IIIS-99, Internet-based organizational memory and knowledge management

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 1 March 2000

Citation

(2000), "IIIS-99, Internet-based organizational memory and knowledge management", Internet Research, Vol. 10 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/intr.2000.17210aab.001

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited


IIIS-99, Internet-based organizational memory and knowledge management

IIIS-99, Internet-based organizational memory and knowledge management

Organized by: David G. Schwartz (Bar-Ilan University, Israel), Monica Divitini and Terje Brasethvik (both at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway)

Introduction

The workshop IIIS-99 was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in conjunction with the 7th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS'99). The workshop was the second of a series bringing together people interested in discussing the opportunities and challenges for innovative Internet-based information systems (IIIS). The focus of the 1999 workshop was on Internet technology for knowledge management (KM), and Internet-based solutions that can be used as enablers for the effective creation and use of organizational memories. Topics of interest included:

  • the use of organizational memories for cooperation and learning;

  • knowledge representation, brokering and retrieval;

  • distributed knowledge management;

  • cross-border and multicultural issues for Internet-based KM systems; and

  • case studies of building Internet-based OM in corporate environments.

The workshop gathered 20 participants both from academia and industry, with competencies in Internet technologies, organization theory, knowledge management, enterprise systems, management theory, artificial intelligence, information systems, information retrieval, and CSCW. The different backgrounds of the participants contributed to an interesting and vibrant workshop.

The main topic of the workshop

The theme of knowledge management and organizational memories was selected acknowledging that knowledge management is fast becoming a crucial issue and key factor in the growth of organizations. Managing disparate, heterogeneous knowledge, and making it available in an appropriate manner across the organization is a daunting task. The Internet, intranets, and the World Wide Web have been significant catalysts in the development of new knowledge management (KM) technologies and have contributed immensely to the level of awareness in organizations and their perceived need to create and leverage organizational memories (OM). The workshop aimed at discussing the many aspects that are associated with both the development and use of organizational memories and knowledge management systems based on Internet technologies.

Summary and organization of the workshop papers

The one-and-a-half-day workshop was organized around five main sessions, with extended time for discussion. The first session, "Defining the domain", was devoted to gain a better understanding of concepts such as knowledge management, organizational memories and IT for knowledge management. Two papers were presented during this session.

The first paper, "Towards requirements for IT-supported knowledge bases, findings from a study of how knowledge is managed within a support group" by Carstensen and Snis, investigates the activities performed by a quality support group in a Danish pharmaceutical company. In particular, the authors explained the various knowledge bases used by the support group and explored their activities to distribute knowledge from these sources. Some requirements for the design of IT supported KM have been proposed.

The second paper, "Facilitating knowledge transfer in an R&D environment - a case study" by Barrett, Lau and Dew, explores the R&D unit of an international steel company and the testing of an Internet-based solution for facilitating knowledge transfer. The authors presented a theoretical framework for the dynamics of knowledge transfer, and in particular the search strategies applied by employees in order to locate appropriate resources.

The second session of the workshop was dedicated to issues connected to collaboration. Collaboration in fact plays a key role in the creation, use, and management of knowledge management. In the same way, creating and using an organization memory is a cooperative activity necessarily involving many members of an organization.

The first paper of this session, "Collaborative information management using concept indexes" by Voss, Nakata and Juhnke, describes a system where users collaboratively define concepts by attaching them to text, phrases and other concepts. Software agents find occurrences of concepts in a document collection, enabling users to navigate documents based on concepts. This way, concepts are defined by way of their (con)textual occurrences in the document collection to be described. Software agents support the users and increase the efficiency of such a solution. The presentation of the paper ended by exploring a set of usage scenarios for the system.

The paper "Internet enabled corporate sharing and Utilization", by Tschaitschian, Abecker, Hackstein and Zakraoui, presents a system that allows the cooperative definition of several models for describing an object. These models are graphically constructed and are the result of collaboration among domain experts during face-to-face meetings. Each user has available several of these models and can use them interactively when classifying an object.

Both systems described in these two papers were demonstrated at the workshop in a later demo-session.

The second day of the workshop started with two sessions on virtual organizations. Moving from physical organizations to virtual ones increases the level of complexity in knowledge management. In a virtual organization, where ad-hoc distributed work groups may be transient, there is a heightened need to connect the participants to usable, relevant bodies of knowledge. But, paradoxically, it is precisely these organizations that have the least opportunity to spend time developing and fine-tuning such systems.

The first paper on virtual organizations, "The challenges of interorganizational management: an emerging issue in the virtual organization" by McKay and Marshall, provides an interesting overview of the literature on virtual organizations and contributes to the understanding of the term. Despite the high potential for this type of organizations, the authors warned of some problematic issues, some of which have plagued information system development for years.

