Venture Knowledgist Quality Integration
INTERACTIVE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FOR QUALITY MANAGEMENT AND QUALITY ASSURANCE
Quality management and quality assurance in any organization are directly based on business knowledge and information and essentially related to the tacit knowledge of people within the organization and its business community. In existing organizational quality management implementations, explicit information aspects, especially documentation and records, are overly emphasized and tacit knowledge almost ignored. Real challenge to all organizations is to get tacit/explicit knowledge conversion happen effectively in organizations’ business systems through collaboration and organizational learning. Traditional information technology does not help in this process. Beneficial development and results may be achieved by using the interactive technology of Web 2.0 and social media. This is particularly challenging for small organizations, networked organizations, and businesses in developing countries.
In addition to the proper theoretical bases, this paper considers as practical examples interactive surveys and self-assessments for acquiring relevant business information and knowledge, and a knowledge work environment that is useful e.g. for business-integrated quality management, process management, and innovative quality assurance.
Successful management of organizations is based on right business related knowledge and management skills to be used effectively and efficiently for the current and anticipated business needs.
Quality is not any separate issue from the organizations’ business responsibilities. Quality integration implies professional quality practices that are integrated seamlessly within normal business management activities. Quality integration includes Quality Management (QM) and Quality Assurance (QA) that become practical and effective business management procedures through sound guiding ideas and principles, effective methods and tools, and innovative infrastructure solutions. 
Quality integration covers all subject areas of the ISO 9000 standards and performance excellence models (quality awards criteria). Also the topics of many other specialized management areas, e.g. environmental management, safety/security management, risk management, social responsibility, information security management, etc. are typical sub-domains of quality integration.
Recognized standard definitions of quality, QM and QA emphasize that those concepts are inherently business information and knowledge related.
According to the ISO 9000 standards , QM equals coordinated activities to direct and control an organization with regard to quality. Direction and control includes establishment of the policy and objectives, planning, control, assurance and improvement. Thus, QM is a business management issue, in fact, quality of management.
Figure 1. QM is an organization-internal business management issue and QA a communication issue between the organization and its stakeholders, especially customers.
ISO 9000 standards understand QA as a part of QM (figure 1) focused on providing confidence among an organization’s stakeholders that quality requirements will be fulfilled. QA is in practice a communication issue .
Continuous organizational and personal learning are prerequisites for the quality of management and for a sustainable business success in organizations.
Leadership refers to organizations’ leading persons' ability to influence and direct the performance of organization's people towards the organizational goals. Systematic leadership is being exercised formally and informally throughout the organization. This includes structures and mechanisms for decision-making, selection and development of leaders and managers, reinforcement of values, ethical behavior, business strategies, and achievements of the performance needs and expectations.
Many business leaders are not necessarily well prepared or committed in their special responsibilities in today's complex business environments. Although they may consult with experts to consider specialized questions they can't delegate their managerial responsibility and accountability, e.g. in the fields of finance, statutory regulations, quality, information security, social responsibility, human resource management, etc.
Continuous and efficient exchange of information is a necessity between organization and its stakeholders, including customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, business partners, and the great public. In today's business environments, both number and variety of stakeholders has increased, and communication between them has increased, intensified, diversified, and accelerated due to global communication networks and services. This applies to all types of organizations including business companies, public civil service organizations, and even third sector not-for-profit organizations.
Organizations that prosper are those that most effectively benefit from social collaboration networks for their management to foster and further develop competitive business advantages.
2. Quality management as management of business knowledge and information
The well-known eight QM principles of the ISO 9000 standardization – customer focus, leadership, involvement of people, process approach, system approach to management, continual improvement, factual approach to decision making, and mutually beneficial supplier relationships – emphasize the importance of information and knowledge in QM. These principles are fundamental truths and propositions that serve as the foundation for a system of belief and behavior, and for a chain of reasoning for all professional QM approaches in organizations.
Also the recognized performance excellence models, e.g. the Malcolm Baldrige model and EFQM model, are based on very similar fundamental core values and concepts as the ISO 9000 standards .
