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Google dodges knowledge management question

Analysis: The line between enterprise search and knowledge management is a fine one, says the search giant, but it won't be drawn on where it sees the future of its Enterprise business
Written by Andrew Donoghue, Contributor

Google has hinted that it could create an extremely powerful corporate knowledge management or information management platform by integrating products such as its search appliances with its other search and communications applications.

Speaking at the launch of Google’s latest Mini search appliance on Thursday, product marketing manager Arvind Desikan admitted that integrating different Google enterprise-class search technologies together, such as the Enterprise Desktop Search and Google Enterprise Toolbar, would benefit business customers. "The more things we have integrated, the more useful it will be," he said.

But Desikan would not be drawn on whether Google is planning to develop its enterprise search tools to compete with entrenched knowledge management vendors such as the UK's Autonomy. "I won’t speculate on the way this is heading. Basically, we are looking to take what Google did for consumers to the workplace," he said.

Knowledge management is a term that was extremely popular back at the turn of the millennium but suffers from a lack of a standard definition — with different vendors and analysts disagreeing on what it really means. At a basic level, knowledge management is about businesses managing internal information more effectively, including the tacit or unstructured information that resides with specific individuals.

Although Google may not have a knowledge management platform per se, its search products are being used by several large enterprises for extremely complex information management projects, according to Desikan. "We appear to have served the knowledge management needs of several large companies to date, including BA and Schlumberger," he said.

In a recent research report, Knowledge Management Enables the High-Performance Workplace,  analyst group Gartner claimed that nearly all large organisations have implemented knowledge management to support at least one critical business process. "While human knowledge may be an organisation's most valuable asset, much of this knowledge is never shared. Harnessing critical knowledge and using it to create a common vision and objectives can move an organisation closer to realizing a high-performance workplace," the report stated. Commenting on whether Google has plans to push into the knowledge management arena, Desikan added that the line between search and knowledge management was a fine one. "It is a matter of semantics. Knowledge management is essentially about giving users the right information at the right time."

One sign that Google's enterprise search competitors may be feeling the heat was market leader Autonomy's decision to acquire competitor Verity in November, for around £300m. The combined companies will be better placed to fight any strong moves by Google into the knowledge management arena as a result. Speaking to ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com recently, Mike Lynch, chief executive of Autonomy, said that he is intent on developing far more intuitive network searches within the enterprise.

Last month, Google announced a partnership with consultancy BearingPoint, formerly KPMG Consulting, to help the search giant cater to the search needs of specific industries, like pharmaceuticals, banking, high-tech and aerospace. "Search as an application is becoming more and more in demand from within the enterprise," said Chris Weitz, managing director of BearingPoint, at the time. "Our research has shown that users already use Google all day long and they want to continue to use it in other ways. We are going to extend it into parts of the enterprise it currently does not go."

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