The Role of Knowledge Management Solutions in Enterprise
(Mihajlo Pupin Institute, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro
(Mihajlo Pupin Institute, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro
Abstract: Knowledge technologies, the software products that
support all aspects of knowledge processing and exchange, are the subject
of permanent interest for software engineers at research organizations,
as well as, for market analysts in commercial organizations. In order to
clarify the role of knowledge management solutions in an enterprise business
process, in this paper we survey the market of knowledge management solutions
and analyze their functionalities from operational and strategic business
perspective. Although knowledge flows are identified on an operational
level, discussion will show that knowledge management solutions here serve
to utilize the enterprise knowledge in an efficient performance of daily
work. We argue that data and information collected on the operational level
are processed by knowledge management solutions on a strategic level thus
creating new knowledge that is used for strategic management of customers,
suppliers and partners. This paper gives an insight into knowledge management
market that can help the strategic planners to easily begin a knowledge
Keywords: knowledge management, business process, enterprises,
software tools, market research
Categories: A.1, H.0, H.2.8, H.3.0, H.4.2
Knowledge management (KM) initiatives in enterprises are most often
driven by strategic planners with the objectives to enhance knowledge
processing and organizational learning capacity, protect and develop
the intellectual capital, be innovative and competitive on the market,
serve customers, etc. As enterprises differ in size, type of services,
established organizational structure and culture, there is no
universal recipe for introducing knowledge management in
enterprises. Among others, knowledge leaders are faced with the
problem of choosing technologies to support their initiatives.
Knowledge technologies are software products that support all
aspects of knowledge acquisition, organization/storing,
representation, visualization and exchange. Knowledge technologies are
the subject of permanent interest for software engineers at research
organizations, as well as, for market analysts in commercial
organizations. Both types of researchers are interested in current
functionalities of available knowledge management solutions and their
future development directions.
On the market there is no clear distinction between knowledge
management solutions and information management solutions [Firestone 2003b]. Using the rising interest in
knowledge management solutions, many software companies took this
opportunity to sell their products describing them as knowledge
management tools. As a result, nowadays, the spectrum of KM tools
ranges from collaboration solutions, via document management, (WEB)
content management tools and portals to e-learning solutions,
analytical solutions and intelligent agents.
From today's viewpoint, surveys on knowledge management solutions that
have been conducted earlier [Böhmann, Krcmar 2002;
Föcker 2001; University of
Washington 2000] are based on a limited to comprehensive selection
of software products. The aims of this paper are twofold. First, we would
like to give an updated picture of the market of knowledge management commercial
solutions and as second, we would like to clarify the differences between
information technologies and knowledge technologies from a business viewpoint.
We discuss first the enterprise business processes and relate the knowledge
processes to operational business processes and strategic business processes
separately. Further on we present the results of the survey of commercial
knowledge management solutions, examine the functionalities of knowledge
management solutions and link them to the knowledge processes. Finally,
we discuss the role of knowledge management solutions in modern enterprises,
especially, their place in the customer management process.
2 Literature Review
Firestone and McElroy [Firestone, McElroy 2002]
distinguish three generations of knowledge management solutions. According
to them, the first generation of knowledge management solutions (1993-1997)
has been focused on information integration, establishing information repositories,
information retrieval and information and knowledge sharing, while the
emphasis of the second generation of knowledge management solutions is
on knowledge production and its use. The third generation of knowledge
management solutions that is developing nowadays is based on: use of taxonomies
and ontologies for knowledge discovery in databases and on the Web; use
of new data and text mining algorithms, natural language processing and
other statistical tools for knowledge acquisition from different sources;
distributed agent systems for searching, claim evaluation and knowledge
production; knowledge portals instead of information portals, etc.
Föcker [Föcker 2001] identified knowledge
management with management of text, messages and other mainly unstructured
data and he paid little attention to knowledge production. Böhmann
and Krcmar [Böhmann, Krcmar 2002], without naming
the main players, presented a more complete picture of KM market. They
divided the software tools into solutions for optimization of knowledge
work (collaboration, groupware systems, workflow solutions and videoconferencing
equipment), solutions for knowledge organization (document storing, metadata
management, and version control) and search and retrieval and solutions
for knowledge development and production that include analytical tools.
At the University of Washington [University of Washington
2000] an extensive search for KM software has been performed.
In comparison with the work conducted in Germany where the focus is
on management of knowledge items, knowledge management at the University
of Washington is observed as management of documents, employees and customers.
Thus, in addition to KM tools for managing documents they also surveyed
solutions for customer relationship management and human resource management.