The second paper, "Managing knowledge in an ERP-enabled virtual organization" by Burn and Ash, adds to the understanding of virtual organizations provided in the previous paper and it points the finger to the need for knowledge creation and sharing, rather than extraction. Change is identified as the only constant in virtual organizations and the issue of knowledge management is faced starting from this standpoint. The connection between ERP systems and knowledge management is one that will clearly grow in significance as the larger organizations investing in ERP systems reach the conclusion that this investment can and should be leveraged for KM systems.

Polovina, presenting a paper co-authored with Veneziano, "Adding knowledge to accounting systems for virtual enterprises", showed how structured financial data can be superimposed with conceptual graphs to create a new knowledge resource for virtual organizations. There is no greater legacy than accounting data and it was fascinating to see how much knowledge is implicit in the balance sheets and income statements of an organization.

The paper, "Using an intranet to manage knowledge for a virtual project team" by Jennex, concluded the two sessions on virtual organizations. The author presented his experience about managing the knowledge of a project team characterized by high geographical distribution, limited resources and strict time constraints. Jennex provided both a theoretical basis and useful metric to measure the success of KM/OM activity. The lessons learned here will be useful in any organization that has Internet resources and infrastructures, and seeks to leverage them through knowledge management.

The last session of the workshop was dedicated to extracting information from distributed knowledge sources.

We began this part with Gao and Sterling's "Semi-structured data extraction from heterogeneous sources". In this paper, the authors attack one of the leading problems in Internet-based knowledge management extracting usable concepts from text and HTML-based documents. The sheer quantity of HTML documents being fielded by the minute necessitates an effective means of analyzing those documents to identify relevant knowledge. Their hands-on work has resulted in a method that is Web-site independent and can structure partial and incomplete knowledge as well.

The final paper, "Navigating heterogeneous knowledge sources in a customer service environment" by Saward, presents a case study of the use of knowledge management in a customer service application. By combining KM with distributed information systems and information retrieval techniques, AFI, the financial institution presented by Saward, is extending knowledge management to the front lines of its operation. The author clearly illustrated that "publishing on the net does not constitute knowledge management", and after dissecting the major KM issues facing the target company, goes on to provide a step-by-step account of how Internet-based knowledge management can be combined with information retrieval in a dynamic corporate environment.

General issues discussed at the workshop

Various discussions during the workshop have been dedicated to the harmonization of the different perspectives of the participants in the field of knowledge management. Two points have been clearly pointed out. First, within an organization knowledge is present in different forms and not all of them can be easily captured and stored so as to be used by others, as also pointed out in Davenport and Prusak (1998). This is an unavoidable reality that must be acknowledged by any knowledge management effort. The false hope of being able to capture all the knowledge of an organization can have disastrous results. Second, though most of the participants had a focus on technological aspects, there is an agreement that knowledge can be effectively managed only if adequate social and organizational tools support it. As a consequence of these two points, the ultimate success factor for knowledge management remains the individuals.

In addition to the discussion on general issues, three additional topics have been addressed in connection to various papers.

Utilizing knowledge

The ultimate goal of knowledge management is to provide the right knowledge to the right person at the right time. While Internet technologies almost trivialize the process of making information available, it has made it substantially more difficult to find an efficient way to organize, describe and classify this information for later retrieval and use. The challenges in this respect are many and particular problems arise due to the increasing volume and heterogeneity of the information available to "connected" users. Various participants addressed these problems, considering how to acquire (automatically or semi-automatically) knowledge and how it should be structured in order to allow for effective utilization.

Acquiring knowledge and building organizational memories

The goal of an OM is not to store all knowledge passing through an organization, nor to keep record of everything that happens. Ideally, an OM should provide the knowledge required for the task at hand or a pointer to that knowledge without too much of an overhead when using or keeping the memory. All the participants agreed on the key importance of capturing the proper context as key to a fruitful use of a memory. In fact, the (re)use of a recorded piece of knowledge requires its transfer from the context of creation into the new context of use (Ackerman and Halverson, 1998) which may or may not involve its removal from the initial context in which it was created (Schwartz, 1999).

Knowledge in virtual organizations

The papers presented at the workshop and the following discussions among the participants clearly pointed out the various relationships between virtual organizations and knowledge management. On the one hand, the success of virtual organizations depends heavily on their ability to adapt quickly to new demands in the market and be open to new business opportunities. This requires an intensive and creative use of knowledge, making KM essential to their survival. On the other hand, virtual organizations point out in a critical way issues connected to KM and therefore are important to gain a better understanding of knowledge management also in non-virtual organizations. The relationship between knowledge management and virtual organizations is highly synergistic. As the need for physical assets decreases and is replaced by intellectual assets, managing those assets becomes paramount.

The final discussion at the workshop pointed out the need for additional research within these topics.

