Knowledge Management is so Web 1.0

Published: June 24th, 2009

Waterloo, Ont.-based enterprise content management vendor Open Text Corp. recently released a social media toolfor corporate workers to collaborate through threaded discussions,communities, wikis, blogs, while integrating the platform with an ECMbackend for compliancy.

To me, the software appeared to do in the Web 2.0 world whatknowledge management was meant to do some years ago. In other words, bea repository of corporate information that now has turned digital. Onecompany I worked for several years ago had a department dedicated toknowledge management that created an online repository of corporatedocuments, reports, whitepapers, all categorized according to contenttype. It was static in that only the administrator could post content.Users couldn’t add stuff nor leave comments or conduct a keywordssearch.

When I spoke to Scott Welch, product manager with Open Text’scollaboration solutions group, during a demo of the new social mediatool, I asked him how the concept of knowledge management as we knew itseveral years ago fit into this product. Welch said it does haveaspects of knowledge management in that users can store and collatecontent, but it’s so much more than that. It’s now more like leveragingthat knowledge to do things like identifying expertise and commoninterests, and finding where a discussion on a particular topic mighthave taken place at some point in time in the organization.

It was clear from the demo that what has changed is not just howusers are able to utilize that knowledge, but it’s the type of contentthat comprises that knowledge. The Web 2.0 world means that knowledgetakes the form of things like threaded discussions within onlinecommunities, user profiles, tracked comments in the margin of aMicrosoft Word document.

But while such a system is a great repository for knowledge in theWeb 2.0 world, the system is only as good as the content that goes intoit. I recall, in that previous company I worked for, we used a humanresource management system that employees frequently referred to as“garbage in, garbage out” because input data was often not cleaned andduplicated, resulting in reports whose accuracy was questionable.

Similarly, social media tools are only as good a source of knowledgeas what’s put into it. There are stories of enterprises deployingsocial networking platforms like wikis and intranets where the actualrate of employee usage turned out to be far below the expectation.Employees often require an incentive to use new technologies, and maybethe promise of better collaboration is not quite tangible enough. Atany rate, organizations have some work to do in adapting knowledgemanagement to the Web 2.0 world, starting with employee culture.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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