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Making your way through the KM maze. (Cover Notes).

Enterprise Knowledge Portals by Heidi Collins

New York: AMACOM, 2003

ISBN: 0-8144-0708-0

430 pages

$35

If you're a corporate information worker, you've surely struggled with knowledge management and have tried to figure out the best ways to interface with customers. Can you really create an effective knowledge management program in your organization? What do you do with the information once you've collected it? The huge variety of products and packaged "solutions" can be baffling. How will you make your way through this maze of choices? How can you apply the latest developments to your business situation? The enterprise knowledge portal is a recent innovation designed to help out in many areas. In Enterprise Knowledge Portals, author Heidi Collins explains EKPs and talks about how you can incorporate them into your business.

As a portal technology expert, Collins is a great person to talk about EKPs. She has held executive positions in programming and systems engineering at several companies and is currently a knowledge officer at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. Collins tells what an EKP is, what it can do, how to create it, and how to keep it going.

EKPs first emerged in 2000 from the convergence of the many technologies employed by the corporate world. The EKP is generally a Web-based resource that allows access to a wide variety of information (hence the "portal" designation). Collins sees EKPs as the convergence of internal knowledge management and external customer service and sales. She stresses that the information available through the portal must be dynamically updated.

Collins recognizes that while it's a popular trend in the corporate world, knowledge management has not always succeeded nor has it been effectively used to share information beyond company personnel. She says that the EKP process is a way to systematically gather and disseminate this knowledge: "The enterprise portal concept is to create a 'window' that presents information to users and a 'door' that allows users to pass through to reach selected destinations and data sources." This portal is a new way to internally and externally share what we gather in our knowledge management process.

Enterprise Knowledge Portals begins with a brief introduction to knowledge management. Collins uses helpful graphics to give an overview, emphasizing the most important points to developing an EKP strategy. She then starts right in on why and how you should create an EKE You may face the following challenges: "Employees are asked to complete more activities online and store more information electronically; information is difficult to find, navigate, understand, and use; content, applications, and complexity of information continues to grow....

Collins stresses the importance of having clear goals and objectives throughout the process. She uses the case study example of My Company, a consulting firm that needs an EKP to help with both internal and external knowledge management. The first step is the participation of the "knowledge expert community." Meetings and questionnaires are used to gather data and form groups. Once this knowledge is mapped out, the EKP program itself can be outlined. The chapter on this topic includes sample charts and meeting agendas that can be used in the process.

Near the end of the book, Collins includes a chapter on financial metrics. Here she emphasizes the need to balance easily measurable costs against harder-to-quantify benefits like better frontline decision making and greater retention of expertise. In other words, sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

Another short chapter discusses the technical architecture of an EKP environment. According to Collins, the EKP fits into the various layers of corporate information technology somewhere between the company intranet and the layers of applications, systems, and integration services.

Enterprise Knowledge Portals focuses on planning and management, rather than the technical aspects of EKPs. However, this is not a book for beginners. It assumes that the reader knows quite a bit about technology, business planning, and how e-business is conducted. Collins jumps right into a discussion of portals and work processes, so the reader should be up on current business trends and management philosophies. Even with the many graphics, it's a sizable book containing a lot of text. Don't expect to whiz through it in an evening.

If you're actively engaged in corporate portal development or knowledge management, Enterprise Knowledge Portals is a useful guide. It's a handy tool that provides a step-by-step method for developing and maintaining your company's EKE Be ready for a lot of work, as it's a complex process.

Gwen M. Gregory is head of bibliographic services at Colorado College's Tutt Library. Her e-mail address is ggregory@coloradocollege.edu.
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Author:Gregory, Gwen M.
Publication:Information Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:763
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