Is knowledge management on the rise or fall? Not just skeptics ask; so do legal technology consultants and KM professionals. Some takes on answers….  

It’s down. So I thought when I looked at the down-sloping line of the Google trends graph for “knowledge management,”. Scientist wannabe that I am, I checked this metric for reliablity. When I looked at the flat to down-sloping line for “electronic discovery”, a topic I know is hot and rising, I decided not to draw conclusions from this approach.

I’ve written and spoken about how KM may be morphing into more inclusive approach of practice support consulting. One spin on that idea is that we are doing more KM but just using the KM-word less.

Then there’s expertise location (prior posts on this here). Many firms now automate work product retrieval (for example, see RealPractice – a product I know from consulting I do for Practice Technologies). As the “document problem” is solved, firms can shift more to helping lawyers find experienced colleagues.

If press coverage is any indication, then experience location is on the rise. The Business Solutions column in the Wall Street Journal (5/15/06, $) is titled A New Way to Keep Track of Talent. It describes the move from self-rating systems, which have generally not worked, to systems that infer experience from documents and e-mails. I have some qualms about the article but was glad to see recognition of an important issue: “For companies using expertise tools, dealing with employee resistance can be as challenging as any technological issues.” This is the second WSJ article on the topic this year (blog post about it).

If we use the WSJ as a gauge, then it looks like KM is at least holding its own. Oh, there’s more in the article: “Indeed, Microsoft Corp., though it won’t discuss specific plans, is looking at expertise location as a feature in future versions of its Office software suite.” That should get any KM professionals attention! If anyone knows about these MS plans, please drop me a line.

Update (5/19/06, 10pm EDT): : See Microsoft search wants to pick your brain on ZDNetUK for some detail on Microsoft’s approach to expertise location (spotted on excited utterances and Knowledgeline).