Grace Polhemus: Technology New Jersey

Knowledge Management: Ed Swanstrom

Business Speed: Henry Lubas

Knowledge Basics: Kevin O’Sullivan

Knowledge Technology: Michael Charney

Knowledge Tools

Corrections or additions?

The Information Revolution: Knowledge Management

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Grace Polhemus: Technology New Jersey

Thanks to the Internet, immense amounts of information

on any topic are just a click away. That’s the first stage of the

information revolution. In the second stage we are learning how to

organize the information, first with powerful and intelligent search

engines, and more recently with targeted E-mail newsletters.

Nevertheless, the information that workers need to use in a particular

company is usually not accessible at the click of a button. That

information

resides in file cabinets, on individual computers, and in people’s

heads.

That’s why the third stage of the information revolution is going

to be something called Knowledge Management. And like the search

engines

and the E-mail newsletters, Knowledge Management is destined to grow

into a lucrative profit center for its pioneers. Lotus Notes, the

software program that enables teams to simultaneously work on a

project,

is an example of an early knowledge management tool.

Technology New Jersey is partnering with the Knowledge Management

Consortium International (KMCI), a Maryland-based group with 17,000

members worldwide, to help companies implement knowledge management.

"Knowledge management is where companies have to concentrate,

but it is still very new to a lot of companies," says Grace

Polhemus, TNJ’s director (E-mail: polhemus@technologynj.org).

"Knowledge has to be widely accessible, and that is very hard

for companies to do that are not used to sharing," says Polhemus.

"We’re so used to keeping secrets. The technology was there, but

companies needed to encourage people to empty their brains, their

files, and their computers onto the local network."

Companies starting this initiative should begin slowly, perhaps with

learning to use Lotus Notes or implementing a way to coordinate and

consolidate the E-mail. Some have created a new job title: Knowledge

Manager or Chief Knowledge Officer. Michael J. Burtha, for

instance,

is executive director of Knowledge Networking for Johnson & Johnson.

Knowledge managers are starting to substantiate return on investment

(ROI), but as with any new idea tracing ROI is always difficult.

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Knowledge Management: Ed Swanstrom

We naturally manage knowledge," says Edward C.

Swanstrom,

president of Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI),

the Maryland-based group working with Technology New Jersey. "We

humans have been doing it since the first tribes. Now we are trying

to figure out how to do it better for some advantage. If technology

is helping to increase the flow of knowledge, it can help us organize

it and help create more knowledge."

Swanstrom, a philosophy major at Park College in Kansas City (Class

of 1978) and formerly a practice leader for knowledge management for

Arthur D. Little, firmly believes that with efficient knowledge

management

corporations can more than double their pace of innovation, thus

accelerating

profits. Cutting R&D time has obvious benefits for a pharmaceutical

firm, but it also would enhance the bottom line for consultants and

even for those in academe.

"Knowledge management applied to innovation will be the trend

for 2000," Swanstrom says. "At first data warehousing and

document management was talked about, but then we realized that using

knowledge management to become innovative was the payoff." His

ideas:

Create a market for intellectual capital. You may have

developed a training course for your company that could be used

elsewhere.

Look at the intellectual assets within your organization and, in

effect,

have a garage sale.

Understand the criteria by which you judge the value of

information.

If you have five friends with advice on buying stock, which advice

would you choose and why?

Document each decision. Figure out the criteria that smart

managers use and devise a way of capturing that.

Provide ways for people to dialogue in groups to capture

more knowledge . "The social network is the valuable asset,"

says Swanstrom. Determine who are the pollinators, people who can

travel between groups and introduce information, spawn ideas, or make

important introductions. "If I map that out in your organization

I’ll know more about where you’re getting your knowledge from than

what technology can tell me."

Take a good hard look at your most valued information sources: people.

"Even if you have the greatest Lotus Notes system in the world,

it doesn’t mean people are going to use it," Swanstrom says.

"But

if you get the social network together, people will store the

information

because someone else needs it. Trust is the key."

There will be plenty of room for every worker in the 21st

century

economy, he predicts. People who were previously involved in

processing

transactions will now become "value-added" members of the

organization.

Is knowledge management just the next fad? In the 1980s, for instance,

"quality circles" were a profit center for many training

companies.

