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As a process, knowledge management (KM) is as old as humanity's need to record, retain, and share information. Its advent preceded the invention of the computer, and indeed, the use of paper as a medium for the exchange of knowledge. This chapter does not consider the long and circuitous history of KM, nor does it focus on KM as a theory, a philosophy, or an academic discipline. Rather, the primary purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate the utility of applying knowledge management within an IT organization and the integrative role to be played by the PMO in the establishment and ongoing delivery of KM services. For the purposes of this discussion, I draw upon my recent experience developing a KM platform for the information services (IS) division of Northeastern University. This case study illustrates the benefits in leveraging KM to strengthen the performance of the IT organization.
Like most IT organizations running within a larger enterprise, Northeastern University's IS division operates from a number of locations, handles a multitude of products and services, and serves a diverse customer base. Furthermore, in striving to meet the expectations of its constituents, the IS division must overcome many of the same challenges faced by IT organizations elsewhere, including the growing complexities and interdependence of IT applications, the need for better systems integration, the shortage of technology expertise, the paucity of available financial resources — especially for technology currency — the customer's demands for speedier time to market, the growing concerns over disaster recovery and business continuity planning, and so forth. For its part, the university's leadership is demanding more return in terms of measurable results from the institution's investment in computer hardware and systems.
Early in 2001, driven largely by the demand to do more and better with less, Northeastern's IS division established the institution's first-ever project management office (PMO): IS Enterprise Operations (EO). In late 2001, EO launched an effort whose primary objective was to create a Web-enabled platform that fosters collaboration through the leverage and reuse of IS knowledge. As conceived by the division's KM team,  this Web portal brings together for easy access a vast body of explicit knowledge derived from the project plans, functional requirements, and technical specifications to product white papers, training materials, and customer feedback survey data of IS working groups.  In addition, the portal links the IS team to related information-sharing and communication services, such as (Lotus) Domino TeamRooms and discussion databases, electronic mail, instant messaging, Remedy (the division's problem resolution/trouble ticket tracking system), and staff alerts and news items. Last but not least, the portal captures staff biographical data and expertise levels so that individuals may mine the division's tacit (i.e., unrecorded) knowledge through the facilitated identification of local experts.
Creating a knowledge-sharing platform for an IT organization poses its own special challenges. This chapter explores the steps involved in designing, building, and maintaining a portal environment. Also, it includes a discussion of the PMO's approach to knowledge management in service of the greater IT organization and comments on the underlying technology enablement of the portal itself. Last but not least, this chapter reviews the challenges faced by any PMO in maintaining a KM platform whose purpose is to improve IT service and project delivery through virtual knowledge sharing and facilitated collaboration.
Although Northeastern University offers programs to certify knowledge managers, the IS division does not formally employ knowledge management personnel. Rather, as part of its mandate, Enterprise Operations (NEU's PMO) took on a KM role as this concerns the knowledge and learning processes within the university's IT organization.
In this context, a portal refers to an Internet site that aggregates content and services for the so-called one-stop-shopping convenience of its users. In the case of an IS organization, such a portal would include alerts and news of particular relevance to the team, working documents, template libraries, links to IS tools, and so forth.
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