Enterprise Software

The technology behind knowledge management

We asked several analysts what tools and approaches they recommend for implementing knowledge management. Here's what they told us.


Even with a knowledge management (KM) strategy in place, the choices faced by CIOs in selecting supporting KM technologies can be daunting. We asked several analysts about the technologies and vendors that companies can use for KM and some of the trends emerging in KM. Here’s what they told us.
This is the third installment in our three-part series on knowledge management. In our first article, "Knowledge management: A vital business practice for CIOs," we took a broad look at knowledge management (KM), and how CIOs should be involved in its implementation. In our second article, “Overcoming the obstacles to knowledge management implementation,” several analysts shared their strategies for dealing with impediments to KM and introducing the practice into your corporate culture.
Document management
Connie Moore, an IT industry analyst at Giga Information Group, sees document management as a KM companion to helping businesses keep better track of their company’s information.

Moore anticipates that companies will use document management to “manage content at more and more granular levels, meaning [through] smaller bits of knowledge,” Moore said.

"Instead of long documents that are hard to traverse, read, and find things in, you'll have more granular content that you can search across and update and read—rather than having to go through and totally change a document,” she said. "I think all the document management and content management vendors are working in that direction.” In terms of the best tools for document management, Moore favors Lotus as an industry leader for KM efforts and technologies.

"Microsoft has knowledge management initiatives, but I think that they're way behind Lotus on knowledge management,” Moore said. “Lotus has thought a lot about the people dynamics and organizational behavior in companies.”

More praise for Lotus
Evan Quinn, director of application strategies for Hurwitz Group, also favors Lotus. He believes businesses must approach KM from three areas:
  1. Through content management
  2. Through collaboration between areas of a company
  3. Through structured research

He also sees a convergence between some of the old document management companies and some of the online analytical processing and business intelligence companies. “On one hand, you might think of a company like Documentum, which has made a strong commitment to content management through their products,” he said.

“On the other side of the spectrum you have companies like Microstrategy , Accrue Software , and Vignette , which are helping companies dig into what’s happening and bring it all together,” Quinn said.

Successful companies will be able to cull the best strategies from each company and tie them together. But so far, that hasn’t happened.

"And, has anybody done it yet? I don't believe so,” said Quinn. “I think it's still in diapers."

Consolidation begs for KM
Greg Dyer, a senior research analyst at International Data Corporation, believes that as businesses consolidate, KM can help them stay connected and share information.

"If a guy's working on a project in Australia, the guy sitting in Florida can tap into the network and find out what the guy in Australia has been working on,” Dyer said. ”The way they do that is with intranets, but there's also portal technology, which is the big thing now and it's going to get bigger.”

Dyer compares that concept to individualized Yahoo! pages. Each would include e-mail as well as internal and external resources and would be tailored to each employee’s needs and responsibilities.

Like Quinn and Moore, Dyer also points to Lotus products, especially Raven, a knowledge management suite of tools, as good KM resources. Consulting firms, such as Andersen Consulting and McKinsey & Co., are also focusing on KM.

"And then you have some really small niche software companies that are focusing on KM,” Dyer said. “One is called Tacit Knowledge systems, which has a tool for managing e-mail. So there are big opportunities for the service side, such as consulting, but on the software side there's stuff coming out every week,” Dyer said. “It's just unbelievable."

Portal technology
Dave Yockleson, who tracks IT trends as senior vice president and director of META Group Inc., contends that portal technology has the greatest technological lead over other KM solutions.

“We're also finding that a majority of what were knowledge management efforts have morphed into enterprise portal efforts,” Yockleson said. "Implementing that technology on a broad scale is the next step.”

XML merges with KM
French Caldwell, an analyst with GartnerGroup, sees XML lending its capabilities to KM. So far, XML is mostly being used in some consumer-based customer-relationship management products as well as efforts that allow sales and marketing to share information quickly with product development in order to respond to changes in the marketplace.

It’s also turning up in some supply-chain management XML-based products, allowing companies and enterprises to work more closely and share content and context with their trading partners.

"But I also see XML working into XML-based workflow products,” Caldwell said. “So, if you have XML-based workflow, then you're starting to be able to build into the business some type of middleware business rules on how the content is going to be managed—and it's managed in a way that provides context for every piece of content. I predict we'll see more XML-based workflow products and a lot more automation of work processes within and internal to the enterprise.”
Do you use some of the products or vendors that we’ve mentioned here? Who do you recommend? Post a comment below or send us an e-mail.

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