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Knowledge-Based Systems Defined (by IBM)


Here's a great article in Insurance Networking News where James Bisker, global insurance industry leader, IBM Institute for Business Value, defines knowledge-based, expert and artificial intelligence systems and provides insight into how they can benefit insurance industry operations. He says:

"The type of KBS that is often referred to as an 'expert system' is technically known as a rule-based system."
At first I didn't totally agree and said so right here. Then I felt bad saying he was wrong and I was right. So what I'd really like to say is that the article is great, and James has said some pretty wonderful things about technology that I am pretty passionate about: rules, knowledge, A.I., and expert systems. Sure, I have some thoughts that are a little different, but that doesn't mean that one of us is wrong and the other is right. Life is too short for that.

It means that we both believe the same technologies can help business improve their condition. We see a few minor details a little differently, but who cares. The key point is that IBM is telling us that AI, expert systems, and rule engines are driving the insurance industry forward. This is great stuff! Executives everywhere would do themselves a disservice if they ignore his advice.

My newly enlightened take-way from this article is that a key executive at IBM is helping to legitimize much-maligned solutions like expert systems and knowledge management. Wow!

James says that a Knowledge based system is referred to or technically known as an expert system. I agree. Then he goes on to say that a knowledge-based system is the same as a rule-based system.

I see them as two different types of applications, however, with slightly different technology behind each.

I believe the difference between knowledge-based and rule-based systems is subtle, yet criticially important. Here's why: companies spend millions of dollars buying rule-based and knowledge SW packages every year. Sometimes they buy a rule-based solution when they really need a knowledge-based solution, and vice-versa.

I wrote about the differences earlier:

James goes on to say really smart things about the value of capturing corporate knowledge and building KBSs. I agree completely:

"One of the important implications of using KBSs will center around their impact on individual employees. This is especially true as more insurance employees leave the workforce as they retire or seek other employment. In this case, using knowledge management systems to capture the knowledge of internal experts will be crucial. Being able to extract corporate knowledge and distribute it consistently will ensure steady performance and efficiency in times of transition. KBSs also allow less experienced staff to operate at higher levels with less oversight, which frees up more senior personnel for more complex activities. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the use of these systems increases consistency and compliance to internal and external policies and regulations."

I wrote recently (Knowledge Management is Key to Preventing Brain Drain. BP found out the hard way) about what happened to BP when they didn't retain knowledge, and what happened to Mobil Oil when they did.


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