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Centralized Versus Peer-to-Peer Knowledge Management Systems

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The term knowledge management system (KMS) has been used widely to denote information and communication technologies in support of knowledge management. However, so far investigations about the notion of KMS, their functions and architecture as well as the differences to other types of systems remain on an abstract level. This paper reviews the literature on KMS and distills a number of characteristics concerning the specifics of knowledge to be managed, the platform metaphor, advanced services, KM instruments, supported processes, participants and goals of their application.......

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  1. Knowledge and Process Management Volume 13 Number 1 pp 47–61 (2006) Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI: 10.1002/kpm.244 & Research Article Centralized Versus Peer-to-Peer Knowledge Management Systems Ronald Maier* and Thomas Hadrich ¨ Department of Management Information Systems And OR, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany The term knowledge management system (KMS) has been used widely to denote information and communication technologies in support of knowledge management. However, so far investigations about the notion of KMS, their functions and architecture as well as the differ- ences to other types of systems remain on an abstract level. This paper reviews the literature on KMS and distills a number of characteristics concerning the specifics of knowledge to be managed, the platform metaphor, advanced services, KM instruments, supported processes, participants and goals of their application. The paper then presents two ideal architectures for KMS, a centralized and a peer-to-peer architecture, discusses their differences with the help of two example systems and suggests that each of these architectures fits a different type of KM initiative. Copyright # 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. MOTIVATION (Alavi and Leidner, 2001, p. 114), and do not answer the question whether a concrete tool or sys- Knowledge management (KM) has been discussed tem qualifies as a KMS or, in other words, what ser- intensively from a human-oriented and from a vices a KMS has to offer. A general frame of technology-oriented perspective. Knowledge man- reference in the sense of a system architecture is agement systems are seen as enabling technologies needed for the analysis of existing tools and sys- for an effective and efficient KM. However, up- tems as well as for the development of individual to-date the term knowledge management system KMS solutions. (KMS) is often vaguely defined and used ambigu- Goals of this paper are to define the term KMS ously. Examples are its use for specific KM tools, and to obtain a set of characteristics that differenti- for KM platforms or for a combination of tools ate KMS from other types of systems (section 2), to that are applied with KM in mind. It remains contrast two ideal architectures for KMS which are unclear what separates KMS from other types of amalgamated on the basis of KMS architectures systems that are also discussed as supporting KM proposed in the literature and to discuss the initiatives. Examples are Intranet infrastructures, state-of-the-art with the help of example systems document and content management systems, artifi- offered on the market (section 3) as well as to dis- cial intelligence technologies, business intelligence cuss the differences between the architectures and tools, visualization tools, Groupware or e-learning which KMS architecture fits what type of KM systems. So far, investigations about the notion of initiative (section 4). KMS remain on the abstract level of what a KMS is used for, e.g. ‘a class of information systems applied to managing organizational knowledge’ TOWARDS A DEFINITION OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS *Correspondence to: Ronald Maier, Department of Management Even though there is considerable disagreement in Information Systems And OR, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. the literature and business practice about what E-mail: exactly KM is, there are a number of researchers Copyright # 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  2. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management and practitioners who stress the importance and Lewin and Minton, 1998). This definition stresses usefulness of KMS as enabler or vehicle for the the primary goal of KMS as to increase organiza- implementation of these approaches. A review of tional effectiveness by a systematic management the literature on information and communication of knowledge. Thus, KMS are the technological technologies (ICT) to support KM reveals a number part of a KM initiative that also comprises per- of different terms in use, such as knowledge ware- son-oriented and organizational instruments tar- house, KM software, suite, (support) system, tech- geted at improving productivity of knowledge nology or organizational memory (information) work (Maier, 2004, p. 44ff, 55). KM initiatives can system (e.g. Alavi and Leidner, 2001; Nedeß and be classified according to strategy in human- Jacob, 2000; Maier, 2004, p. 79ff; McDermott, 1999, oriented, personalization initiatives and technol- p. 104; Mentzas et al., 2001, p. 95f; Seifried and ogy-oriented codification initiatives (Hansen et al., Eppler, 2000; Stein and Zwass, 1995, p. 98). In addi- 1999). They can further be distinguished according tion to these terms meaning a comprehensive plat- to scope into enterprise-specific initiatives and form in support of KM, many authors provide initiatives that cross organizational boundaries. more or less extensive lists of individual tools or According to organizational design, the initiative technologies that can be used to support KM initia- can establish a central organizational unit responsi- tives as a whole or certain processes, life cycle ble for KM or it can be a decentral initiative run by phases or tasks thereof (e.g. Allee, 1997, p. 224f; a number of projects and/or communities. The Binney, 2001, p. 