers. The assessment is in the form of a simple questionnaire survey for individual employees to fill in. The output of the stage is a report on the readiness, culture and strategic alignment of the organization for KM. For example, Rampersad (2002) developed a KM quick scan questionnaire which can be used to get a general understanding on the KM status, the culture and the learning capability of the organization in order to facilitate further customization of knowledge audit tool for the other stages.

2.3. Conduct Survey And Interview For Evidence Collection

Based on the results of the KM readiness assessment, people are then selected to have a face-to-face interview. The aim of conducting face-to-face interview is to collect more detailed and qualitative information that can not be covered in the survey questions. It is done in three rounds. Common approaches taken to collect the information include questionnaire-based surveys, interviews and focused group or a combination of them. In asking people about knowledge needs, it is important to provide a point of focus as ‘knowledge’ can be seen as being quite conceptual and therefore difficult to articulate. To get around this, and to ensure that companies are concentrating on critical knowledge, it is better to invite people to critically think about their goals and objectives, the core processes, activities and decisions that they perform in the course of their day-to-day work. People should be asked to consider their main problems and challenges, and how might faster access to better knowledge help them in that regard.

2.3.1. Pilot Interview

In order to verify the level of clarity, accuracy and applicability of the questions and amount of time spent on the questionnaires, a pilot study is undertaken before dispatching the questionnaires to the target respondents. In the pilot interview, a small number of interviewees are invited to participate. The pilot interview aims at checking whether those questions could find out what is required and whether the method or approach to be used is suitable or not. It is not unusual that the first set of questions would be too general or too difficult for the interviewees who do not have any background in KM to understand. Thus, some questions are refined to make them more specific and some guidance questions or scenarios are used to make them easy to be understood.

2.3.2. Detailed Face-to-face Interview

Now, it comes to start the interview to collect information. However, the interview questions may not always be followed straightly, it depends on the process flow described, job responsibility, position and experience of the interviewees, etc. Sometimes it is necessary to be more flexible to respond to interviewees’ answers in order to obtain more relevant information. In this round, the interview time is longer which is about an hour.

2.3.3. Follow Up Interview (only carry out if necessary)

Some information collected during interview may not be clear enough or some information is missing leading to difficulty for analysis. Hence, follow up interview is conducted. Particular interviewees are traced back for the follow up interview. It is relatively simple and short as compared to the detailed interview.

2.4. Building Knowledge Inventory

A knowledge inventory is a kind of stock-take to identify and locate knowledge assets or resources throughout the organization. It involves counting and categorizing the organization’s explicit and tacit knowledge.

      In the case of explicit knowledge, this includes things such as:

      What knowledge we have (numbers, types and categories of documents, databases, libraries, intranet websites, links and subscriptions to external resources, etc)?

      Where the knowledge is (locations in the organization, and in its various systems)?

      Organization and access – how are knowledge resources organized, How easy is it for people to find and access them?

      Purpose, relevance and ‘quality’- Why do these resources exist? How relevant and appropriate are they for that purpose? Are they of good ‘quality’ (e.g. up-to-date, reliable, evidence-based, etc)?

      Is knowledge actually being used? By whom? How often? What for?

In the case of tacit knowledge, the inventory focuses on people and look at things such as:

      Who we have (numbers and categories of people)?

      Where they are (locations in departments, teams and buildings)?

      What they do (job levels and types)?

      What they know (academic and professional qualifications, core knowledge and experience)?

      How do they make decision?

      What they are learning (on the job training, learning and development)?

The knowledge inventory gives a snapshot of organizational knowledge assets or resources. By comparing the inventory with the earlier analysis of knowledge needs, gaps could be identified in the organization’s knowledge. Large volume of qualitative information was collected after the interview. A systematic method is used to manipulate the information. Knowledge inventory is constructed to categorize knowledge assets. Knowledge inventory taking is recording and categorizing of knowledge that exist in the company. This includes types of knowledge, explicit or tacit, where different knowledge is stored and what knowledge is used when, where, and by whom. Table 1 shows a template of knowledge inventory.