Noll [Noll 2002] used an automatic method based
on the calculation of the co-occurrences of words to analyze software providers'
materials and identify topics and subtopics that are most often connected
with KM software. Topics that have been identified in this research are:
Microsoft-Lotus, search & retrieval, business information, collaboration
and document management. Automatic analysis has advantages compared to
manual analysis because of the objectiveness and further possibilities
for visualizing and analysis of the results. However, some technologies
(e.g. e-learning), that are an emerging segment on knowledge management
market, due to modest presence in literature in comparison with other topics,
have not been identified with this method.
Exploring the contribution of information and communication technologies
to the field of knowledge management, Moffett and McAdam [Moffett,
McAdam 2003] have focused on three specific areas, namely, collaboration,
content management and business intelligence. According to this research,
collaborative team building is supported by groupware systems, meeting
support systems, electronic mail, intranets and knowledge directories.
Content management is based on document management system, electronic publishing
system, office automation system, agents and filters. Tools within the
business intelligence stream include data warehousing and data marts, data
mining tools, and modelling and prediction tools.
Dfouni and Croteau [Dfouni, Croteau 2004] used
a web-based Delphi method to reach a worldwide consensus on technologies
that support KM initiatives. The Delphi method is a procedure used to "obtain
the most reliable consensus of opinion of a group of experts ... by a series
of intensive questionnaires interspersed with controlled opinion feedback".
After three rounds, they have come up with the following conclusions. The
ten most critical KM technologies are: portals (internet/intranet/extranet),
information retrieval engines, e-mail, collaborative work support tools,
document management system, corporate yellow pages of skills and expertise,
knowledge maps, electronic discussion boards, e/learning technologies and
data mining tools. This research also indicates that top priority is given
to technologies that could help in extracting tacit knowledge; however
most of the tools (seven out of ten) are actually used for supporting explicit
knowledge. These results indicate that the most challenging part of knowledge
management initiatives is capturing knowledge embodied within individuals.
Lately Nantel [Nantel 2004] has published a book on knowledge management
technologies in a form of reference book for strategic planners. Here he
discusses thirty five knowledge solutions from well known software providers,
such as Documentum, Hyperwave, Verity, Inxight,
Microstrategy, Livelink, Staffware, and others.
3 Relating Knowledge Processes to Enterprise Business
3.1 Knowledge Management Process
Knowledge management is most often defined as a process of creating
value from the intangible assets of the company including knowledge of
the employees, business processes, products, customer and supplier information
systems, and other [Adamson, Handford 2002]. Knowledge
can be classified into explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge [Nonaka
1994]. Explicit knowledge includes everything that could be externalized
(transferred from a human head into an electronic form) and shared. Explicit
knowledge could be also created through business transformations from data
and information that already exist in different formats in an enterprise
information system. Tacit knowledge refers to knowledge, which is embedded
in individual experience, insights, skills that are highly personal and
difficult to communicate. It is also rooted in the activities of teams,
product market, customer's potential, organization processes, etc.
Figure 1: The knowledge management process
Based on the distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge, Nonaka
and Tacheuchi [Nonaka, Takeuchi 1995] identified
four basic patterns for creating knowledge in organizations [see Figure
1]: socialization (from tacit to tacit), externalization
(from tacit to explicit), combination (from explicit to explicit),
and internalization (from explicit to tacit). Socialization occurs
when individuals share tacit knowledge through joint activities, such as
face to face conversation, telephone correspondence or various communication
styles. Externalization occurs when tacit knowledge is converted into explicit
knowledge and stored on paper or in electronic form. Combination involves
the conversion of explicit knowledge into more complex explicit knowledge
through capturing and integrating new explicit knowledge. Finally, internalization
takes place when one consults some documents and creates her/his own knowledge
out of what s/he has learned.
3.2 Enterprise Business Processes
An enterprise is an independent legal economic entity, established with
the aim to carry out particular business activities with a positive outcome.
Depending on the type of primary economic activities, we distinguish manufacturing
enterprises, retail enterprises, service enterprises, public enterprise,
etc. The primary economic activities of an enterprise define also the structure
of its enterprise business processes. E.g. the business processes of a
research and development organization will differ from the enterprise business
processes of a pharmaceutical company. Roughly speaking, enterprise information
flows could be divided into external and internal flows. External flows
are directed towards clients, suppliers, partners and other legal entities.
Internal flows are results of information exchange and business interactions
between employees inside the enterprise. Both types of processes together
form the enterprise business processes, such as: marketing, sales, purchase,
customer support, research and development, manufacturing and management.
