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Book Review: Knowledge Management

I have been reading this short book on knowledge management, by Carl Frappaolo, on and off since the Delphi Business Process Innovation Summit. The book is a nice introduction to the field of knowledge management offering definitions, some history, various critical dimensions of knowledge management and an overview of the "state of the art". It also has some nice examples and resource/key thinkers lists.

Decision_automate_cht_300x300The book highlighted for me some of the overlaps, and distinctions between knowledge management and a business rules approach to automating decisions. Carl correctly identifies that traditional IS solutions focus on planned responses to anticipated stimuli and, indeed, this is where most business rules systems show up also. What's different in using business rules is the range of decisions that can be automated - the technologies of decision management allow more and more decisions to be automated, squeezing the realm of manual decisions that are not "expert" or what Carl would call truly "tacit" decisions. Indeed he says

"In some cases, knowledge believed to be tacit is only so labeled because no-one has ever taken the time or energy to codify the knowledge"

And he is completely correct. Companies often think they cannot automate a decision because it is handled personally or inconsistently but in reality "..it is a logical, methodical thinking process that simply is not recognized as such". Using knowledge management techniques to take control of these rules and then automating them to get them into the realm of planned responses. Carl also focused on the aspect of knowledge management that is applying lessons of the past (knowledge) to actions in the future. Another way to do this is through the use of analytics where the data from the past is used to come up with rules ("knowledge") for use in the future. Finally Carl notes that, as in rules, a means to improve is critical to success. One should not aim, in knowledge management or business rules, for perfection initially but should instead aim for improvement over time.

You can buy the book here and I wanted to end with a wonderful quote, that I first saw in this book, from Thomas Henry Huxley that could stand as a motto for business rules practitioners everywhere:

"The great end of life is not knowledge, but action"

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