Posted by: zyxo | February 4, 2008

15 ways to use knowledge management software


About a year ago Luis Suarez cited one post as, I quote, “of the most interesting and enlightening weblog posts I have seen in a while around the world of Knowledge Management” , end quote.
The post is called 15 Ways to Use Software to Improve Your Knowledge Management

I agree with Luis Suarez that it is indeed very interesting, giving a fairly good review of the softwares available.
However, the four goals that are distinguised as different goals look all about the same to me. After all : what is the difference between software to “encourage people to take advantage of other people’s knowledge“, to “ensure everyone can find the documents and other resources useful to them“, to “help staff easily answer common questions” or to “ensure senior staff has the right information to make decisions” ?
It all ends up to : “ensure that anyone easily gets the information he or she needs”.

As I wrote previously : you need i) to encourage people to share information, ii) have the means to store information, iii) ensure everyone can find the information and eventually use some tools to create information.

So what types/groups of tools do you need ?

The first group I call : make people communicate !
The best way to accomplish this is : put them together. They will communicate and need no software or tools at all to do this. This is wonderfully demonstrated by the google report on prediction markets (pdf) . The other traditional way is : telephone.
Then you have the more modern computer-based solutions : e-mail, blogs, instant messenging, social software.

The second group is : information storage. Let it be expertise repositories, simple file systems, knowledge bases, wiki’s, faq’s : first of all they should allow you to store any information you may need, but that is the simple part. The other parts are : ii)they should not only allow but even encourage people to put information in there : it has to be simple. And last but not least :iii) people should be able to easily find in a few clicks any information they are looking for.
And the trick here, and this I see as a critical success factor, is that people do not have to know where, or in which tool they have to search !
I often heard : “once you know where you can find it, its easy”. OK, but I want to find information anyway, even if I do not know where it is !
So : ONE starting point, one good SEARCH, but above all : one INFORMATION MODEL.

Howmany enterprises started knowledge management by modeling the information they needed ? If I should ask : howmany software development teams started writing software whithout doing some data- or objectmodeling, I am sure you will find it a ridiculous question : of cours none ! Is a knowledge management system not exactly the same, but even more complicated ?
So make an information model !
You may want to know which (sort of) information (a good old entity-relationship model is a good start) is needed by whom , when , howmany times etc… Otherwise the only clue to decide which software to use to enhance your knowledge management is your … software vendor.

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