All of the capabilities of groupware, as discussed earlier in this chapter, are key to supporting knowledge management for organizations of virtually any size. Even the simplest components such as e-mail and document sharing are vital components. Add to these the capability of Electronic Document Management systems, and the information content of the electronically distributed messages vastly increases. Indeed, many people consider the roots of knowledge management to be in the development of Lotus Notes, a widely used groupware system specifically designed to facilitate sharing of documents, e-mail, and group communication. Technology Insight 5.5 describes a new approach to groupware that provides Notes-like capabilities anywhere on the Internet.
In many organizations, when an individual is faced with a problem and is unsure of the solution, he or she will post the problem to an electronic blackboard maintained by the groupware system. Other individuals in the organization who have the knowledge to resolve the issue will note the query on the blackboard and e-mail their suggested solution approach to the original individual posting the issue—hence, sharing their knowledge.
The document component becomes a means of making the process even more efficient by having individuals within the organization transfer documents detailing their resolution to a given problem to a central repository. As shown in Figure 5.5, the document is transmitted by the user through the groupware system and is transferred to the knowledge management system for storage.