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Nominations for the 2022 KMWorld Readers’ Choice Awards Extended to July 5

KM past and future: Solutions for a changing world

IBM’s Many Eyes offers visualization with a social twist. Now being used by The New York Times on its Web site, Many Eyes is also undergoing continued testing by IBM’s Center for Social Software. Many Eyes allows users to upload data sets and apply a variety of visualization techniques, comment on them and view others’ visualizations. Users can, for example, create maps based on statistics they upload.

"Visualization can be very interesting for hypotheses formation," says Greif. "This application is very attractive to users—they want to find different ways of exploring their data."

Complexity simplified

KM solutions can play an important role in managing complex problems through the use of embedded knowledge. MCA Solutions provides a supply chain decision support system to handle inventory in the aftermarket. Its customers are typically companies that manufacture complex products such as aircraft or high-tech equipment, like Boeing, Rockwell Collins and Unisys. Service contracts for those products require a rapid response time for repair, ranging from a few hours to a few days. Therefore, keeping parts available across a global network is a mission-critical function, made difficult by the numerous factors involved in making the process successful.

"Service is becoming more important as the economy declines, because owners of equipment are repairing existing equipment rather than buying new products," says Tim Andreae, senior VP, global marketing, at MCA Solutions. "And service may also drive 30 to 50 percent of a parts supplier’s revenues, which is increasingly important as new product revenue streams are at risk."

By allowing those companies to carry minimal inventory to support service while ensuring availability of required parts, MCA Solutions’ Service Planning and Optimization (SPO) software can improve service while reducing costs.

MCA Solution’s SPO suite carries out activities such as inventory planning and forecasting. It incorporates optimization algorithms and embedded intelligence to ensure that service level agreements (SLAs) are met as cost-effectively as possible. SPO draws on data from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and incorporates information about the supply lead times and failure rates, as well as locations of warehouses and other factors. MCA Solutions’ SPO suite is offered either as a hosted service or as an on-premises product, which allows customers to pick the delivery method with which they feel most comfortable.

In the cloud

CA’s GRC Manager is an example of a product that has been expanded to provide a software as a service (SaaS) option through its On Demand version, as well as the on-premises and hosted versions. Increasingly, new applications are being developed solely as SaaS offerings. Clickability offers a Web content management (WCM) system that was built to the SaaS model. Its WCM platform can be used to publish and support any Web site, but the company recently introduced the Clickability Media Solution, which is aimed specifically at large media companies. It allows content to be managed centrally and published across multiple Web channels such as affiliates within a media company.

The Clickability Media Solution also includes advanced social media tools to foster customer interaction. "The interactive portions in the media business are the most profitable," says Jeff Freund, CTO of Clickability. "The margins are greater than in traditional media such as newspapers, and the overhead is lower. This is a huge paradigm change, and those who do not adapt will not survive."

An unexpected development was the decision by some customers within Clickability’s multitenancy environment to share content with each other.

"On the West Coast, LA.com began sharing its movie reviews with one of our East Coast customers," says Freund. "Some news sites are now sharing content so that they don’t both have to send reporters to the location of an incident."

Such sharing can and does occur in situations where the two entities do not have the same content management system, but the process is simplified by the compatibility of their respective Clickability systems. In addition, customers are building applications on top of the Clickability platform and returning them to the community by sharing code snippets and best practices.

Users will find the potential business benefits of SaaS compelling enough to overcome concerns about having their data managed outside the organization, according to Dortch. "Serious business users want standard interfaces and good performance," he says. "As long as the infrastructure is managed and service level agreements are in place, users don’t care where the application is hosted." He predicts that many public and private clouds will emerge and that they will be well accepted.

Greening of KM

Along with SaaS and cloud computing come some ancillary benefits such as greener IT. Multi-tenant operations can run more efficiently because spikes in usage by one customer can be balanced out, whereas single entities must provide capacity to cover those spikes. Many other aspects of KM are intrinsically green as well, such as conversion of functions that were previously paper-based. Finally, KM solutions have been developed that help analyze and optimize energy usage, particularly in data centers, but also in other ways that a company’s operations can impact the environment.

KM offers several valuable approaches to coping with today’s economic challenges. Not only does it cut costs by improving efficiency; it also promotes growth and innovation by supporting collaboration and information sharing. Because KM is part of the solution rather than part of the problem, it is likely to fare better than many other industries. 

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