When organizations collaborate in virtual space, a common frame of reference, or at least a common terminology, is necessary for human-to-human, humanto- machine, and machine-to-machine communication. Similarly, within a core organization characterized by distributed collaboration between remote sites and research or production units, a common understanding of reference terms is indispensable. Yet this common understanding of terms is often implicit at best and frequently not present at all. Misunderstandings between distributed team members and faulty translations of software applications contribute to the rising costs of interoperability in virtual, distributed organizations. Indeed, the growing implementation of distributed software agents necessitates developing and adopting a shared terminology and syntax for efficient and effective interoperability.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Information technology (IT): An ontology is the working model of entities and interactions in some particular domain of knowledge or practice (http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition).
Knowledge Management Systems (KMS): Refers to a class of information systems applied to manage organizational knowledge. Theses systems are IT applications to support and enhance the organizational processes of knowledge creation, storage and retrieval, transfer and application (Alavi & Leidner, 2001).
Knowledge Community: A community of people, groups, or teams that share competencies, information, and knowledge (in a specific field of activity) based on a specific knowledge management system defined in the context of a knowledge-sharing culture with a proper ICT system.
Virtual Research Laboratory for a Knowledge Community in Production (VRL-KCiP): A virtual network of excellence (NoE) established in June 2004, consisting of 27 partners (more than 200 researchers) from 16 different countries that decided to work together and build a knowledge community in the field of design and manufacturing research (www.vrl-kcip.org). VRL-KCiP is financed by the European Commission in the 6th Framework Programme.
Expertise: The property of a person (that is, expert) or of a system that delivers a desired result, such as pertinent information or skills. Expertise generally implies providing useful and large amounts of knowledge and action quickly (fluency). In general, expertise has several synonyms, among them know-how, skill, knowledge, competence, or excellence.
Core Competency: Represents the overriding value statement of an organization. Core competency does not need to be narrow (Kotler, 2000). Hindle (2000) identifies three essential elements of a core competency: (a) provide potential access to a wide variety of markets; (b)?make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product; and (c)?be difficult for competitors to imitate.
Knowledge Cartography or Mapping: A process for identifying the knowledge available to an organization and mapping its location. It provides information about the location of knowledge in the organization, the person responsible for the knowledge, what the knowledge is used for, and how to access it. It serves as a map or directory to the present knowledge environment and it can illustrate knowledge gaps in the value chain (Davenport, 1997).
Ontology: In philosophy, ontology is the most fundamental branch of metaphysics. It studies being or existence and its basic categories and relationships to determine what entities and what types of entities exist. Ontology thus has strong implications for conceptions of reality. An ontology is therefore a controlled vocabulary that describes objects and the relations between them in a formal way and has a grammar for using the vocabulary terms to express something meaningful within a specified domain of interest (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expertise).
Ontological Commitment: An agreement to use a vocabulary (i.e., make queries and assertions) in a way that is consistent with respect to the theory specified by the ontology.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): An ontology is the specification of conceptualizations used to help programs and humans share knowledge. It is a description (like a formal specification of a program) of the concepts and relationships that can exist for an agent or a community of agents (Gruber, 1993).
Ad-Hoc or Virtual Team: A recombinant structure for work that pulls people and resources together quickly to solve a particular problem or client issue (Koulopoulos & Frappaolo, 1999).