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Magazines > Information Today > December 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 11 — December 2004

CONFERENCE CIRCUIT
Report from the Field — KMWorld & Intranets 2004
By Paula Hane

The fall usually finds me attending the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey, Calif., and savoring the local seafood on the wharf. This year, for the first time, I decided to taste the offerings at another fall event held several weeks earlier and in Santa Clara, just a bit north of Monterey. I'm happy to report that I was more than satisfied by both the event and the restaurants. KMWorld & Intranets 2004 (KMW), held Oct. 26—28, offered a wide-ranging program over 3 days, plus a full day of pre-conference workshops. This was the eighth year for the KMWorld event and the sixth year for the Intranets conference. There was also a shared track all 3 days on content management that nicely bridged the two conferences. In addition, if the richness of programming choices wasn't enough (with six simultaneous tracks), the event offered communities-of-interest discussions and free presentations in the exhibit hall (which was full). It was definitely a busy few days with lots of good networking opportunities. I met attendees from as close as San Jose and as far away as Singapore, and I got some personal chat time with analysts from Gartner, Shore, and IDC.

With so much to choose from, I picked my way among the tracks, sampling presentations and keynotes—enjoying the diverse aggregate of my selections. Thus, this report provides only a personal slice of the goodies that were available.

The overall theme for KMW was Driving Performance: Applying Strategies & Tools for Performance Improvement. This gave clear notice that KMW was aimed at practical solutions to business problems. While I went to KMW as a reporter to get the big picture on event topics, attendees I spoke with had come for very specific practical purposes—they needed to pick a KM or CM system, they needed to build or adopt a taxonomy, and so on.

In the presentations I heard, speakers consistently emphasized that knowledge management is not a stand-alone initiative, but one to be integrated within an organization's business and work processes. The emphasis of most presentations was on people rather than technology—a positive sign, I thought. The following recurring themes I heard throughout KMW:

• Focus on the user.

• Don't pick the tool first.

• Plan before you build.

• Seek upper-management support.

• Build value for the enterprise through collaborative connections and social networks.

And, building on that last point, social KM and "personal knowledge networks" (PKNs, as dubbed by Gartner analysts) are "in." More on this later.

Intranets Keynote on Usability

Usability is becoming mainstream, according to usability expert and keynoter Eric Schaffer, who gave an informative and entertaining presentation on the factor that he said is most likely to give an organization a distinct advantage. According to Schaffer, computer hardware was the differentiator in the 1980s, and software was the key differentiator in the 1990s—both are now just commodities. In the 2000s, we are in the "third wave" of the information age: user-centered solutions.

Schaffer reported that usability enhancements made to Web sites or intranets result in huge ROIs, as well as increased page views and a significant drop in lost traffic. However, he said that success in this effort would be achieved with a few specific recommendations. Organizations should move from "piecemeal" usability efforts to managed usability—something done by a team of specialists. An "executive champion" will be key to the cause. Standards and consistency are essential, with templates and best practices also helpful. As Schaffer bluntly put it: "Commit enough usability errors on your site, and it's like a dog with fleas—enough of them will kill the dog."

Content Management Track

The content management track proved to be popular, as CM is key to both KM and intranets/portals. Presentations addressed organizational strategies, compliance issues, content migration and integration, security, and digital rights management.

I tend to like sessions that offer practical tips—straight shooting and to the point with guidelines on what works and why. The "Top Ten Tips for an Effective Content Management Strategy" session by Seth Earley, of consulting firm Earley & Associates, did not disappoint. While I won't reiterate his whole list, I'll touch on some of what resonated with me. First, he advised that we not say "knowledge management." Start with the end process in mind, make projects tangible, and be specific about what you want to accomplish. Focus first on a specific primary audience and then expand. "Don't get distracted by the capabilities of the technology," he cautioned. "Separate what is possible from what is practical." Then, plan on multiple iterations, take feedback, and make refinements.

Josh Duhl, research director for content management at IDC, examined a number of approaches to content integration in his presentation. In a survey done by IDC, the top enterprise need was for a single point of access to multiple information sources. Streamlining business processes and creating a uniform view of enterprise information were right behind. After reviewing a number of options, including adapters, middleware, search engines, portlets, and dashboards, he urged professionals to demand more from their vendors, including better documentation, adoption of standards, and more prepackaged integrations, components, mappings, and taxonomies. One trend he noted was the need to layer multiple taxonomies to achieve enterprise goals for integration.

