posted 11 Oct 2001 in Volume 5 Issue 3After balancing on the edge of an economic downturn, events on and since the 11 September have tipped the world’s leading economies over the edge, and most companies are now feeling the pinch. The technology sector in particular is vulnerable, as Autonomy’s experience since September shows (see the story later in this section), but examples of firms in any industry that have fared well in recent weeks are rare. More than anything, a pervading sense of gloom seems to have gripped analysts and investors alike.
The immediate reaction of many organisations may be to cut down on what are considered extravagant expenses, but those that include knowledge management – or any discipline that serves to enhance operational efficiency at a time when it is most needed – in this category will surely suffer the consequences when the economy picks up once again, if indeed they survive that long. Delphi Group in fact predicts an upturn in knowledge and content management expenditure (again, see the news story elsewhere on this page), crediting most businesses with taking for granted the link between tough times and the need for more efficient ways of working.
KM may even have a greater role to play in the current crisis than many would have first imagined. The Global Knowledge Economics Council (GKEC) has formed the KM Security and Justice taskforce, to “focus knowledge management science on issues related to the terrorism and homeland security for all anti-terrorist countries”, and is calling for volunteers, equipment, funds and ideas (for more information, visit www.kmforsecurity.org). As Edward Swanstrom, secretary general of the GKEC, says: “The time has come to go beyond the theoretical and metaphysical KM into measurable, rubber-meets-the-road innovations.”
The very goals the taskforce aims to achieve demonstrate the regard its members have for the potential power of KM, and there is little doubt that those organisations that continue to invest the effort and resources in knowledge management will reap the long-term benefits. Already there are indications that the recession may not be as pronounced as many first feared, but unless businesses recognise the importance of adopting working practices that maximise productivity and encourage innovation, they may quickly find themselves trapped in a downward spiral.