The QM principles require considering (researching, measuring, analyzing, and defining) needs and expectations and assessing their fulfillments. The principles require also evaluations of the business process and people performance and related risks. All these aspects are strongly information and knowledge related.
Most essential part of the QM according to the QM principles include:
- Communicating and discussing
- Sharing knowledge and pooling experience
- Training and learning
- Providing confidence
These things are not only about recording and documenting the information but mainly related with the tacit/implicit knowledge among the people within the organization and its business communities consisting of customers, owners, employees, supplies, financiers, local communities, and society as a whole and even including also organizations’ competitors.
Consequently, the core essence of the QM is the management of business information and knowledge that should be understood in a broad sense.
3. A comprehensive approach to the business information and knowledge
In general, the business related information and knowledge consist of explicit and implicit (tacit) knowledge. The most significant part is the tacit knowledge (figure 2). 
Figure 2.Business-related explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge
A problem in existing QM approaches is that explicit information, especially documentation and records, is overly emphasized and tacit knowledge almost ignored.
Tacit knowledge is enhanced and regenerated through learning. Learning in a business-management context refers to new knowledge and skills acquired for business managing activities. Learning includes personal and organizational learning. Learning is seamlessly a part of regular daily work that is practiced at personal, business process, business unit, and corporate levels by solving problems, focusing on building and sharing knowledge throughout the organization and among its stakeholders, and striving for advantages of opportunities to effect significant and meaningful strategic and operational changes.
Typically management learning in organizations is based on training by traditional or e-learning means. Investments in these solutions have not proved very effective.  Only basic skills may be learned through traditional training and education means. Furthermore, responsible business people are very busy and they have not enough time to attend comprehensive training and education programs and they are not very interested to use e-learning systems.
Effective learning requires application of new learning theories like connectivity, interactivity, and sharing knowledge. Factually 80% of learning takes place by informal learning. [2, 11]
On-the-job learning offers a cost-effective way to link learning to the organizational needs and priorities. Learning in organizations is directed not only toward better products but also towards more responsive, adaptive, innovative, and efficient business processes for gaining organization's marketplace success sustainability and performance advantages, and giving business leaders' and employees' satisfaction and motivation to excel.
Management and leadership skills are needed everywhere and at different levels in organizations. This includes board of directors, CEO and executives, strategic business areas, headquarter functions, supporting functions, business processes, projects, teams, and individuals (self-management). Management/leadership awareness around the organization is an essential topic for realizing management and leadership skills in practical organizational cases. This also includes understanding good management (= QM) practices and their application.
Awareness may be defined very simply: Having knowledge of management and leadership.  However, what is the meaning of this is not at all any simple thing. Awareness is a profound totality of physical, psychological, and philosophical aspects of sensations, perceptions, ideas, attitudes, and feelings related to an individual or a group having knowledge of the abstract and comprehensive subject of good management at any given time or within a given time span. It may be recognized different depth-levels of awareness and intellectual behavior in learning.
Leadership emphasizes business leaders' personal and human aspects in conducting business resources and actions, and is based on managers' inherent understanding, knowledge and behaviors. A great challenge is to combine explicit and tacit knowledge in all managerial business decisions (figure 3), and to get knowledge moved among individuals within the whole organization between different actors and from tacit domain to explicit domain and also vice versa. Working collaboratively and using intellectual capacity of the whole organization are targets for business benefits.
A well-known theoretical foundation for considering the development of the organizational knowledge is a process for knowledge transformation from tacit to explicit and vice verse. This process consists of the following phases: Socialization - Externalization - Combination - Internalization (SECI) of the knowledge (figure 4). Managing a SECI process is a key issue in organizations appreciating and enhancing intellectual and social capital. 
