Autonomy Systems claims to have found the Holy Grail of knowledge management, with the introduction of two products based on its Dynamic Reasoning Engine (DRE). Knowledge Server and Knowledge Update will ship by the end of March, and are based on three key breakthroughs, which Autonomy calls Tacit Knowledge Capture, Concept Extraction, and Automatic Categorisation. Tacit knowledge refers to the information held in people's heads, as opposed to explicit knowledge which is stored in computers as documents, Emails, spreadsheets and databases. Tacit knowledge has been described as the Holy Grail of knowledge management. "Knowledge management involves promoting and achieving the sharing of the combined human intellect base of an entire organisation," said Eileen Milner, principal lecturer in information management at the University of North London. "A company that has discovered how to do that has cracked it." Autonomy's approach differs from traditional keyword search methods, which tend to miss the context of a word and deliver a large number of irrelevant results. The Autonomy Concept Extraction software uses complex mathematical algorithms to identify the concepts in unstructured data, which are then encoded as "Concept Agents". These agents can be employed to search for similar relevant material from other sources, or used to find people whose agents contain similar concepts. The Tacit Knowledge Capture component of the software profiles a person's interests by tracking their research as well as the ideas contained in documents and Emails they send and receive. The third principle used by Autonomy, Automatic Categorisation, is the process of automatically sorting and indexing the body of data in an organisation using the Concept Agents. "These principles require a flat organisational structure to work," commented Mel Earp, director of technology at systems integrator specialist, the SEMA Group. "Some more forward-looking organisations have an appropriate culture in place already, but for others it will require a conscious change in culture." Management would have to get used to being more open, and be ready to face the consequences. An employee researching redundancy law, for example, could come across a draft proposal to reduce the workforce. The downside of the software is that it could be used by managers to snoop on what their employees are doing. Pricing for the product has not been finalised, but is expected to start at #5000.
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