Similar to the telephone system, for computers to communicate they require to be connected to the same cabling system (hardware); and they both must use the same language when communicating (software).
Networking infrastructure forms the backbone over which the entire organizational IT services are deployed. The effective design of this layer ensures that the network protocols used should not clog up bandwidth of the network and should allow secure and fast sharing of content across far-flung locations and should accommodate mobile users and systems. 2.
Data Storage layer:In recent years, the relational database has generally become the de facto standard for database storage. This is due both to the usability of the relational model itself, and because it provides a standard interface called Structured Query Language (SQL) that allows many different database tools and products to work together in a consistent and understandable way. Additionally, a relational database typically provides mechanisms for handling referential integrity, data validation, and a host of administrative processes to set up and maintain an application’s data. Object oriented relational databases are also being employed nowadays to facilitate high speed data access and retrieval functions. A large portion of operational data in most organizations lies with mainframe databases. Therefore, the collaborative platform that is to be deployed must be able to integrate this data into the final interface. The Web-based intranet is again the best choice for achieving this purpose.
A wide array of tools and scripting languages such as TCL/TK (Tool Command Language/Tool Kit) are available to accomplish such integration. They can create wrappers that allow data from legacy systems to be accessed from web browsers irrespective of their platform. 3. Information/Knowledge storage layer:An information repository differs from a knowledge repository in the sense that the context of the knowledge object needs to be stored along with the content itself. A knowledge platform may consist of several repositories, each with a structure that is appropriate for the particular type of knowledge or content that is stored. Such repositories may be logically linked to form a cohesive consolidated repository. The content of each will provide the context for interpreting the content of other repositories.
The repositories can be logically viewed in an integrated manner to provide a composite picture of what is contained within them along with the associated context. The major constituents of organizational knowledge repositories are as follows: (a) Declarative knowledge such as significant and meaningful concepts, categories, definitions, and assumptions (b) Procedural knowledge such as processes, sequences of events and activities, and actions (c) Casual knowledge such as rationale for decisions, rationale for rejected decisions or alternatives, eventual outcomes of activities, and associated informal pieces (d) Context of the decision circumstances, assumptions, results of those assumptions and informal knowledge such as video clips, annotations, notes and conversations. Subsequent users who access these pieces should be able to add to or modify content. Products such as grape VINE allow follow-up users to make comments on the usefulness and applicability of incoming external information, for example, content that is distributed on an organization’s intranet.
Well-integrated knowledge repositories do not require the user to know in which repository the knowledge resides. In other words, transparency, as perceived by the user, is highly desirable and very much possible. Organizations actually allow the creators or authors of a knowledge content unit to tag an expiration date to the content. This ensures that content that is no longer valid or that it expires after a certain date is automatically relegated to an expired status. If one is making critical decisions based on available information, knowing what is old, outdated, incorrect, or invalid can help one avoid potentially expensive mistakes. Therefore, such tools partially automate maintenance and validation of explicated knowledge within the KM system. 4.
Knowledge creation/information analysis layer:This layer establishes guidelines, standards, and operational services that define the enterprise’s operational system environment. This layer links an enterprise’s strategic information requirements wide its information architecture, application architecture, and technical architecture and results in enterprise information architecture. A subset of the enterprise architecture is the data warehouse architecture that also includes operational databases and discussion databases. This layer presents a well-documented architecture (for the enterprise and its data warehouse) for the logical organization of information pertaining to the following corporate-level, enterprise-wide elements: (a) Strategic goals, objectives, and strategies (b) Business rules and metrics (c) Information requirements (d) Application systems This layer builds on several possible combinations of technologies, AI tools, data warehouses, generic algorithm tools, neural networks, expert systems; case based reasoning tools, intelligent agents, and collaborative filtering systems. This layer constitutes the intelligence within the KM system and includes the process of tagging and met tagging of knowledge elements or actionable information either manually or automatically. Tools like Hyper wave facilitate the automatic tagging of knowledge.
This layer also includes the use of mobile agents that facilitate the searching of information across multiple servers and can be programmed by using languages like Java. 5. Distributed application services layer:The middle-ware layer connects the KM system both to true legacy data and recent inconsistent legacy data repositories and databases used by custom systems of the organization. It ensures transfer of data between heterogeneous systems irrespective of the data formats used. This layer employs Knowledge Query Markup Language (KQML), functionally similar to HTML/SGML to transfer knowledge between disparate systems. This layer includes skill directories, yellow pages, collaboration tools, video conferencing hardware and software, and conventional decision-making tools.
Discussion forums that can be incorporated easily using technologies like groupware also form a part of these layers. This layer facilitates the integration of the intelligence layer and the transport layer. 6. Transport layer:The transport layer allows the KM system to take advantage of existing networks that are already in place within the organization. The transport layer uses TCP/IP connectivity to integrate existing networks, legacy systems, messaging systems, Virtual Private networks (VPN) and also facilitates delivery of multimedia content like streaming audio and video. 7. Security layer:This layer provides secure data, control access, and distribution control for the KM system. It provides authentication services, which allows valid users to access the system and perform activities that they are permitted to perform.
It provides security mechanisms and restricts access to other layers of the system. The layer also includes access privileges, firewall (hardware/software) and VPN. Collaborative platforms such as lotus notes already have the security tools and features built into them. However, doing the same for a Web-based Intranet requires additional expenditure in the acquisition of such tools. As an enterprise becomes increasingly distributed, VPN becomes a feasible networking option.
A VPN covers the security aspect well and also minimizes the long-term costs by tightly integrating the virtual network tunnels with the existing Intranet. 8. User interface layer:This is the topmost layer within the KM system architecture and the only layer that has direct interface with the user. The success of the KM system depends upon the effectiveness of this layer. This layer supports platform independence, leverages the organizational intranet and optimizes video and audio streaming.
For effective collaboration across the enterprise and the smooth sharing as well as the presentation of the knowledge from the structured organizational database, the collaborative interface employed by the presentation layer must satisfy a set of basic needs. Some of the major considerations are as listed below: (a) The collaborative platform deployed must be able to operate in a portable manner across all these platforms. The browser is the most suitable universal client through which end users and applications can access repositories without having to switch familiar platforms or operating environments.
(b) This would also facilitate a contiguous look and feel across KM applications. Major companies like Microsoft are moving towards the use of rich HTML as the default file format for the storage of their office suite documents, which makes the option of the web even morph attractive. (c) Consistent and easy to use client interface that can be easily used even by a novice. The web provides unrestricted opportunity for modifying the interface facilitating ease of use.
(d) The collaborative platform should be able to scale up without degradation in performance as the number of users grows. Both Lotus notes and the web provide high levels of scalability. However, the cost of extensive scalability would be lower in the case of an intranet based on web protocols. (e) While legacy integration is important, it is also essential that a collaborative knowledge-sharing platform integrate well with existing systems and applications. The web provides the best option in this regard.
(f) The lack of the end user’s ability to filter out irrelevant content is the root cause for the information overload that most companies are facing. The choice of platform should allow for a reasonable degree of customization and flexibility in terms of what the user sees and needs to see.