2.5. Knowledge Mapping

A knowledge map is a visual representation of an organization’s knowledge. There are two common approaches for knowledge mapping. The first simply maps knowledge resources and assets and shows what knowledge exists in the organization and where it can be found. The second also includes knowledge flow and shows how the knowledge moves around the organization from where it is to where it is needed. Clearly, the second approach provides the most complete picture for the knowledge auditor. However, the first one is also useful. In some organizations, it is made available to all staff so as to help them to locate the knowledge they need.

Task No

Purpose/decision making

Knowledge Item (symbol)

Knowledge Source

Communication Media

E (explicit)

/I (implicit)

Document needed (if explicit)




















Table 1: Template Of Knowledge Inventory

The information in knowledge inventory is quite similar to that in the knowledge map, but the latter could also visualize the relationship between knowledge and people in the organization. It helps to trace for the problem area. Figure 2 shows how to transfer knowledge inventory into knowledge map by knowledge mapping. As the knowledge map is created, the following can be identified:

      Who is the busiest person in the organization?

      Any duplication of work

      The distance between the user and the knowledge source

      People isolated from the network, etc.

To have a good interpretation on the knowledge map, interviewees’ opinions, comments and explanation are very important. For example, if a person is far away from the knowledge source, problem may exist at that area but it is difficult to explain why. The reasoning for the different phenomena found on the map must be explored by seeking explanations from the interviewees concerned.

2.6. Audit Result Analysis

An analysis of knowledge flow looks at how knowledge moves around the organization – from where it is to where it is needed. In other words, how do people find the knowledge they need, and how do they share the knowledge they have? The knowledge flow analysis looks at both explicit and tacit knowledge, and at people, processes and systems.

The focus in this stage is on people such as their attitudes towards, habits and behaviors, concern and skills in knowledge sharing and use. In terms of the knowledge processes, the auditors need to look at how people go about their daily activities and how knowledge is sought, shared and used are part of those activities. In most organizations, there are chunks of good KM practice. The current policies and practices that may affect the flows and use of information and knowledge are also considered. For example, are there any existing policies on practices such as information handling, record management, and web publishing? Are there other wider policies and practices that act as enablers or barriers to good KM practice?

In the system point of view, some assessment is needed to evaluate the key capabilities that are used in any recommended actions or solutions. This includes the technical infrastructure, information technology systems, content management, accessibility, ease of use, and current levels of use. In summary, it evaluates what extent do the KM systems effectively facilitate the knowledge processes and help to connect people with the knowledge and other people they need to access.
















Figure 2: Graphical Illustration Of Knowledge Mapping

The analysis of knowledge flow also allows people to further identify gaps in their organization’s knowledge and areas of improvement. It also highlights examples of good practice that can be built on, as well as blockages and barriers to knowledge flow and effectiveness in their uses. It shows where people need to focus their attention in their KM initiatives in order to get knowledge moving from where it is to where it is needed.

2.7. Knowledge Audit Reporting

The aim of knowledge audit reporting is to elicit recommendations, if any, that are to be made in the review of the existing KM strategy after conducting the knowledge audit. Having analyzed the information gathering from the knowledge audit, some innovative recommendations deemed beneficial to the KM initiative can be made. A complete knowledge audit report is produced based on the findings from the previous stages. The report outlines the existing status of knowledge assets, the knowledge maps, the effectiveness of the company in accomplishing the business processes, the knowledge gaps as well as the recommendations for the company to drive continuous improvement. The results form valuable information for strategic planning.

2.8. Continuous Knowledge Re-auditing

Knowledge re-auditing is usually conducted periodically in order to allow an organization to update any changes of the knowledge inventory, knowledge map, knowledge flow and the knowledge processes. It is also required to measure success, analyse the performance of the KM strategy and KM implementation in order to monitor and drive continuous improvement.

3. Case Study And Discussion

To realize the capability of the systematic knowledge audit approach, a case study was undertaken in a prestigious motor manufacturer named Johnson Electric (JE). Established in 1959, JE produces more than 2.5 million motors everyday and has a capacity of over 3 million motors a day (1 billion annually). The organization is structured into ten business units which are responsible for engineering activities.

