Enterprise Software

Book review: Knowledge Management Strategies

Are you considering a knowledge management project? <I>Knowledge Management Strategies</I>, a book from Microsoft Press, explores how several businesses approached knowledge management and details how you can benefit from their experience.

Knowledge management is one of the current industry buzzwords we hear so much about—everybody's doing it, or wants to do it, or thinks their company should be doing it. Ask any three technology professionals to define it, and you'll likely get three different answers.

Undeniably, though, digital technology is changing the very foundations of how business is conducted today and how it will be conducted tomorrow. Three fundamental elements of all businesses—the relationships between businesses and their customers, information flow between workers and departments within businesses, and business processes themselves—are undergoing transformation at light speed.

By Jerry HoneycuttMicrosoft Press, July 2000288 pagesISBN: 0735607249Price: $27.95 at fatbrain.com
Bill Gates, in his book Business @ the Speed of Thought, writes: "How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose....The winners will be the ones who develop world-class Digital Nervous Systems so that information can easily flow through their companies for maximum and constant learning."

In Knowledge Management Strategies, Jerry Honeycutt lays it out for IT decision makers. An easy and informative read, it provides an information foundation for company CIOs, CTOs, and CEOs. (I call them the "Os".)

Not designed as a technical how-to book, Knowledge Management Strategies uses real-world examples of knowledge management implementations at a diverse collection of companies, including Snapper Power Equipment, HarperCollins Publishers, British Petroleum, and California Pizza Kitchens.

Only eight chapters long, the book connects each company's challenges to a detailed solution. As you read, you can be sure you will experience a "Dilbert moment" or two as parallels to your own organizational challenges are revealed.

Each of these companies had needs that its current technology couldn't resolve. In fact, in many of the companies profiled, the technologies they were using were actually an impediment to growth and success. A common thread among all of the companies was the implementation of "islands of technology," systems (and the people operating them) that couldn't and wouldn't talk to each other.

The book shows you how each company went from technology that was an impediment to technology that was an enhancement. The technical solutions presented are Microsoft-centric, as you might expect.

But there is nothing wrong with that. Microsoft has some amazing and useful tools available today. The problem is most "Os" don't know what these tools and technologies can do. That's where the best and most useful part of the book comes into play: the appendix and glossary.

Nearly a quarter of the book is devoted to clear, simple explanations of what's out there. Read just this part of the book, and you'll be talking the talk like an expert. The book should stay within easy reach as a reference and acronym bible for the duration of your project.

This book won't tell you everything you need to know to effectively implement the perfect knowledge management solution. It's a tool to map the minefields you'll be dancing through as you try to move your company towards accepting a radical shift in company strategies.

Cultural barriers within organizations are the main impediment to the success of any project. The first challenge will be breaking down those barriers.

The author's suggestion is simple: Reward positive behavior, not negative behavior. This is diametrically opposed to popular theory that suggests rewarding failure to encourage employees to take risks. The implementation of a knowledge management system is about leadership, culture, and behavior.

Should you go out and buy this book? Absolutely. Even if you're not one of the "Os," everyone who works in a business today needs to understand how new technology, properly planned and implemented, can put you ahead of the competition. Isn't that the whole point of business?

Don Justice is a trainer with Panurgy.

Based on the reviewer’s assertion that three IT professionals will give you three definitions of knowledge management, what does it mean to you, and how have you used it in your business? Send us an e-mail or post your comments.

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