With knowledge management, modesty's best

Sigh. I used to have such high hopes for knowledge management. Now I hope that someone will just put the poor dithering thing out of its misery and allow the rest of us to move on.

I suspect knowledge management as a Big Concept will wither soon. As the surveys by consulting firm Bain & Co show each year, top executives are seeing less value from knowledge management than other management trends.

Another reason: the consultancies, which need Big Ideas to make Big Money, are already chasing other Big Concepts like e-commerce and customer relationship management. The diversion will cut off the flow of oxygen -- I mean money -- to knowledge management.

Finally, there's this: in the IT world, ideas die or slack off for three reasons. They fail too often (re-engineering), implementation becomes a huge nuisance (think "push" or CASE), or they pine away from lack of interest. Knowledge management is managing to do all three at the same time.

But though knowledge management is dying, there will be a post-KM world. The new approach from these folks seems to be this: forget about trying to draw Corporate Knowledge out of Plato's cave and manage the amorphous beastie. Instead, scale down those grand ambitions and get specific. When you think about business problems or opportunities, could we do X if we know Y? If you can come up with a specific X and a precise Y, you may just have a shot at doing something useful. Don't pretend to be managing knowledge -- just try to make use of what people know. That sort of sensible attitude tells me there will be such a thing as post-KM applications, just as artificial intelligence tools survived when AI, the Big Concept, crashed.

But let's move on from knowledge management to opinion management. How can we best use the Web to help you get the most out of our columns, editorials and letters at Computerworld? You've got the power: think about how opinions help you spot new issues, debunk flawed trends and get you thinking. Then send me your requests and complaints, your favourites and your brilliant ideas. Tell us what you look forward to and what you can't stand; tell us what works for you on our Web site or other sites.

Send email to john_costello@idg.com.au

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