Metadata and Taxonomies Are Hot

I had just finished a news story for the November NewsLink about the new MAI Lib from Data Harmony (Access Innovations), which automates the process of adding Library of Congress Subject Headings to documents. I had classification schemes on the brain, so I caught a few presentations in the Information Architecture track. Surprisingly, the session on metadata and taxonomies drew a standing-room-only crowd. Tom Reamy, chief knowledge architect with the KAPS Group consulting firm, talked about using metadata and taxonomies as interrelated pieces of a well-designed knowledge architecture that can add value and structure to search. He said he wasn't surprised by the crowd. "People are finally starting to get it—organize the content first," he explained.

Here are some of his tips: Create an infrastructure strategic vision that includes metadata standards; set up a knowledge architecture team; don't start with keywords; buy and customize existing taxonomies. His final words of wisdom were: "Think big; start small; scale fast."

Additional details on this approach appeared in Reamy's Oct. 2004 EContent article, "To Metadata or Not to Metadata," which looked at some of the issues around adding metadata to unstructured content and explored some of the approaches being tried.

Exhibit Hall

I wandered through the exhibit hall whenever I had a break from sessions. Vendors were showcasing search solutions, taxonomy tools, content managers, collaboration tools, and lots more. There were a number of vendors I hadn't heard of, such as IXIASOFT (XML database and search engine), RedDot (creates and manages Web content), The Morphix Company (taps into social networks mirrored in e-mail), Nervana (a meaning-based search engine), and Traction Software (enterprise blog software). Others, especially the enterprise search solutions, were very familiar to me, such as Autonomy, Endeca, FAST Search & Transfer, ISYS, and Verity. Google was there showing its yellow, pizza-box-sized Search Appliance—and getting a lot of interest in its giveaway, a flashing Google pin.

New Products

There were several new product announcements made at the show. Entopia was showing its just-announced K-Bus 3, which offers "third-generation information discovery." Entopia K-Bus 3 provides an infrastructure that captures the essence of enterprise content from both structured and unstructured information sources, as well as all employee interaction around the content, such as reading, writing, discussing, e-mailing, and printing. It also provides security and access controls.

Vivísimo, known for its clustering technology and metasearch software, introduced its latest enterprise product—Vivísimo Velocity—which bundles the Vivísimo Clustering Engine, Vivísimo Content Integrator, and Vivísimo Search Engine in a single, integrated solution. The new piece is the search engine, which crawls and indexes internal documents and databases. Internal sources can then be combined with external sources, such as subscription services, Web sites, and RSS feeds; users can then search all sources with one query. Velocity can crawl up to 1 million documents and is aimed at the needs of small to mid-sized applications in companies of all sizes.

Convera announced version 8.1 of its RetrievalWare search software platform. It is currently in use by some beta customers and is scheduled for general release next year. The company stressed its effectiveness for users who want to personalize searches to monitor large volumes of data. The new version lets users set customized content filters and alerts, personalize their query interface, and share search results from personal queries within public folders. Future capabilities for the 8.1 release will provide support for Web services and additional language enhancements, including new taxonomies, language detection, and compatibility.

Convera says the new public folder feature enables Gartner's personal knowledge networks (PKNs), which empower individual knowledge workers to take control of and use intellectual capital within their organizations without relying on or waiting for "top-down" knowledge management projects.

Social KM

Gartner Group's French Caldwell, VP of research, gave the closing keynote of the event. His message was that the balance of power over knowledge is shifting from corporate to individual control—creating those PKNs within organizations. "Top-down KM is out; grass-roots, bottom-up KM is in," he declared. Some tools for the new KM include instant messaging (with "presence"), wikis, blogs, file-sharing technologies, and social networking. The new "Gen Y-Not" worker embraces these new tools and capitalizes on collaborative opportunities. Caldwell and Gartner predict that by 2009, PKNs will be "the predominant channels for KM within enterprises." It's nice to hear that people are back in the picture.

For More Information ...

Though it can't substitute for the real thing, the Web site for the event is posting links to many of the presentations (http://www.kmworld/kmw04/presentations). There's even a link to the KM Network Wiki. In addition, a print volume of collected presentations is available from Information Today, Inc., and audio of the sessions can be ordered (http://www.digitalrecord.org).

 

A Side Trip to the Intel Museum

When in Santa Clara, visit the Intel Museum, which is only 2.5 miles from the convention center. It was a nice, brisk walk on a beautiful October afternoon. The museum is a popular stop for student groups—thousands of students in grades 2 to 12 visit every year. While the museum offers guided tours, a colleague and I opted to browse the exhibits and reminisce at how far things have come in such a relatively short time. Yes, I do remember that 8086 chip. Using an interactive station, we learned the laborious process of building a chip. According to Intel, it takes an average of 200 people working for nearly 2 years to design, test, and ready a new microprocessor design for production—and now I understand why. If you're interested in an actual or virtual visit, go to http://www.intel.com/go/museum. —P.J.H.


Paula J. Hane is Information Today, Inc.'s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks. Her e-mail address is phane@infotoday.com.
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