Component Architecture Technology Database (CAT-D) is one of the KM systems designed with the aim to enhance design and development process. CAT-D is a KM tool employed to achieve KM goals such as effective and efficient knowledge sharing, acquisition, diffusion and creation, higher rate of innovation or new product creation, etc, in product design and development. CAT-D stores the performance specifications of all the product in the design and development cycle. The users of CAT-D not only acquire knowledge in CAT-D but also perform simulation to estimate the performance of the motor design and this facilitates the knowledge generation process. Any simulation results are then retained in the CAT-D for future reuse.

CAT-D is designed to provide the right knowledge to the right person at the right time. To shorten the design and development cycle time, the management of JE is interested to better understand the effectiveness of CAT-D for supporting the knowledge work in JE. As a result, A systematic knowledge audit was conducted in JE to stock take the tacit and explicit knowledge inventory, verify and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of knowledge in CAT-D and to examine how they could be better leveraged in the organization.

The first step of study was an analysis of the process flow for CAT-D. The current system was analyzed to identify the existing information/knowledge in CAT-D. Secondly, a survey was conducted to investigate extent that staff are satisfied with the use of CAT-D, the organizational learning ability, the culture, and organization barriers in organizational learning. Hence, face to face interview was conducted so as to collect detail information about engineer’s jobs, knowledge distribution and their knowledge network. Knowing what knowledge engineers needed helps in the construction of knowledge inventory and knowledge map. After that, it came to process analysis and knowledge network analysis. As a result, some recommendations were made according to the findings. A summary of each stage of the knowledge audit is shown in Table 2.

3.1. Background Study

A team of system engineers was responsible for designing the CAT-D which is one of the KM tools that facilitate product design and development process as shown in Figure 3. The CAT-D is used to manage the knowledge processes of finding, capturing, creating, storing, organizing, retrieving, using, sharing and reusing product knowledge. It enables JE to create new knowledge that is then stored in CAT-D for sharing.


Information collected


Background study


        Operation flow of using CAT-D—CAT-D user guide

        Functional structure of CAT-D

        Summary of the relationship between parameters—motor theory

        Organizational structure

        Product information etc.

        Streamlines the interview process


KM readiness assessment

        Statistic figures reflecting the organization culture and level of satisfaction with CAT-D

        Give a very brief study about the organization culture for analysis and making recommendation

Conduct Face to Face Interview

        Information about the knowledge source, location, people’s relationship etc.

        Help further analysis, gap identification and construct knowledge inventory and may


        Knowledge gap


        Knowledge culture etc.


        Identify knowledge gap, missing knowledge and provide information for suggestion making.

Table 2: The Summary Of Each Stage Of Knowledge Audit


















Figure 3: The Process Of Design And Development Cycle

Some background information was collected which include basic knowledge about the motor products in JE, its organization structure, operation and motor design theory. The product overview leaflet and related documents were collected according to the categories and series of motor products in JE. The information about the application of the particular model of motor and parameters for motor performance measurement was also studied. Another aim of the background study is to find out the existing knowledge in CAT-D.

The audit was conducted to investigate if the knowledge in CAT-D can be efficiently shared. It covered the system and people issues in the analysis. For example, the system issues included the evaluation of the performance of CAT-D for retrieving and sharing knowledge effectively. Some example questions related to the system of KM tool are given as follows:

      Can engineers search for the motor they want from CAT-D?

      Can they select the suitable motor easily after searching the motor information from CAT-D?

      Can the component information and performance information in CAT-D help them to design motor?

The questions relating to people issues and their readiness for KM implementation are:

      Are people ready for KM implementation?

      Is there any people issue leading to inefficient knowledge share in CAT-D?

      Do they have the habit of knowledge sharing?

      How do they share knowledge in JE?

      Do they support knowledge sharing?

      Do they understand the benefit of sharing knowledge?

After the analysis of the audit result, KM strategies were proposed to JE.

3.2. KM Readiness Assessment

After considering the background study, the KM readiness assessment survey was conducted. The aim of the survey is to measure the organization’s readiness for KM implementation and the appreciation of its culture towards the issue of knowledge sharing, management of motivation, communication preferences, organizational learning ability, the culture, and related organizational barriers. Some questions were tailor-made to measure how well the CAT-D served as a knowledge sharing and creating tool in the organization.