Could knowledge management be just another way of getting corporations

to send people for training? "Not the way I approach it,"

says Swanstrom. "My background is innovation management. You go

after the lever points, the biggest bang for the bucks."

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Business Speed: Henry Lubas

Too much information and no way to organize it —

Bill Gates agrees that is the management dilemma for the next

millennium. In his best-seller "Business @ The Speed of

Thought"

(Warner Books, 1999), he writes that "middle managers can be

overwhelmed

by day-to-day problems and not have information they need to fix them.

They may have reams of data in front of them — literally reams

of paper reports — that are difficult to analyze or correlate

with data in other reports."

Gates thinks that a good digital nervous system — "with a

flow of specific, actionable information" — will empower

middle

managers. "They should be seeing their sales numbers, expense

breakdowns, vendor and contractor costs, and the status of major

projects

online, in a form that invites analysis as well as coordination with

other people."

Henry Lubas, director of Amper Consulting in Edison quotes Gates

in his prediction that conditions are finally ripe for a full-blown

technological revolution (U.S. 1, June 16, 1999). "A lot of

companies

are striving to use technology but the problem is that historically

it’s been too expensive to deliver," he says. "Now it’s

cheaper.

Software applications are more powerful and are cost effective. Even

small businesses can use it to their competitive advantages."

Don’t invest in underpowered technology. A company should

first determine whether its problem pertains to software issues,

infrastructure

or hardware needs. "We’ll get into a company that says `I need

accounting software,’ and we’re hesitant to do that until we get into

a real sense of where the company is headed," Lubas says.

Involve people in the process. "The worst thing you

can do is make decisions without consulting the people whose lives

you’re affecting," Lubas says. "You want people to buy into

the concept, or a lot of times you end up with failed projects."

The earlier you get people involved in the transition to digital,

the better off you are, he says.

In fact, involving employees is crucial. After all, the

Information

Age is essentially about converting human intelligence to artificial

intelligence. "The concept of `Business @ The Speed of Thought’

is to use technology that will replace what was usually done by human

thought," says Lubas (hlubas@amper-consulting.com).

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Knowledge Basics: Kevin O’Sullivan

<D>Kevin O’Sullivan of the Knowledge Company (U.S.

1, June 23, 1999) says to start with the basics:

Knowledge audit. Go beyond the database and look at

unstructured

information — information that is typically associated with

documents

and with the innate understanding and expertise of your employees.

Fill in the gaps. Figure out how to update that knowledge

— to enrich the assets. "Leave nothing out that will have

an impact in years ahead," says O’Sullivan (E-mail:

knowledge2000@home.com).

Customize the technology. "Most of the technology

initiatives around the world have failed because of a lack of

agreement

between technology and its users," says O’Sullivan. "The job

of any organization is to make sure the users are explaining what

they want, and make sure the technologists understand that. Banking,

manufacturing, retail and insurance all have unique ways of

operating."

If no one in your firm is qualified to tailor-make "knowledge"

software, go to one of the big six consulting firms or work with a

local company with a strong reputation.

Leverage relationships. Link with other companies —

both figuratively and literally — on the web. "The wars will

be won or lost on relationships," says O’Sullivan, "on whether

or not you have a good name on the web."

Give incentives. This will encourage employees to divulge

their knowledge and draw from others’ knowledge more readily. "As

many firms have found, you can have a great system, but it’s no good

if nobody is going to use it," O’Sullivan says. Each time someone

invests or uses information, offer some kind of reward.

Don’t wait. Don’t put it off because your company is too

new, too old, too prominent or too obscure. "Technology is cheap

— I mean really cheap," says O’Sullivan. "If it goes down

more, it’s not going down much. The return on your investment most

likely will far outweigh the little amount of money you save by

waiting

for a year."

If you don’t decide to implement knowledge management in your company

now, others will make the decision for you. "Eighty percent of

Fortune 500 firms are planning to implement knowledge management

within

one year," says O’Sullivan. "In the near future, your company

will be expected to handle information much faster. The velocity of

things happening in the industry dictates rapid action."

"If you wait, you won’t be able to learn, you just have to

implement,"

he says. "That’s if you’re around."

