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Knowledge management in the millennium.

For many IT professionals, knowledge management, often referred to as KM, is perhaps one of the most confusing and challenging technologies to implement and derive a clear ROI from. Several years ago many KM projects were thought to be failures, and even today many C-level executives are reluctant to support KM initiatives. The primary reason for their failure was that KM transcends the world of technology into the realm of organizational development (OD) and industrial psychology--areas that IT professionals are not accustomed to dealing with and/or facilitating. However, they are paramount in any KM initiative and are woven into the fabric of many business processes. Aside from technology, the key issue of getting people to participate, collaborate and share information in KM projects, is still a significant challenge for many organizations.

One of the most commonly asked questions during if/line of business manager and vendor meetings these days goes along these lines: "You guys do great document/knowledge management and collaboration, hut how are you going to help me get all of these employees to join a community of interest/best practice, to collaborate and to share their secrets?" This indeed presents a significant dilemma to both if and LOB managers, because you can't just throw technology at people and expect them to change the way they work and use technology, suddenly participating in KM initiatives, which in many cases have no clear benefit to them.

In the early 1980s Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, identified the seminal issue that impacts nearly all KM initiatives; he defined KM as 90% people, politics processes, and organizational culture. If your organization dictates a culture of non-information sharing (this usually emanates from the top), you will encounter significant barriers to implementing KM, especially collaboration. But what really is KM? Most industry pundits have done an excellent job of confusing the market, and envision elaborate KM systems that are in many ways science fiction. In fact, the real irony here is that most of these analyst groups have not implemented a KM system themselves.

In an effort to understand what KM means to customers, I visited and interviewed more than 50 of our customers over the past year. What we discovered was quite simplistic and surprising: most customers think that if they have document management (DM) and information retrieval (IR) systems in place they are doing KM. They believe that they are indeed capturing their most significant organizational intellectual assets. In contrast, law firms appear to be on the bleeding edge of KM, as many mandated DM systems years ago and understand the value of these systems and how to leverage tacit and explicit information. They are now employing highly sophisticated KM systems for con ducting collaborative e-Commerce, web crawlers to push information to portals and PDAs, and are deploying B2C portals to keep their clients up to date on their cases.

According to analysts, less than 50% of all organizations worldwide currently have an enterprise-wide information management, document, record management system. This is changing rapidly as organizations realize how vital the management of business content--email, documents, records, policies, procedures and other digital assets--is to core business processes. Aside from law firms, one of the fastest KM growth sectors are state, federal and local government agencies, primarily because of the electronic information act. However, change was not rapid enough to prevent the INS service from sending out an approved visa for a terrorist who blew up the World Trade Center six months after the heinous mission was completed. Another key issue that is driving KM systems and B2E portals is the virtual workforce and the decentralized nature of most organizations. Delivering relevant information, whether it's simply policies and procedures on how to run a retail outlet or instant access to HR information, is often vital to the virtual workforce.

Key Business Drivers for Knowledge Management in the Enterprise

* Transforming traditional business processes to e-Business.

* Empowering the virtual workforce.

* Increasing overall organizational competitiveness, and competitive intelligence.

* Increasing organizational and individual productivity by delivering relevant information anywhere, anytime and on any device.

* Facilitating collaboration, which leads to innovation of business processes, ultimately increasing organizational productivity and competitiveness.

* Customer relationship management-mandates that you look at all information about the customer, structured and unstructured.

* Communities of interest-brings people together with similar jobs and tasks.

* Best practices systems encourage business process excellence and innovation.

* Expert systems leverage thought leaders and expert experience throughout the organization.

We view KM as a suite of enabling technologies, with the foundation usually being a document, content or record management-centric enterprise information system that is seamlessly integrated with information retrieval technology.

Depicted in the graphic below are the five building blocks of KM. which in some leading-edge organizations are viewed as the core components of an enterprise information management system (EIMS).

The emergence of the B2E enterprise portal market has injected new life into the KM market and stimulated tremendous interest in its core enabling technologies, which are depicted in the tables herein. B2E portals are a key enabling technology for enhancing the KM interface, while at the same time aggregating appropriate applications, content and information into a single, easy to use graphical user environment. The majority of B2E enterprise information portals being implemented today have an enterprise information systems' back end that provides the user with easy access to document, record and content management systems. Organizations should view B2E portals as evolving platforms with many components that will provide gateways into information sources relevant to business process, in addition to facilitating eLearning and eMentoring.

