Emerging Trends in Knowledge Management
BY DAVID MILLER
The amount of information available is increasing exponentially. Last October, David J. Cappuccio of technology research firm Gartner predicted that in the next five years, the average business will experience an 800 percent increase in its data capacity. How will organizations collect, store, and structure this knowledge so that it is usable? That is the goal of knowledge management, a field that is evolving as the knowledge needs of the 21st century continue to change and grow. Here are some top current and emerging trends in knowledge management.
- Integration throughout the entire enterprise: Knowledge management had its original basis in customer-facing applications, with the goal of improving customer service and experience. But today, it is being integrated throughout entire enterprises, to facilitate employee relationships, boost productivity, and provide searchable resources for all functions and departments in an organization.
- Specialized tools and technologies: As companies’ knowledge needs are becoming more specialized, so are the tools used to meet them. In the past, many organizations got by using generic database tools for their knowledge management needs, but those tools are no longer adequate to meet current demands. Today, those generic tools are being replaced by specialized knowledge management software that provides more powerful, and more flexible, tools for information storage, search, and analysis.
- Expert databases and social tools: Knowledge is not just stored in files and documents; it is also stored in people. To facilitate interactions between people in an organization, knowledge management is shifting to include expert databases and social tools. Blogs, wikis, and expert databases are just a few of the tools now being included under the umbrella of knowledge management (sometimes referred to as “expertise management”). These tools make it possible for employees to identify and contact relevant experts, and for people across an organization to exchange knowledge through conversation and collaboration. This not only provides an efficient way for people to find answers to their questions, but also raises a company’s collective intelligence and forms a foundation for cultivating new experts.
- Intelligent assistants: With the amount of data already in existence, and 800 percent more to come in the next five years, organizations need a way to break that information into smaller, more usable chunks. In a recent article for KM World Magazine, industry solutions expert Paul Wlodarcyzk wrote that the “next level of knowledge management” is “intelligent assistants”—Siri-like applications that “sit on top of content,” parceling it into smaller pieces, which can then be tagged for easier scanning and consumption. These tools are just starting to make their way into knowledge management systems.
- Mobile support: Today, a large amount of work is done outside of the formal work environment, and most types of enterprise software are going mobile. For knowledge management systems, the move to mobile is even more crucial, especially as knowledge management becomes more of an enterprise-wide concern. Salespeople on business trips, engineers out in the field, and technicians on service calls - these workers all need access to their company’s knowledge base software in order to perform their jobs efficiently.
The 21st century has brought with it new ideas about the nature of knowledge and its place within organizations. These trends show how the tools and technologies of knowledge management are evolving to encompass those new ideas and meet the needs of businesses today.