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Knowledge Management - Carl Frappaolo - Book Review

1 April 2008
Dr. Moria Levy

I have delved into numerous books on knowledge management, categorizing them broadly into works by Key Thinkers who shape the discourse on knowledge management and works by Knowledge Doers—consultants or managers directly involved in implementing knowledge management in organizations, with a strong focus on practical applications. I choose my words carefully; Key Thinkers also perform, and Doers also think, yet the distinction is evident. Carl Frappaolo's "Knowledge Management," published in 2006, unequivocally falls into the category of Doers. If I were to christen the book, it would be titled "The Knowledge Management Handbook." This alignment is not accidental; the book, compact in physical dimensions, is part of the Express series, a collection of management books covering various complementary domains.

Functioning as a guide, the book incorporates a blend of theory, a touch of history, numerous references to prominent knowledge management thinkers, literature, websites, and periodicals, and even features a glossary of knowledge management terms. Frappaolo's prescribed approaches to knowledge management and several case studies featuring prominent organizations are woven into this fabric. This review aims to present Frappaolo's reflections that either rejuvenate, elucidate, or refine the concept of knowledge management. While I don't pledge agreement with every statement, they reflect the author's perspective. The review is structured as a compilation of contemplations, ranging from concise to more extensive, all contributing to an enriched comprehension of knowledge management.

Corporate value extends beyond the mere possession of knowledge; it hinges on a company's proactive and creative use of that knowledge. Knowledge serves as an asset, elevating market appreciation beyond mere valuation.

Information management vs. knowledge management: Information systems (traditional computer systems) respond to planned and anticipated stimuli, whereas knowledge management deals with the unplanned and unexpected, encompassing a broader scope.

Tools for managing overt and covert knowledge: Explicit knowledge finds efficient transmission through computing, while tacit knowledge is more effectively shared face-to-face. In between lies implicit knowledge—an intermediate stage allowing partial understanding and sharing of tacit knowledge.

Knowledge management requires dynamism: To navigate the dynamism of organizational innovation, knowledge management necessitates dynamic management. It adapts to organizational variations, differing across organizations and within groups.

Knowledge management relies on capabilities: It transcends reliance on historical experiences and products, thriving on building prospects by tapping into organizational capabilities.

Chain of knowledge: The uniqueness and longevity of organizations hinge on a four-link chain of knowledge:

  1. Internal awareness: Leveraging core competencies and skills.

  2. Internal response: Adapting inner awareness to changing demands.

  3. External response: Optimally adapting to market demands.

  4. External awareness: Understanding how the market perceives the organization's values and products, grasping customer needs, competitor dynamics, market trends, and other influential forces. Success arises not from excelling in one link but from the interconnected flow of knowledge.

Prototypes of knowledge management applications: The author identifies four prototypes of knowledge management applications in the book, whose combined implementation enhances effective decision-making and organizational innovation:

  1. Intermediation: Applications supporting the connection between people and knowledge, such as knowledge bases, communities, and portals.

  2. Externalization: Applications facilitating knowledge linkage to knowledge, exemplified by catalog systems or content organization.

  3. Internalization: Applications supporting knowledge linkage to queries, including search engines and portals.

  4. Cognition: Applications supporting the connection between knowledge and processes, involving lessons learned, decision trees, and portals. Some applications may implement multiple prototypes by definition or utilizing different application types.


Unquestionably, the portal is deemed the top killer application in knowledge management technologies, according to Frappaolo. It streamlines the connection of all components within a workspace, serving as a single access point for interfacing unstructured knowledge and information with structured data.


Cross-organizational vertical portals: Vortals, designed for populations with similar roles in different organizations, gained momentum and popularity as a knowledge management application. An Israeli example of a Vortal is a national safety portal, currently in advanced stages of construction as of June 2007 (ML).

Justifying knowledge management processes

CEOs and financial managers increasingly demand a demonstration of ROI (return on investment) for knowledge management processes. Justification for these inherently long-term and soft processes involves three key elements:

  1. Expectations: Managers define metrics or expected successes.

  2. Evaluation: A structured assessment of the organization's existing knowledge management and decisions on future aspirations.

  3. Define Critical Success Factors based on the two sections above.

Leading knowledge management in the organization

Frappaolo outlines categories of functionaries who, individually or collectively, can lead knowledge management in an organization. Each organization should assess which role or combination of roles is suitable for its context:

  1. Knowledge engineer: Holds a tactical and procedural role, translating visible knowledge into instructions, plans, and actions.

  2. Knowledge analyst: Collects, organizes, and disseminates knowledge, typically on demand.

  3. Knowledge Manager: An oversight role coordinating the efforts of other partners in leading knowledge management, often necessary in large organizations.

  4. CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer): A senior position holder responsible for leading the knowledge management process in the organization, recommended with a limited guarantee by the author.

  5. Knowledge Steward: Provides ongoing but minimal support for knowledge management activities in organizations without formal top-down knowledge management.

The paradox of knowledge management

If knowledge resides in people's heads, managing it seems challenging. Praaolo suggests that knowledge management encourages sharing and leveraging the knowledge base rather than dominating it. Knowledge is nurtured and developed rather than managed.

The paradox of content organization

Organizing content is crucial for providing employees access to information and knowledge. The challenge arises from knowledge providers knowing the answers rather than the questions. Content must be organized according to questions and categorized in ways knowledge seekers would search for content.

The importance of content

Integrated with business processes, content becomes highly valuable. It helps leverage the organizational knowledge base and guides decision-making processes. Content management systems can proactively push relevant content based on business scenarios or goals.

Knowledge management by e-learning: Effective e-learning integrates tacit and open knowledge for online teaching tailored to individual needs. Associating it with the training world demonstrates knowledge management at a high level.

Knowledge management success thanks to involvement: The engagement of all management entities, from senior to junior levels, is critical to implementing the organizational knowledge management plan.

Customer capital: Beyond customer loyalty, customer capital considers how well an organization understands its customers, their changing needs, and requirements. Understanding existing customers is as vital as acquiring new ones.

Knowledge management in small organizations: Despite having fewer partners, small organizations face similar challenges to large ones. They must lead and guide the knowledge management process to transform it into a practical application.

Ten steps to make knowledge management work

Frappaolo lists ten steps to ensure the success of a knowledge management initiative:

  1. Define a target audience.

  2. Define a strategy for managing knowledge and critical success factors focusing on profitability.

  3. Diagnose the state of existing knowledge management.

  4. Define ROI.

  5. Define a management structure for organizational knowledge.

  6. Identify and agree on core competencies.

  7. Leverage the inventory of existing knowledge sources.

  8. Decide on the quality of informal knowledge practices.

  9. Build a mature ecosystem that includes rewards.

  10. Provide infrastructure and means for continuous change and improvement of knowledge management.

Knowledge management is not a single solution but a way of life, and the reflections described unfold the spirit of this proposed way of life. As always, the review is separate from reading the original. Being a book by Doers, it is written in clear and straightforward English, making it easy to understand. Happy reading!

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