Need Software?: How The Vendors' Approaches Differ

Four elements are needed for a basic knowledge-management environment: an intranet, search capability, discussion forums, and a people-finder to locate expertise and contact information.
Good news for companies that want to do knowledge management but worry about the software cost: They might not need any. "Most companies we deal with have what they need to leverage knowledge and make a difference," says Kent Greenes, senior VP and chief knowledge officer at consulting firm Scientific Applications International.

Greenes identifies four elements for a basic knowledge-management environment: an intranet, search capability, discussion forums, and a people-finder to identify employees' expertise and contact details. Most companies have at least the first three but lack processes for ensuring that employees learn before, during, and after a project. "Show me a company that's doing that, and then maybe they should look into technology enhancements," he says.

For those more-advanced companies, here are some of the most prominent knowledge-management vendors.

  • AskMe Best known for maintaining profiles, searching, and connecting people to relevant experts.
  • Autonomy and Verity Fierce rivals provide intelligent search to find relevant content; clients include U.S. intelligence and homeland-security agencies.
  • Enfish Cross-references an employee's E-mail, documents, and contacts with enterprise data to try to predict what knowledge workers will need.
  • Entopia Silicon Valley startup's suite uses familiar file structure format for project-specific knowledge and relies on sophisticated semantic search.
  • IBM Lotus Software Beyond E-mail, companies use Lotus tools for portal-building, collaboration, instant messaging, and document management to create a knowledge-management platform.
  • Kamoon Employees E-mail a request to the Kamoon app, and it checks information assets and expertise databases for resources.
  • Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services collaboration tool is the centerpiece, and pending release of Live Communications Server will add presence awareness integration.
  • Open Text LiveLink app enables collaboration around documents, connects people, and brings in enterprise data.
  • Oracle Oracle Collaboration Suite, now in its second generation, sets up Ellison & crew to become a KM player.
  • Tacit Knowledge Systems E-mail search tool has expanded into expertise brokering, trying to predict when people need to collaborate with an expert.
  • Tomoye Simplify app focuses on communities of practice with tight E-mail integration.

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Illustration by Terry Miura

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