37ff; Borghoff and Pareschi, 1998, initiative can focus on a certain type of content p. 5f; Hoffmann, 2001, p. 78f; Jackson, 2003, p. 5f; along the knowledge life cycle e.g. ideas, experi- Meso and Smith, 2000, p. 227ff; Ruggles, 1998, p. ences, lessons learned, approved knowledge pro- 82ff). ducts, procedures, best practices or patents. Apart from these terms with a clear focus on KM Finally, the organizational culture of the company or organizational memory, there is another group or organization in which the KM initiative is of software systems that supports these approaches started, can be characterized as open, trustful, col- called e-learning suite, learning management plat- lective where willingness to share knowledge is form, portal, suite or system (Maier, 2004, p. 81). high or as confidential, distrustful, individual, These platforms not only support presentation, with high barriers to knowledge sharing (see administration and organization of teaching mate- Maier, 2004, p. 404ff for a definition of and empiri- rial, but also interaction between and among tea- cal results about this typology of KM initiatives). chers and students (Astleitner and Schinagl, 2000, The type of initiative determines the type of infor- p. 114). KMS with roots in document management, mation system for its support which can be collaboration or Groupware and learning manage- regarded as a KMS from the perspective of its ment systems with roots in computer-based train- application environment. ing already share a substantial portion of functionality and seem to converge or at least be Processes integrated with each other. Recently, the terms KM tools or KMS have gained wide acceptance KMS are developed to support and enhance knowl- both in the literature and on the market. Conse- edge-intensive processes, tasks or projects (Detlor, quently, we use the term KMS being well aware 2002, p. 200; Jennex and Olfmann, 2003, p. 214) of that there are a number of similar conceptualiza- e.g. knowledge creation, organization, storage, retrie- tions that complement the functionality and archi- val, transfer, refinement and packaging, (re-)use, tectures of KMS. In the following, we will revision and feedback, also called the knowledge summarize the most important characteristics of life cycle, ultimately to support knowledge work KMS as can be found in the literature. (Davenport et al., 1996, p. 54). In this view, KMS pro- vide a seamless pipeline for the flow of explicit knowledge through a refinement process (Zack, Goals 1999, p. 49), or a thinking forum containing interpre- Goals are defined by the KM initiative in which the tations, half-formed judgements, ideas and other KMS is deployed. Stein/Zwass define organiza- perishable insights that aims at sparking collabora- tional memory information system as ‘a system tive thinking (McDermott, 1999, p. 112). that functions to provide a means by which knowl- edge from the past is brought to bear on present Comprehensive platform activities, thus resulting in increased levels of effec- tiveness for the organization‘ (Stein and Zwass, Whereas the focus on processes can be seen as 1995, p. 95; for organizational effectiveness e.g. a user-centric approach, an IT-centric approach 48 ¨ R. Maier and T. Hadrich
  3. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE provides a base system to capture and distribute services that together foster one or more KM knowledge (Jennex and Olfmann, 2003, p. 215). instrument(s). This platform is then used throughout the organi- zation. In this case, the KMS is not an application Specifics of knowledge system targeted at a single KM initiative, but a plat- form that can either be used as-is to support knowl- KMS are applied to managing knowledge which edge processes or that is used as the integrating is described as ‘personalized information [ . . . ] base system and repository on which KM applica- related to facts, procedures, concepts, interpreta- tion systems are built. Comprehensive in this case tions, ideas, observations, and judgements’ (Alavi means that the platform offers extensive functional- and Leidner, 2001, p. 109, 114). From the perspec- ity for user administration, messaging, conferen- tive of KMS, knowledge is information that cing and sharing of (documented) knowledge, i.e. is meaningfully organized, accumulated and publication, search, retrieval and presentation. embedded in a context of creation and application. KMS primarily leverage codified knowledge, but also aid communication or inference used to inter- Advanced services pret situations and to generate activities, behaviour KMS are described as ICT platforms on which a and solutions. Thus, on the one hand KMS might number of integrated services are built. The pro- not appear radically different from existing IS, cesses that have to be supported give a first indica- but help to assimilate contextualized information. tion of the types of services that are needed. On the other hand, the role of ICT is to provide Examples are rather basic services e.g. for colla- access to sources of knowledge and, with the help boration, workflow management, document and of shared context, to increase the breadth of knowl- content management, visualization, search and edge sharing between persons rather than storing retrieval (e.g. Seifried and Eppler, 2000, p. 31ff) or knowledge itself (Alavi and Leidner, 2001, p. 111). more advanced services e.g. profiling, personaliza- The internal context of knowledge describes the cir- tion, text analysis, clustering and categorization to cumstances of its creation, e.g. the author(s), crea- increase the relevance of retrieved and pushed tion date and circumstances, assumptions or information, advanced graphical techniques for purpose of creation. The external context relates navigation, awareness services, shared workspaces, to retrieval and application of knowledge. It cate- (distributed) learning services as well as integra- gorizes knowledge, relates it to other knowledge, tion of and reasoning about various (document) describes access rights, usage restrictions and cir- sources on the basis of a shared ontology (e.g. cumstances as well as feedback from its re-use Bair, 1998, p. 2; Borghoff and Pareschi, 