David Skyrme Associates


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No. 16: January 1998


Knowledge Management Tools - Ancient History or Contemporary Breakthrough?
The Knowledge Ecology Fair (2-27 February)
Knowledge Centers - Aggregating Dispersed Knowledge
The Y2K Crisis - Is It Too Late?
Will They (Corporate Webmasters) Ever Learn?
Did I Say That?


Welcome to this issue of I3 UPDATE, a free briefing analyzing developments in the networked knowledge economy.

We hope you gain some new insights to help you achieve your 1998 goals.

On the administration page you will find important information about leaving and joining the distribution list. We hope you enjoy this UPDATE, and welcome comments, contributions and feedback at david@skyrme.com.

David J. Skyrme
Managing Editor

Knowledge Management Tools - Ancient History or Contemporary Breakthrough?

Jan Wyllie, Trend Monitor International Ltd.

Long before the famous library in Alexandria was built, knowledge management tools transformed the ancient world when men invented the alphabet which brought with it the ability to alphabetically index information for future retrieval. All writing, whether video graphic or alphabetic is a knowledge management tool, so is the human ability to classify ideas and objects intelligently into logical hierarchies.

The first electronic knowledge management tools invented nearly 40 years ago were full text indexing systems. Despite all the hype, today's search engines, such as Alta Vista, do virtually the same thing as those 'ancient' inverted index systems written by pioneers, such as my dear recently deceased colleague and mentor, Dr. Tony Kent. Indeed, modern day systems could do a lot more to be as understandable and usable as some of the earliest retrieval tools used on mainframes with text-only terminals. This transparency is especially vital now since today's users are often untrained unlike the information scientists of the 1960s and 1970s and therefore much more gullible when it comes to a critical understanding of the various automated bells and whistles, such as relevancy weighting and 'natural language interfaces'.

Added Intelligence - or Simply Different?

The difference, now, is that a new kind of intelligence has been brought into being in the form of expert systems rules, neural networks, case-based reasoning, fuzzy-logic, genetic algorithms. It is an intelligence that is different from and external to the human/animal variety and enables human's to gain otherwise unobtainable information. According an article in the Financial Times [1], this "automation of judgement will become increasingly common". In the words of Mike Weiner, founder of Textwise, "the technology is beginning to live up to and exceed the dreams and promises of over thirty years of artificial intelligence and computer science visionaries".

The most common exemplars of this new non-human intelligence are the burgeoning numbers of data mining software applications with no less than 35 entries in Trend Monitor's growing Knowledge Management Tools intelligence base. Data mining packages are programmed to seek relationships and correlations between data sets, as well as express them, often in visual or diagrammatic form. For example, DataScope transforms the number-oriented contents of databases into analogue representations. According to DataScope, "Operational, financial, customer, product, scientific and other databases can be interrogated to unveil hidden business challenges and opportunities, meaningful relationships each of which may lead to new scientific or business conclusions, and more."

Intelligent Agents - SDI with New 'Smarts'

In the ancient world of the 1960's, agents and filtering programs were known as SDI (selected dissemination of information) and were used extensively by research organizations, such as the Royal Chemical Society. They were based on the same kinds of clever search strategies, as many of today's 'intelligent' varieties. The latest form of agentware, called multi-agent systems (MAS), were described recently in the Financial Times as "autonomous" collaborating independently on tasks with their own "beliefs, desires and intentions". BT's Adept programme is reported being a pioneer in MAS which are emerging from the discipline of Distributed Artificial Intelligence.

Now, the march of this non-human intelligence into what were previously exclusively human domains is going beyond content summarization, pattern recognition and visualization into the process of evaluating intelligence itself. A product called Agent Knowledgebase, for example, is said to provide "concise, interpreted knowledge", throughout an organization.

Heading for Failure through Misuse?

However, in the context of increasingly ambitious claims by the new AI tool makers, Gene Bellinger's comments are pertinent. After pointing out how fast the number of knowledge visualization software tools is growing, he writes in an article on his Website entitled, 'Simulation is not the Answer'. Updated link (Aug 1999): http://www.outsights.com

"The discipline of modelling and simulation is in the process of being oversold to a most unsuspecting audience. An audience still operating under the same misguided paradigms which have fostered the emergence of the fads of the past and present. And I suspect the failure rates of modelling and simulation projects will rank right up their with the dismal results of total quality management and business process re engineering. Modelling and simulation is a discipline to promote a deeper more complete understanding of how things work. If one expects the discipline to provide answers they will tend to believe the results which a simulation provides and find that it leads them to all kinds of problems for the answers are not correct, they are only indications."