Smith and Fingar [Smit, Fingar 2002] define a
business process as a complete set of dynamically coordinated activities
that create values for the customers, and not for the enterprise. Melan
[Melan 1992] suggests the following hierarchy of constituents
that create a process: a process, a part of the process, activity and working
task. A task is a separate working moment, while an activity is a group
of working tasks. A number of activities form a sub process and a process
is made up of a few sub processes. In order to explain the information
flow that creates customer value, as well as profit and competitive advantage,
Porter [Porter 1980], the guru of corporate strategic
thinking, has introduced a generic model of business activities named a
value chain applicable to a wide range of firms. The idea of the value
chain is based on the process view of organizations, the idea of seeing
an organization as a system, made up of subsystems each with inputs, transformation
processes and outputs. The value chain of a company is linked between the
value chain of the supplier company and value chain of consumer company
resulting in a large stream of activities known as the value system. The
profit of a company depends on the ability of effective and efficient execution
of business activities, as well as, on the difference in money invested
in business activities (including production costs, marketing and sales
activities) and price gained on the market. Therefore, the company profit
depends on the value system of which the company is a part.
In order to better understand the activities leading to a competitive
advantage, the company-specific value-creating activities should be identified.
According to Porter, a competitive advantage could be achieved by better
understanding of activity costs and their minimization and by focusing
on activities that the company carries out better than the competition.
Porter defines ten key factors that influence the product price including
employees' know-how and learning abilities, the level of vertical integration,
the level of horizontal integration and connectedness of activities and
time to market. Know-how of the employees and their creativity are substantial
factors for achieving a competitive advantage. But, product innovations
and business process innovations (e.g. introduction of a new product, new
marketing channel or new production line) could also decrease the product
price and increase sales.
Figure 2: Relating information and knowledge technologies
to business processes
Vertically, as is presented in Figure 2, enterprise management processes
could be divided into operational business processes and strategic business
processes. Operational business processes that are aimed to carry out the
daily activities in an effective and an efficient way are based on transactional
databases (DB). On the lowest level (Layer 1) enterprise resource management
(ERP) systems integrate and automate all aspects of operational business
activities from manufacturing and warehousing to sales and finance. Built
around a centralized or distributed database, ERP systems are often preserved
as back office systems for managing the internal information flows. Integral
part of an ERP system is also the human resource management system (HRM).
With time the ERP systems integrated functionalities that promptly connect
the employees with customers, suppliers or partners e.g. business contact
management software (BSC). Other information technologies that have an
integrative role on enterprise level are (Layer 2): data warehousing technologies,
collaboration solutions, portals, document management, and workflow solutions.
While managers on operational level are concerned with the optimization
of the workflows, reduction of costs, and utilization of resources, strategic
managers (Layer 3 and 4) are concerned with establishment of good position
on the market, improving the customer satisfaction, meeting the business
objectives and creating profit, protection and development of intellectual
capital, etc. On upper levels specialized decision support applications,
operational research techniques, knowledge production technologies and
enterprise performance measurement systems are used.
In accordance with the value chain, the business process could be divided
horizontally into customer related sub process, internal sub processes
and supplier related sub process. In the following subsections we will
closely examine the strategies for management of customers, employees and
3.2.1 Customer Relationship Management
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a business strategy that focuses
on an individual customer with the aim to build a long lasting profitable
relationship and to achieve customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
CRM is a process of learning the customer attitudes and preferences and,
according to that, customizing the products and services to best suit their
needs. Successful implementation of the process requires tight integration
of the front end activities (marketing, sales and service activities) with
the back end activities, such as monitoring, planning and decision support.
Information infrastructure that enables the process is built of operational
CRM solutions, analytical CRM solutions, as well as tools for business
process optimization. Operational CRM systems, such as business contact
management tools, sales automation tools, direct marketing tools, support
operational work with customers: gathering information about customers'
personal data, business transactions, contacts with sales, marketing and
sales support representatives, etc. While knowledge bases at customer call
centres store knowledge (answers to customer questions), they do not produce
new knowledge. Analytical CRM systems that are based on information warehouses,
on-line analytical processing (OLAP) technologies and other analytical
tools, integrate data from different sources, process data into information
and knowledge about customers' behaviours, intentions, potentials, and
others. In that way analytical CRM systems create valuable knowledge that
can be used to direct the future operational and strategic actions.
3.2.2 Supplier Relationship Management
Similarly to customer strategy, the enterprises develop strategies for
partners and suppliers management. Partners and suppliers are all legal
entities that appear in a value chain and these are: suppliers engaged
in a manufacturing process, warehouse suppliers, retailers and other distribution
centres, consulting organizations, outsourcing partners, and suppliers
of secondary services such as restaurants, facility services, etc. Supplier
relationship management (SRM) is a complex process that covers a wide range
of activities from planning of business cooperation, materials/products/services
supply, distribution of final gods to quality and performance evaluation.
