Balancing Formality with Informality: User-Centred Requirements for Organisational Management Technologies

Simon Buckingham Shum

Numerous disciplines are now trying to analyse and represent the processes and products of organisational memory, in order to clarify what tangible representations future knowledge managers will work with. This short paper begins by reflecting briefly on the nature of systematic representations, as a reminder of the commitments that are made in any classification process. It is argued that there are important political dimensions to such classification, with implications for knowledge modelling. The paper then identifies three processes by which organisational expertise is shared. These processes may represent both a challenge and an opportunity for knowledge modelling approaches. The closing discussion pinpoints formalisation as a particularly important process in knowledge management, considers technologies that support incremental formalisation as holding particular promise, and proposes the principle that only stable, sanctioned knowledge should be formalised, in order to avoid the many problems caused by premature formalisation of organisational knowledge.


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