Although it can be argued that knowledge management tools can both exhibit and deliver a new kind of non-human intelligence, the all-too-common habit of comparing it with the human variety is creating misunderstanding, along with inflated, unrealisable expectations and inevitable disappointment. It seems that the purveyors of knowledge management tools could be in danger of making this mistake with the result that potentially useful products and functions are liable to be misused and wasted, along with years of investment costs made by both toolmakers and users.

As always, where the work still has to be done is in the human use of knowledge management tools from pencils and paper on up to the most sophisticated thinking tools. The tool makers should not forget that it is people's beliefs, purposes, attitudes, skills and relationships which are both the source of the difficulties and the solution.

[1] Thinking along the same lines, Financial Times, 14 November 1997
[2] The promise of real intelligence in the network, Journal of AGSI, November 1997

Trend Monitor International Ltd. and David Skyrme Associates are compiling an intelligence base of Knowledge Management Tools. This intelligence-base is organized according to a proprietary multivariate content classification schema, a partial overview of which is given below:

A) MIND: Assimilation and Interpretation Tools
Includes Mapping, Mining, Summarisation, Pattern Discovery, Decision Support

B) COLLABORATION: Network and Communications
Includes Conversing, Workflow, Information sharing, Resource sharing (e.g. Intranet, Lotus Notes)

C) CONTENT: Gathering and Retrieval Tools
Includes Classifying, Search Engines, Filtering, Intelligent Agents, Indexing

D) MEDIA: Storage and Form
Includes textbases, imagebases, multimedia

From this intelligence base we are able to provide customized analyses of trends, developments and implications.

Email: jan@trendmonitor.com
WWW: http://www.trendmonitor.com

See follow on article.

The Knowledge Ecology Fair:

A Virtual Event: 2-27 February 1998

In what promises to be an interesting event, Community Intelligence Labs (http://www.Co-I-L.com) and Metasystems Design Group (http://www.tmn.com) have teamed up to create what they say will be "the first global gathering dedicated to knowledge ecology", a way of building relationships to create, share and leverage knowledge. KEFair 98 brings together many people in the knowledge management community. There are virtual 'presentations' from well known speakers such as Leif Edvinsson (Skandia), Bipin Junnarkar (Monsanto), Karl Erik Sveiby and a host of other practitioners and experts. There are exhibitors' areas, workshops and the KE open space, where you can introduce your own agenda.

George Por, originator of the term 'knowledge ecology' and one of the organizers says:

"KMfair 98 is the first online conference to showcase use of the Internet to create collaborative environments for competitive advantage. The emphasis is on the relationship and synergy between people and their tools for working with knowledge."

The fair's not free - it costs $150, but it promises to be an interesting knowledge sharing experience: "You will get access to a rich menu of events offered throughout the month and the Whole Earth Compendium of Knowledge Ecology, a multimedia collection of tools, ideas, and people." Already participants from over 15 countries have registered as have many in major companies who are recognised leaders in the knowledge arena.

We are supporting this event as a sponsor and participant, and look forward to meeting you there.


Knowledge Centers - Aggregating Dispersed Knowledge

David Skyrme

Do you need a knowledge center, particularly since all the users and sources of knowledge are dispersed? Too often, we see organizations investing quite heavily in document management software, intranets, and groupware technologies such as Lotus Notes/Domino, yet giving scant thought to the structure and organization of information they support. The management consultancies, in particular, have realized the benefits of a knowledge centre, that puts order and structure onto an internal Intranet. In the Skyrme/Amidon report 'Creating the Knowledge Based Business' we feature Booz Allen & Hamilton's Knowledge Online and Price Waterhouse's KnowledgeViewSM. These systems have information specialists who manage content and provide services to their consultants. So why should an organization invest in a central services group rather than leaving it to individuals?

Consider the services that a typical knowledge center provides. It:

  • identifies sources of important knowledge, both inside and outside the company
  • catalogues and indexes material so that retrieval is efficient and effective
  • maintains and sustains the knowledge repository (the knowledge bank)
  • provides a one stop shop for multiple information needs
  • knows who can help - pointers to people as well as information
  • runs a client advisory service - offering expertise on sources, their availability, relevance, quality and overall usefulness to the business.