Taking into consideration that the business process in modern organization
is governed by customer demand, on a more detailed level suppliers related
activities involve: collection and evaluation of suppliers' offers, supplier
document (invoices, bills) management, supplier relationship analysis that
includes delivery time analysis, etc. An integrated SRM solution is technologically
identical to a CRM solution. The operational part of the system stores
information about suppliers' contacts and transactions, while the analytical
part of the system creates knowledge about suppliers and generates strategies
(plans, actions) for supplier management.
3.2.3 Human Resource Management
Human resource management (HRM) is one of the basic business processes
that consists of three groups of activities: administrative activities,
organizational activities and employee acquisition and development activities.
Administrative activities include management of different employee records
(personal data, qualifications, holidays, business trips) and legal procedures
of hiring/dismissal, as well as payment processing. Organizational activities
cover strategic issues of enterprise organizations, systematization of
working places, planning of team work, team formation and development,
HRM information system, etc. Employee acquisition and development activities
are directed towards definition of requirements and standards that employees
have to fulfil prior to employment, planning of necessary resources, education
and development of employees, and employee performance measurement. HRM
system is usually part of integrated enterprise resource management (ERP)
system. In addition to ERP, knowledge technologies in the form of WEB agents
or corporate yellow pages of skills and expertise are used to facilitate
identification of employees with some specific capabilities [Crowder
et al. 2002].
3.3 Differentiating Knowledge Processes from Operational Business Processes
In order to differentiate knowledge processes from operational business
processes, we will analyze the information/knowledge flows presented in
Figure 2 bottom up. Data and information are gathered
on operational level (Layer 1). Although knowledge is used in operational
activities, e.g. knowledge bases and search engines are used at customer
call centres to answer customer questions, knowledge is not produced in
this stage. Nevertheless, social network analysis could be used on this
level to identify the knowledge flows and set up workflows of best practice.
Workflows automated by workflow solutions (Layer 2) map the individual
activities of the employees in marketing, sales and customer support centres
into integrated business processes.
On upper levels (Levels 3 and 4) strategic management tools are used
that not only integrate and transfer knowledge but produce knowledge as
well. Based on data warehousing technologies, traditional decision support
(business intelligence) tools integrate data from more business sources,
and using analytics (Layer 3), turn the data into knowledge about customers,
suppliers, processes, employees, etc. One of the main differences between
business intelligence and knowledge management is that business intelligence
tools manage structured data, while knowledge management tools (as it is
most often accepted) manage primarily unstructured data. Equivalent to
data warehouses are document management systems and lately portal technologies
that aim to provide a unique view of the documentation in house. Both decision
support systems and knowledge management systems are used to transform
the business data into information and knowledge necessary to make business
decisions more easily, thus, to produce actions. Besides the automatic
way of creating knowledge, new tacit knowledge is created in a team or
group or virtual community as a result of social interactions.
Technologies that facilitate knowledge production thus include collaboration
systems, tools that enhance creativity (tools for brainstorming, mind mapping,
concept mapping) and problem solving tools (critical path analysis, root
cause analysis, decision trees).
Based on the discussion above, knowledge management systems differ from
operational information systems in the type of items they are dealing with.
On one side operational information systems process data and information,
and on the other side, knowledge management systems enhance knowledge creation.
The purpose of knowledge management is to change the organization's present
pattern of knowledge processing and ensure organizational learning, market
and organizational innovations (new processes, products and services) and
strategic competence [Firestone 2003a], [Firestone
2003b]. In order to measure the value of knowledge assets and the impact
of knowledge management on overall business performance, enterprise performance
measurement systems could be used (Level 4). Comparing the planned and
actual achievements in four main business areas (customers, finance, internal
processes, learning and growth) by using predefined key success indicators,
directions for further actions could be generated. Because performance
measurement is not the subject of this study, we will omit these software
tools from the survey that follows.
4 A Survey of Knowledge Management Solutions
||BRINT is the world's most reputed and top-ranked resource for business
technology management and knowledge management. It is a Web portal of the
BRINT Institute founded in 1994 by Dr. Yogesh Malhotra, who is among the
world's most influential practitioners and thought leaders in knowledge
management. The portal enable communications and exchange of knowledge
among its 100,000 registered members.
||KMWorld is Web portal of the world KM community. KMWorld
is a publisher of the KMWorld Magazine and numerous white papers, as well
as, an organizer of the annual KMWorld & Internets Conference and Exhibition.