The first part of the questionnaire contained 13 multiple-choice questions. It included four fields of questions as shown in Table 3. For each question, there have five choices of answer (See Table 4). The questions were designed to measure the user’s impression about CAT-D especially on the knowledge sharing and creating point of view. They were used for determining the awareness of knowledge sharing among the organization through observing their ways of doing jobs. The questions also measured how the staff members were ready for KM. If they are reluctant to sharing knowledge or do not understand the benefit of knowledge sharing, it may induce great barrier for the company to implement KM.

It is important to know whether the top level management support and encourage knowledge sharing in the organization. It is an effective driving force for the implementation of KM. The support from management also shows the ambition of company to implement KM. Knowing the communication practices of staff helps the promotion and planning of KM strategies in the future. It also shows the knowledge sharing culture in JE.

The second part of survey was optional open-ended questions which allowed the respondents to give detail comment and addition suggestions for the improvement of CAT-D. According to their comments or suggestions provided, face-to-face interview would be conducted for following up. Open questions have the advantages that more accurate feedback could be obtained since the statistics figures collected in the multiple choice sections may be misleading.

(I)                  User satisfaction with CATD

CATD is a user-friendly system to spread knowledge among colleagues.

Different information in CATD is available and helps carrying out different tasks.

CATD is used for gaining new knowledge for me to do my job.

CATD is well designed for storing and retrieving necessary data for future reference.

(II) Organization culture

I have to keep up-to-date information in CATD.

We share our new ideas and approaches with other people and get their comments.

We can access other database and get required data easily.

We often try to bring in idea from other organizations.

(III) Support from higher level management

My supervisor encourages us to use CATD to share information.

There are training scheduled by management for me to learn new things.

(IV) Preferences of media for communication

Electronic communication is a necessary and efficient way to share our ideas.

Face to face communication is the most effective way to carry out my work.

Table 3: Field (I) User Satisfaction With CAT-D


1 Strongly disagree/ Never

2 Disagree/ Rarely

3 Neutral/

4 Agree/ Often

5 Strongly agree/ Always

Table 4: Choice Of Answer

3.3 Conduct Face-to-face Interview

After the KM readiness assessment survey, people were selected to participate in the face-to-face interview. The aim of conducting a face-to-face interview is to understand the process of product design and development cycle and the tasks of the interviewees within the process. Selected interviewees then participated in the pilot interview for checking whether those questions could find out what was required and whether the method or approach was suitable. Then the detailed interviews were conducted to collect information. Since some information collected during the interview may not be clear enough or some information was missing thus making their analysis difficult. To solve the problem, a follow-up interview had to be conducted for particular interviewees to clear the doubt or to acquire the missing information.



Job description

          Can you describe the process flow of your tasks, especially for the ones related to CAT-D system?

To have a better understanding about the background of interviewee can smooth the process of interview. The answer also helps to know what the role of CAT-D system is to the interviewee.

Information/Knowledge required for using CAT-D

        What information/knowledge is required when searching motor in CAT-D? (When will you use this function?)

        Search by performance/ components/ etc. why?

        How to make decision? (search by what/ parameter/each entity/etc)

        What knowledge is required when inputting data in CAT-D? (When will you use this function?)

        What knowledge is required when operating simulation in CAT-D?

CAT-D is designed for enabling engineers to finish their tasks in a more efficient way in order to save the time and resources. To function well, engineers should familiar with using CAT-D. But much knowledge is required when using CAT-D, if we know what they need in the process; we can help them to locate the knowledge in shorter time and share that knowledge with other engineers so as the further shorten their project cycle time and reduced cost by reusing resources. According to the study of CAT-D system at the beginning, the questions will be related to search function, simulation function, and data input function.

          Where can you get this knowledge/information? (Knowledge source)

Knowing the knowledge source helps to make recommendations and planning in later part.

          What is the format of the information/knowledge?

It helps to identify tacit and explicit knowledge.

Knowledge distributed by face to face communication most likely is tacit knowledge.

Knowledge stored as document is always explicit knowledge.

Changing tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is one of the tasks in this project.

Existing and missing Information/Knowledge in CAT-D that currently used

     What is your purpose of using CAT-D?


