It is refreshing?and about time?to see that an institution of higher learning is keeping pace with the realities of the workforce. While I am aware of some schools that include courses on knowledge management in their IS and MBA programs, the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business has put its money where its mouth is. For this, the school is lauded.
But there are more lessons to be learned from this case study. For several years, portals have been touted as a tactical application of KM. This case study clearly illustrates some of the major reasons that is so. Foremost, though, the experiences of Sandor Boyson, the school’s information strategy chief, illustrate once again that the technology challenges always pale when compared with the cultural. And he hit one critical issue dead on: trusted content.
For any portal or knowledge system to be accessed, let alone embraced, there must be assurances that its content is valid, timely and authentic, and that information ownership and security is maintained?in a word, trustworthy at all levels. This is not a technology issue. Indeed, within the university population, Boyson’s implementation team was given a relatively receptive audience. But Ernie Soffronoff, eSmith’s portalmaster, says he still spent “far less time trying to figure out creative technical solutions than I did building the relationships and creating trust with the people who I needed to integrate the portal with.”
We also saw that the the biggest overarching benefit typically provided through a portal is a single point of access to myriad information sources in a collaborative environment. Once that is established in a trusted framework, the portal is basically guaranteed a successful deployment, especially given that there also exists a clearly defined business need and visionary sponsor. Sure, there is always the need to tweak front ends and features based on experience, but when it comes to knowledge management, trust and facilitated-personalized access are academically fundamental.