The Tools and Technologies Needed for Knowledge Management

Article excerpt

As we move into the 21st century, the need for rapid access to relevant knowledge has never been greater. The business world is increasingly competitive, and the demand for innovative products and services has yet to be satisfied. Governments and private sector organizations alike struggle with the need to respond to customers whose level of sophistication and awareness grows every day.

A recent article in Business Week reminds us that "The Darwinian struggle of daily business will be won by the people -- and the organizations -- that adapt most successfully to the new world that is unfolding." In the same article, the 'author suggests that "Attributes that made them [corporations] ideal for the 20th century could cripple them in the 21st century" (Coy 2000). In this century of creativity and ideas, the most valuable resources available to any organization are human skills, expertise, and relationships. Knowledge management (KM) is about capitalizing on these precious assets.

About Knowledge Management

We have determined that knowledge and information are not the same thing. However, this may be a moot point when discussing the differences between the management of knowledge and the management of information. The real differences lie in what happens during the process. Records and information management (RIM) primarily focuses on finding work-related objects and moving them around, while KM concerns itself with finding and moving work objects as well as with how they are created and used. One other key distinction is that the means of creating, capturing, and communicating in KM is very broad while the focus in RIM tends to be on electronic and paper-based information.

We have also established that KM is a process, albeit with many different variations in definition. One information technology research and publishing company defines KM as a formal process that engages an organization's people, processes, and technology in a solution that captures knowledge and delivers it to the right people at the right time. Arthur Andersen defines KM as "the discipline of enabling individuals in an organization to collectively acquire, share, and leverage knowledge to achieve business objectives" (Dyer and Hobson 2000). Whatever the variations in definition, KM reflects a set of principles that recognize the enormous value that human resources bring to an organization.

In recent years, the benefit of leveraging knowledge has been commonly discussed at numerous conferences. So why do we still find it so difficult to apply? Leveraging knowledge effectively requires us to overcome hierarchies and build environments in which knowledge sharing and collaboration become a routine way of doing business. It also requires a technology infrastructure that encourages collaboration and facilitates knowledge capture and access. As technology continues to advance the potential capabilities and value of KM, records and information managers and knowledge managers need to begin harnessing those technologies in order to develop KM programs that will not be ignored.

Knowledge Management Software

The recently published report Knowledge Management Software Market Forecast and Analysis, 2000-2004 estimated that the total KM software market will reach $5.4 billion by 2004 (McDonough 2000). But what does this mean? What is included in the KM software market; why is this important? The KM software market might be considered in terms of two major categories: KM infrastructure tools and technologies and KM access software.

Because they recognize the broader potential of KM, these categories are ideally suited to ongoing discussion in The Information Management Journal. New tools and technologies will be introduced and discussed as they emerge, with some discussion about specific products.

KM Infrastructure: Tools and Technologies

Infrastructure provides the base or platform upon which KM solutions are built. …