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Knowledge Technology: Michael Charney

Social networks are indeed important, but

knowledge-enabling

technology is still the coin of the corporate realm, says Michael

Charney, product manager at ServiceWare Inc. (formerly the Molloy

Group) in Parsippany (973-540-1212). Powerful intuitive computers,

the so-called "thinking computers," or "intelligent

computers"

have software that enables them to "learn." Companies that

use this technology are the ones that will survive in an era of

Internet-driven

commerce, but right now they are expensive and available only to the

larger businesses.

The new technology, called a "neural network," enables

computers

to make sophisticated associations when dealing with a query. "If

you punch in the word `sun,’" Charney says, "you’ll also get

moon, and everything related to it." The process is organic; it

is about making connections, similar to the way in which the creative

human mind works.

Charney sees the new technology becoming an essential tool in

businesses

that rely on customer service and support. "Consumers are much

more empowered today," he says, pointing to how the Internet is

both guiding sales and providing customer support services. "If

you’re looking to make customers happier," he says, "an

intelligent

technology is a way to do that."

A customer service representative dealing with a billing problem,

for example, would be able to tap into the collective experience of

anyone who has ever dealt with a similar problem and could retrieve

a sophisticated answer quickly. The advantages are obvious, says

Charney.

"The website or telephone support center that allows me to do

my business quickly and efficiently," he says, "is the one

that’s going to get my business."

A medium-sized business may be able to afford a standard software

package that needs only a little tweaking to make it work. For now,

neural networks are too expensive for small businesses, says Charney,

but costs will inevitably come down. So all business people, whether

working for corporations or a mom and pop business, should start

getting

ready to harness the neural networks. Prepare to undergo — not

just technological change — but also cultural change, he advises:

Encourage knowledge sharing. Businesses should provide

incentives to employees for careful documentation and sharing of

information.

"There has always been a cultural bias towards knowledge

hoarding,"

Charney says. "In the past, businesses and employees have been

territorial about knowledge. It was a competition thing."

Maintain quality assurance. Before implementing the

"smarter"

software, you need to establish the integrity of the information

already

in place. "The effectiveness of the system depends on the ongoing

quality assurance process," Charney says.

Find out what your customers want. Do your customers want

better product, technical or sales support? Do they want it over the

telephone or on the web? Knowledge tools and software can be

deployed

on an enterprise-wide level, helping both employees and customers

in a variety of ways.

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Knowledge Tools

Inexpensive "knowledge enabling" technology

can help your business, says Ira Barkoe, of Innovative Marketing

Concepts in North Brunswick. He sells a CyberVista tool that for about

$2,000 can track your competitors’ advertising on the Internet and

download the data into an Excel spreadsheet. Another tool, for as

low as $50 per month, tracks your own advertising and documents when

your banner ads appear.

Similar tools, known as task agents, can report to contractors on

what state bids are available. Others use them to develop sales leads;

they capture the name from a media or trade publication web page and

deliver it back to the sales force. "It is a tremendous

opportunity

for companies to take greater advantage of technology to help make

strategic decisions," says Barkoe, "and for the most part,

they are not doing it."

Here are some of his Knowledge Management solutions:

Manufacturers or service companies use "task agents"

to monitor Web sites for new press releases, product announcements,

or price changes and inform key personnel automatically.

Risk managers gather highly changeable market, actuary, or other

information on a regular basis from different sources to make more

accurate assessments.

Security managers use Custom Web "sentinels" to

constantly

monitor their websites and automatically restore them to a previous

state in the event of unauthorized changes.

Managers get automatic notification of orders taken and shipped,

or of customer service requests on particular accounts.

Marketing "push" programs automatically contact

specified

customers with special programs on overstocked items.

Financial institutions automatically gather mortgage rates from

across the country and drop them into spreadsheets for quick analysis

and action.

Barkoe, an alumnus of Baruch College, Class of 1970, and a

30-year

veteran of the IT industry, points to other potential applications:

to monitor sites and/or chat rooms for negative comments about a

particular

company — and to collect data during the early morning according

to detailed specifications and have it ready at 7 a.m. on executive

desks. "It makes so much sense on the cost basis alone," says

Barkoe (E-mail: ibar@innovativemktgconcepts.com). "If it can

recoup

the cost in four or five months, people will be jumping all over

it."


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