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Community mulls emerging-market problems at two-day Camden summit

This article appears in the issue August 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 9]

Can KM's value be made clear to users?

Community mulls emerging-market problems at two-day Camden summit

Software vendors with products and development tools right for the knowledge management space joined with leading industry consultants, analysts and integrators at the KM Industry Leadership Summit to grapple with the thorny question of how to define the transformational results and values they can deliver to users.

The two-day gathering in Camden, ME, last month charted the course for the future of the KM community and served as an open forum for KM thought leaders, as well as naysayers who label KM a buzzword.

Fastwater (www.fastwater.com) analyst Bill Zoellick grabbed everyone's ears early by showing research that labels KM as a $2.5 billion "early market."

He pointed out, however, that the $2.5 billion (up from $2 billion in 1997) is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as a "$2.5 billion early market." What there is, he said, is an embryonic software and services market being pulled along in the slipstream of the intranet juggernaut. The problem is that the KM industry is being lulled into thinking it does not need to develop its own voice and create its own demand--that Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) and Lotus (www.lotus.com), who together dominate the intranet messaging space, will not leave much opportunity for very strong players to emerge.

Zoellick's research predicts about a 40% growth rate for true knowledge management software and services and divides it into enterprise and departmental applications. In the enterprise space, where cross-departmental knowledge share, cost savings and productivity are most important, Microsoft and Lotus are and remain poised to be the dominant players. For the department level, where cost savings, improved service and quality are leading goals, Dataware (www.dataware.com), Fulcrum (www.fulcrum.com) and Grapevine (www.grapevine.com) join the big two.

Zoellick also offered six Òhandles" for the knowledge management industry to define the space:

  • How do companies add value and deliver it? "It's not just access."
  • How does KM connect with the customer?
  • How do companies measure success?
  • What is the fundamental technology and architecture for a KM system?
  • What policies and practices shape knowledge management?
  • The industry needs to spend more time "owning" and "driving" the conversation.

Presenting Delphi Group (www.delphigroup.com) research, analyst Nathaniel Palmer said the question is not whether there's a KM market, but whether vendors are ready for it.

Choosing a much smaller $90 million market figure--representing only the sales of KM-labeled software and not services and other system components--Palmer and Zoellick agreed that a $5 billion market in five years is feasible. A key to getting there, according to Palmer, is "you need to talk to buyers" and address their needs.

Audience Q&A illustrated some lack of concern for the size of the market--"IÕm already in it and I'm going to be in it tomorrow" proclaimed Dataware's VP of marketing (www.dataware.com) Fredric Gluck. And a later session saw Doculabs' (www.doculabs.com) James Watson offer advice about how vendors can grow knowledge management dollars off of Microsoft's Site Server and Lotus Notes 5. Watson's suggestion for filling KM gaps in Site Server: Build on Active Site and develop search that goes beyond NT and into repositories like Lotus Notes. Regarding Lotus, Watson said that despite its public embrace of KM, "others will do a better job of defining knowledge management around Lotus than Lotus will."

Building on top of those infrastructure offerings will be a strategy for supporting some 50 to 100 vendors, according to Watson, who feared that competing directly against the infrastructure vendors would lead to a market of only five to 10 companies.

The KMWorld readers' voices were heard to close the day's sessions as Editor in Chief Andy Moore posed questions submitted by readers in a virtual town meeting.

First in line--a doozy that many took a stab at--skepticism in the marketplace. Aren't scanners still scanners and document management systems still just that, although some now carry the KM label?

That opened a floodgate of responses.

Some, like Fastwater's Zoellick, responded that a tool like a scanner is a part of KM and that it falls in an area where most of the future growth will remain--capture.

Randy Clark, Enigma's (www.enigmainc.com) VP of marketing, hit a tone that resonated well: Vendors need to change the focus from taking technology and turning it into concepts to taking concepts and turning them into technology.

Addressing the document management and imaging players embracing the KM market, Bob Schmonsees, president of Wisdom Ware (www.wisdomware.com), threw out the term "inside-out marketing" as a label, and analyst Steve Weissman of Kinetic Information (www.kineticinfo.com) mentioned "search and replace marketing."

Tim Dubes, director of corporate communications for Cardiff Software (www.cardiffsw.com), boldly stated that calling a scanner a "knowledge management scanner" is not a problem, as long as that scanner is most appropriate for that type of application.

If any consensus greeted the question surrounding market skepticism, it was that there is indeed skepticism.

Another question tackled how vendors can demonstrate their product worth. Thornton May, (www.ctp.com) VP of Cambridge Technology Partners, broke it down to the need to build relationships with customers to understand their needs and get them what they need. And he asked, "Are we willing to compensate sales staff for relationships and not sales?"

Glenn Kelman, VP of product management and marketing for Plumtree Software (www.plumtreesoft.com), said vendors need to commit to a quantifiable return on investment--"touchy feely stuff isn't going to work in the long run."

The second day of the event opened with a look at the cultural side of KM with insights from Stowe Boyd of Modus Operandi (www.modusoperandi.com) and David Weinberger of the Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization (www.hyperorg.com). Knowledge transfer is natural, Boyd said, but today's business lifestyle inhibits it. That forces the successful organization to create "artificially natural workplaces" where collaboration takes place.

Some keys for knowledge organizations: Those who have the greatest influence must cede authority; those who would be valued by their knowledge must cede ownership; and everyone is a knowledge worker, even if he or she (or you) doesnÕt know it.

Weinberger's wit electrified the crowd as he delivered points for organizations seeking to share knowledge. "Only delivering the best knowledge isn't doing the job," he said.

Weinberger, a true believer in the Web as a knowledge management tool, instructed the audience to "build Web places where employees can learn, develop, stretch, meet and play."

A little later in the day, May brought the crowd a look at a handful of KM application success stories. One, the Sony Interactive Kiosk, is being used to market to a person's musical tastes.

To paraphrase May's example, a customer listens to a Jeff Beck CD when the screen prompts her with a question: "Did you know that Jimi Hendrix is doing the rhythm on this track?"

"No."

"Would you like to hear more music with similar rhythm supplied by Jimi Hendrix?"

"Sure."

Cha ching! As for tangible results, how about 40% more purchases despite prices at a 12% higher rate than the competitor across the street?

May also delivered the "FROGBB success plan" for knowledge management vendors. KM solutions should be:

  • Fast--The most scarce resource is time. Recognize the customer's need for time
  • Right--Sell customers what they need, not what you've got.
  • Open--Vendors' products must integrate--not only with each other's, but with whatever homegrown KM system is already in place.
  • Guarantee--Promise them that the problem will go away, and back up that promise.
  • Business case--Tell the customer what's in it for them.
  • Behavior--Create a picture of the future.

To close the summit, Ian Scott of the London Business School unveiled some of the findings of a just released study of CKOs. While Scott said there is no typical CKO, he pointed out some interesting commonalities about the business title:

  • Few have been CIOs or CTOs. Instead they come from all backgrounds and have typically been with the company 15 to 20 years.
  • While few were technology experts, all were comfortable with technology.
  • CKOs don't manage large budgets or large staffs.

Scott closed with the statement that knowledge management is not a fad, but rather the foundation of the 21st century corporation.


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