In short, they are a focal point for collection, structuring and disseminating information. That does not mean they do it all themselves. They set the framework and structures, develop the good practice guides, and provide information management expertise.

A 'center' saves costs on generic information processes by:

  • economies of scale - saving the valuable time of professionals (searching for information)
  • gaining discounts from suppliers because of bulk purchases - sourcing once, but distributing widely e.g. via an intranet
  • pooling expertise in a few locations
  • avoiding duplication of purchase and unnecessary overlap
  • reusing information and knowledge in different contexts
  • targeting distribution according to interests, rather than mass distribution

It can also act as a monitoring point that leverages knowledge for the rest of the business. Over time the cumulative knowledge and expertise within a center helps:

  • alert users to business opportunities and threats
  • make valuable connections - putting people who have problems in touch with those who have solutions i.e. "knowing what we know"
  • create communities - putting people in touch with each other who share similar needs and are tackling similar or related problems

All this adds up to concentrated competence, a good example of the benefits of aggregating knowledge that would otherwise be dispersed and lack critical mass. Since writing our report, we have become aware of the Knowledge Centers at American Management Systems, managed by Susan Hanley. Its brochure explains this point very well:

"We know, that together, our collective knowledge and experience is more powerful than any one individual's knowledge and experience".

Hanley emphasizes that their centers offer more than a collection of information: "they actively and creatively link people". They provide "virtual communities of experts who find and deliver information to client teams". AMS have six knowledge centers and an AMS 'hotline', that consultants can call to get access to their knowledge. Hanley estimates that the center saved AMS $500,000 in its first year of operation, mainly through faster query handling - on average, the experts at the centers can come up with relevant information and answers 8 times faster than the typical consultant!

Its a paradox of our times, that during a period when management consultancies have been building their centers, many industrial organization have been running down their corporate libraries. If what's in their place can deliver these benefits, all well and good. However, how many corporations are missing the benefits of a critical mass that delivers the kinds of benefits experienced by AMS?

On the other hand, perhaps that why companies are spending so much money on consultancies - since the consultancies can now can put their fingers on vital knowledge quicker than the firms can themselves. Have they unwittingly outsourced a strategic asset, which once they had themselves? An interesting thought!

AMS is at http://www.amsinc.com

The Y2K Crisis - Is it too Late?

Trend Monitor International

The experts are saying that it is already too late to fix for most institutions, all over the world. In the last week, the front page of London's Financial Times headlined the millennium reprogramming would cost £4 billion, and that's for the UK alone. The question is what are the consequences going to be at all levels - for individuals, banks, industry, government and the economy. The situation in the US and the UK is dire. In Europe, it is worse. In the "Tiger" economies and Russia, who knows?

Trend Monitor has been unravelling the consequences. At our Web site you can read a free analysis of the year 2000 software crisis in which financial institutions, auditors, stock brokers and legislators BEGIN to react. Get the full story, including evaluated Future Scenarios and Key Trends necessary for effective strategic planning at:


Sept 2000 - For a retrospective update, see I3 UPDATE No. 36.

Will They (Corporate Webmasters) Ever Learn?

For some time we have been saying that too many corporate web sites put glitz over substance. While judicious use of good graphics can enhance a Web site's appeal and usability, far too many go 'over the top'. Even those in the industry are recognizing this insidious practice. Mark Willman writing in 'Webmaster' comments on the Internet book shop's home page:

"The home page is a staggering 122K - which gives you time to put the kettle on and make a cup of tea while it downloads. Unfortunately, in visual terms, the result is an anticlimax."

Do you, like me, shudder when your hard disk starts clicking furiously and the browser says "loading Java"? One wonders what havoc these Web designers are reeking for what is usually a very marginal improvement in site appeal and probably does little for their business. Furthermore, all these gizmos quite often give "Javascript error" just when you thought you might see something useful.

Good Web Site Guide - http://www.skyrme.com/tools/goodweb.htm

Did I Say That?

David Skyrme

I don't remember exactly, but the sentiment is mine! According to Chris Taylor in an article "The Creative Store" ('Information Strategy', December 1997) I said:

"Novel ideas can just as easily come from a quiet darkened room as from someone rushing around with a file under their arm."

The thrust of his article was that individualism, creativity and lateral thinking are going to be keywords in 1998 as companies "realize that turning staff into corporate clones is fast becoming a terrible way to do business in an information economy". He identifies the challenges and difficulties of generating and applying tacit knowledge. In another citation from me:

"There is a clear and discernable shift. Companies used to talk about sharing best practice, passing information around, but now the talk is of innovation, which is about creating new knowledge which has to come from people's heads.