     What information/knowledge do you always gain from CAT-D?

It aims to identify the useful knowledge in CAT-D from the existing knowledge in CAT-D. It helps to structure knowledge in CAT-D later.

     How often do you use this knowledge? Why?

In some cases, although the information is useful to them, they do not willing to search for it through CAT-D because CAT-D is not well designed for knowledge sharing. The reasons may provide information for improve CAT-D system.

     What important performance information/knowledge that can not be found in CAT-D system?

It provides valuable information for improving and enriching CAT-D system.

Information/Knowledge produced during the process

       How these information help to finish your task or make decision?

       What new knowledge is created?

This information helps categorizing the knowledge.

Knowledge created by the interviewee may be useful to other colleagues. So, it is important to know what knowledge is created.

Knowledge sharing culture in the organization

     Is this knowledge useful to your team?

     How it is shared/reused/stored later on?

If the knowledge is useful to their team, they may already have a habit of sharing knowledge. Their habit of sharing knowledge helps to design a good KM tool.

     Which person do you regularly interact with?

This information is for constructing knowledge map and inventory

Table 5: The Purpose Of Questions Asked

From the face-to-face interview, it was found that the CAT-D had four main functions which include data Input, search, simulation and motor performance analysis. These functions are designed to provide the useful knowledge in CAT-D to the right users and at the same time, it accelerates the rate of knowledge creation. How the user used those functions provided by CAT-D to facilitate their tasks in the product design and development cycle is one of the aims of the interview. This information could be useful for creating knowledge inventory and knowledge map for further analysis. So it enables the formulation of new KM strategies to improve the organization. Table 5 shows the questions asked in the interview and the purpose of asking them. Large amount of qualitative information was collected during face-to-face interview. To present the findings in a systematical way, knowledge inventory and knowledge map were used.

3.4. Knowledge Inventory and Knowledge Mapping

As shown in Figure 3, knowledge inventory was used to record the knowledge need for motor design and development work. It started from a study of the customer requirement to customer approval before production. Knowledge assets used in the process were recorded into knowledge inventory as shown in Table 6. That means all the knowledge acquired by the staff for completing the above tasks were identified and recorded. The knowledge inventory shows what knowledge the staff needed to make decision in each task and where they could find the knowledge and how they could find that knowledge.

























1.      The knowledge customer column was not shown on the knowledge inventory because all users of those knowledge assets were engineers. So the knowledge inventory was different from ordinary one.

2.      For those knowledge acquired from particular documents or systems, which were taken into account explicit knowledge. The communication media were blanked in these items

3.      For those implicit knowledge, most of them were experiences and skills, so the “document needed” were blanked.

4.      COE is Center of Excellence which is a team containing experts from different areas.


Table 6: Knowledge Inventory For CAT-D








The knowledge inventory items were mapped into a knowledge map (see Figure 4) which shows the relationships between people and knowledge inventory. Knowledge map acts as an overall picture of the knowledge organization. The knowledge map only shows the knowledge acquired by engineers. In this knowledge audit, the findings mainly related to the system and the human issues. Since it was not a system audit, the CAT-D was only measured from KM perspective. Figure 5 shows how the KM requirements were converted into system requirements. As the CAT-D is designed to support knowledge processes in design and development cycle, it is a tool to facilitate distributing relevant knowledge to the right user at right time in order to streamline the process flow. Moreover, it could also encourage the creation of new knowledge while new motor designs could be completed in a shorter period of time.






























Figure 4: Knowledge Map Of The CAT-D
















Figure 5: Articulation Of The Performance Of CAT-D With The Knowledge Processes

Figure 5 shows that the performance of system search function, ease of use and simulation function were closely linked to the knowledge processes such as knowledge acquisition, knowledge diffusion and knowledge creation. Thus, CAT-D was measured on its capability to facilitate the knowledge processes and therefore achieving the goal that the right person could get the right knowledge at right time and create new knowledge. People are one of the important components of KM since creating, sharing and using knowledge is something that is done by people. System helps to enable and facilitate KM, but it needs people to use it at the end. Figure 6 shows the relationship between human factors and CAT-D. These factors include culture, belief and understanding.







