Knowledge Portal

What is a Knowledge Portal?

There is often much confusion between the terms ‘information portal’ and ‘knowledge portal’.

An information portal is often described as a gateway to codified and digital information, normally held in documents and databases, to enable the user to have one, more simplified way of navigating towards the desired information. Normally the information is structured and planned (it is not spontaneous).

However a ‘knowledge portal’ is far more than an information portal. A knowledge portal builds on an information portal. If information represents the providers knowledge, made external and explicit to communicate to others in a structured way, it remains as information until the seeker/reader processes it, (the learning process) and integrates it into the seekers tact knowledge. (in the head)

Why use a Knowledge Portal?

A knowledge portal speeds up this process of learning, and a knowledge portal facilitates more effective transfer between tacit and explicit knowledge forms. A knowledge portal, as well as containing structured information, contains knowledge networks and communities, discussion forums and collaborative workspaces, to better encourage, surface and transfer a more 'spontaneous' exchange of tacit knowledge.

A knowledge portal, also, normally contains an 'expert locator' - a sort of 'Who's Who' directory to help people find and connect with experts.

A good knowledge portal is 'knowledge asset centric'. That is to say, it is designed for knowledge workers to easily locate and work on the key knowledge assets within the key knowledge areas of the organization.

A knowledge portal supports the key strategic question that knowledge driven organizations must ask:

'What are the key areas of knowledge, and what are our key knowledge assets, that if we managed them better, would make a big difference to achieving our objectives?

When to use a Knowledge Portal?

When the organization makes the realization, and wants to make the transition, from being just information driven to becoming knowledge driven and, importantly, knowledge led, it requires a knowledge portal to support that strategy.


In explaining the principle of becoming knowledge asset driven, supported by an effective knowledge portal, consider the example of a Container Port in Asia that achieved world class excellence over 25 years in container logistics.

They could load/unload container ships more effectively than most competitors. They proudly implemented better knowledge management activities by developing a knowledge portal that was designed around automating the processes of container logistics. Knowledge working certainly improved as a result.

But the senior management found it difficult to sleep. Mainland China was copying the container logistics processes and was able to offer the same services at almost half the price.

A knowledge management consultant assisted the senior management by asking ‘What areas of knowledge, if you really could manage them better, would make a big difference to achieving your vision and objectives in five years time?’  The answer came from the senior management immediately. ‘World Class logistics is a given discipline, and we must continue to strive to provide these services as best we can. But what we really need to know, during the next five years, starting now, is:

Why our customers will want to continue to use containers? 

What will our customers put in them?

Who will our customers be?

How must we engage with our customers?

The management agreed. 'We need to develop customer knowledge as our key strategic knowledge area for the future. Only then can we survive and grow. Our customers contain the key knowledge and that will be our key asset for the future. This is the knowledge recipe for our future’.

 The knowledge portal was immediately redesigned around customer knowledge assets and, immediately, all the knowledge workers were focusing, developing and navigating the portal to produce and apply customer knowledge, as a first priority.

The mentality became ‘what can we learn from our customers, our key stakeholders?’ Secondly, logistics processes were continually improved. The organisation, by identifying and prioritizing its key knowledge assets required during the next five years, developed a customer focused knowledge management strategy, to transform from being logistics led into becoming a ‘customer knowledge’ led service.

The knowledge portal acted as a catalyst, supported and facilitated the transition for the organization to become customer knowledge led.

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