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Knowledge Worker Tools - Essay Example

Davenport (2005) stated “knowledge workers have high degrees of expertise, education, or experience, and the primary purpose of their jobs involves the creation, distribution, or application of knowledge” (p. 10). This paper discusses the background of knowledge workers, online transaction processing (OLTP), online analytical processing (OLAP), and the categories of knowledge workers who benefit from these tools in their current position.

Knowledge Workers

Regan and O’Connor (2002) believed that knowledge workers are individuals who are specially trained mentally and Laudon and Laudon (2002) stated that creators are knowledge workers. This author believes that a knowledge worker is someone who is trying to better the organization or themselves through education or research of what they are trying to accomplish.

For example, A call center employee for a grocery store chain may be considered a knowledge worker if he or she goes out of the way to find out more about what types of equipment the stores are calling about so he or she could be prepared to better assist the store with walking them through fixing the equipment. The same employee could be the one who is researching the common failures for this type of equipment to help management in areas such as training new employees, documenting how to handle calls they may receive regarding this equipment, or even to assist them by having the ball in their court during negotiations with the supplier.

This author believes that managers must realize that they should support their workers in providing an environment that is susceptible for learning and growing. Ever hear the saying that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat the past?

The most common way to capture and share these new experiences is through documentation. Regan and O’Connor (2002) stated that “documentation is a detailed, written explanation of how a computer program works. It details the programming logic, variables, formulas, processed data (and where it comes from), and any other items pertinent to the creation and use of the program” (p. 271). Documentation is not always about computer programs. Instructions, manuals, helpful hints, and knowledge bases are prime examples of documentation that can be beneficial in the workplace.

If businesses do not look at encouraging workers to look for solutions and proper documentation, then experiences or knowledge can be lost once the employee or employees leave. By encouraging workers through motivation to improve the work environment and the organization as a whole, managers will see the benefit in areas such as company growth, reputation, and stock prices.

Online Transaction Processing

OLTP is the short abbreviation for online transaction processing. “Online transaction processing systems usually automate the routine, repetitive tasks but leave less structured tasks such as correcting errors, handling exceptions, and resolving problems to be handled by administrative personnel” (Regan and O’Connor, 2002, p. 97). In one way or another, many of the students in Dr. Neeley’s IST/721 class have all used OLTP at one time or another. The most common OLTP systems would be merchant accounts where someone would make payments or accept payments, such as Authorize.Net. Transactions such as bidding or filling out a questionnaire would also constitute as an OLTP. While money is not exchanging hands which is normally associated with the word transaction the OLTP system must process transactions in a way that is machine readable and areas that are not readable will be deciphered by administrative personnel as Regan and O’Connor pointed out.

In short, OLTP systems are designed to handle customer records. For example, this author has an insurance policy with Progressive. All the details of the policy are stored on a transactional system. This helps the process of making changes such as coverage to the existing policy much smoother. Some changes will have to be reviewed by administrative personnel, but majority of information obtained or stored will be recorded and updated accordingly

Online Analytical Processing

OLAP is the short abbreviation for online analytical processing. Regan and O’Connor (2002) stated that OLAP is for people who need more detailed information. “OLAP is multidimensional and supports much more complex queries for analysis of problems such as comparing the sales of product X… There are many different types of OLAP tools for analysis of different database systems” (Regan and O’Connor, 2002, p. 119). While knowledge workers have tools that can analyze the data in a variety of ways, if the worker does not understand the data, then the results will be harder to justify. One of this author’s favorite analytical data analysis software packages is TOAD. She uses the software every day to view and analyze data for a production environment of a major software package. Another reason TOAD is a good package is that anyone can analyze the materialized views that are populated in the data warehouse from the previous day.

In short, OLAP assists decision-making though analyzing aggregated data. An example would be a warehouse that would like to know how many requests are being dispatched daily. The OLAP system has fields that will help determine not only the requests that were dispatched during the day, but who dispatched them, along with any other categories for further analysis such as the quantity of certain parts that were dispatched during the day.


Successful businesses know that differences exist between OLTP systems and OLAP systems. The source of data, purpose of data, revelations, inserts and updates, queries, speed, space requirements, design and backup and recovery. The OLAP system can not exist without the OLTP system. Data must be entered in the system to be analyzed by knowledge workers.

Anonymous (1998) reviewed how OLTP is operational data that allows business tasks to be performed. The data in an OLTP system reveals what is happening at that time in the environment. Processes of inserts and updates are reflected in the database through input from end users with response times being quick. Space requirements for an OLTP system are small having many normalized tables with constant backups.

OLAP was discussed by Anonymous (1998) showing how data is consolidated or copied to a schema for further analysis to help with decision making for future plans for the organization. The data in an OLAP environment allows multiple views thorough aggregated queries at any time selected of various activities within the organization. The processing speed depends on the complexity of the query, network capabilities, and amount of data being retrieved. Due to the aggregated queries, the space requirements are much larger in an OLAP system than in an OLTP system. OLAP has fewer tables than OLTP and does not have regular backups; usually the system is refreshed on demand by database administrators.

Knowledge Workers Who Use Processing Tools

Many knowledge workers are involved in the OLTP and OLAP systems. Day to day processes need to be managed effectively by knowledge workers who can use the OLAP systems to analyze the data recorded in the OLTP systems for reporting purposes. An example of OLTP knowledge workers would be help desk associates that must be able to review, decipher, and input data into software programs which populate tables in the database with information entered. Another example would be a call center supervisor reviewing the activities of the phone lines that are being recorded such as wait times, average length of calls, number of operators working. This information would be critical to the call center supervisor because he or she could have more operators log in and start taking calls or she can use this information towards hiring justifications.

OLAP knowledge workers would include managers, supervisors, and directors. An example of an OLAP knowledge worker is similar to OLTP call center supervisor. He or she can review all information captured and prepare trend analysis over certain periods of time which will help with scheduling. Information entered by the call center associates such as work orders, payment, and part requests can be audited by government organizations, so upper management must be able to use the system though aggregated queries created by information systems employees that have an understanding of the data that is being analyzed.


This author has described knowledge workers, online transaction processing (OLTP), online analytical processing (OLAP), and the categories of knowledge workers who benefit from these tools in their current position. The areas reviewed showed that OLTP enables the daily processes of running the organization while OLAP enables management to make informed decisions regarding the data being analyzed. Through capturing data to proper analysis or manipulation of the data, organizations can plan better for the future by having business critical information available to them.


Anonymous. (1998). OLTP vs. OLAP. Retrieved October 20, 2007 from http://members.tripod.com/atars/cj/sqloltpolap.html

Davenport, T. H. (2005). Thinking for a living: How to get better performance and result from knowledge workers. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Laudon, K.C. & Laudon, J.P. (2002). Management information systems: managing the digital firm. Upper Saddle River, N.J. Prentice Hall, Inc.

Regan, E. & O’Connor, B. (2002). End-user information systems: implementing individual and work group technologies. Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.