1998, p. 5f; (Barry and Schamber, 1998, p. 222; Eppler, 2003, Maier, 2004, p. 260ff). p. 125f). KM instruments Participants KMS are applied in a large number of application Users play the roles of active, involved participants areas e.g. in product development, process in knowledge networks and communities fostered improvement, project management, post-merger by KMS. This is reflected by the support of context integration or human resource management (Tsui, in KMS. Contextualization is thus one of the key 2003, p. 21). More specifically, KMS support KM characteristics of KMS (Apitz, et al., 2002) which instruments e.g. (1) the capture, creation and shar- provide a semantic link between explicit, codified ing of best practices, (2) the implementation of knowledge and participants holding or seeking experience management systems, (3) the creation knowledge in certain subject areas. Context of corporate knowledge directories, taxonomies or enhances the simple ‘container’ metaphor of orga- ontologies, (4) expertise locators, yellow and blue nizational knowledge by a network of artefacts and pages as well as skill management systems, also people, of memory and of processing (Ackerman called people-finder systems, (5) collaborative fil- and Halverson, 1998, p. 64). Communities or net- tering and handling of interests used to connect works of knowledge workers that ‘own the knowl- people, (6) the creation and fostering of commu- edge’ and decide what and how to share can nities or knowledge networks, and (7) the facilita- provide important context for a KMS (McDermott, tion of intelligent problem solving (e.g. Alavi and 1999, p. 108, 111ff). Decontextualization and recon- Leidner, 2001, p. 114; McDermott, 1999, p. 111ff; textualization turn static knowledge objects into Tsui, 2003, p. 7). KMS in this case offer a targeted knowledge processes (Ackerman and Halverson, combination and integration of knowledge 1998, p. 64). Meta-knowledge in a KMS, e.g. in Centralized Versus Peer-to-Peer Knowledge 49
  4. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management the form of a set of expert profiles or the content of KMS foster the implementation of KM instruments a skill management system, is sometimes as impor- in support of knowledge processes targeted at tant as the original knowledge itself (Alavi and increasing organizational effectiveness. Leidner, 2001, p. 121). The characteristics discussed above can be used as Figure 1 gives an overview of these characteris- requirements in order to judge whether an actual tics. The KMS is visualized by the triangle. Goals system is a KMS or not. Many systems marketed stated by a KM initiative define the KM instru- as KMS have their foundations e.g. in document or ments that should be supported by the KMS’s func- content management systems, artificial intelligence tions and control their deployment. Thus, a KMS technologies, business intelligence tools, Groupware has to be aligned with the specifics of its applica- or e-learning systems. These systems are more or less tion environment, the types of KM initiative e.g. substantially extended with advanced services. the strategy, scope, organizational design, type of Thus, actual implementations of ICT systems cer- contents and cultural aspects. Participants and tainly fulfill the requirements of an ideal KMS only communities or knowledge networks are the tar- to a certain degree. Therefore, one might imagine a geted user groups that interact with the KMS in continuum between advanced KMS and other sys- order to carry out knowledge tasks. The knowledge tems that can partially support KM initiatives. tasks are organized in acquisition and deployment The characteristics discussed in this section can processes required for the management of knowl- be seen as arguing for a certain set of services. edge. The KMS itself consists of a comprehensive Comprehensive platform requires the inclusion of platform rather than individual tools with infrastructure services for storage, messaging, access advanced services built on top that explicitly and security which is built on an extensive set of consider the specifics of knowledge as infor- data and knowledge sources. Specifics of knowledge mation (or content) plus context. The services are call for the handling of contextualized information combined and integrated in order to foster KM which requires integration services that describe instruments. resources pulled together from a variety of sources. A definition of the term KMS and a subsequent Advanced services build on top of these integration development of architectures for KMS have to services and provide support for KM instruments. stress these characteristics. Consequently, a KMS These knowledge services have to support the entire is defined as a comprehensive ICT platform for col- set of acquisition and deployment processes. From an laboration and knowledge sharing with advanced ICT perspective, these are services for publishing, services built on top that are contextualized, inte- collaboration, learning and discovery. The knowl- grated on the basis of a shared ontology and perso- edge services need to be tailored on the one hand nalized for participants networked in communities. to the individual needs of participants and on the other hand to the requirements of the roles they perform in business processes and projects. This calls for personalization services. Finally, participants might need to access KMS with a host of different appliances and applications for which access services have to offer translations and transformation. These services have to be aligned with each other in architectures for KMS. ARCHITECTURES FOR KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS Architectures play an important role in MIS as blueprints or reference models for corresponding implementations of information systems. The term architecture as used in MIS origins in the scientific discipline architecture and is used in a variety of ways e.g. application architecture, sys- tem architecture, information system architecture and especially software architecture. The analysis of the definitions of KMS discussed above, of case Figure 1 Characteristics of KMS studies of organizations using ICT in support of 50 ¨ R. Maier and T. Hadrich
