Navy knowledge project focuses on methods

Navy knowledge project focuses on methods

SPAWAR eschews product-driven solution in favor of a systems engineering plan to eliminate 'one-deep' organizational knowledge


A knowledge management pilot at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego recently received an award from the Navy chief information officer's Knowledge-centric Organization Implementation Assistance Team for advancing electronic government.

Capt. Ronald A. Crowell said the project, which has no formal name or budget, uses systems engineering to decide what knowledge should be shared.

Large organizations typically suffer from 'the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, and from one-deep knowledge' that is lost when an individual expert leaves, he said.

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size="2" color="#FF0000">Capt. Ron Crowell says the Navy pilot will use existing service hardcware and software.

Knowledge management, in contrast, should make data analysis flexible, boost synergy between projects and deliver information in a more timely fashion. At the same time, it raises multilevel security risks by taking information away from local domains.

Knowledge management need not be based on particular hardware or software, Crowell said. A knowledge portal such as the one the Army is using [GCN, Nov. 20, 2000, Page 35] is only one possible route, he said. Videos, audio files and e-mail messages are equally valid, but how to compile them into a useful format is 'the thing we're still working on. We haven't solved that yet.'

Simply jumping to a technical solution without in-depth analysis is a pitfall, Crowell said, because it becomes 'onerous just to maintain the information itself. A systems engineering approach says you don't select a product without knowing what problems you want to solve.'

Survey says

In fact, SPAWAR user surveys ranked information technology products last'at 4 percent'of all factors influencing successful knowledge management. Cultural factors were highest, at 29 percent.

'We just couldn't afford' a product-driven strategy, Crowell said. 'What we think will transpire in distributing knowledge is using software and equipment we already own.'

The award-winning initiative started last August with surveys of users at SPAWAR's five technical departments in Charleston, S.C. So far, about 2,000 users have agreed to begin consolidating their business services programs'travel, financial and personnel'onto a single Sun Microsystems Ultra Enterprise 10000 server.

The effort required 'a combination of negotiation and investment,' Crowell said. 'We have not populated the server with other information yet, because we're still engineering the solution.' He expects a format for knowledge management to emerge within six to eight months.
Although the command has users in Washington, Norfolk, Va., and Jacksonville and Pensacola, Fla., they are not yet involved in the pilot.

Among the IT products in the pilot are Active Server Pages based on a Microsoft SQL Server database inventory of employee skills, and Microsoft Access records of security ratings for SPAWAR personnel and contractors.

Knowledge-sharing requests are directed to managers' approved points of contact for teaming negotiations.


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