Every company has unique business knowledge that makes them competitive and which is their primary source of productivity and innovation. All too often this knowledge is not managed well, but rather this institutional knowledge is scattered in documents, in people’s heads, or disappeared into software code. Intentional helps capture and activate this knowledge. In Knowledge Processing, knowledge is captured, synthesized and disseminated so it can be reused and activated across many applications to automate knowledge work.
Knowledge processing is done by business users when they record and edit their domain knowledge in a knowledge processor. We call this system a Knowledge Workbench. Just like a word processor like Word formats and process documents, a knowledge processor structures and process knowledge. Multiple distinct knowledge domains can be processed and integrated in a workbench, which allows for integrating knowledge areas with each other.
Once knowledge is captured and verified, it can be activated in various ways, for example automation through software, living documents and spreadsheets, knowledge maps, checklists, training or education material, etc. Because the knowledge is easy to maintain in a knowledge processor, experts continually improve the quality of an organization’s institutional knowledge, making it accessible and reusable by other team members. The users embody their knowledge using domain languages which are optimized for the domain at hand. Similar to how a spreadsheet give business users a domain language for cell based calculations like =B3+C4, a knowledge workbench give business users a domain language to automate their knowledge work, see an example below where a medical professional is defining a health assessment in a Health Workbench for use in an automated tele-health application. Note that the knowledge can be run and verified through tests.
Businesses invest a great deal of time and expense doing knowledge work. But all too often the knowledge and insights gained disappear into the details of the code or at best only exist in documents with slender ties to the actual software. Another name for this latent value is the intent behind the software. Intentional captures this knowledge that is usually lost. All stakeholders – programmers, domain experts and others – can have their intent clearly represented. This increases the quality and value of the knowledge, and making it easier to develop, maintain and change.
A Knowledge Example
Knowledge is normally captured in documents intended for human readers. As an example, the aircraft procedures manual to the right captures knowledge of how to perform aircraft maintenance. To use this knowledge, a technician has to read and understand it. In this case, a technician will need to perform the steps in order and compare the data in the tables to the actual measurements on the aircraft.
This documented knowledge can be expressed in a Procedures Manual Knowledge Workbench. The knowledge would be expressed using a domain language for maintenance procedures, see screenshot. This knowledge can now be processed and turned into various electronic work products. One work product can be the original document for human consumption.
But also other work products can be produced that facilitates and automates the use of this knowledge. From the knowledge, we can generate software applications. Below is an example of such and application that was fully generated from the recorded knowledge above. Note that the knowledge is now being operational by having the test values evaluated against the knowledge in the maintenance manual. Tests with visual feedback, red/green in this case, gives a technician direct feedback instead of making this comparison manually on a paper with no feedback .
This maintenance application could of course be developed in a traditional way, but issues with changes would arise. Whenever the instructions or data are updated, the application would need to be updated manually. Furthermore, to verify the correctness of the application with respect to the knowledge require manual efforts. By using a knowledge workbench instead, the updates are automatic and the application is correct-by-construction. Knowledge processing is transforming the way knowledge products are created, leading to accelerated business innovation. To view a case study of an Intentional knowledge workbench in practice, review the case study.
The key benefits of the Intentional approach includes:
- Knowledge experts participate directly in the design and maintenance of accurate and detailed knowledge.
- Generation of multiple accurate work products and applications.
- No inherent limitation on the number of platforms for generated applications from the same knowledge source.
- Rapid implementation of changes to domain knowledge e.g. updates, enhancements and extensions.
- Customization to different markets/customers at low cost.