Taxonomy, classification and the indexing of information sources is still a bleeding-edge technology, and there are a number of new startup companies that are promising automation. However, most of these systems still require a significant degree of manual interaction on a regular basis. Once a taxonomy, or nomenclature, is established within an organization, it should be viewed as a living organism; some new technologies that have just entered the market will alert the organization about new areas that need to be added to the system.

KM technologies that are of the most interest to many companies are expert systems, communities of interest and best practice. These technologies are often built into a B2E portal system enabling the organization to leverage tacit intellectual capital across the enterprise. An expert system is just what it sounds like, a live information source, and/or database that quickly enables the user to identify and easily interact with the thought leaders and experts in particular areas.

Communities of interest and best practice are vital components of advanced KM systems that allow employees to share their work experience with others--and in the best of all worlds share on the job secrets, and how they generally get their jobs done. These advanced KM components are much more difficult to deploy and require active participation of the community along with a leader or manager who oversees the interaction. When most successful, they are applied to a specific business process and the experience in building and maintaining them is leveraged in other business units. In the best of all worlds these systems can increase overall business unit and individual productivity and lead to business innovation. Innovation can significantly improve productivity and increase competitive advantage.

These systems are complex and can include a variety of enabling technologies including B2E portals, collaborative environments, structured databases, instant messaging, sophisticated search algorithms for finding and profiling experts and thought leaders and threaded discussion groups.

In summary, knowledge management is back in vogue and the return on investment is clearer than ever. The preceding graphic depicts a KM value chain, where information is organized and managed, accessed, discovered and explored to facilitate action and collaboration. At the heart of any successful KM system, however, is an enterprise information management system, which delivers on this vision by encompassing a wide array of enabling technologies that can securely and effectively deliver vital information to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and on any device. These enabling technologies include enterprise information portals, knowledge management, information retrieval and search, document/content management, collaborative computing, workflow/business process management and business intelligence. The market, however, is strewn with a myriad of products and is perhaps one of the most confusing and chaotic in the industry.

Hummingbird Enterprise delivers no its mission by providing a business-critical suite of EIMS components enabling organizations to provide employees, partners, customers and suppliers with the ability to easily access, find, analyze, manage, and collaborate on enterprise content across a wide variety of formats, languages, and platforms. Before you build the portal or KM system to nowhere, where nobody can find anything, have an EIMS system in place and deliver on the promise of KM.
Key KM Enabling Technologies

B2E Enterprise              Provides a single point of access to all
Information Portal          relevant information and applications,
                            while also functioning as a gateway to
                            communities of interest, best practice,
                            etc. EIPs can also function as a platform
                            for knowledge networks.

Federated Search            The ability to search across all
                            organizational structured (databases) and
                            unstructured (documents, records, emails,
                            video & audio files, etc) information

Taxonomy, Classification    Indexing of information resources and
and Indexing of             establishment and/or automation of an
Information Sources         information taxonomy for industry-specific
                            or organizationally specific information.

Document/Information        Organization and archiving of documents,
Management Systems          emails files illustrations, policies,
                            procedures, records, audio files video
                            files, etc.

Collaborative E-Commerce    Enable organizations to easily create
Application Environments    virtual project team rooms, and/or
and/or Workspaces           communities of best practice by allowing
                            team members to collaboratively develop
                            and store documents, tasks and schedules
                            in a secure virtual environment.

Simultaneous Collaboration  Allow workgroups and project team members
                            to share information in real-time.


* Business Process Management and Community of Interest Building -- Facilitates best practices and community of interest building by leveraging an EIP front end with threaded discussion groups and collaborative technologies through an EIP.

* Intelligent Agents--Web crawlers, knowbots--Enable relevant information derived from automated searching to be pushed to the desktop or added to a repository.

* Network News & Threaded Discussion Groups -- One of the first technologies of the web to be employed as a KM system for sharing information on projects and topics. Can also serve as a key technology for facilitating e-mentoring.

* Chat/Instant Messaging -- A technology that evolved from Internet Relay Chat, enables real-time person-to-person interaction.

* Automated Community Building Software -- A new class of software that automatically builds communities of interest by profiling e-mail and documents.

* Visualization Software for Information Systems -- A new class of software that provides a more intuitive and easier interface for navigating information systems including web sites; this new way of viewing information can significantly enhance information discovery and access.

* Expert Systems -- Another new class of software that connects organizational experts with other members of the community by asking questions like "who knows about this?"
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Author:Auditore, Peter J.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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