Figure 3.Organization's business situations are composed of facts in business processes. Management's decisions and interventions are based on information from these facts combined with management's previous information and tacit knowledge (understanding). Managerial knowledge develops mainly through collaborate learning. ("Ba" is a Japanese name for knowledge creating and learning environment)
Figure 4.SECI process for explicit/tacit knowledge conversion
4. Interactive technology
Tacit/explicit knowledge conversions happen effectively and efficiently in practice in organizations through collaboration and organizational learning. Traditional documentation practices, formal training and education programs/activities, or information technology may not much help in this process. 
Practices for documentation for managing an organization have developed from passive and separate documents to dynamic and flexible systems for leveraging usage of information and knowledge in collaborative group work. Old solutions that are still used in organizations include:
- Loose and fragmented paper documents
- Copied or printed manuals, procedure documents, record reports, and certificates
- Fragmented documents in information technology (IT) systems
- Structured or semi-structured IT systems or intranets with variable share of Office and HTML documents
In order to manage the situation more efficiently organizations have invested in IT solutions. However, the development and use of these solutions have been problematic. IT applications with data sources, systems, and applications located throughout the organization have often made the jobs of people more complex and difficult rather than simplified their work. 
Corporate-wide IT systems are often complex and designed for a specific purpose and function, so the IT experts or departments are required to deploy the different and often unrelated applications and modules to fill the information and processing needs of the entire organization. A lot of training is needed for employees to learn how to effectively use such a complex suite of applications to complete their assigned responsibilities.
Corporate intranets were originally designed and implemented to meet the needs for shared information. Using the intranet, employees are able to access corporate information using web browser to find forms, open applications to perform their jobs, and review a customer's project status, and for many other activities. The intranet solution provides navigation to different enterprise systems and documents. As intranet sites grew larger, a new set of problems created due to chaotic situations with information access, knowledge sharing, and security.
Key challenges and problems of corporate intranets relate to the following issues:
- Employees need to make more informed and consistent decisions.
- Employees are required to complete more activities online.
- Intranet sites contain thousands of pages and continue to grow. Intranet pages must be continually updated.
- Employees must access information from multiple sources.
- Navigation through the intranet becomes difficult.
- Information security must be managed.
There are doubts about real benefits of the many existing business intranet solutions. Nevertheless, all these solutions have been used poorly for the purposes of QM and QA.
Effective use of modern information technology may give also completely new possibilities especially strengthening applications in the area of tacit knowledge and the SECI process. There are new solutions especially in two categories:
- Collaborative learning/group work and social networking infrastructures
Portal is a modern solution for organizations and seen as a solution to chaotic information situations. Portal is a single, Web-based interface into the heterogeneous and incompatible information and knowledge sources distributed across the telecommunication network. For QM and QA, a portal may offer a cutting-edge gateway to quality-related business reality for enhancing quality awareness, improved use of expertise, performance management and stakeholder confidence. A portal provides real time services for QM and QA to the members of an organization as well as to its partners.
Portals have general features that are beneficial for knowledge-based activities including:
- A consistent view of the relevant business community
- Information organizing and searching capabilities
- Direct access to knowledge and resources
- Direct links to data and knowledge experts
- Individual identity, and personalized and secured access to information contents
Negative point is that portals are very expensive in investments and maintenance and therefore suitable primarily for big organizations with knowledgeable IT experts and IT departments.
Modern Web-operated social networking applications (Web 2.0 ) are simple, easy to use and cheap (or free of charge) solutions of disruptive IT (“Interactive Technology”) innovations.  These solutions have a wide variety of QM and QA related uses such as personal management, collaborative learning, carrying out cooperative projects, and supporting collaboration in networked business environments among business stakeholders. Web 2.0 applications are particularly useful for small organizations, in organizations operating in networks, and businesses in developing countries.
The main strengths of Web 2.0 applications include customizable group systems that allow many groups to work simultaneously on sharing individual knowledge and to create new mutual knowledge.
