/>
X
Innovation

KM, meet Web 2.0

Many Web 2.0 technologies and functions fall under the umbrella of KM: wikis for collaboration; tagging and "folksonomy", which is known to the fuddy-duddies as taxonomy; and blogging, which behind the firewall would otherwise be known as intranet publishing.
Written by Paul Montgomery, Contributor on

Many Web 2.0 technologies and functions fall under the umbrella of KM (knowledge management): wikis for collaboration; tagging and "folksonomy", which is known to the fuddy-duddies as taxonomy; and blogging, which behind the firewall would otherwise be known as intranet publishing.

Now, I would not presume to usurp the primary position of fellow ZDNet blogger Dion Hinchcliffe in explaining Web 2.0 to C-level execs. However, there is room for both of us. I don't think any of my posts will be entitled Does Java EE 5 getting REST mean WOA will break out? as that seems at least two too many acronyms in a headline for my taste. Dion's all about the Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA, TLA QED) but I'll take a more human-focused look at how it is all supposed to work.

KM, and information management in general (the two phrases are used interchangeably these days), is covered rather poorly in most IT publications. The magazines and sites devoted to the IM industry are treated like red-headed stepchildren by the mainstream IT press, rather like how I imagine librarians are treated by IT managers in actual workplaces ... to be endured rather than accepted.

Talk of taxonomy, workflow and document management would put the heebie-jeebies up the average sysadmin or IT journo, they'd much rather be left to fiddle with things they understand like desktops, hardware, security and networks. You know, the simple stuff.

Nevertheless there is such a thing as KM press, and May 2006 seems to have been the month they discovered Web 2.0. KMWorld had an excellent article on corporate wikis which not only named the signature reference client for the phenomenon, investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, but also mentioned four other pioneers, getting user quotes from two of them.

The Bank of America uses the Confluence wiki to support its investment banking practices. "The ability to store information in context--to weave a narrative through data sources, attachments, charts, archived mails and other data--is what makes wikis a powerful knowledge management tool," says Michael Ogrinz, software architect at Bank of America. "Traditional document management software works like a giant filing cabinet where it's hard to tell what information is important."

That's a keeper, a quote you can put in a PowerPoint presentation to show your boss. Or give to your boss to show to his boss. Or scare the bejeezus out of your document management software supplier.

Intelligent Enterprise looked at Web 2.0 from a business intelligence perspective (bear with me here, BI is supposed to be part of KM if you believe KM adherents). The article focuses less on users and more on how problematic it would be for BI vendors to embrace Web 2.0's attendant principles, which is true but not peculiar to BI. In fact, most of the truisms in that article apply to other IM technologies like document management, imaging, workflow and even the relatively new-fangled enterprise portal.

Over at destinationKM.com, an editorial by Demir Barlas attacked an anti-wiki post by Nick Carr, itself inspired by a post by a Harvard associate professor on the aforementioned Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein case study. Mr Barlas, I salute you. Your level of snarkiness and personal insult towards Mr Carr reached heights to which I can only aspire. Beyond the sniping, there were some fine statements which covered many of the reasons why wikis can be valuable (or dangerous) to usual corporate thinking.

Optimize Magazine provided a catch-all call to arms, peppered with user comments. The first was from SAP as an implementer for an unnamed company, which seems to me to be ridiculous ... a technology which threatens to disrupt top-down approaches to IT like none before it for little to no cost, being installed by the world's leading vendor of insanely expensive top-down controlled software solutions? The other three quoted users were IT vendors themselves, which doesn't quite instil confidence. Give me a farmer standing in a cornfield using Web 2.0 ... that would be impressive.

It will be interesting to see how the KM press cover Web 2.0 over time, as unlike other recent crazes in the field like enterprise portals, the vendors will find it much more difficult to justify their exorbitant per-seat fees for software that is architected to be free and universal. These things do tend to get noticed by magazine sales departments. For the moment though, it's all sweetness and light.

Editorial standards