The Technology Push for Knowledge Management

The concept of knowledge itself is not new, because the need and importance of knowledge has been the basis for the development of various cultures, philosophies and religions. What has really made it possible for people and even organizatins today to even contemplate harnessing knowledge energies for better management has been the rapid evolution in technology that we have seen over the last decades.

The role of technology, particularly information technology in defining and revitalizing corporate strategy has evolved over the last forty years or so. In the 1960s and 70s, computers were confined to glass cabins and sometimes as departmental number crunches. Information strategy was always seen as something that would come in after the corporate strategy had been defined. It was only with the introduction of the personal computer in the early 1980s and the subsequent spread of the networking phenomenon that changed the role of information technology from being a passive consequence of corporate strategy to a pre-requisite to the development of strategy. The pull factors exerted on the corporation by its external environment are compounded by the push given by rapid advances in information technology, particularly in the area of intro-organization and inter-organization communications.

This push, largely driven by the rapid proliferation of the Internet and the usage of associated Internet technologies within corporations in the form of intranets and extranets has resulted in the emergence new paradigms of business. A case in point is, the virtual bookstore that has caught the fancy of shoppers and stock market analysts alike and zoomed to a revenue run rate of a billion dollars and a market capitalization many times that, this company has proved that the traditional model of business is slowly but surely giving way to new methods of planning and developing business opportunities that will change the face of marketing strategy in the new millennium.

Other significant players are also beginning to generate significant revenues in the other three segments. FedEx, Cisco and Intel are reporting multi-billion dollar business-to-business transactions. Another popular internet startup, eBay, has brought the concept of the Virtual Auction to the consumer-to-consumer space. Pioneers like are turning the entire marketing paradigm on its head. It has made consumer-to-business transactions the new way of booking airline tickets, hotel rooms and soon, every form of service where the customer is keen to name his price rather than ask for discounts. All these phenomena are changing the every organizations deal with customers and even customer expectations from organizations.

While E-Commerce is one visible usage of the Internet phenomenon, another internal innovation that is happening in many business corporations worldwide is that of Knowledge Management (KM). The ability that the Internet provides to seamlessly integrate the business processes of organizations with activities spread all over the globe is encouraging organizations to look at knowledge capture, archival, dissemination and usage as the logical method of improving customer response through institutionalized and technology-enabled processes. Through the deployment of data and knowledge capture, storage and mining tools on knowledge networks, the objective seems to be to capture every form of explicit and tacit information and knowledge and build ongoing corporate learning.

The Corporate Portal is the logical culmination of technological advances in the areas of knowledge archival and dissemination, the internet, intranets and extranets and managerial innovations in the areas of shared learning and corporate experience building. In its early deployment in many organizations, the corporate portal is nothing more than a customized computing front-end for each and every employee in an organization which permits a customized user interface with the large storehouse of data, information and knowledge that exists in departmental, corporate and industry databases and data warehouses. It combines many evolutions like the electronic mail, GroupWare computing capabilities, personalized information retrieval and collaborative working with the new science of knowledge networks which enables the conversion, storage and on-tap availability of erstwhile tacit knowledge in explicit and accessible formats.

The early beginnings of the corporate portal actually happened in the business to consumer space. This caught the fascination of consumers and the global investor community alike, sending many Internet stocks into stratospheric levels. Front runners like Yahoo were the early pioneers in moving from generic portals, which provided a launching apad for surfers and information seekers alike, to customized individual access points like My Yahoo, one of today‘s most popular personalized internet services. The reason why more and more consumers find this concept fascinating is that it avoids the clutter of searching through multiple web sites for information, education and entertainment, that is most commonly accessed by creating a template for capturing only those information elements from the internet that one is actually interested in. This is enabling the concept of the customized newspaper, selecting scanning of high interest web sites and pull-based access of information on new products and services. In the consumer segment, the personal portal is already sounding alarm bells for traditional marketers who have been used to traditional push forms of advertising and product promotion. The formation of virtual communities consisting of groups of internet users with similar interests across countries and continents is being accelerated by this new portal concept.

The corporate portal will go one step further in integrating the work style of every individual into the information strategy of the organization. With the current trend in the US and Europe towards telecommuting and hot desking, an employee can start working anywhere in the world by sitting at a computer in any airport or hotel or business center or even at home and getting his individual working environment conjured up in seconds to enable him to commerce work. With many of the world‘s leading technology firms including Microsoft, Oracle and IBM as well as some of the most innovative Silicon Valley startups putting billions of dollars of investment monies into new tools and technologies for Net-centric hardware, software and communications capabilities, the next few years may change the entire paradigm of the business corporation.