Conclusions

As pointed out by many researchers, knowledge management can be approached from different standpoints. In selecting the papers for the workshop we have tried to preserve the presence of multiple voices. In particular, we have combined theoretically and empirically based contributions, so that the theory could inform practice and vice-versa. We believe that this kind of dialog is essential in a young domain such as knowledge management. This forced us, and we hope all the participants, to reexamine our own understanding of Internet-based KM/OM systems.

After the workshop, all the papers have been revised and collected in a book that will be published by Idea Group Publishing (http://www.idea-group.com) with the title Internet-based Knowledge Management and Organizational Memories(Schwartz et al., forthcoming). The book is expected to appear at the beginning of year 2000. A contribution has been added to the book. In "Essential factors in knowledge management with COTS products", Chou and Chow share their experience of introducing knowledge management to NASA's jet propulsion laboratories (JPL). The JPL experience highlights the people process that often gets obscured by the drive to implement new technologies. This chapter outlines a detailed process in which off the-shelf tools can be used to bring knowledge management functions to a diverse user population.

In addition, we start the book with an introduction in which we formalize a model of knowledge management that resulted from an elaboration of the discussions at the workshop. Integrating the diverse streams of research that were presented, we propose the AOD model, where internet-based knowledge management is described through three distinct tenets:

  1. 1.

    acquisition;

  2. 2.

    organization; and

  3. 3.

    distribution.

Acquisition relates to how we collect knowledge from members of the organization or other resources, and store them in an organizational memory. Organization refers to structuring, indexing and formatting the acquired knowledge so we can find it when we look for it. Distribution is the ability to get the relevant knowledge to the person who needs it at the right time. Two of these tenets, acquisition and distribution, are enhanced by internet technologies, while the third, organization, is made considerably more challenging (and proportionally more important) due to the sheer mass of new knowledge made available by the Internet.

The functional goals of the tenets have been characterized respectively as GIVE (gather, inquire, validate/verify and encode), PARC (profile, associate, rank and classify) and AID (awareness, identify and deliver). They are described in the introduction and put in relation to the chapters in the book.

The chapters in this volume not only provide important insights into what has been done, but move us a step closer to a future in which Internet-based knowledge management and organizational memories become an integral part of our standard working environment. Whether your focus is on OM creation, KM systems development, or the managerial aspects of virtual organizations, the overwhelming impact of Internet technologies will bring the other two closer to you and will influence your part of the equation.

Workshop participants

Colin Ash (Edith Cowan University, Perth WA, Australia), Will Barrett (University of Leeds, UK), Christian Bauer (Curtin University, Australia), Terje Brasethvik (University of Trondheim, Norway), Janice M. Burn (Edith Cowan University, Perth WA, Australia), Peter H. Carstensen (Technical University of Denmark, Denmark), Monica Divitini (University of Trondheim, Norway), Murray E. Jennex (California State University San Marcos, USA), Peter Kraft (The Aarhus School of Business, Denmark), Lydia M.S. Lau (University of Leeds, UK), Peter Marshall (Edith Cowan University, Churchlands WA, Australia), Judy McKay (Edith Cowan University, Churchlands WA, Australia), Simon Polovina (University of Hertfordshire, UK), Richard Rannard (ETC - Electronic Trading Concepts, Australia), Guy Saward (University of Hertfordshire, UK), David G. Schwartz (Bar-Ilan University, Israel), Ulrika Snis (University of Trollhattan/Uddevaila, Sweden), Angi Voss (GMD, Sankt Augustin, Germany), Fons Wijnhoven (University of Twente, The Netherlands) and Jamel Zakraoui (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Kaiserslautern, Germany).

Contact information

The workshop homepage, with detailed contact information, can be accessed at http://www.idi.ntnu.no/~monica/iiis-99/

Acknowledgment

First of all, we thank all the participants to the workshops and the authors of the chapters in the book for: their contributions, a constructive workshop and help with the reviewing process. We also acknowledge the help from the organizers of ECIS'99 who provided a stimulating context for the workshop and all the organizational support we needed. Last but not least, thanks go to the members of the workshop Program Committee: Andreas Abecker, DFKI, Germany; Stefan Decker, University of Karlsruhe, Germany; Rose Dieng, INRIA, France; Babak A. Farshchian, University of Trondheim, Norway; Steve Furnell, University of Plymouth, UK; Fred Lochovsky, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Ali Montazemi, McMaster University, Canada; Pat Molholt, Columbia University, USA; Leon Sterling, University of Melbourne, Australia; and Dov Te'eni, Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

References

Ackerman, M.S. and Halverson, C. (1998), "Considering an organizations memory", Proceedings of CSCW '98, Seatttle.

Davenport, T.H. and Prusak, L. (1998), Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.

Schwartz, D.G. (1999), "When email meets organizational memories", International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Vol. 51 No. 3, pp. 599-614.

Schwartz, D.G., Divitini, M. and Brasethvik, T. (Eds) (forthcoming), Internet-based Knowledge Management and Organizational Memories, Idea Group Publishing, Hershey, USA.