This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Eric Tsui on KM, PKM and P2P

I came upon Eric Tsui's 2002 technology survey, Technologies for Personal and Peer to Peer Knowledge Management (also available at KnowledgeBoard), when writing my earlier article on PIM.  I do not recall having read Eric Tsui in the past, but many of his ideas about knowledge management and the emphasis on personal vs. corporation are strongly connected to how I have thought of KM.  The article is written as part of CSC's Leading Edge Forum, where Tsui is / was employed. 

Abstract: The great majority of the Knowledge Management (KM) and search tools on the market are server-based enterprise systems. As such, they are often designed top-down, centralised, inflexible and slow to respond to change. There has been numerous articles published on the role of IT and KM systems in organisations but there is a lack of research into KM tools for individuals and server-less KM tools/systems. By adopting a bottom-up approach, this research focusses on tools that assist the Individual Knowledge Worker (IKW) who, in today’s competitive knowledge-based society, has a constant need to capture, categorise and locate/distribute knowledge on multiple devices and with multiple parties. Furthermore, knowledge sharing between IKWs often extend across organisational boundaries. As a result, personal KM tools have very different characteristics to the enterprise KM tools mentioned above. At the group level, the impact of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) computing on Knowledge Management has been specifically identified as file sharing, distributed content networks, collaboration, and search. Potential applications for P2PKM systems include, among others, E-Learning in higher and distance education, real time collaborations and battle simulations in defence, collaborative product development, business process automation, and E-business payment systems. By including key findings from earlier work recently completed by the author and others on the landscape of enterprise KM systems, this paper presents a holistic view of the (commercial) KM technologies at three key levels of focusses – individual, group and organisational. This paper concludes with critical issues and the impact of PKM and P2PKM technologies on enterprise computing.

Tsui discusses the basics of knowledge management from a technology perspective, describing the basic idea that most KM projects are enterprise-focused (corporate km), missing a very important connection to the individual knowledge workers and the natural connection people make between each other. 

In discussing personal knowledge management (PKM), Tsui provides a number of perspectives on the skills, strategies and challenges facing knowledge workers as they go about their work.  With these things in mind, he then goes on to talk about the kinds of technologies that support knowledge workers in their endeavors.  Tsui categorizes KM tools based their central function: index/search, meta-search, associative links, information capturing and sharing, concept / mind mapping, email management, analysis and unified messenging, voice recognition, collaboration and synchronization, and learning.  He checks these against a matrix of knowledge processes to help talk about how technologies relate to KM: creation, codification / representation, classification / indexing, search & filter, and share / distribute. 

In the appendix (page 47), Tsui describes his own objectives and strategies when it comes to PKM.  Here are his PKM objectives.  His strategies are the techniques he uses to achieve these objectives.  You'll have to read those for yourself, as the strategies tend to be tied to individual style.

  • Avoid overloading of email messages in the routinely used email address(es)
  • Incorporate a PULL capability for various topics of interest and from various (valued and trusted) sources
  • Enable automatic classification of all incoming information
  • Make use of freely available tools to improve indexing and categorisation of stored information
  • Try to maintain the information received at the organisational, group and personal levels in synchronisation
  • Never ignore the people issues
  • Build trust among colleagues, clients and friends

Tsui then shifts the discussion to peer-to-peer and KM.  When this article was written in 2001/2002, the internet world was agog over Napster (even in its decline) and other peer-to-peer file-sharing schemes, and the excitement was spilling out into other reaches of the 'net.  If one of the larger aspects of knowledge management is the sharing of knowledge and interaction amongst colleagues, then P2P schemes could have great benefit.  There are obvious applications to file sharing capabilities that Tsui highlights.  He also looks at the benefits of P2P for collaboration and collaborative filtering.  In the collaboration arena, the main thought is that instead of needing a central maintenance hub for collaboration, P2P tools allow for distributed groups to quickly form and dissolve as they need to get work done.  He discusses Groove in the appendix, which I've tested briefly and has many useful qualities.  Tsui wraps up the discussion of P2PKM with a discussion of where P2P fits into the KM landscape, touching on a variety of areas from e-Learning to project management to family KM to defense. 

Of course, a danger with P2P interactions is that they might miss or circumvent existing networks and knowledge captured in corporate knowledge management systems elsewhere.  Tsui discusses this and a number of other areas where P2P and the general trend of distributed work will impact enterprise KM approaches.

I see that Tom Collins linked to this article a while back (Maybe All KM is Personal KM).  I may have seen it then.

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