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Using Enterprise Search to Unify KM and Risk Management

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Enterprise Search [May 2007]

Knowledge management (KM) came about as a way to locate and share knowledge across an organization so that people could benefit from the work product of their fellow workers. The primary goal of KM was to increase communication, efficiency and productivity organization-wide; put another way, the “pain” many KM professionals were trying to address was the costly inability of workers to leverage what their peers within the organization had created. Using enterprise search technology, KM was able to categorize, organize, tag, make available and retrieve the vast amounts of valuable information within the organization. And while the road to KM nirvana has not always been smooth, effective enterprise search technology has helped many organizations see dramatic improvements in their employees’ ability to utilize the work product created within the organization.

The risk management world, by contrast, has typically been focused on completely separate issues driven by dramatically different needs: risk management seeks to ensure that an organization’s key information is properly managed to meet the organization’s business needs, which are increasingly focused on addressing the dual threats of compliance and litigation preparedness. Risk management succeeds when the organization’s information is appropriately identified, classified, archived and preserved or—where appropriate—destroyed, all in an accurate and cost-effective fashion. Process-based risk management controls were reasonably effective at addressing these needs in a paper-based world, but became woefully inadequate in a digital world.

Content-Agnostic Search Technology

As KM and risk management typically dealt with completely different content, they were appropriately viewed as unrelated disciplines with little-to-no overlap. Then workers started eschewing paper documents for digital work product, necessitating powerful enterprise search tools to extract relevant content within massive amounts of data across the entire organization—effectively using enterprise search to unify applications and databases. Somewhere along the way people began to realize that these enterprise search tools were largely “content agnostic,” meaning they were just as effective when looking for a financial document as they were looking for a PowerPoint presentation by the marketing department. In other words, while what the information risk management cared about (e.g. business records) was still very different from what KM focused on (e.g. work product), the tools used to manage either content group were basically the same.

For many in risk management—who tend to be more conservative and slower to embrace technology—this was an extremely helpful realization: they now had a highly relevant reference group within their organization who could help them avoid many of the mistakes that can be made when deploying technology. And while such a reference group is beneficial whenever technology is being deployed, it is especially important for risk managers, as this group operates in a high-risk domain where mistakes have huge ramifications like restated earnings, lawsuits and bad press, to name just a few.

How KM Can Help Risk Management

Having a KM system act as the technological “test case” for risk management puts KM in a very interesting and potentially lucrative position: while risk management is typically viewed as having bigger, more high-profile challenges (compliance and litigation preparedness chief among them), in this case KM is able to take a leadership role which can have an extremely beneficial impact felt throughout the entire organization. KM would be consulted about the tools they chose to standardize on, how the technology was deployed, what the benefits were and how they were measured, how security was maintained or even improved, and myriad other issues which make the difference between a mediocre enterprise search implementation and a highly successful one.

There are also significant benefits to using enterprise search technology to address the needs of both KM and risk management. Working with the same enterprise search vendor should save the organization on licensing and support/maintenance fees and should result in a lower TCO as several groups will become experts on the same platform. In addition, using the same information access and management architecture within the organization should help simplify risk management’s job—namely enforcing and auditing the integrity of the organization’s key information—as a more unified infrastructure should result in a more secure and efficient architecture.

The byproducts of such a scenario should prove to be quite beneficial to the KM group as a whole. KM would be viewed as a nexus of core information management expertise that helps address some of the organization’s most difficult IT challenges, in the process helping to create a more standardized architecture while increasing information integrity and possibly even lowering costs. While being viewed as a hero may seem like a fantasy to many KM professionals, making it a reality might be easier than they think.

Recommind’s enterprise search and categorization systems automatically organize, manage and distribute large volumes of text from multiple sources. With faster access to the right information, customers such as Bertelsmann, BMW, DLA Piper, DuPont and Shearman & Sterling are saving time, enhancing the quality of work product, increasing the value of information assets, and improving competitiveness and profits.

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