Knowledge-oriented computing systems

Popular management literature focuses on the application of artificial intelligence technology to the solution of management problems. Most discussions have addressed either the technology of various programming techniques or success stories of large-scale corporate profitmaking through their application.

Several interacting factors contribute to corporate interest in this technology. First, what were once remote, artificial intelligence programming techniques have been significantly redesigned and presented to the business computing market in the form of applications development tools. Advances in computing hardware have provided a suitable foundation for the delivery of these tools on new generations of mainstream business computers. These hardware and software technologies promise the kinds of power and ease of use that have been so successful in other applications development environments like spreadsheet modeling and data base management systems. The potential of such tools to open broad new territories to computing applications is very exciting and has captured management’s attention.

Second, there’s a developing perception of both information and knowledge as corporate assets. New computing technologies promise to make knowledge that has been implicit in the behavior of decision makers explicit in machine-usable form. By codifying knowledge, managers make it a manageable asset, continuously available to their organization. The potential integration of machine-usable knowledge with machine-readable information promises to carry the information age into the era of knowledge management.

Finally, the role of information technology is being redefined as a competitive weapon. This is in sharp contrast to internal applications of technology to gain increased efficiencies. As business planning looks to technology to help differentiate product offerings, new technologies like expert systems take on added significance. An interesting series of transitions has taken place in the perception of the role of computing as it has moved from data processing to information systems to management information systems and to strategic information systems.

The cumulative effect of these forces has created an atmosphere responsive to the promise of knowledge-oriented computing systems. The promise appears to be quite real, and the challenge, of course, is to exploit it to advantage.

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