5. Practical examples
Practical examples are considered here from two areas of business activities that are interesting from the professional quality approaches’ point of view:
- Information and knowledge acquisitions by using interactive surveys technology
- Collaborative cooperation for knowledge-working by using Web 2.0 social media technology
5.1 An advanced interactive tool for surveys and self-assessments, "ZEF"
Surveys, questionnaires, evaluations, etc. are essential activities in all QM realizations. They are needed for both operational and strategic management purposes. They may cover large organizational entities as a whole or they may be focused on detailed aspects only (figure 5).
Different evaluations are significant parts of the organizational development. Key aspects of beneficial evaluation approaches are the appropriateness of questioning phraseology and the technique to collect answers, opinions, responses, etc. from the target audience. Especially the questioning technique and tools have remarkable influence on the answering easiness and results.
Figure 5. Possible business surveys and assessments
An advanced questioning methodology is, however, more than only collecting information. It functions as a media between specialists and other parties. By means of an effective surveying tool a specialist can communicate his/her area of expertise that might be difficult to others to understand, and receive valuable information as a feedback. The tacit knowledge of different parties becomes visible (ref. the SECI process). Within organizational environments, this comes into question when a professional expertise is used in communication with the management, personnel, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.
ZEF evaluation methodology was originally developed in Finland at Oulu University as Z-scored Electronic Feedback (= ZEF) tool. Effectiveness of its evaluation structure (figure 6) was validated by University of Lapland. Commercial ZEF solution is the product of Oulu, Finland based company ZEF Solutions Inc. 
Figure 6. Possible assessment results in the ZEF methodology
The ZEF is a universal tool for all kinds of surveys, questionnaires, assessments, researches, etc. for all expert-disciplines including QM. ZEF has proved to be superior as an evaluation tool because of its effectiveness, and its graphic and interactive user interface.
ZEF is web-based evaluation solution operating as a SaaS (Software as a Service) application. It is a software tool with which one may collect and evaluate information effectively and efficiently from even a big group of people. The visual appearance is easy and interesting to use. E.g. in Finland ZEF tool has been used by hundreds thousands of ordinary citizens in several cases of general societal interest.
Evaluation made by the ZEF tool includes the following process phases:
- Construct your questions e.g. on the two-dimensional matrix or use customized templates.
- Send an e-mail invitation to your target group to take part in the survey on the Internet.
- Follow up the progress of the survey in real time and send reminders to the participants when required.
- Get graphical reports that present average and variation of the individual answers. Also verbal comments, explanations, questions, etc. may be obtained from the responders.
As an example ZEF tool may be used for an effective organizational self-assessment. An organization's 3-in-1  performance self-assessment brings together three viewpoints:
- QM standards such as ISO 9000
- Excellence performance models, e.g. Malcolm Baldrige and the EFQM models
- The organization's business system
When the interactive ZEF evaluation tool is used in a self-assessment, it makes the activity easy and fast to perform and is also easily adaptable to the organization's special business assessments and measurements. The evaluation model is easily customizable for different organizational situations. For organizations’ initial assessment there is a simple evaluation model 3-in-1 Start, from which the organization can continue to more comprehensive and detailed assessments.
ZEF self-assessment methodology has also modified to health care by using the guide document CEN/TS 15224. There are also applications for the information security management based on the standards ISO/IEC 27001 and 27002.
An interesting example of using ZEF methodology was an international study carried out by the standardization ISO/TC176 to get information on the significance of time, speed and agility and other related aspects in organizations' businesses and how the ISO 9000 standards and some other QM references support those aspects. 
In ZEF methodology, the detailed business information is obtained from the raw data through statistical treatments. All individual respondent answers to the query items in the ZEF evaluations are recorded as separate data pieces that are then used for statistical analyses:
- The basic ZEF report presents the means and standard deviations of all respondents’ answers per query items (figure 7).
- The result data may be arranged according Z-score transformation to a normalized form that is useful when seeking to compare the relative standings of items from distributions with different means and standard deviations.
- Answers from respondents may be grouped in arbitrary way or presented as individual answers.
- Results of different ZEF evaluations, e.g. from different points in time, may be compared by using ZEF’s “comparison engine” function.
