Your Technology Lever
Knowledge Management enhances the value of the investment that you have already made in various applications and technologies. In this section, we discuss some of the common information systemsthat organizations use, and how 4command™ can deliver on this promise. We also discuss a couple strategic situations where 4command™ embeds its own technology rather than depending on an external system.
Formal database systems are the quiet backbone of your information strategy. Often under-utilized, they are notoriously inaccessible to end users, usually by design. They typically work only with highly structured information -- i.e., rows and columns of facts. Databases are typically passive systems, operating as back end storage for various software packages. Many of the information systems that you buy are essentially just front ends to your database.
4command™ is much more than a front end to your database. It interacts with your database as your needs dictate, both to store records of your activity in real time, and to consider current information when evaluating your business rules. In this way, 4command leverages the power of your database system in new and powerful ways. But it is the 4command knowledge base that makes this possible.
Document management systems are the 21st century antidote to the "electronic document overload" that many organizations have experienced in the past 10-20 years. They serve the same general purpose of a database, except that they store information in less structured forms. Document management systems are often more accessible to average users than databases, and the organization and security they provide is sorely needed. However, it can still be difficult to find what you need, or to determine the appropriate document for a specific need.
4command™ leverages the value of your document management system by ensuring that the correct document for current conditions is at most a click away. The knowledge management engine delivers the correct information information from these systems to the people who need it, when they need it.
Resource management systems help organizations to evaluate, track and schedule the resources that they need to accomplish their mission. The availability of specific resources can affect the way you approach a problem, and so the information in related systems can be a vital part of the rules that drive your situations and events.
4command™ can consider a wide variety of information within its rule processing engine, and resource availability is another parameter that can factor in your knowledge base.
Geographical Information Systems, or GIS, visually link your data to your geography, and can be extremely important to certain types of organizations. In fact, earlier versions of 4command™ included their own, built-in GIS capabilities.
In the intervening years, commercial GIS and mapping systems have matured considerably, and most organizations that need GIS have already invested in this technology. As a result, we determined that the best approach would be to leverage these existing systems rather than reinvent them, in keeping with our core philosophy. GIS integration is often implemented as part of the DocLink system in 4command™, so that context-specific GIS windows can appear as specific situations dictate.
We live in an age of instant communication, with rapidly evolving technologies whose purpose and function often overlap. E-Mail? Chat? Text? Instant message? Social network? Blog? Video conference? Webinar? Or perhaps even an old-fashioned phone call over a land line.
The choices can seem overwhelming and confusing at times. With all of these technologies dotting the landscape, it might come as a bit of a surprise that 4command™ makes little attempt to leverage or integrate with any of them. Why? Most of these systems are unmanaged, with little control or audit trail. But 4command™ is about accountability and consistency. As a result, our technology roadmap includes plans for further developing our native communication mechanisms, which already link all users in a real-time network, within the context of a fully managed audit trail ...so that you know who contacted whom and about what, without having to leave the application, or pick from an alphabet soup of communication technologies.
In the 1980's. the technology community expected big things from expert systems, which are an attempt to impart human expertise and problem-solving ability on computer systems. Although expert systems never took over the landscape as some expected they might, they still exist today, where they deliver on their promises in a variety of niche applications.
It was obvious from the outset of the 4command™ project that something like an expert system would be needed to deliver the value that we envisioned. However, after two years of research and development with commercial expert systems, we determined that our vision demanded a custom solution. And so the KBXpert decision tree processor was born. KBXpert allows you to define your knowledge in the form of decision trees, which are more natural to most people than the approaches in traditional rule-based expert systems. It also lets you manage your knowledge base in familiar, open spreadsheet formats, rather than using a proprietary editor. In this way, 4command™ delivers much of the value of an expert system, but with far less design time complexity and far better run time performance.
In real-world events, response levels, resource mobilization and a maze of other requirements vary with conditions. You have procedures, protocols and plans for most situations, but how do you identify the right ones? What if conditions change? Documents... Procedures... Deadlines... Phone numbers... Checklists... Which ones do you use now? Where do you find them? How do you capture what you did? How do you impose deadlines?
Your organization has hundreds of talented individuals. But how do they work together to produce consistent results in a complex business landscape? Team members are distributed across a region, a state, or the world. Shift changes, labor practices, mutual assistance and other factors magnify the challenge.
You have a blazing network, a first rate document management system, and the three ring binders disappeared at the turn of the century. So why is the right information still so elusive when you need it? It all comes down to the here and now. The clock is ticking. What matters is the next step. Done correctly. Every time.
Options can look good on paper. But reality is where you turn when the chips are down. Where do you turn? 4command is our flagship application, which makes knowledge management real -- real enough for major power and water utilities to depend on it. 4command truly delivers the right information, to the right people, at the right time -- in the real world, not as an intellectual exercise.