  5. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE KM and of KM tools and systems offered on the et al., 2002, p. 33; Zack, 1999, p. 50), market-oriented market reveals that there are basically two ideal (e.g. Applehans et al., 1999; Bach et al., 1999, p. 69, types of architectures of KMS: centralistic KMS Becker et al., 2002, p. 24) and several vendor-speci- and peer-to-peer KMS. The KMS architectures sug- fic architectures (e.g. Hyperwave, Open Text Live- gested in the following are system architectures link). The comparison of these architectures reveals that can be used to define a framework useful (1) that each architecture suggests the establishment of to classify individual tools and systems with a number of services organized on a number of respect to the services they offer, (2) to analyse layers. The architectures suggest between three which services are supported by a standard KMS and five layers that basically all follow the same offered on the market (which is shown in this pattern in that a number of sources has to be inte- paper) or (3) as reference architecture that helps grated so that advanced services can be built on to design an organization-specific KMS as a combi- top. However, none of the architectures comprises nation of tools and systems already implemented the entire set of layers needed for a KMS that fulfils in that organization. the characteristics defined in section 2 (for a detailed analysis see Maier, 2004, p. 250ff). For example, Applehans et al.’s architecture has no Centralistic architecture integration layer with a shared taxonomy and a Many KMS solutions implemented in organiza- repository (Applehans, et al., 1999). Bach’s architec- tions and offered on the market are centralistic cli- ture provides the important layer of an integrated ent-/server solutions (Maier, 2004). Figure 2 shows knowledge work place (Bach et al., 1999, p. 69). an ideal layered architecture for KMS that repre- However, the underlying layers lack detailing. sents an amalgamation of theory-driven (e.g. Apitz Becker et al., finally introduce the aspect of a Figure 2 Architecture of a centralized KMS Centralized Versus Peer-to-Peer Knowledge 51
  6. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management meta-data-based integration of legacy systems into results of work on knowledge elements that has a useful KMS (Becker et al., 2002, p. 24). However, been done offline. the role of KMS in this architecture is reduced to a portal. It lacks the intelligent functions that all Knowledge services other architectures stress as being one of the key The core knowledge processes—search and retrie- components that distinguish KMS from traditional val, publication, collaboration and learning—are approaches. supported by knowledge services. These are key Consequently, the ideal architecture depicted in components of the KMS architecture and provide Figure 2 contains a superset of the services sug- intelligent functions for: gested in the architectures mentioned above and  discovery: means search, retrieval and presenta- is oriented towards the metaphor of a central tion of knowledge elements and experts with KM server that integrates all knowledge shared the help of e.g. mining, visualization, mapping in an organization. As in other standard architec- and navigation tools, tures such as the ISO/OSI model (Tanenbaum,  publication: is the joint authoring, structuring, 2003), each layer offers services to the next contextualization and release of knowledge ele- higher layer. The advantages are that the com- ments supported by workflows, plexity of the entire system is reduced and  collaboration: supports the joint creation, sharing changes of the implementation of lower layers and application of knowledge by knowledge do not affect the functioning of higher layers as providers and seekers with the help of e.g. con- long as the interfaces of these services remain textualized communication and coordination the same. The arrows in Figure 2 show the data tools, location and awareness management tools, flow between the sources, layers and participants. community homespaces and experience manage- In the following, the individual layers are briefly ment tools and described.  learning: is supported e.g. by authoring tools and Data and knowledge sources tools for managing courses, tutoring, learning KMS include organization-internal sources e.g. paths and examinations. transaction processing systems, data base systems, data warehouses, document and content manage- Personalization services ment systems, messaging systems and personal Main aim of personalization services is to provide a (or group) information management systems as more effective access to the large amounts of well as organization-external sources e.g. databases knowledge elements. Subject matter specialists or from data supply companies, or the Internet, espe- managers of knowledge processes can organize a cially the WWW and newsgroups. portion of the KMS contents and services for speci- Infrastructure services fic roles or develop role-oriented push services. The Intranet infrastructure provides basic func- Also, both, the portal and the services can be perso- tionality for synchronous and asynchronous com- nalized with the help of e.g. interest profiles, perso- munication, the sharing of data and documents as nal category nets and personalizable portals. well as the management of electronic assets in Automated profiling can aid personalization of general and of Web content in particular. In ana- functions, contents and services. logy to data warehousing, extract, transformation and loading tools provide access to data and Access services knowledge sources. Inspection services (viewer) The participant accesses the organization’s KMS are required for heterogeneous data and docu- with the help of a variety of services that translate ment formats. and transform the contents and communication to and from the KMS to heterogeneous applications Integration services and appliances. The KMS has to be protected A taxonomy or an ontology help to meaningfully against eavesdropping and unauthorized use by organize and link knowledge elements that come tools for authentication and authorization. from a variety of sources and are used to analyse the semantics of the organizational knowledge Example: Open Text Livelink 9.2 base. Integration services are needed to manage meta-data about knowledge elements and the Open Text’s product family Livelink represents one users that work with the KMS. Synchronization of the leading KMS platforms with a centralized services export a portion of the knowledge work- architecture. Livelink has an installed base of over space for work offline and (re-)integrate the 6 million users in 4500 organizations many of 52 ¨ R. Maier and T. Hadrich