Figure 6: Relationship Between Human And CAT-D

3.5. Results And Discussion

The knowledge audit provided a better understanding for JE in how the tasks and activities were performed by business units, sections, and departments of the organization for the creation of knowledge in motor design and development. The knowledge audit helped the company to identify the impact of knowledge creation, transfer and sharing. Communication, cultural, and political issues are the key factors of the success of knowledge management. In addition, it helped to identify what critical knowledge, how it to be captured, and determined the most efficient and effective methods to store, facilitate access to and to transfer knowledge.

The results of the readiness assessment survey showed that the culture of the JE was basically ready for KM. The users were satisfied with the CAT-D. There was still much room for enhancing the awareness of the users on the importance of knowledge sharing and maintaining updated knowledge and the motivation for new knowledge creation. It would be able to change this culture in JE through education, training, promotion or change management. The functions of the CAT-D could be further enhanced so as to make CAT-D a more efficient KM platform for facilitating knowledge sharing, knowledge retention and knowledge creation in product design and development.

4. Conclusion

To achieve successful KM, a knowledge audit is vital to investigate an organization’s knowledge ‘health’. The knowledge audit provides an evidence based assessment of where the organization needs to focus its KM effort. It can reveal the organization’s KM needs, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and risks. As many methodologies of knowledge audit suggested in most of the previous research were very general and aimed at company-wide uses, it may not be appropriate for companies for use for particular process. In this paper, a systematic knowledge audit approach is proposed. It is composed of a number of stages which include orientation and background study, KM readiness assessment, survey and interview for evidence collection, building knowledge inventory, knowledge mapping, audit result analysis, knowledge audit reporting and continuous-based knowledge re-auditing.

In the present study, the focus is on the establishment of the overall framework and tools for knowledge audit to be performed on a range of critical functions in an organization. The gap between the knowledge required for core competence strategies is also derived and the knowledge that is actually possessed in a company are identified and bridged for the company strategies to be successfully implemented. The capability of the proposed approach is demonstrated through a case study undertaken in a motor manufacturing company. It is found that the systematic knowledge audit approach can help the company to identify the critical knowledge and subsequent recommendations can be derived for better managing the knowledge in motor design and manufacturing.


The authors would like to express their sincere thanks to the Research Committee of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University for the financial support of the research work (Project Code: A-PE48). Many thanks are also due to Miss Chan Yat Man, Caroline for her technical support of the research work.


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Meet the Authors:

Dr Benny C.F. Cheung is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is also an Adjunct Professor of the Harbin Institute of Technology Shenzhen Graduate School. His research interests in knowledge management include knowledge audit, taxonomy, knowledge management strategy, artificial intelligence in KM and intellectual capital management.

Contact: Dr Cheung Chi Fai, Associate Professor, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong; Tel: (852)27667905; Fax:: (852) 23625267; Email:

Mr. K.C. Ko is a Senior Vice President of Component & Services Group of Johnson Electric. He is responsible for component manufacturing and providing tooling, machine, and service to the rest of the group. He is also a Candidate of Engineering Doctorate Degree of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests include Knowledge Management, Learning Organization, Technology Innovation and Management

Contact: Mr. Ko Kam Chin, Senior Vice President, Johnson Electric Group, 6-22 Dai Shun Street, Tai Po Industrial Estate, Tai Po, New Territories, Hong Kong ; Main Phone No. : (852) 2663 6688; Fax: (852) 2897 2054; Email:

Dr. K.F. Chu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests are varied and include Manufacturing Management and Strategy, Technology and Knowledge Management, and Cultural and Human Factors in Industry. At present, he is involved in research related to the knowledge management based approach to strategic planning in manufacturing industry.

Contact: Dr Chu Ka Fu, Assistant Professor , Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong; Tel: (852)2766498; Fax: (852) 23625267; Email: Email:

Professor W.B. Lee is the Chair Professor and Head of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Director of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Microsoft Enterprise Systems Centre (MESC). His KM research interests in knowledge management include KM Strategy, knowledge audit and organisational learning.

Contact: Professor Lee Wing Bun, Chair Professor and Head, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong; Tel: (852)27666594; Fax: (852) 23659248; Email: