Making knowledge accidents happen

Knowledge management is seen as a Holy Grail for the federal IT community

because it enables a person's expertise to be accessible throughout an organization

at any time, even after the person has moved on. In other words, it's not

an easy task.

But knowledge management is as simple as applying technology to "knowledge

accidents," according to Al Zollar, president and chief executive officer

of Lotus Development Corp.

"Knowledge accidents happen when people run into each other at places

like this or at the water cooler, exchange information, and realize an opportunity

for collaboration and a synergy between the projects they're working on,"

Zollar said during his keynote address Wednesday at the GovTech conference

in Washington, D.C. "We need to make knowledge accidents happen on purpose,

regularly and, most importantly, with intent."

Lotus' knowledge management solution is its Raven software, which is

in beta testing and will be available by the end of the year, Zollar said.

Raven uses profiling and discovery engines to collect personnel data,

including work experience and documents that employees have authored. This

is all stored in a database and refined to produce expert profiles. Communication

is handled in real time through instant messaging technology.

"Other companies bring a piece of the knowledge management puzzle to

an agency," Zollar told FCW in an exclusive interview. "[Their philosophy

is], just get a portal up and you've got knowledge management. Or the discovery

of knowledge and expert profiling is knowledge management. Or instant messaging

with access to people on a network in real time is project management. But

we do all of this with Raven."

Lotus knowledge management tools already have been applied in the military,

Zollar said.

"In the military, knowing more than the forces you're competing against

is critical, and that's the ultimate in knowledge management," he said.

"The J.C. Stennis Battle Group is using it to connect thousands of people

on aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines with rapid communication

through low-bandwidth pipes [to link] the expertise of command and control

with the deployed fleet."

Zollar said knowledge management can help ease the burden of the IT

worker shortage. "Knowledge management and e-learning give government agencies

the ability to more effectively manage the know-how of the existing population,

which can mitigate the impact of the work force aging and retention," he

said.

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