I have even taken staff on boat trips up the Thames, for example. If you want something fresh and new, you have to find the environment most appropriate to that. Doing something different, or going somewhere different, can in itself stimulate creativity".


Yet more newsletters, magazines, books etc on knowledge management are coming into print. Few make any real additions to knowledge that is already out there. Many are from publishers simply jumping on the bandwagon. One with a difference that did catch our eye was:

International Knowledge Management Newsletter, Management Trends International. £75 for 6 issues. Tel: +44 1234 713626.

The noteworthy ones are being added to our resources page at http://www.skyrme.com/resource/kmres.htm, as are other interesting items we find e.g.

A Knowledge Management Framework (Agility Essay No. 37 January 1998) - one of a series on the emerging knowledge of an agile enterprise, Rick Dove, Paradigm Shift International. You can subscribe to a list to receive notification of these monthly essays.

Other magazines are promised in the near future - watch this space for reviews.

Knowledge Management Events

The Knowledge Ecology Fair - 2-27 February
A virtual conference runs from 2-27 Feb (see above). David Skyrme Associates are a sponsor.

Knowledge Management 9-13 February, London
Seminars, tutorials and workshops (1 day each) - methods, systems, tools. Unicom http://www.unicom.co.uk

Knowledge Breakthrough Programme
Introductory briefings, various locations (Jan); 2 day symposium, 17-18 February, London. Business Intelligence. Tel: +44 181 879 3300.

Managing the Virtual Laboratory, 16-17 February, London.
Keynote speaker, Debra Amidon: "Transnational R and D: Capitalizing on the World Trade of Ideas". Also speaking - David Skyrme: "Global Knowledge Networking: The Use and Abuse of Technology in innovation Networks". With special post conference workshop by ENTOVATION (http://www.entovation.com): "Seizing the Innovation Leadership". Details from IQPC http://www.iqpc.co.uk.

Knowledge Management - The Information Management Event, 2-3 April, London.
Conference, demonstrations and exhibition. http://info.learned.co.uk


"I have always enjoyed your newsletter, but the last two issues -- the Special Edition and the December issue -- were just wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing the info with those of us who can't afford to follow the KM seminar circuit as much as we'd like to". Jerry Ash (Email: JAsh77459@aol.com). See also Jerry's article on business communications (a version of which will be published in February in Communication World. Update (1999) - The article is no longer online.

"We just read your I3 UPDATE No. 14 with a great deal of interest. Your thoughts and observations resonate to a large extent with our own findings. We have been working for the last two and a half years with major multinationals, facilitating the effective working of teams. Our particular focus has been to work with Virtual / Global teams, using desktop video-conferencing, application sharing and groupware technology. We have seen the effects of the "armies of accountants, analysts and auditors" you talk about in "Measurement Myopia". They give middle and senior managers a warm glow of security that everything is under control, but the whole focus is disastrously introspective and introverted. It has a "head in the sand" feel about it and in the absence of benchmarking, which is still not widely practised, it is all too easy for these organisations to go in the wrong direction, usually away from what the customers want!"

John Grundy (Email: JohnGrundy@compuserve.com), Global Teamwork Associates. For the full reply see:


Knowledge Management - Thoughts for 1998, based on Jantz's 3 levels of perception and enquiry. Can we move knowledge management thinking from a single dimensional rational plane to the higher level multi-valent and evolutionary plane? Ted Lumley (Email: emlumley@mailhost.onramp.net) gives his views:


Know Inc. - An interesting approach to the evolution of intellectual capital. Know Inc. of Ontario provides frameworks and tools such as closed Web conferencing areas and legal frameworks, for people to co-create structural capital. In part a store, (it will sell knowledge development tools and services) it will also allow you to choose your navigation framework and offer diagnostic tool-kits. Will it work? Watch this space!


© Copyright, 1998. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.

This newsletter is copyright material. In the interests of dissemination of information, forward circulation is permitted provided it is distributed in its entirety including these notices, that it is not posted to newsgroups or distribution lists and that it is not done for commercial gain or part of a commercial transaction. For other uses please contact the publisher.

I3 UPDATE is a publication of David Skyrme Associates Limited - providers of market studies, consultancy and strategic advice in knowledge management, knowledge networking and collaborative technologies.

Email: info@skyrme.com
WWW: http://www.skyrme.com