In their book Working Knowledge, Thomas H. Davenport and Laurence Prusak define and discuss the following concepts:
- Data – Data is a set of discrete, objective facts about events. The transaction of purchasing a sweater is an example of data.
- Information – Data is turned to information when its creator adds value in some way. For a sweater purchase, relating the purchase to a newspaper coupon for a 10% discount helps assess the effectiveness of the ad and coupon.
- Knowledge – Broader, richer, and deeper than information, knowledge results when, for example, information about a situation is compared to other situations, or when a connection is made between this bit of information and others. For a sweater purchased using a coupon, knowledge could reflect past sweater sales patterns with and without coupons.
This book classifies knowledge management projects by three broad objectives:
- Attempts to create knowledge repositories.
- Attempts to improve knowledge access.
- Attempts to improve knowledge cultures and environments.
Knowledge repositories can encompass several types of information, such as competitor intelligence, internal research reports, or discussion databases. We have developed the following Lotus Notes databases to help share our knowledge:
- Contact Management – Stores letters, mailing lists, and discussion notes on our contacts.
- Business Ideas – Contains ideas related to our business processes.
- Library Catalog – Lists all the books, audio tapes, periodicals, and other materials available for research and self-improvement.
Knowledge access projects help users find the person with the knowledge they need, serving as a kind of internal "Yellow Pages" of knowledge. In my firm, two Notes databases serve this role:
- Client Folder – With a summary for every client, and an engagement letter and consultant list for each project, this database helps in locating knowledgeable associates and similar projects.
- Service List – This planned database will list descriptions of our services and consultants qualified to perform each service.
Projects to improve a firm's knowledge culture and environment are less dependent on technology and more dependent on attitudes and incentives to generate, codify, and transfer knowledge.
Today's economy requires moving from providing strictly a product to offering a product that has aspects of services, such as consumer feedback and additional information via the Web. To better provide these services and a joint product-service "offering," systematically managing knowledge will be a requirement for any company wishing to successfully compete.
Enabling technologies, such as Lotus Notes and the Web, allow even small companies such as ours to have sophisticated tools at a reasonable cost. We are already well on our way in using technology to manage our knowledge. Where are you?
Todd L. Herman
Client Project Update:
I am pleased to provide you with an update on our client projects. Projects we have completed over this period are...
Identified, Screened, and Evaluated Systems
Identified, screened, and evaluated systems vendors for a hosiery manufacturer, helping the company replace legacy systems having significant, pervasive Year 2000 problems.
Begun Implementing General Ledger Modules
Begun implementing the General Ledger module of a financial suite for an insurance company, assisting with process changes, interface design, project management, and user documentation.
Designed and Developed a Lotus Notes Database
Designed and developed a Lotus Notes database to track new customer programs for a printing company, allowing previously separate quote and order entry documents to be shared securely and to be easily tracked and updated.
Enhanced a Lotus Notes Purchase Order Application
Enhanced a Lotus Notes purchase order application to allow users to request new vendors for a real estate operating company, enforcing consistent information in these requests and using workflow to enable vendor approval and creation.
Enhanced a Lotus Notes Budgeting Database for a University
Enhanced a Lotus Notes budgeting database for a university, enabling a form to be used over the Web and thus allowing department heads to efficiently prepare key budget information using a browser.
Future projects we are planning include...
Extend Microsoft Excel Based Budget Functionality
Extend the functionality of a Microsoft Excel-based budget template for an insurance company, allowing managers to easily budget operating expenses, estimate the quantity of cost drivers for key activities, and describe the linkage of expense and cost drivers to the department and company operating plans.
General Ledger Module
Finish implementing the General Ledger module of a financial suite for an insurance company, assisting in various project areas.
Evaluate Software & Process Options
Evaluate the software and process options for the government reporting group of a health insurance company, recommending options to replace the existing system.
Review & Address Accounting and System issues
Review and address the accounting and systems issues for a manufacturing plant being sold by an athletic apparel company, permitting a smooth transition to the acquiring company.
Surveying Sales Compensation Practices
Assist a manufacturing company in surveying its sales compensation practices against other companies in the industry, allowing the company to revise its practices to reflect its growth and profit objectives.
Lotus Notes Scheduling Database
Enhance the standard Lotus Notes scheduling database for a telecommunications equipment manufacturer, enabling software teams to better schedule system testing in the testing labs.
Interim Accounts Receivable Manager
Serve as the interim accounts receivable manager for a university, reviewing and documenting functions in the department and suggesting improvements in controls and processes.
Microsoft Access Budget Database Development
Develop a Microsoft Access budget database for the jeanswear group of an apparel manufacturer, enhancing the analysis capabilities of the budget group.