Dr. Yogesh Malhotra, 40, is the founder and chief knowledge architect of the Brint Institute, a think tank based in Syracuse, N.Y., that focuses on corporate, as well as academic, knowledge management. According to Malhotra, KM is not a complete waste of an IT budget, but rather, a technology that requires cultural change in order to succeed. The following is an edited transcript of an interview he gave CIO Insight in June.
CIO Insight: Is expertise location management the next wave of knowledge management?
I do not see expertise location as a long-lasting trend. It seems more of a fad, just like many other information and communication technologies (and companies) that are attempting to fulfill similar needs for matching the supply and demand of data and information. In contrast, I see knowledge management as a growing and thriving phenomenon that encompasses most aspects of expertise location management.
In my view, it is difficult to demarcate, as Gartner has done, where the expertise location market begins and ends. One could consider most consulting firms in different business technology games to also be in the expertise location game. The same is true for many freelancers, cooperatives, associations and societies who represent specific types of expertise. In a related perspective, all coaching, training and education activities would qualify for the expertise development and management sector. So it is important to distinguish between the long-term trends and short-term fads or hyperbole.
Having said that, many companies have already developed internal expertise location markets, such as corporate yellow pages, while others maintain “Rolodexes” of external experts. Having seen some of the most bureaucratic modes of handling simple RFPs by some of the largest companies (that will remain unnamed), I am not certain about large corporations’ adoption of expertise location. Most large corporations tend to rely upon their tried and tested experts.
Some analysts suggest that expertise location is filling a void left by failed knowledge management systems. I take it you disagree.
Your comment reminds me of Mark Twain’s quip, adapted to say that the reports of the void left by KM are greatly exaggerated. KM seems to be doing quite well in most countries—except for in the U.S., where it has been beset by oversold expectations and by the hyperbole of the IT vendors and IT analysts.
So how can Americans make knowledge management work?
The very essence of what various IT systems can do in the context of KM begins and ends with people and processes. In absence of motivation and commitment on the part of the users, such systems cannot function.
Where do you see this market going in the future?
There seem to be a lot of possibilities for interweaving expertise management with specific enterprise applications, such as supply chain management or sales contact management. Again, the technologies that can help in developing such relationships already exist, so the primary challenges remain the strategic, socio-psychological and cultural issues.