Blueprints Begin to Emerge for Future KM Systems

Cutter Consortium Senior Consultant Stowe Boyd recently made several observations about the emerging architecture for future knowledge management (KM) systems and the business culture in which those systems will take shape:

Architectural Metaphor. Boyd suggests that developers planning future KM systems should look to the architecture of buildings for valuable insight. "Building plans determine how people in a given shared space will interact and how they will be isolated. The hallways and lobbies have a direct impact not only on how people get from one area to another, but on the potential for having ‘chance encounters’ that lead to further collaboration," said Boyd.

Technology Foundation. The emerging architecture for KM systems will be based on a technological foundation that, inevitably, must come from the major vendors and, in Boyd’s opinion, it is important that those major players publicly state their intentions early on. Says Boyd, "The ubiquity of the Microsoft operating system is a key factor in a networked, distributed KM solution for today’s corporate model. Since Microsoft has moved forward with a comprehensive architectural foundation for KM applications, developers will opt to integrate their solutions with that de facto standard. The ‘load-bearing walls’ will take the form of products like Oracle 8I, and Lotus Notes."

Opportunities for New Players. While, according to Boyd, the threshold for success in introducing generalized KM services appears too high for new players, there is tremendous potential for developers to create narrowly focused solutions to very specific business challenges. For example, as opposed to handling customer relationships in general, a tightly focused applet might only address how to upsell a customer by phone.

New Business Mindset Needed for KM to Succeed. The industrial-age mindset cannot be applied to a knowledge-based economy. Whereas the assets and value of a business are traditionally measured in terms of cash and equipment, businesses will need to acknowledge a range of intangible assets, such as intellectual capital, that are not easily convertible into dollars.

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