Up to seventy KM solution providers advertise on this portal or take part
of the annual exhibition. More than 49,000 professionals read KMWorld NewsLinks.
||KMCI is portal of the International professional association
of KM practitioners founded in 1997. The portal provides KM forums and
discussion areas. The KMCI association offers KM certificate programs and
publishes KM books and white papers.
||KnowledgeBoard is Web portal of European KM community. Like
other knowledge portals, it serves as a knowledge network for KM professionals
from academia and industry, as info desk about KM events, as on-line library
of KM literature, as well as market of knowledge management jobs.
||KMTool is YAHOO group of more than six hundred KM professionals.
Like other communities, the group members are informed about new KM products,
product details, project tools, conference details, vendor assessments,
and others via "What's New" newsletter.
Table 1: Internet resources consulted in this research
4.1 About this Study
DM - Document Management / Content management; IR - Information
Retrieval (a-automatic document categorization, s-search engine); EIP
- Enterprise Information Portals; CG - Collaboration/Groupware; EL -
E-learning; WS - Workflow systems / Business Process Management; DS -
Decision support / Business Intelligence
Table 2: Software providers of knowledge management solutions
Initiated by the need to get an updated picture of the market of knowledge
management commercial solutions, we have studied and analyzed the Internet
resources of software providers that declare their products as knowledge
management solutions as well as shareware resources of some knowledge management
portals. The five portals that we most frequently visited in this research
are listed in [Table 1]. The initial list of software
providers was taken in July 2003 from [KMWorld].
From then on, we have been constantly monitoring the Internet knowledge
contents and extended the list with the names of the companies that frequently
advertise on mentioned distribution channels. We compared the product portfolios
of the software providers and, taking into consideration the previous work
on knowledge technologies [see Section 2 Literature
review; Kappe 2001], we establish a taxonomy of
knowledge technologies that in our view covers all aspects of the knowledge
process. Keywords that best describe the functionalities of the solutions
are as follows: document management / content management (DM), information
retrieval (IR), enterprise information portal (EIP), collaboration/groupware
(CG), e-learning, workflow systems / business process management (WS) and
decision support / business intelligence (DS). Classifying the KM solution
providers (listed in first column) in accordance with selected taxonomy
(listed in first row), we obtained Table 2. Sign X
in this table means that the software provider has product in selected
market segment. In order to point out that one market segment is more developed
than another we have used purple rectangles. E.g. e-learning and business
process management are emerging segments of the KM market, while enterprise
information portals are offered by many providers as part of document management
or collaboration solutions.
5 Comparative Analysis of Knowledge Management Solutions
In this section we analyze the functionalities of knowledge management
solutions following the market segmentation presented in [Table
5.1 Document Management
Traditional knowledge management tools are based on document
management systems (see Documentum, Hummingbird and
Vignette), full-text indexing and search engines. The main
functions of document management systems are: handling of large
amounts of documents that originate from a variety of sources and come
in a variety of formats; extract and manage metadata about the
documents; manage document versions; manage access permissions; and
archive documents for a long time period. The documents reside on file
system, e-mail system, document database, Web server and
elsewhere. Before registering in a document management system or a
knowledge base, knowledge items are first annotated or described with
attributes referred to also as metadata (authors, keywords, and links
to other documents). Based on metadata, the items are classified using
knowledge modelling/representation technologies, such as taxonomies
and ontologies and using special categorization algorithms (decision
trees, neural networks, and statistics). Knowledge
modelling/representation technologies form a bridge between knowledge
creation and knowledge use.
On one side, in order to be ready for later use, the knowledge has to
be externalized in an electronic form, described with attributes, taxonomies
or ontology and registered in a knowledge base. On the other side, complementary
tools (search algorithms based on taxonomies and ontologies) are required
for knowledge retrieval and presentation.
A taxonomy consists of a hierarchically organized set of topics that
companies use to share information, and allows users to easily locate pertinent
documents. In addition to taxonomies, ontologies that have been developed
within Knowledge Modelling research community describe relationship rules
between categories or other data. Roughly, ontologies correspond to generalized
database schemes. However, ontologies can be used to describe the structure
of semantics of much more complex objects than common databases and are
therefore well-suited for describing heterogeneous, distributed and semi
structured information sources such as found on the Web (e.g. to describe
relationships between documents).
The contemporary knowledge management solutions (e.g. Hummingbird)
automatically create and extend taxonomies of business topics and classify
the business information accurately. Hummingbird's automatic document
categorization software extracts concepts that best describe the contents
of the documents by e.g. applying neural network algorithm on just 10%
of documents that have to be organized. After that documents are grouped
in groups and subgroups of similar concepts, and as a result a taxonomy
for the documents and a classification algorithm are built. Rests of the
documents are indexed and automatically classified using the developed
classification algorithm and developed taxonomy. Most often (e.g. Entrieva's
SemioTagger) the indexing and categorization engine are deployed as
a "web service" and can operate with any portal, viewer, database
engine or business application through standard SOAP protocol. Web services
[Cabral et all. 2004] are well defined, reusable
software components that perform specific, encapsulated tasks via standardized
Web-oriented mechanisms. SOAP is W3C's recommended XML-data transport protocol,
used for data exchange over web-based communications protocols (http).
