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Transportation: Communities of practice leverage knowledge

Reorganizations have made VDOT more geographically dispersed, and budget cuts have made attendance at meetings more difficult. "These factors have broken up networks that were based on interpersonal interaction," notes Hammer. "We try to arrange for people to meet face-to-face initially, and then we support the evolving networks through online Team Rooms." In addition, the Knowledge Management Office is beginning to create video clips of critical experts nearing retirement performing activities such as road inspections, in order to retain that experience after the individual leaves.

A number of important benefits have emerged from the establishment of CoPs. One of the CoPs, the Right of Way/Utilities community, is now able to organize its work from a statewide perspective rather than by district because participants can communicate easily outside their own offices. "Staff is sent where their skills are needed, regardless of where they are based," Hammer says.

Retirement Plan

HR also worked with the CoP on a strategic staffing plan, because 90 percent of the division's management and 40 percent of the staff are eligible for retirement. "The plan will form the basis of how this function will look going forward, and the competencies and training needed by remaining and new staff," says Hammer.

The Construction Quality Management CoP has developed an online tool that places all reference materials and project documents on a flash drive that construction inspectors can take into the field. That resource has provided consistency of records keeping, increased the time inspectors were able to spend in the field by 10 percent, and saved the organization at least $120,000 per year.

Collaboration is key

"What we are seeing in the resurgence of knowledge management," says Manish Sharma, senior product manager in the Information Worker Group at Microsoft, "is an increased emphasis not only on providing a single place from which to retrieve information, but also on a solution that provides for collaboration."

Sharma points to the importance of robust search for finding people with specific knowledge. The coming 2007 SharePoint platform will have a new, free add-on called the Knowledge Network that allows organizations to locate topic expertise either by profile or infer it from e-mail analysis. The 2007 release will also allow searching of business records and other backend data from applications such as Siebel (siebel.com).

"We think the integrated portal experience, where team members can carry out any action from document checkout to presence info for team members, offers the best collaborative environment," Sharma says.

Global transportation security delivered via RFID

In order to improve supply chain security and efficiency, many companies are turning to RFID technology to track their shipments throughout the world. Large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target have been using RFID for several years, and its use is expanding. In Colombia, Emprevi is deploying the SmartChain Transportation Security Solution (TSS) from Savi Technology to ensure visibility and security of container shipments within the country. Emprevi provides logistics and security services for importers and exporters that operate within Colombia. The Savi TSS solution achieves that visibility and security through its linkage with RFID devices, which are affixed to containers to track their condition and movement.

One of the value-added features of RFID is that it accomplishes multiple goals with one system. On the security side, it counters theft, drug trafficking and terrorist attacks by detecting tampering with the containers' contents. On the economic side, customers can monitor the efficiency of their supply chains, manage inventory and ensure compliance with shipping regulations.

From a KM viewpoint, one of the issues to contend with is the massive amount of data that is generated by this constant monitoring.

"Given the number of tags that are being read," says Mark Weidick, general manager of commercial markets at Savi Technology, "it would be easy to end up with an avalanche of data that contained no big news."

A Savi application called Site Manager filters the data and passes along an aggregated version to SmartChain. In turn, SmartChain performs calculations based on rules and logic established by the customer, in order to detect exceptions that need human intervention, assess quality of service or send automated alerts.

Savi is also working in partnership with a number of business intelligence software producers to allow their analytical, forecasting and planning tools to operate on the data emerging from RFID systems. "These integrated applications will allow customers to use RFID data to answer critical business questions," says Weidick, "in a context that is familiar to business users."

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