Inter@active Week Jan 25, 1999

What Is Knowledge Management?

By Mel Duvall

Representatives of some of the biggest players in the document management and messaging and collaboration sectors are scheduled to meet in Silver Spring, Md., this week to debate a hot issue in the information technology industry: What exactly is knowledge management?

KM, as it now is being referred to, is viewed as a huge opportunity for companies to cut costs and leverage their internal assets to generate new revenue.

Internet technologies are making it possible to put vast resources of internal documents online over corporate intranets for easy search and retrieval, and new, real-time messaging systems can link executives to the experts within their organizations with the click of a button.

And while most companies agree knowledge management is essential to their ability to compete in the Internet age, that's where the consensus generally ends.

"There's a tremendous debate going on right now," said Marilyn Wright, vice president of standards at The Association for Information and Image Management, an industry group representing most of the players in the document management industry. "It can be as basic as: Is knowledge something that can be captured with a technology, or is it more related to the culture within an organization?"

While the debate over definitions goes on, an increasing number of players are jumping into the knowledge management arena. Most of the traditional document management companies have recast themselves as knowledge management system providers, in the face of competition from more nimble Internet start-ups such as Open Text. And messaging giant Lotus Development has been touting its new Notes and Domino Release 5 product as a knowledge management platform.

This week's industry forum, aptly called "Conquering the KM Tower of Babel," is the first stage in an effort to build standards not only around the technical aspects of knowledge management, but also around the concept.

"We're looking to open a dialogue to see if the industry can coalesce around some of the ideas that are out there and come up with some standard terms," Wright said.

The effort will be chaired by Tom Dale, executive vice president at Automated Data Sciences, and includes representatives of such companies as Electronic Data Systems, Lockheed Martin, PC Docs, Perot Systems, Pillsbury and Texaco. Separately, Lotus announced at its annual users' conference in Orlando, Fla., last week that it is forming an Institute for Knowledge Management, along with parent IBM, to conduct research into the creation and deployment of successful knowledge management systems.

Membership in the institute will be open to outside corporations and academic institutions, and Lotus said initial members include General Motors, Stanford University, The World Bank, The Wharton School and Xerox.,4164,2192675,00.html