For the last year or so, advancements in knowledge management technologies have followed two trends: an ever-increasing automation of catalogs of information and people and a shift of focus from document-centric storage to people-centric collaboration.
- Automatic information categorization. This trend is best illustrated by the new generation of text mining tools. A new graphically oriented, semantically aware text mining tool can parse one or more documents, understand the meaning of words parsed and build a catalog of topics covered by the document(s). The automatically generated topic catalog (or "taxonomy") provides a content-oriented interpretation of documents that - in an organization with a very large body of documents - could require thousands of hours to build manually.
- People-centric collaboration. A traditional assumption behind knowledge management software is that documents contain much of an organization's explicit knowledge. In fact, many knowledge management systems are actually document management systems at heart. Even so, this assumption is challenged by the growing realization that an organization can develop knowledge by providing a collaborative environment where knowledge workers share tacit knowledge. People-centric collaboration software typically involves integrated e-mail (or sometimes a dedicated client application) through which knowledge workers communicate information and requests for information.
THE HURWITZ TAKE: Today's cutting edge, knowledge management software is defined by the confluence of automatic categorization and people-centricity. The two technologies come together to support automatically generated and maintained catalogs of experts. Some knowledge management systems support user profiling where people are cataloged and ranked (both manually and automatically) according to their interests and level of expertise. After all, many knowledge workers are more interested in identifying an expert to talk to than in searching and reading documents. For these users, a catalog of experts enables them to find a colleague (not a document) who can provide a key piece of information or explain how to solve a problem.
Editor's Note: For more information about these cutting-edge trends, see the article "New Directions for Knowledge Management Software" by Philip Russom in the October 1999 issue of DM Review magazine. Read it online at http://www.dmreview.com/article_sub.cfm?articleID=1454.
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