London based analyst firm Ovum has predicted the worldwide growth of the market for knowledge management (KM) systems, fuelled by wider use of existing Intranets, at $12.3 billion by 2004.
But analyst Madan Sheina warned that it would be cultural issues and not technology that could stall the uptake of KM technologies. Recognising that knowledge management has had a number of false starts, Sheina believes the stage is finally set for large enterprises to start serious KM investment.
In its report, Knowledge Management: Building the Collaborative Enterprise, Ovum found that the KM market is growing rapidly and will continue to evolve and expand over the next five years as KM becomes a core element of corporate IT strategies.
Sheina said that while large enterprises are still in the experimental stage, those same organisations recognise that harnessing and sharing corporate knowledge can provide competitive differentiation.
"If you believe that knowledge is power, then collaboration is the logical next step," he said.
According to the report, much of the underpinning technology such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes is already in place in many businesses. But equally, the report notes that in 95 per cent of businesses, such collaborative software is only being used for email. The report goes on to say that Microsoft has a significant challenge in leveraging its existing technology.
"Its plans for Exchange shows that [Microsoft] is aware that it must improve its support for collaboration if it is to seriously challenge Lotus in the knowledge management market. However, this move takes Microsoft into new territory in terms of the complexity of the solutions that are required both technically and in terms of services and support," said the report.
But overlaying these issues, Sheina notes that enterprises are viewing KM in two ways today. "They're being very cautious," he said. A significant number of organisations believe KM is just another hype technology. Others would like to move forward aggressively but are concerned about cultural disruption. "Managers are not programmed to share information - the enterprise is characterised by jealously guarded information silos," Sheina noted.
Asked how cultural change will be managed, Sheina concluded: "This will be a godsend for the services businesses because it allows them to sell change management on the back of clearly defined business needs."
This is substantiated by the report's findings that of the $12.3 billion market, services will account for more than $8.8 billion. Sheina believes the drive to extended enterprises where information is shared for mutual benefit in the supply chain will force change and enhance the development of business-driven portals.
"KM will bring a new breed of applications that focus on knowledge as an infrastructure issue," he said.
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