Automatic categorization tools are integrated into solutions provided
by Entopia, Inxight, GamaSite, Megaputer intelligence,
Stratify and others.
5.2 Knowledge Acquisition, Search and Retrieval
Information retrieval (IR) technologies traditionally cover search engines
based on full text indexing. The main part of a search engine is an indexing
and categorization server that organizes up to billions of documents which
can be searched by keywords. The crawlers of these search engines review
the available documents in regular intervals and register them in an index.
Web search engines like Google, Altavista, Yahoo store
the pre-processed information about documents in information containers
Nowadays, full text indexing method is not sufficient for searching
information in contents enriched with video and sound records. Therefore,
this method is supplemented with technologies, such as: ontology based
indexing, search/indexing agents, knowledge description schemes (semantic
nets, knowledge maps), natural language processing, text mining, and information
Ontology based indexing is a method of integrating semantic knowledge
about contents, services and processes of a domain in the indexing process.
The process of defining the domain entities (contents, users, and tasks)
is metadata generation.
The process of assigning meaning to domain entities is ontology
generation. Semantic content descriptions based on ontologies enable
software agents in distributed systems to co-operate and to perform
complex operations such as searching, filtering, integrating
information and reasoning. Software agents operate in virtual domains
including operating systems, computer applications, databases and on
Internet and act on their users' behalf and without extensive user
intervention. As an example, a software agent could be used to find
expertise in knowledge intensive organizations [Crowder et al. 2002] or a speech agent could be
used to facilitate visually impaired persons to commit library
(searching/retrieving) operations [Dendrinos
Figure 3: Stratify Discovery System
Lately, with the development of newest portal standards and technologies,
search and retrieval tools are often implemented as portlets that could
be easily integrated via web services (.NET, Java Web services) in different
software environments. We could point out here a complete range of Java
based portlets provided by Autonomy that are compatible with IBM,
Oracle, SAP, Sybase, and other portals.
Intelligent agents and other sophisticated search tools are provided
by: Verity, Autonomy, Convera, FAST, Google,
Excalibur, Dataware Technologies, and others. More details
about enterprise search vendor landscape could be found in Giga Research
Report from year 2003 [Giga 2003].
5.3 Collaboration Solutions
Sharing knowledge between people is the most important and efficient
way for an individual to gather knowledge. Unlike other corporate resources,
knowledge is enriched when it is shared, and is not diminished through
use. With the introduction of the Internet and other collaboration technologies,
team work is not limited to a small group of people in one enterprise and
is spread to partners, suppliers or other members of interest.
Thus, groups of people organized in public self-organizing workgroups
and specialized communities (communities of interest, communities of practice)
generate knowledge that is shared, not individualized.
Collaboration systems include groupware systems, videoconferencing
software, e-learning solutions, project management systems, and
collaboration portals. Groupware systems (e.g. Lotus Domino by
IBM and Microsoft Exchange) promote collaborative work
of geographically dispersed organized units and sharing of highly
unstructured information (document libraries, events calendars, mail
inbox, contact lists). For example, they optimize the work of
knowledge workers by enabling them to track revisions to a document as
it moves through a collaborative editing process. Project management
systems (see Primavera Systems) are a kind of groupware systems
where all aspects of project work are documented: project teams,
activities, schedules, documents, meetings, etc. By these systems the
activities of team members are coordinated and planned. The most
relevant collaboration solutions (portals, workflow solutions and
e-learning solutions) will be explained in detail in the coming
Characteristics common to all collaboration solutions are the built
pull/push technologies. Pull techniques retrieve knowledge on users' requests
(e.g. e-mail system, document management system, search engines). Contrary,
push techniques that are implemented on publisher side broadcast contents
(news, seminars) to users' address similar to television broadcasting (e.g.
Push Application Server by BackWeb). In both types of technology software
agents play an important role. They analyze the customer behaviour and
retrieve/broadcast contents that are really interesting for the user i.e.
personalize the delivery.
Whether communication occurs through messaging services or on-line
services, synchronously or asynchronously, the key to successful and
efficient communication is a robust communications infrastructure
supporting traditional telephone networks, Internet and wireless
devices. Other relevant issue for cooperation is the interface of the
collaboration solution. In order to amplify collaboration and
knowledge transfer, a collaboration solution should integrate a multi
channel - multimodal interface. Besides access to relevant documents
through search and retrieval tools, a collaboration solution should
enable chatting and videoconferencing. Chatting is communicating
synchronously through a text channel. Videoconferencing (see
Linktivity) is cooperation of a group of dispersed members that
could see each other via a web camera and talk to each
other. Videoconferencing substitutes face-to-face communication which
is the most efficient way of knowledge transfer. Videoconferencing is
widely used in e-learning applications.
