Business Engine Organizes Knowledge Workers

During the past few years, many companies have turned to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to help optimize the allocation of manufacturing resources.

ERP has succeeded because of the benefits it provides for manufacturing companies, but corporations whose resources consist mainly of knowledge workers have been unable to take advantage of the software’s benefits.

As a result, Business Engine Software Corp. (www.businessengine.com) has stepped in with a variation on the ERP theme -- knowledge resource planning, or KRP. This month, Business Engine is set to release version 5.3 of its KRP application.

While some ERP packages, particularly SAP R/3, can provide some help for organizing knowledge workers, KRP software goes several steps further. KRP helps companies identify and manage staff resources, track and manage employees’ time and consolidate projects. "There are a lot of gaps in what ERP does," says John O’Neil, Business Engine’s chairman and CEO.

KRP is designed to help companies that spend a lot of time allocating knowledge workers to a constantly changing stream of projects, such as investment banks, pharmaceutical companies, IT services firms, and other industries with a high concentration of engineers, such as aerospace, automotive, high tech, telecommunications and utilities.

Business Engine, the company’s self-named product, integrates with Microsoft Project on the front end, but the back end of the application relies on the company’s Knowledge Resource Repository, a SQL-based data warehouse that stores and manages resource information.

Using the KRP software, managers can automate employee rosters, skill inventories, recruiting, contracting third-party staff, employee availability and cost rates.

Companies can also use Business Engine to determine which projects will bring the company the highest return based on the resources available to staff the project.

Often, these tasks are not computerized at all or are handled by in-house systems that may not provide the same benefits as a packaged solution, O’Neil says. "Typically, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit," he explains. "We can often get a payback in the first 30 days because there’s an ‘Aha!’"

Mark O’Connor, associate director of knowledge management strategies with the Yankee Group (www.yankeegroup.com), says the knowledge management market is poised for tremendous growth.

"I would say that after people get their Year 2000 initiatives behind them, this is going to be the most important strategic item on the technology agenda," O’Connor says. "At this point we’ve pretty much done everything we can with our tangible assets. But [companies have] done virtually nothing with their intangible assets."

Categorizing and redirecting employees is many times more complicated than doing the same for parts and products, which means the services side of knowledge management will be much bigger than the application side, O’Connor notes. "Of course, there are the underlying technologies and applications that help support that, and that’s where Business Engine fits," he says.