- Raw data of evaluations may be presented in the formats of Excel (.xls) or "Comma-separated values" (.cvs) in order to facilitate the use of more sophisticated statistical tools, e.g. SPSS, for data analyses.
Figure 7. Example of the assessment items and results of the ZEF 3-in-1 assessment
5.2 A collaborative Knowledge Work Environment of the Web 2.0 social media technology, "Dicole"
A Knowledge Work Environment (KWE) of this example is to facilitate knowledge-intensive collaboration in particular in modern networked business situations. It is based on the social software and Web 2.0 technology. This approach may also be referred as the Real Time Ecosystem. Also traditional QM systems may be seen in a modern way as business ecosystems.
KWE's principal aim is to improve effectiveness and efficiency of work in organizations and business processes. Management is an important application area of the KWE. The KWE supports an organization's managerial activities and enables organization to operate in and benefit from the modern communication and facilities and services.
The practical solution of the KWE, as described here, is the product “Dicole” (Discover-Collaborate-Learn) of Dicole Inc., a Helsinki based Finnish company.  The Dicole KWE is a collection of open-source software components integrated as a comprehensive business-working environment.
Realization of the Dicole KWE is based on disruptive innovations as server-based software system that is used by a group of users over the Internet through a standard web-browser according to the SaaS principle. Factually the KWE is more like a landscape, which utilizes the global network for the benefit of the knowledge workers.
The KWE is based on the fact that nowadays all employees and particularly executives and managers are in all organizations knowledge workers in one way or another. Knowledge workers use their intellect and social networks to convert their ideas into useful outcomes in their working processes (ref. the SECI process).
The KWE leads knowledge workers into work areas, where they work in collaboration to learn by building new knowledge. They have also all relevant explicit information easily available through related document files. The toolset that is available for use at work areas is meant to improve internal and external communication for knowledge working in teams.
The three basic tools of KWE include networking facilitator, blog, and wiki. Many people and organizations have already used these kinds of tools via public media services but in the KWE they have been integrated as a comprehensive knowledge-working platform that is dedicated only for an organization-internal or its business-network use. Using these tools consistently may provide support for both tacit and explicit organizational knowledge.
Other tools that may be easily integrated with a KWE include information aggregator, email, Skype, calendar, virtual meeting, and organization's existing legacy IT systems.
The networking facilitator of the KWE consists of professional and personal information profiles of the participating people.
Blogs of the participating individuals provide ideas for the collaborative knowledge building from which crystallized knowledge is created as iterative documents (wiki) (figure 8). Also automatic information aggregator-feedings from the interesting Internet sources may be useful. The method of reflecting on experience (blogs) and building knowledge models (wiki) produce results that can be blogged further to other groups or individuals.
Figure 8. Tools and their usage in KWE: Knowledge "raw material" for group conversations is got via participants' blogging and automatic aggregation-feedings. Resulting new group-knowledge is published in wiki and further shared e.g. in organization's information blogs.
Blogs operate as users’ online news site. The latest blog entry is the topmost and the earliest entry is in the end. Each entry has a title, release date, author, set of subjects or categories, hypertext content, ability to link to other websites or blogs, and comments that are relevant in the context of a blog entry. The most important feature of a blog for knowledge work and collaborative learning is that it provides a place for observation and reflection from experiences in a social context. The idea is to make one's reflections visible to others, thus making ideas visible in an organization to cultivate their growth into new ventures. Blogging is the most prominent tool for knowledge work and learning knowledge for work skills.
Aggregator is a tool that enables to combine a set of sources like news, blogs, commentary, announcements etc. into a single unified place. It is like a newsletter from multiple sources. Aggregator syndicates information feeds that are machine-readable versions of information sources using techniques like RSS (Real Simple Solicitation).