5.4 E-learning Solutions
E-learning or learning via internet (intranet and extranet) is an
emerging segment of the KM market that covers a wide set of
applications and processes, including web-based learning, virtual
classrooms, digital collaborations, and distance learning [File et al., 2003]. E-learning technologies have
changed the way the teaching process and the student evaluation
process are performed. But not just in the framework of the classical
education organizations, e-learning technologies have accelerated the
knowledge transfer, reduced the knowledge transfer costs, shortened
the learning times and, as a result, increased customer and employee
satisfaction in profit oriented organizations.
E-learning products like other collaboration solutions could be divided
into asynchronous and synchronous solutions. In a synchronous learning
model instructors offer the course content, using multiple Web-based audio
and videoconference technologies, information and file sharing and sending,
chat mode, white board accessible for all participants, etc. Asynchronous
e-learning means that the user can take the training independent of any
schedule. Examples of this type are auto-managed courses taken via Internet
or CD-ROM and stored audio/video Web presentations or seminars. In addition
to mentioned characteristics, e-learning solutions provide education management
capabilities as well. These tools manage registration, plan and schedule
5.5 Business Process Optimization
Established business processes together with the know-how of the employees
are the main intangible assets of the enterprises. Therefore, business
process modelling and analysis (BPMA) tools that enable organizations to
document, model, analyze, understand and improve their business processes
are here observed as knowledge management tools. BPMA tools [Khan
and Little 2002; Yeich and Zeid 2002] are not
mere process mapping tools, but rather use statistical modelling to analyze
business processes under various scenarios, identify critical flaws and
find ways of optimizing the whole business process. With the development
of portals, workflow automation solutions became their integral parts.
Process portals allow portal users to initiate processes, complete tasks,
check status and otherwise employ business process management from their
5.6 Enterprise Information Portals
Enterprise Information Portal (EIP) is a personalizable, Web-like user
interface with the ability to consolidate information, applications and
business processes from various internal and external sources on one screen,
so that knowledge workers are given a single point of access to all information
relevant to perform their job. Besides the integration role, the primary
purpose of the portal is:
- to ensure information access to the right users while restricting sensitive
material from unauthorized users,
- to enable users to organize their own personal workplace to view content/applications
they are interested in while having all irrelevant information automatically
- to enable safe information exchange within Portal communities,
- to simplify business operations with suppliers (B2B), customers (B2C)
As the first portals that appear on the market in the late 1990s were
HTML-based collections of documents, they did not distinguish from the
standard Web applications based on Web and application servers. As a result,
not only the vendors of web content/document management solutions (Documentum,
Hyperwave, Hummingbird), but also the providers of business
information systems (IBM, SAP, SAS, ORACLE,
Microsoft and others) came out with their own portal solutions.
Nowadays, portal products come with pre-built collaboration solutions (e.g.
Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, Documentum eRoom).
The emphasis of the current generation of portal technologies is on
integration based on portal servers where web services play the main role.
Generally, a portal consists of presentation layer and business logic/administration
layer. The first one is composed of personalizable portlets (interactive
Web mini-applications, servlets, JSPs), local or remote to the portal,
that render markup fragments (news, weather, sports, and so on) that the
portal can aggregate into a page. Business logic and administration layer
is responsible for security, search /spidering/categorization operations,
business process integration (scheduling jobs, orchestration of web services),
and other administrative tasks on enterprise database/web/application servers.
We could point out here integration of Documentum eRoom portlets
with BEA WebLogic portal server.
5.7 Knowledge Production
Although most knowledge management software providers connect
knowledge management with efficient management of existing documents
and other structured, semi structured and unstructured items,
knowledge production is at the heart of knowledge
management. Production is a creative process that delivers new
knowledge. New tacit knowledge is created in a team or group or
virtual community as the result of the social interactions between
human actors. However, new tacit knowledge is created in the head of
individual student that acquire information via e-learning system or
knowledge retrieval system as well. Thus, we could conclude that
knowledge visualization interfaces [Eppler 2004]
concerned with presentation of the discovered/communicated knowledge
to the user and collaboration systems are information infrastructures
that enhance knowledge creation. According to File and Wentling to
group of knowledge creation tools [File, Wentling
2003] belong also software tools that enhance creativity (tools
for brainstorming, mind mapping, concept mapping) and problem solving
algorithms (critical path analysis, root cause analysis, decision
New explicit knowledge, as was previously discussed [see Section 3 Relating knowledge processes...], is a
result of several business transformations where intelligent data and
text mining algorithms (decision trees, neural networks, case-based
reasoning, genetic algorithms, forecasting algorithms, etc) are
applied to structured or unstructured data and information. Data/text
mining is concerned with detecting new and interesting pieces of
information in large databases/large collections of text documents.