  7. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE Figure 3 Livelink’s components in the centralized KMS architecturey which are large organizations.1 Figure 3 assigns knowledge sources are made available by services Livelink’s modules to the six layers of the centra- on the infrastructure layer. lized KMS architecture. In the following, selected Livelink components are briefly discussed. Infrastructure services Services called ‘activators’ extend Livelink’s search Data and knowledge sources domain to sources like Lotus Notes data bases, The Livelink data is stored in a relational data base Web pages (Livelink Spider), search engines and system and the file system. Various other data and other Livelink installations (Livelink Brokered Search). Livelink is accessed using the Intranet 1 According to Open Text Germany’s University programme infrastructure installed in an organization. The sys- ‘Knowledge management with Livelink’; see also: URL: tem’s (open) source code can be altered or The following discussion is based extended with the Livelink Software Development on our experiences with a Livelink installation at our depart- ment and material published by Open Text. Kit (Livelink SDK). The most common types e.g. y Italic descriptions refer to separate software modules that formats of office systems, can be converted to extend Livelink’s core functionality. It depends on the actual HTML. Thus, documents can be viewed without license agreement whether they are included or not. A variety of additional modules can be obtained from 3rd party vendors the native application and indexed by Livelink’s and are not considered here. search engine. Centralized Versus Peer-to-Peer Knowledge 53
  8. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management Integration services Learning services Knowledge is stored in and represented by so- Livelink supports the design of basic courses and called ‘‘objects’’, e.g. documents, folders, discus- question and answer tests (Livelink Learning Man- sions or task lists that are placed in a folder hierar- agement). chy. Meta-data is added automatically e.g. creation/change date, creator, and manually via Personalization services customizable categories. All meta-data are stored Livelink offers three types of workspaces that differ in a relational data base and can be queried using mainly with respect to what groups of users are SQL statements in so-called reports. granted privileges to access them. The enterprise workspace is the central workspace for all users. Discovery services A personal workspace belongs to every user with Livelink’s full-text search engine allows basic and access restricted to this user. Project workspaces advanced keyword searches. Additionally, the can only be accessed by participants defined by assigned meta-data can be used for limiting the the project’s coordinator(s). The operations users search domain. A typical search result page not and groups may perform on an object are defined only includes a ranked list of various types of by detailed privileges at the granularity of single objects with short descriptions e.g. documents, dis- objects. All knowledge and access services consider cussion topics, folders or objects from further these privileges. knowledge sources made accessible through Live- Access services link services on the infrastructure level, but also Access to Livelink with a standard Web browser is gives hints to what authors have been most active relatively platform-independent and not limited to according to the actual query. Livelink’s notifica- a corporate LAN. The system can be accessed via tion mechanism allows users to place change the Internet from every networked computer with agents on selected folders to be notified via email a Web browser. To ease the use of the system e.g. if changes occur. for work with a large number of documents, a cli- ent for Microsoft Windows platforms can be Publication services obtained optionally (Livelink Explorer). This client Typical document management functions of Live- provides drag & drop integration into Microsoft’s link are check-in/check-out, a versioning mechan- Windows Explorer, basic online/offline synchroni- ism and workflows. All types of files can be zation functions and an integration into Microsoft stored in Livelink. Optional modules provide cap- Office e.g. to check-in/check-out documents abilities for electronic signatures (Livelink eSign), directly from Microsoft Word. If multiple installa- functions for the management of electronic forms tions exist, the user can access them over a portal (Livelink eForms Management), and for textual or (Livelink Unite). graphical annotations in Adobe Acrobat’s portable document format files (Livelink Review Manager for Acrobat). Peer-to-peer architecture Recently, the peer-to-peer metaphor has gained Collaboration services increasing attention from both, academics and Some basic functions like discussion forums (black practitioners (e.g. Barkai, 2001; Schoder et al., boards), polls, news channels, task lists and work- 2002). There have been several attempts to flows aim at supporting collaboration. Optional design information sharing systems or even KMS Livelink modules offer group calendars (Livelink to profit from the benefits of the peer-to-peer OnTime) and electronic meetings (Livelink metaphor (Benger 2003; Maier and Sametinger, MeetingZone). OnTime provides a Web calendar 2004; Parameswaran et al., 2001; Susarla et al., with simple mechanisms to administer group 2003; ). This promises to resolve some of the short- appointments. MeetingZone comprises a set of comings of centralized KMS e.g. meeting support tools integrated into Livelink e.g. whiteboard, chat, shared desktop and objects to be  to reduce the substantial costs of the design, used during the meeting. The Livelink Skills implementation and maintenance of a centra- Management module offers the management of lized knowledge server, an extended set of data about users. Livelink Com-  to reduce the barriers of individual knowledge munities comprises four smaller modules (forums, workers to actively participate and share in the blogs, FAQ and calendar) that facilitate interaction benefits of a KMS, between participants and allows for arranging  to overcome the limitations of a KMS that focuses community workspaces. on organization-internal knowledge whereas 54 ¨ R. Maier and T. Hadrich
