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Evaluating the new IT tools for knowledge management

With the rapidly changing business world, companies are facing a host of challenging questions:

How to encourage more dialogue among employees?

How to encourage better interaction between and amongst staff and clients?

How to find out who knows what I need to find out more about something?”

How to find out what should I be reading to find out more about something?”

How to find out where is a particular item of information or knowledge within the firm?”

How to find out who would benefit from communicating with whom?”

In considering whether to use the new tools, some of the questions that should be addressed should include:

What benefits should each tool should, assuming successful implementation particularly of the human factors, be able to offer?

Particular attention should be given to the proviso namely "assuming successful implementation particularly of the human factors".

This might include a hard look at the current level of implementation of IT within the existing organization.

Has it adeptly and agilely used fairly simple tools like email and the web with widespread user satisfaction?

Or does it see major shortfalls between promise and performance?

If yes, then the organization is building on strength, and might have the confidence to consider a fairly aggressive use of new tools.

If on the other hand, the organization sees major shortfalls even in the implementation of fairly simple IT tools, then it might to consider whether the simultaneous introduction of five major new products is the right game plan for them at this time.

Contrary to what one might expect from public relations handouts, shortfalls in IT performance were not isolated phenomena limited to a few organizations but are quite general across large organizations today.

It is thus not infrequent to encounter:

staff cannot find the email addresses of staff in other countries by using the email system and in effect have to telephone to find out the email address of staff in other countries.

staff cannot use the email system to send messages of more than a few pages, and cannot add significant attachments, owing to capacity problems.

staff cannot find out simply through current systems who is responsible within the organization for major clients of the organization.

These are the kind of phenomena which, if they were to exist in an organization considering the adoption of new tools, might give pause before adopting a recommendation to implement a group of new sophisticated IT tools simultaneously. Some might argue that the introduction of new tools would help solve those very problems if they were to exist. However, one might also want to consider four issues:

does the firm currently have the IT and businesss dexterity to implement sophisticated IT proposals?
are the human arrangements in place that would enable simultaneously implementation of these proposals?
if multiple products are being chosen, are all the products fully compatible with each other?
Are the levels of trust and collaboration that would be needed for implementation, in addition to the IT implementation skills, available?

If those conditions all exist in the organization, then the tools may well fit its needs.

If not, then they may wish to consider whether effort towards putting those arranagements in place should not precede a large-scale adoption of multiple IT tools.

Stephen Denning, The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, Butterworth Heinemann, Boston, London: 2000.

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