I’ve been out talking to people recently, trying to find out more about what the business community needs these days. Apart from outsourcing managers, bankruptcy professionals, and downsizing specialists, the number one thing they need is efficiency: doing more with less.
In days past, an efficiency expert was someone whom the frontline workers dreaded. These people might come in and count the number of keystrokes a data entry operator performed in an hour. Or they would measure the distance or time it took for someone to walk from their desk to the photocopier. Or they could study the flow of paperwork around an office, sniping bottlenecks whenever they found one.
Obviously efficiency is best built into systems from the ground up. Retrofitting better process and flow into existing systems is more difficult, yet necessary. For today’s businesses, nimble responses to whatever the economy is throwing at them are crucial. Many businesses are finding that getting a better handle on their business data and customer-facing materials is key to success. Data mining and content management can be combined into a single organic “knowledge base”. This was the concept behind just-in-time inventory and web-based ordering systems. Business owners are finding innovative ways to expose key elements of what was once “confidential” information so they can connect more closely with their customers. A recent example I discussed with one business: bookings for education engagements, with participant permission, can be put online so others can sign up to fill the empty spots in the class and lower the cost for everyone.
There are plenty of examples — and of course there are risks. Accidental exposure of proprietary information is the key issue that makes all business owners wary. I believe that as web applications that drive all aspects of a business become more and more trusted, the compartmentalization of proprietary and public information (all coming from a shared base) will become more accepted.
The idea of not having to put information into a database ever more than once is they key to deriving efficiency from any knowledge management implementation.