Managing Knowledge Management Projects


Background on Knowledge Management

Pareto of Barriers to Knowledge Work

In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were a large number of scientists retiring from the workforce in major corporations. The concern was that as they left their employer they would be taking their knowledge with them and it would be lost to the employer’s current employees. Thus a significant effort was undertaken to capture the knowledge of senior personnel in a way that others in the organization could easily access it.

This started with paper based index and keyword systems. This was made simpler with the advent of computer storage of information. However, the issue at the time was that the files had to be indexed in a way that they could be retrieved. The search engines at the time were unable to do good full text searching. This issue can be seen in the “Pareto of barriers to knowledge work” figure. In this figure the lack of technical documents, lack of internal consultants, not sharing knowledge, lack of external consultants, and unclear procedures are among the hurdles that knowledge workers of the time faced.

Because of this problem companies invested in better indexing of their paper filing systems, putting into computer databases the indexes of paper systems, and to some extent scanning and indexing full text documents. This knowledge management process became a core competency and it was a skill to be able to develop indexing systems for each industry and company within that industry. Fortunately in roughly the same timeframe superior search technology became available.

Prior Best-Practices Have Been Obsoleted by Search Engines

Because of the capability of search engines today, for example Google, and widely available background information posted on Internet websites, the best practices for knowledge management’s developed in the 1990s and early 2000s have been removed from this website because they are now obsolete. What is recommended today is that companys’ keep all their information in electronic form and search it with publicly available search engines.

With respect to capturing key employees information, the rapid advance of voice recognition software makes it possible for key employees to be recorded and their ideas captured with relatively little time and effort. Once their insight has been so recorded it too is easily searchable by search engines. This is being further advanced by having key employees record webinars on key topics which can then be searched and accessed by video/audio recognition software and search engines.

Document Management Tools

For in-house document management tools that the R&D community can use to store, search and retrieve in-house technical know-how the Innovation Research Interchange ran a survey of its members in the spring of 2018. What they report is:

Confluence from Atlassian Likes: Great. Easy to edit, search, and share. A good primary sharing/development tool. Long term archive and sign-off is through SAP. Dislikes: We need separate systems for authoring and easy sharing, then a different system for regulatory signoff and archive.
EDCAR Likes: It meets Legal’s needs regarding document retention. Dislikes: Difficult to locate older files.
ETQ Reliance Likes: It is customizable. Dislikes: The current product was not meant to be a document management solution, specifically to log and track customer correspondence/direction and contract required deliverables. The product was customized and re-engineered to meet some document needs. There is limited connectivity within the organization and unable to allow customer access (e.g., license seats cost).
Google Search Appliance to search Livelink Likes: Works fantastic, easily searchable. Dislikes: Unfortunately the GSA we use is being discontinued.
IHS Goldfire Likes: Can search our internal SharePoint for contextual language. Dislikes: Still kind of clunky and we have issues with the way we have set up.
Lotus Notes from IBM Likes: Reflects our processes. Dislikes: Needs a lot of improvements
Microsoft SharePoint Likes: Security via Info Rights Management; easy to use with accessibility and customizability. Robust and flexible. Security features. Good for project documentation, articles, etc. Dislikes: SharePoint solution is not well liked, or work well on the Macintosh platform. There are other solutions that are more cross-platform, more user friendly, and more modern. Not a very intuitive product. Requires hand-holding by IT to get the most out of the system. Hard to organize and search, significant effort to properly tag, limited controls for IP
OpenText Likes: Familiar environment; user-friendly; enterprise-level support. Global, one source for reports and history of efforts, easy to learn how to use and retrieve documents. Dislikes: A little cumbersome
Oracle database Likes: Easily searchable, information security (approvals required to view docs). Intralinks is used to encrypt the information. Dislikes: None
Yammer Likes: Can be kept as archive for future reference. Dislikes: Not easy to search.
Wikipedia Likes: If you use a true Wiki it is free form and very searchable. Dislikes: Our corporate IT moved our Wiki to a SharePoint version, and put several layers of security around it that makes it a bit cumbersome.
PTC Windchill Likes: Global configuration. Good for engineering/scientific/product data. Dislikes: Not intuitive. Windchill interface is a bit clunky with a decent learning curve

General observations on document management systems were that they have evolved over the years. SharePoint is being used ubiquitously, due to its ease of early initial entry and integration with Microsoft Office applications, for everyday and administrative functions. To date, it has not been ideal for “heavyweight” document management, including search and retrieval functions. OpenText is being used to store documentation related to FDA regulatory submissions, and it has been configured to meet 21 CFR 11 requirements. Oracle WebCenter is used as a document storage function for research projects, including unstructured data, due to its integration with our Oracle ERP system used for Project Management. Each has their pros/cons and it depends on the Use Case. Most Users want something that is easy and intuitive to use, but there are trade-offs between capabilities and ease of use. If the User will only access the system infrequently, some of the more sophisticated systems are less intuitive to learn. Training and good support are essential to success.

Sources, References and Selected Bibliographic Information

1. “Survey of High Performance Inventors and Innovators”, by Bob Burkart, Industrial Research Institute, White Paper, 2003.
2. “Top 10 Search Engines in the World”, by Alex Chris,, 2018
3. “What document management tool do you use?”, by IRI Community Forum, Innovation Research Interchange, March 23, 2018.
4. “The Knowledge Management Fieldbook”, by Wendi Bukowitz and Ruth Williams, Prentice Hall, 1999.