KM past and future: Solutions for a changing world

This article appears in the issue January 2009, [Vol 18, Issue 1]
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Despite today’s economic difficulties, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the KM industry. Many functions it supports will continue to be needed, perhaps more than ever. Compliance requirements are not going to disappear, and KM provides solutions for managing, in a consistent and cost-effective way, information that is subject to compliance. Likewise, the need to create, acquire, store, organize, search, filter and visualize information for business purposes will only increase in coming years. Scientific and technological goals such as development of alternative energy will be more easily achieved in the context of well-managed information sources and a diverse set of collaboration options. Increasingly, social software and Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis and social networking solutions are facilitating collaboration via the Internet.

Compliance and governance

KM will continue to be a mainstay for governance and compliance because enterprise content management (EMC) and records management (RM) are essential for those functions. Solutions are emerging also for managing compliance rules.

"Compliance mandates are continuing to come fast and furiously," says David Hurwitz, VP of product marketing for the Governance Group at CA . "However, there is a lot of overlap between the different regulations, so they are most efficiently managed through a centralized system."

CA’s GRC Manager, a solution for governance, risk and compliance, is deployed either on premises or on demand. "It manages the cost and work of compliance, which can be both labor-intensive and expensive," Hurwitz says. The Unified Compliance Framework serves as the foundation providing the compliance rules for the solution, and companies can also add their own retention and control policies.

"Failure is not an option when it comes to compliance," Hurwitz adds, "but the process has to be handled in a sustainable fashion."

ECM solutions are also being aimed at compliance in specific verticals. Open Text, for example, has a compliance solution for management of change (MOC) in refineries and chemical plants. The Open Text Livelink ECM – MOC solution combines content management with process management to ensure that events taking place during the change are transparent and auditable. The system incorporates knowledge from subject matter experts in the chemical and petrochemical environment. Typically, a wide range of documents are involved in MOC, including manuals, e-mails and CAD drawings, which are stored in a central repository.

Content plus connections

Dow Jones Factiva, a part of the Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group, is a content aggregator that brings together business information from 25,000 sources in 160 countries. In the past year, it has expanded its perspective to incorporate licensed content, multimedia components such as videos and podcasts, and most recently, blogs.

"We provide numerous tools around this content," says Brigitte Ricou-Bellan, director of product management, Dow Jones Factiva, "including a deep taxonomy, powerful discovery and text mining." The users of Dow Jones Factiva are primarily researchers and knowledge workers.
Also under the Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group umbrella is Dow Jones Business Relationship and Intelligence (BRI), featuring Dow Jones g2, which allows users to move beyond the information they discover into making connections with relevant individuals. Such connections are vital for sales forces trying to respond to a news item and pursue a potential lead.

"G2 allows users to see clear path relationship maps—through work, personal, board and school affiliations, plus integrated Outlook, LinkedIn and other contact systems—showing the individual user and their entire organizations how they connect to other companies and executives," says Rob White, executive director, product management for Dow Jones Business and Relationship Intelligence. "You can start with a reference to information, such as a press release on venture funding at a certain company, and within 10 minutes, find out if someone in your company knows someone there."

Social KM

The growth trajectory of social software, which emerged just within the past few years, will continue. IBM has made a major commitment in that area with the inauguration of its Center for Social Software, set up to conduct research on social software. One of the applications being used is Beehive, a social networking site developed for IBM employees to help connect with co-workers. About 40,000 employees use it, and the Center for Social Software is studying it to gain a better understanding of how applications can expand virally. The intent of Beehive is to provide a Facebook-like environment, geared more toward professional interaction—although personal interaction is also a legitimate part of the experience.

Users can develop their profiles and post information, including a "Hive Five" listing that describes the areas about which they are passionate. "The site lets people highlight their accomplishments," says Irene Greif, director of the Center for Social Software, "and connect with people with whom they share interests."

Some individuals who might not otherwise interact as extensively with co-workers are participating actively. "People who are at their computers a lot are, as you would expect, heavier users of Beehive," adds Greif, "so it opens up another avenue for this group of individuals. In addition, junior staffers have an opportunity to get better known."

Some observers have questioned whether social networking is effective or desirable within a corporate setting. However, now that many Web 2.0 products are able to scale to the enterprise and address security and other concerns, the speed and flexibility of forming and maintaining contacts is likely to offer much promise for work environments.

"When you put social networking in a suit," says Michael Dortch, senior analyst at Aberdeen Group, "it changes the face of business collaboration." Prior to the adoption of social networking, collaboration often seemed impersonal and artificial. Adding a face and personality to the names of co-workers and business partners can go a long way toward supporting productive interaction.

Visualization

Visualization is a powerful way of presenting information in a meaningful way and making it more comprehensible. It plays a strong role in helping Factiva users sort through and understand the large volume of information at their disposal, through Factiva Discovery Technologies. For example, articles on a particular topic can be shown along a timeline that reflects the number of documents published on each day. Clustering of results helps show trends at a glance, and company names in a set of documents can be displayed in a way that graphically shows the frequency of references.

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