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Knowledge management (KM) is the process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organisation. It refers to a multidisciplinary approach to achieving organisational objectives by making the best use of knowledge.
An established discipline since 1991, KM includes courses taught in the fields of business administration, information systems, management, library, and information sciences. Other fields may contribute to KM research, including information and media, computer science, public health and public policy. Several universities offer dedicated master's degrees in knowledge management.
Many large companies, public institutions and non-profit organisations have resources dedicated to internal KM efforts, often as a part of their business strategy, IT, or human resource management departments. Several consulting companies provide advice regarding KM to these organisations.
Knowledge management efforts typically focus on organisational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, integration and continuous improvement of the organisation. These efforts overlap with organisational learning and may be distinguished from that by a greater focus on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and on encouraging the sharing of knowledge. KM is an enabler of organisational learning.
Knowledge management (KM) technology can be categorised:
Groupware Software that facilitates collaboration and sharing of organisational information. One of the earliest successful products in this category was Lotus Notes: it provided tools for threaded discussions, document sharing, organisation-wide uniform email, etc.
Workflow systems Systems that allow the representation of processes associated with the creation, use and maintenance of organisational knowledge. For example, the process to create and utilise forms and documents.
Content management and document management systems Software systems that automate the process of creating web content and/or documents. Roles such as editors, graphic designers, writers and producers can be explicitly modeled along with the tasks in the process and validation criteria. Commercial vendors started either to support documents (e.g. Documentum) or to support web content (e.g. Interwoven) but as the Internet grew these functions merged and vendors now perform both functions.
Enterprise portals Software that aggregates information across the entire organisation or for groups such as project teams (e.g. Microsoft SharePoint).
eLearning Software that enables organisations to create customised training and education. This can include lesson plans, monitoring progress and online classes.
Planning and scheduling software Software that automates schedule creation and maintenance (e.g. Microsoft Outlook). The planning aspect can integrate with project management software such as Microsoft Project.
Telepresence Software that enables individuals to have virtual "face-to-face" meetings without assembling at one location. Videoconferencing is the most obvious example.
These categories overlap. Workflow, for example, is a significant aspect of a content or document management systems, most of which have tools for developing enterprise portals.
Proprietary KM technology products such as Lotus Notes defined proprietary formats for email, documents, forms, etc. The Internet drove most vendors to adopt Internet formats. Open-source and freeware tools for the creation of blogs and wikis now enable capabilities that used to require expensive commercial tools.
KM is driving the adoption of tools that enable organisations to work at the semantic level, as part of the Semantic Web: for example, the Stanford Prot? Ontology Editor. Some commentators have argued that after many years the Semantic Web has failed to see widespread adoption, while other commentators have argued that it has been a success.