  9. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE many knowledge processes cross organizational other, thus forming a separate peer-to-peer net- boundaries, work. Requests from peers are always handled  to include individual messaging objects (emails, by the connected super peer and eventually for- instant messaging objects) into the knowledge warded to other super peers. As in the assisted workspace and architecture, a direct connection between peers is  to seamlessly integrate the shared knowledge established, once a peer with the desired resource workspace with an individual knowledge work- is found. er’s personal knowledge workspace. The more functionality for central coordination is required in a peer-to-peer system, as is the case in a However, there is no common architecture or an KMS, the more likely it is that some kind of assis- agreed list of functions yet for this type of KMS. tance by a server is needed to coordinate the Generally, the peer-to-peer label is used for differ- system. Consequently, Figure 4 depicts the archi- ent architectures (e.g. Dustdar et al., 2003, p. 170ff). tecture of a peer and a server to assist the network. Firstly, the assisted peer-to-peer architecture requires Both architectures basically consist of the same a central server e.g. to authenticate all users to act layers as the architecture of centralized KMS. as a global search index. Peers send search Thus, in the following only the differences to the requests to the server that directs peers to centralized architecture are discussed. resources which are then transferred directly between the peers. Secondly, the pure peer-to-peer Peer architecture does not have any central authentica- tion or coordination mechanism. Every peer pro- vides complete client and server functionality Infrastructure services (‘servents’). Lastly, the super peer architecture is in Personal data and knowledge sources are made between assisted and pure architectures. Super accessible by extract transformation and loading peers are peers with a fast and stable network con- services. Infrastructure services also provide the nection. A peer is connected to one single super peer-to-peer infrastructure for locating peers, peer, thus forming clusters of peers in the net- exchanging data with other peers and assuring work. Super peers are also connected to each security of the personal knowledge base. Figure 4 Architecture of server and peer Centralized Versus Peer-to-Peer Knowledge 55
  10. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management Integration services Personalization services A personal taxonomy or an ontology are the foun- Profiles and push services ease access to the orga- dation for definition and handling of meta-data of nized collection of (quality approved or even the knowledge objects in the personal knowledge improved) knowledge elements that the subject base. The knowledge base comprises private, pro- matter specialists administer. tected and public areas. Private workspaces con- tain information that is only accessible for the Access services owner of the private workspace. Public work- These services are restricted to the administration spaces hold knowledge objects that are published of the server, the central knowledge structure and via the Internet and accessible by an undefined the profiles for personalization. group of users. Protected workspaces contain knowledge objects that are accessible to a single Example: Groove Networks Groove 2.5 or a group of peers that the owner explicitly grants access. The product Groove from Groove Networks targets collaboration in small groups and is based on the Knowledge services peer-to-peer metaphor. In the following, its func- Just as in the centralized case, these services build tions are discussed briefly using the layers of the upon the knowledge base. The main difference is peer-to-peer architecture (see Figure 5).2 that the knowledge repository now is spread across a number of collaborating peers that have granted Peer access to parts of their knowledge repositories. Data and knowledge sources Personalization services The data resides in XML stores on the local hard Contents and services are personalized based on disks of the peers. It is possible to import calendar individual user profiles and on centralized perso- items, emails and contacts from MS Outlook, nalization services provided by the server. to integrate MS Sharepoint workspaces (discus- sions and documents are synchronized, other Access services elements of a Sharepoint workplace are stored in There are no differences compared to the centra- the forms tool) and to import data from MS lized KMS architecture. Project. File viewers can be downloaded for com- mon file types. Server Infrastructure services The data store is managed by a storage service that Infrastructure services ensures persistence of Groove’s workspaces. Local A server might access a number of additional, data and messages to other peers are encrypted by shared data and knowledge sources and assist the a security service. A user normally owns one peers with additional services. The peer-to-peer account that includes one or more identities. Every infrastructure might also provide services for look- identity has a pair of public/private keys and a up and message handling that improve the effi- fingerprint for encryption and authentication. It is ciency of the distributed