Quest for the Knowledge Management Chimera

“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s Superman! Like the mythological Chimera, Knowledge Management seems to be made of many different aspects of business. In turn, people perceive it differently – interpreting it in as many different ways as they perceive it.

Knowledge Management may be simply defined as a set of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices.

Any tool or system that facilitates one or more these components will likely get categorized under the broad ambit of Knowledge Management. For example, if we were to look at the various tasks, then the tools that will get covered under this would include:
• Identify insights and experiences – Business Intelligence, Business Analytics, Data Mining, e-Discovery, Search Engines
• Create, Represent and Distribute – Content Management Systems, Taxonomy Classification tools and methods, Social Collaboration tools et al
• Enable adoption of insights and experiences – Learning Management tools, Business Process Management tools, et al

A few of them perform one or more of these activities in a very narrow slice of the overall business – like Customer Support and Service, Customer Relationship Management, or Infrastructure Management. Most others work best in one of the above with the ability to feed into the other aspects of the definition – for example, BI enables identifying insights, but the rest of the activities are mostly carried out outside of the scope of a BI tool.

Although I have listed Learning Management tools and BPM tools under the third aspect of KM definition, in reality these happen in a very passive manner, disconnected from the definition of KM itself. BPM tools, especially are good at defining business rules and changing processes that can cause improvement in performance, but will not be able to relate to the actual experience or insight that caused this change. Similarly, LMS tools can impact learning and enhance competencies in people but will not be able to measure the performance enhancement.

Where NEPHILA probably stands out from all other tools is in being able to provide the bridge across the entire definition – more importantly, being able to create the link between the identification of the insight and its subsequent impact on the business in the adoption of that insight. This puts it in a unique position – of being in competition with these applications, while at the same time being able to complement and enhance the functionality of these individual applications, in delivering a seamless final product that delivers the essence of KM.

However, any CIO procuring software to drive organizational strategy or operational excellence is looking for one or more of these tools, and as such, all of these will be competing for the same slice of the budgetary pie (as opposed to a software that enables transaction processing or delivers core business functionality). Depending on the level of process automation, knowledge management maturity, and culture organizations will choose to implement one or more of these applications. So, if a CIO believes that a BI tool will provide the required functionality (to deliver insights) and that is the level of knowledge management required, a BI tool becomes a competitor. On the other hand, if the CIO requires learning from insight to be captured and transformed to organizational knowledge, then a BI tool becomes a complimentary product to the functionality that NEPHILA delivers. The level of process maturity and KM maturity will be higher in such an organization.

Like the mythological Chimera, NEPHILA is a curious mixture of data visualization (the most fundamental aspect of the business), a social collaboration tool (a culture-changer), a content management tool (knowledge repository) to a Knowledge Management tool ( enabling adoption of insights). In a more traditional (and theoretical sense) NEPHILA delivers the functionality required for an organization to discover tacit knowledge, act on the knowledge, enable an environment for the new-found knowledge to get socially transmitted, and become an organization-wide process to finally becoming a main-stream innate capability of the organization. In more conventional business parlance, NEPHILA is able to take an activity from the real of strategy (sense-and-respond) to Execution (plan and execute). It provides the ability for management to drive strategy based on knowledge while sticking to the traditional methods of measuring performance. It also provides the bridge to make the transition from a traditional hierarchical organization to a more dynamic and socially collaborative modern-day organization. The challenge that lies in front of us, is being able to make senior management see this aspect of knowledge management.

So, do we have competition? That’s a question that probably still remains only partially answered.

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