Wiki is a tool for collaborative document writing where people work together on various documents, which are hyperlinked to other pages within the KWE or in Internet. Wikis grow through these hyperlinks, as new links are added to the existing pages. Each wiki page has a version history of edits making the iterative nature of wiki editing visible. It is possible to rollback into earlier versions or simply just see, what changes other users have made to a single document. Wikis operate as organizational memory and a way to capture knowledge assets in more easily manageable environment. In fact, all organizations and their operational domains, e.g. business processes, are like wikis, with information that is shaping under labels like "Strategic management", "New product development process", and "Customer service".
Social media solutions are continuously enhancing and provide solutions for organizations and business communities. New possibilities are:
- Micro (e.g. Twitter), audio, and video blogging
- Mashup: Website or application that combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience
- Tagging: Visual depiction of content tags used on a website
- Facebook: Social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them
The SaaS applications are just a starting point to much more extensive cloud computing possibilities that have already got interest in many business cases.
The Dicole KWE includes versatile possibilities for system settings and maintenance, and for user statistics. It has also detailed procedures for managing access rights. It is possible to provide access rights to various areas in the system for visibility, read, create, modify, and remove information. Compared to the typical public blogs and wikis, user groups in the KWE can separate their own work area from other work areas and control the authentication of external parties for access to their own information. In this way blogs and wikis are safe also for business critical communication.
The Dicole KWE is used via a web-browser with a secure protocol, HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer). Browser cookie authentication method can be tweaked to terminate user session based on idle timeout and immediate cookie termination in cases where the browser is closed. For increased security, VPN (Virtual Private Network) and network-based access rules may be created. Some users want the software to be installed on their own servers for increased security and control, but in most cases this is not more secure than outsourcing the service through SaaS of the trusted operators and administrators who are specialized in securing KWE for business purposes.
A KWE may provide unlimited possibilities for QM and QA. Strategic management is one of organizations' significant business processes and a remarkable application area of a KWE. It is also most important area of the business-integrated QM. Strategic management is to strive for enhancing overall business performance of an organization for better competitiveness and success. It consists particularly of organizational performance improvement and change management. However, simultaneously also organization's current business results should be ensured as a whole as planned. Strategic management is strongly a knowledge-based collaborative and innovative activity where typically organization's board of directors, executing managers, selected experts, personnel representatives, and stakeholders' representatives are being involved. Strategic collaborative learning is a significant prerequisite for organization's sustainable success. Figure 9 shows the KWE tools that are available at the user interface of the system for collaborative strategic management.
Figure 9. KWE tools at users' system-interface represent virtual space for organization's strategic management process (virtual board room, "war-room").
The KWE is useful in all kinds of networked collaborative knowledge-intensive cooperation, group work, and on-the-job learning. Especially benefits are obvious in cases where participants are geographically scattered and where arranging synchronous meetings is difficult. An individual may easily contribute via the KWE to many simultaneously active groups, which is a typical situation for individuals in business organizations.
Typical cases where the KWE approach has proved useful in practice include:
- Corporate-internal expert groups, e.g. product designers, human resource people, quality managers, and maintenance people
- Project groups
- Process teams
- Organizations' supplier or customer networks, e.g. for QA purposes 
- Benchmarking clubs of different organizations
- Collaborating business-clusters
- Networked SME's, e.g. small cooperating consulting or expert companies
- Networked learning in educational institutes
All these KWE applications are significant also from the QM’s point of view.
A good organizational management (quality management) may be best summarized with a triple PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) approach that includes:
- Control to achieve required results
- Continual performance improvement (“Kaizen”)
- Breakthrough change management
All these activities are needed simultaneously for a proper business management. Although different managerial practices are used in their P, D, C, and A steps they all extensively encompass information and knowledge aspects.
Control and continual improvement emphasize factual data and rational actions although also certain managerial and collaborative knowledge are needed. Breakthrough transformations predominantly require new knowledge, learning and creative actions.
Quality assurance consists essentially of communications between an organization and its stakeholders based on both explicit and tacit knowledge.
For both QM and QA, we have unlimited and still much not-yet-invented possibilities to be attained by utilizing new disruptive information acquisition and social media technologies. In this development we are still in a beginning stage.