In this section, I present an overview of the IT-based tools and systems that can help knowledge management (KM) fulfill its goals.
The scope of this section is to provide the reader with an overview of the types of KM tools available on the market today and to gain an understanding of what their role is in the KM process. This is the most important step, since there are literally thousands of options to choose from. However, in the future, I intend to also take a look at some actual KM tools and present a few reviews.
To recap, I have dealt with KM tools throughout the section on tactical management initiatives, outlining its role in knowledge discovery, organization, sharing, etc. In the section on knowledge management strategy, I presented an article on knowledge management systems implementation, where I stated that IT based tools, for the most part, fall into one of the following categories (adapted from Gupta and Sharma 2005, in Bali et al 2009):
- Groupware systems & KM 2.0
- The intranet and extranet
- Data warehousing,data mining, & OLAP
- Decision Support Systems
- Content management systems
- Document management systems
- Artificial intelligence tools
- Simulation tools
- Semantic networks
For now, in the subsections that follow, I will discuss the first six KM tool categories on this list, as they are usually what people refer to when speaking of KM tools. Simulation tools is too broad a category for the scope of this site, and artificial intelligence systems are of questionable usefulness and are outside my area of expertise. However, in the (not too near) future, I do plan to add a segment on semantic networks and artificial intelligence.
A quick note on artificial intelligence: While there was much excitement about this a few years ago, to my understanding, it has not lived up to its expectations (yet). Expert systems for example, designed to capture human decision-making and to make the correct decisions in certain circumstances, have not been so successful due to constantly changing requirements (Botha et al 2008). For more on this, research topics such as neural networks, intelligent decision support systems, and expert systems.
Again, I would like to remind the reader that KM is about managing people, culture, and organizational practices & structures. Effective KM initiatives are therefore never exclusively technology driven. However, in conjunction with sound practice, KM tools are invaluable at providing support to KM initiatives and at facilitating interaction, exchange of ideas, locating experts, and storing knowledge in both structured and unstructured forms. While it can be said that these tools were not absolutely necessary when KM peaked at the turn of the last century, today they are a necessary competitive advantage within knowledge sharing.
If IT is used right - as a supporting and enhancing mechanism for sound, existing KM practices - it can be a very valuable tool indeed.
Alan Frost M.Sc., 2010 - Updated 2017