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As 2015 Begins, We Pause to Think and Even Feel Surprised

1 January 2015
Dr. Moria Levy
A person standing in a bright light

Another year has passed. Perhaps I am already "old" (with or without quotes), but the feeling is that the years are passing rapidly. The year began yesterday, and we are already summing it up and standing at the threshold of a new year. And ostensibly, one year chases another, and there is nothing new under the sun.

However, at least in knowledge management, this is not the case. There are also surprises, and it's good that way. For years, we have become accustomed to the dominance of large software companies. Organizations got used to investing endless resources in acquiring large, expensive software platforms for every subject, particularly knowledge management. And here, slowly, platforms and tools are sneaking in - those that don't cost money. And it's not just about using these software for personal home use or by organizations that don't have money, and therefore, for lack of choice, settled for using such software.

The world of Open Source [and free software is now center stage. How did we discover this in organizations? At first, quite by chance. I remember being called to one of the significant Israeli high-tech organizations a few years ago to recommend a methodology for implementing a WIKI (yes - that's where it started). The fascinating story was how the organization discovered that it wanted a WIKI: The infrastructure people were working on transferring servers and suddenly encountered a repository of malfunctions on one of the servers - all on a WIKI. They then discovered another similar repository and another. A systematic check revealed that various development and infrastructure departments had each set up such a malfunction repository for themselves. A total of 5 organizational repositories served to share knowledge about malfunctions that had occurred and ways of dealing with them. Knowledge management at its best. It started with a WIKI, [but has long since expanded to various platforms and tools.

The next harbinger, already towards 2014, was in the world of social networks. Here, we already saw creativity even among key decision-makers. Two main components contributed to this (if we momentarily ignore the cost factor, which is always significant in itself). The trust in open-source software had already established itself, and decision-makers understood there was no reason to fear such software so much. Thus, the solutions offered in the free world became increasingly innovative, flexible, and visually superior to the software of the traditional, conservative software houses we were accustomed to.

Another stage that aided the advancement of this trend this year was the transition to cloud services. More and more software offers cloud services, which have a huge advantage - they no longer require installation by infrastructure personnel; they do not require the permissions and bureaucracy we were accustomed to with internal organizational installations. In one sentence - the hand is lighter on the trigger when implementing such software.

This trend of open, free (or sometimes nominal cost) solutions applies to WIKIs, [but also to new social media software; but this software is also suitable for other needs related to knowledge dissemination and sharing: for organizational newsletters (Campaigns management software), and even for needs such as website development. The ease of setting up an organizational or departmental website and the wealth of ready-made functions are immeasurably more significant than what we were accustomed to in the past.

So, how does this trend affect decision-makers in the organization? First, it requires us, when implementing a knowledge-sharing or dissemination solution, to think openly. Less clinging to solutions and tools already existing in the organization, but rather understanding the range of suitable solutions. To get to know these solutions, one must consider the advantages of adding something new that serves a specific purpose. Don't misunderstand me; the intention is not to create organizational chaos. It is not always right to add something new. There are advantages to solution uniformity (cognitively more accessible for users) and a benefit to having the search engine work on all organizational information and knowledge. Choosing a new product requires learning and searching because there is also an absence of marketing in the absence of cost. There is a price for openness. Understanding the shortcomings should not stop us; it should help us to weigh the pros and cons better - and make a well-considered decision. This way, we will enrich the overall functionality and benefit from more innovation and sharing.

Where do we expect the subsequent market penetration? In the field of gamification - the seedlings are already here.

And perhaps, if we wait a little longer, we will also enjoy the reduced costs of traditional software. But for that, a vision is still needed. For that, we will probably have to wait a few more years...

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