KMS. possible to exchange text or voice messages. Peer connection services determine IP addresses Integration services of other peers and handle communication using A shared taxonomy or ontology for the domain is the proprietary simple symmetrical transmission offered which is handled e.g. by a network of sub- protocol (SSTP). Device presence services handle ject matter specialists. This addresses the challenge the detection of other peers and their online/offline in a totally distributed KMS that the various knowl- status. The Groove Development Kit (GDK) pro- edge bases cannot be integrated and thus pose a vides an environment for programming software problem for e.g. the interpretation of search results extensions using Microsoft software components by the knowledge worker. The server might offer (COM) and programming languages like VB.NET, replication services to peers that sometimes work Cþþ or C#. offline. Knowledge services 2 The following discussion is based on our experiences with a There are no central services in addition to the Groove installation at our department, on Pitzer, 2002 and mate- peers’ services. rial published by Groove Networks. 56 ¨ R. Maier and T. Hadrich
  11. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE Figure 5 Groove’s components in the architecture of decentralized KMS Integration services tool (task list). A sketchpad (whiteboard) and an Knowledge workers collaborate in workspaces that outline tool (structured list) offer basic support contain a number of tools. Every user can create a for brainstorming sessions. A group of users can workspace, assign tools and invite other users to jointly browse Internet/Intranet-pages with co- join. All knowledge elements like basic text, docu- browser functionality using Microsoft Internet ments, calendar items or images are stored in this Explorer. A ‘navigate together’ option synchronizes workspace and are only visible to the members of the interface of the workspace. Awareness services this workspace whose privileges depend on their provide information about current activities of role (guest, participant or manager). There is no other users, e.g. the workspace and the tools they central taxonomy or ontology. Changes in work- currently access. Information about users is distrib- spaces are continuously transmitted to all peers. If uted within Groove or by e-mail. a peer goes offline, the differentials are synchro- nized when he switches back online. Discovery and learning services Groove clearly emphasizes collaboration functions Publication services and lacks discovery services like a full-text search Groove offers no advanced publication services engine as well as learning services. except the review cycle tool for joint revision of documents and a function that allows users to Personalization services simultaneously co-edit MS Word and MS Power- Groove allows for simple adaptation of the user point documents. Files can be stored in a basic hier- interface, e.g. design of skins and selection of archical folder structure in the files tool. The Groove services offered in particular workspaces. picture and the notes tools are for storing and view- However, there are no solutions that consider ing pictures and text. Structured data is stored in user profiles when nvoking services on the lower forms created with the forms tool. levels of the architecture. Collaboration services Access services Basic collaboration tools offered by Groove are a The workspaces are accessed by a MS group calendar, a group contact list, a discussion Windows client called transceiver with a drag forum, meeting minutes and a project manager and drop interface for files. The Groove explorer Centralized Versus Peer-to-Peer Knowledge 57
  12. RESEARCH ARTICLE Knowledge and Process Management offers an alternative user interface with the same DISCUSSION functionality. Each user creates an account secured by a password. Table 1 shows to what extent Livelink and Groove fulfill the requirements that have been identified in section 2 and for what type of KM initiative as Server defined in the requirement goals these systems are A peer-to-peer network bears challenges with suited. respect to central management tasks like license Livelink is a KMS that offers a comprehensive management or coordinating resource utilization platform and functions at every level of the centra- e.g. bandwidth or disk capacity. Groove addresses lized architecture. With roots in document manage- them with centralized servers. ment, Livelink’s focus is on explicit knowledge, with advanced functions for contextualization, Data and knowledge resources publication and discovery across formats, plat- Other systems like enterprise resource planning forms and the boundaries of a corporate LAN. (ERP) software or customer relationship manage- Also, Livelink supports collaboration based on joint ment systems (CRM) can be integrated by software authoring and sharing of documents. Although agents called bots. Data needed and produced by Livelink can be used (almost) out-of-the-box as a Groove’s server application resides in a local data basic KMS platform, most implementations adapt store. the user interface to corporate style guides and extend the integration and infrastructure capabil- Infrastructure services ities to cover organization-specific data and knowl- The server offers relay services to ensure stable and edge sources. It is certainly more ambitious to fast communication between peers. If a peer’s con- combine and integrate Livelink’s knowledge ser- nection to the network is slow, large files are sent to vices into KM instruments. Open Text’s offerings and distributed by the relay server (‘fanout’ func- here are limited to a basic skill management instru- tionality). Peers behind firewalls can communicate ment and a module to set up community spaces. with the relay server using the Hypertext Transfer Groove can be characterized as a peer-to-peer Protocol (HTTP). The server then transmits the collaboration tool that in its current form lacks a data to the addressed peers using the preferred number of functions required in a KMS, but is cer- SSTP. tainly a promising candidate for an integration of Moreover, the server offers functions