At the heart of most knowledge management systems is a series of interconnected data management systems. As shown in Figure 5.5, these databases of information and knowledge are generally best managed by using contemporary data warehousing technologies. Data warehousing technology enables the information needed for effective support of decision making to be integrated into a searchable warehouse of knowledge (often via the use of data mining techniques).
The need for data warehousing technology is driven by the vast amounts of information typically required for effective knowledge management. Not all of this so-called “knowledge” is that sophisticated. Much of the “knowledge” in such systems is what is frequently referred to as “three-ring binder knowledge” consisting of items such as standard operating procedures manuals, employee resumes, troubleshooting guides, regulatory guidelines (such as tax laws), and corporate codes (such as codes of conduct or ethics). Other documentation might include memoranda and letters written by various people within the organization. These memoranda and letters are often the best documentation of problem resolution provided customers or clients.
Technology Insight 5.5
An alternative to groupware that relies on a server to store centralized data and programs is peer-to-peer computing, in which any computer can directly connect to any other computer over the World Wide Web. The popular music sharing software Napster was the first to exploit peer-to-peer networking (before it ran into legal trouble). Another popular application for peer-to-peer is instant messaging, which allows a direct network connection between any two or more computers to communicate instantaneously without going through an e-mail server.
Peer-to-peer can also be used for business applications such as groupware. One company, GrooveNetworks, has a test version of a peer-to-peer platform intended to support individual and small group interaction. In addition to individual communication and file sharing, there are several business applications that might be improved when built on this platform. The Groove Web site suggests that the product would fit within many business processes, including:
- Inventory control
- Exchanges and auctions
- Channel and partner relationship management
- Customer care and support
For example, the computer of a firm needing to order a product could poll various vendors’ systems and check inventory availability, select a vendor based on specified criteria (i.e., those
with favored credit status, or inexpensive goods, or local access), and update internal records to indicate when the items are expected to arrive. Clearly, these systems need to be very
reliable and highly secure to prevent malicious destruction or significant errors such as ordering more goods than are needed, or goods with less than desirable cost or quality.
Source: www.groove.net, April 2001.
Given the volume of document-driven knowledge included in such systems, it should be apparent that electronic document management technologies can greatly enhance the efficiency and usability of most knowledge management systems. The most prevalent problem with such systems, however, is finding the document that has the answer to your problem. Intelligent systems are increasingly being used to help with this dilemma.