Typical data/text analysis tasks include searching for trends,
discovering relationships among events, terms and documents,
categorizing or condensing information. Data and text mining
techniques are incorporated as decision support tools in integrated
business intelligence solutions from IBM, SAS,
ORACLE, Cognos, Business Objects, etc.
Except in-house knowledge production, knowledge could be captured from
outside. Scanning of project documentation, buying information about customers,
or hiring new people are examples for knowledge capture. Most document
management systems support this function.
6 The Role of Knowledge Management Solutions in Modern Organizations
Among the broad spectrum of definitions of the term "knowledge
management", for both (classical) hierarchically organized companies
and modern network organizations, we have accepted the following definition:
"Knowledge management is a process of creating value from the intangible
assets of the company including knowledge of the employees, business processes,
products, customer and supplier information systems, and other [Adamson,
Handford 2002]". Knowledge processes supported by knowledge infrastructures
improve individual and team creativity and facilitate innovation, but a
question arises here: "To what extent could the created value be utilized
on market?" or "How to transform the knowledge assets into valuable
goods and services preferred by customers?" A knowledge management
strategy should give answers and future directions for overcoming these
Like other management strategies (discussed also in this article), knowledge
management initiatives are expected to make the most of the intellectual
capital, enable innovation and competitiveness necessary to survive on
the market, satisfy customers, and hence, create profit. There are three
key aspects relevant to knowledge management strategy: people including
external human factors, processes and technology. Analyzing the knowledge
management technologies we did not neglect the other two aspects. On the
contrary, we paid special attention to the collaboration solutions that
connect people inside the enterprise and with the environment (clients,
suppliers, and partners). Binding people and applications, workflow solutions
document knowledge about processes that is unique for an enterprise and
is a source of a competitive advantage on market. In modern just-in-time
businesses, enterprise efforts are directed towards precise estimation
of customer requirements and preferences. New technologies including high-speed
networks, mobile telecommunications, video-conferencing, virtual reality
software alter the way the organizations do their business and communicate
with their customers, suppliers, and partners and also dislocated employees.
They enable binding of enterprises into virtual organizations, associations
or alliances with the aim to exchange information, knowledge and experience,
and to respond agilely to customer requirements [Malhotra
2000]. Knowledge management solutions related to the customer processes
are the following: domain-specific knowledge bases to promptly answer customer
questions in call centres; sophisticated sales and marketing tools to better
track the interactions with the customer; intelligent knowledge-based systems
to learn more about customer preferences, behaviours, profitability, and
overall potential; business process modelling and analysis tools to optimize
and automate the customer processes, etc.
In this paper, we have presented an extensive analysis of technologies
that support knowledge processes in enterprises and came to the following
- A type of knowledge technology covers many aspects of the knowledge
process. For example, collaboration solutions not only organize the knowledge
items in a way that best suits the community, but connect people and facilitate
knowledge transfer and creation.
Collaboration solutions are also used in operational business processes,
where knowledge is distributed to clients and as such serves to satisfy
customer needs. In particular, we could point out knowledge portals that
integrate the different processes in enterprises into a unified business
- Knowledge use in internal or external business processes relies on
all previously discussed knowledge technologies.
- Knowledge representation techniques, search and retrieval tools, all
types of collaboration solutions are forming a bridge between knowledge
creation and knowledge utilization. On one side they are used to enhance
creativity and on the other side, they optimize knowledge work and improve
efficiency and productivity.
Comparing operational and strategic business processes, we concluded
that operational business processes, supported by enterprise information
systems, collect data and information only. Knowledge in human heads or
in intelligent business modules are a result of processing of data and
information collected on operational level. We did not link the knowledge
processes to specific departments because we assume that knowledge integration
occurs on a departmental, and later, on an enterprise level and that knowledge
development and production (especially of explicit knowledge) occur as
parts of strategic business process through whole organization. Strategic
performance measurement solutions could be used to measure the impact of
knowledge management on overall business performance and direct actions
on a strategic as well as on an operational level.
Analyzing the internet resources of commercially available knowledge
management solutions, we established a taxonomy that helped us to segment
the knowledge management market. The given insight into knowledge management
market is a good starting point for strategic planners to easily begin
a knowledge management initiative.
This research has been done under IT.1.24.0041.A project funded by the
Ministry of Science and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Serbia.
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