for the the missing functions e.g. discovery services like management of licenses, distribution of software full-text search or navigation of workspaces, a tax- updates, monitoring of Groove’s usage, directory onomy or ontology that integrates the knowledge services for exchanging user information, a public currently scattered across multiple workspaces, key infrastructure (PKI) and basic account manage- customizable meta-data, personalization and a ment for using one Groove account on multiple tighter integration of the tools in a workspace e.g. computers. Groove allows monitoring of network the review cycle and files tool. usage, of workspaces and their tools as well as However, there are still serious technical chal- the activity of single users. lenges that have to be overcome in peer-to-peer computing in general. These challenges concern Integration services connectivity e.g. locating peers that do not have Another part of the relay services addresses the public IP addresses, security and privacy e.g. the synchronization of peers. Messages to peers cur- risk of spreading viruses, unauthorized access to rently offline are temporarily stored and forwarded confidential and private information and the when peers go back online. The data resides in a installation of unwanted applications, availability local cache. and scalability e.g. concerning searches in the flat structure of the distributed search domain Knowledge and personalization services (Barkai, 2001, p. 264ff). There are also organiza- Due to the fact that the centralized server is tional issues that have to be resolved before a designed for coordinating a peer-to-peer network peer-to-peer KMS can be fully deployed in an and for the technical integration of legacy systems, organization e.g. the participation issue, i.e. there it offers no such centralized services. have to be incentives to actively participate in the peer-to-peer network in order to foster information Access services sharing and avoid the free rider issue, the trust The user interface for the administrator is a stan- issue, i.e. participants have to believe in the secur- dard Web browser. ity and reliability of the peer-to-peer infrastructure 58 ¨ R. Maier and T. Hadrich
  13. Knowledge and Process Management RESEARCH ARTICLE Table 1 Examples for centralized and peer-to-peer systems compared Requirements Open Text Livelink 9.2 Groove Networks Groove 2.5 Platform Integrated set of functions for all areas Integrated set of functions with strong required for KMS; multi-user system for emphasis on collaboration; limited number 1000þ users; easily scalable of peers, because network traffic and management of privileges might prevent scalability Advanced services Advanced services for publication and Advanced services restricted to collabora- discovery; basic support for collaboration, tion and awareness; basic support for contextualization, integration and integration and workspace management personalization KM instruments Basic skill management, communities None Processes Organize, store, search, retrieval, transfer, Store, transfer, revision, feedback revision, feedback Specifics of knowledge Mainly stable, documented but also ad hoc, Focus on ad hoc and co-authored knowl- co-authored knowledge; customizable meta- edge including text and voice communica- data for contextualization; no support for tion; no meta-data; no support for stages of stages of knowledge knowledge Participants More rigidly defined small to large teams Small, flexible teams, often crossing organi- within an organizational setting zational borders Type of initiative Open Text Livelink 9.2 Groove Networks Groove 2.5 Strategy Codification Personalization Organizational design Central Decentral Content Lessons learned, (approved) knowledge Individual contents, ideas, results products, secured knowledge as well as of group sessions and experiences ideas, experiences and individual contents Organizational culture Both types of culture (restrictive or loose Open, trustful, collective user privileges) or the coordination issue, i.e. structuring (organiz- strategy to a combination and integration of func- ing, packaging) and quality management (revision, tions for handling internal and external context, feedback) of the knowledge contained in a peer- locating experts, skill management, etc. which to-peer network have to be supported in order to bridges the gap to a personalization strategy (Maier avoid information overload (Susarla et al., 2003, 2004, p. 506). Advanced functions supporting colla- p., 133ff). boration in teams and communities, tools linking Consequently, a centralized KMS like Livelink knowledge providers and seekers as well as e- seems to be better suited for a KM initiative that learning functionality have been integrated into can be described as a codification initiative many centralized KMS. KMS offered on the market restricted to the organization’s boundaries, mana- differ with respect to the extent and intensity with ged by a central organizational unit and fostering which they cover the services included in the cen- the handling of all types of knowledge. A peer-to- tralized architecture. Some focus on learning man- peer information sharing system like Groove tar- agement (e.g. Hyperwave), some on integration gets a KM initiative that can be described as a per- (e.g. Lotus Notes/Workspace), on discovery (e.g. sonalization initiative involving members from a Verity) publication (e.g. Livelink), collaboration number of institutions. Thus the initiative is mana- (e.g. CommunityBuilder) or personalization and ged decentrally requiring an open, trustful, collec- access (e.g. SAP Portals). tive organizational culture and a focus on the exchange of individual knowledge, ideas and experiences. CONCLUSION Generally, there has been a shift in perspective of KMS vendors as well as organizations applying This paper has studied the notion of the term KMS those systems from a focus on documents contain- and provided a definition and a set of characteris- ing knowledge and thus from a pure codification tics of KMS. Ideal architectures for centralized and Centralized Versus Peer-to-Peer Knowledge 59
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