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Personal Adaptation in Knowledge Management

1 September 2019
Dr. Moria Levy
typing on laptop

Twenty years ago, when Knowledge Management was making its first stages, two closely related terms were often discussed: Personalization and Customization.


Customization, as it meant then, dealt with adapting a general Knowledge Management solution to a specific group. Personalization focused on individual adaptation for individual workers.

Customization is associated with professional desktops, with each professional group receiving content and windows adapted to its professional needs. Personalization was brought up when discussing color themes, screen organization methods and other 'goodies' to be individually selected.Personalization was ditched at an early stage, as it was expensive and did not provide any real value added. It mainly assisted to sell KM technologies since it made the idea and its application impressive.

Customization was also substantially reduced. We realized that too many professional units have too many individual needs, what made the adaptation unrealistic. It was also expensive, and we discovered that few fields hire several workers for the similar positions. We therefore remained with few customized desktops.


As the years went by, the meaning attributed to these terms changed. We now ask ourselves: how and where is it best to incorporate customization and how can we be more tuned to our users.

So, how does customization look nowadays? It is comprised of several levels:

Firstly, the user is our main focus. Rather then organizing portals by service providing units or subject menus, everything is organized according to the user's perception. Take for example, procedures regarding workers' trips abroad. The flight is not discussed in one chapter, rather distributed throughout three different chapters according to the worker's need: what do I need to know when initially planning my trip, ordering flights, booking a room and renting a vehicle. What do I need to do a week before my trip? What last preparations are required, how do I check in? The chapter discussing the flight itself might also include a review of common scenarios, such as what to do in case of an unexpected change requiring the worker to postpone their flight back.

This example illustrates the first type of personal adaptation: the same consideration for all users.

The second level will retrieve the same type of data from several data systems yet will retrieve the data for each user according to their settings. An organizational example is information regarding rights one is entitled to due to a status altering event. A professional example would be open tasks in an operational system: to each worker his/her own tasks.

While the second level of personal adaptation activates the same algorithm for everyone, it suggests personal adaptation based on personalized retrieval.

The third level of personalization involves managing a small personal database for each worker as part of a Knowledge Management system. This database allows you to manage favorite items or windows that the worker wishes to include in the KM application, etc. This Level allows solutions greater flexibility while retaining a similar overall framework.

Current technology enables more solutions for less effort than required twenty years ago. Furthermore, they are linked to more meaningful needs making the effort both possible and worthwhile. Regarding collective adaptation: a new term has recently arisen to address this issue: personas. What are they and how are they used? To be addressed elsewhere…

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