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Knowledge Management: Building Networks of People
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Informally, Knowledge Management (KM) is the art of building networks of people. Formally, KM is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, retrieving, sharing and evaluating an enterprise's information assets; these information assets may include databases, documents, policies and procedures as well as uncaptured, tacit expertise and experience resident in individual workers.
KM is not a passing fad. It is the current name for a wider and deeper movement, born two decades ago, aimed at retaining and leveraging an organization's human capital asset using information technology (IT). That movement as a whole should represent over $58 billion by 2003, while the core technologies directly associated with KM should grow from abo ut $1 billion in 1998 to over $12 billion in 2003 (a CAGR of 95%).
KM is relying on sufficiently mature technologies to act as a metaphor for a market consolidation. The reason why that discipline can federate different technologies and keep its momentum i s fourfold: first, pieces of the KM process actually rely on IT technologies to be efficient; second, many techniques that were barely addressing few users\rquote needs are now starting to scale at the enterprise level; third, most of the KM initiatives are not coming from IT groups pushing their technologies, but from business units optimizing their operations; fourth, the Internet wave has changed the way users communicate on-line.
On the users'side, organizations are starting to measure tangible returns out of their KM investments. On the vendors\rquote side the market is wide and fragmented. The growth of participating software segments and the increasing awareness, willingness and involvement of buyers\rquote management, makes the KM sector a risky but attractive place to invest for the next five years, and the KM label more than a tagline for vaporware.
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