Knowledge-Management Tools

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Viewpoints

2006

About This Technology

June 2010

Knowledge-management tools are the software infrastructure that enables companies to collaborate, share knowledge, and learn. Many vendors and users now consider collaboration to be the highest-priority area. In the long term, these tools have the potential automatically to record, discover, and organize all corporate data; annotate employees' work and meetings with pertinent information; and manage parts of a company's operations such as project staffing. Knowledge-management tools span a wide spectrum of software—from tools for storing, managing, and delivering content to real-time collaboration systems. A knowledge-management product may be a large system serving an entire enterprise or it may be a small Web-based application serving a project team. This Technology Map covers enterprise content-management systems, enterprise search, portals, Web conferencing, online workspaces, online communities, intelligence systems, wikis, blogs, and social networking.

Today, the traditional approach to knowledge management—including centralized, well-organized databases and professional knowledge-management staff—is in transition as Web 2.0 tools like wikis and social-networking software arrive in the enterprise from the ground up. Employees and department managers are adopting Web 2.0 tools without the sanction, or even knowledge, of their IT departments or corporate knowledge-management teams. Some IT departments and corporate knowledge managers are understandably concerned about the security risk and lack of coordination that Web 2.0 tools are creating—for example, enterprises are finding that their employees have adopted many Web-based applications from small vendors and that enterprise knowledge is effectively becoming lost in these small, local, applications. However, enlightened senior managers are recognizing that they need to capitalize on their employees' newfound enthusiasm for collaboration and knowledge sharing and are trying—with mixed levels of success—to provide new corporate knowledge-management systems with Web 2.0 features. This new phase of knowledge management is not just the preserve of start-ups; Microsoft, IBM, and other large vendors are adding Web 2.0 capabilities into their products.

Knowledge management may remain in a transitional state for some years as the global recession puts the brakes on major new IT investments and creates consolidation and bankruptcies among small-to-medium players in KM. During this time, corporate knowledge-management teams will be under pressure to demonstrate their value to the business—difficult in situations in which employees have taken collaboration and knowledge sharing into their own hands. Foresighted users and vendors will begin the regeneration of corporate knowledge management. Now is the time to look beyond Web 2.0 and consider how augmented reality, speech recognition, artificial intelligence, and new user interfaces could transform workplace collaboration. For example, perhaps every business meeting will one day have a virtual component as software and hardware overlay pertinent information, such as the name and schedule of each participant; automatically capture meeting minutes; and assign tasks to task lists.