Report from the Field KMWorld & Intranets
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 keynotesenjoying 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 purposesthey 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 technologya 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 1990sboth are now just
commodities. In the 2000s, we are in the "third wave" of the information age:
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 usabilitysomething 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 fleasenough 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 tipsstraight 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 itorganize 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
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
Applianceand getting a lot of interest in its giveaway, a flashing Google
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 productVivísimo Velocitywhich
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,
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.
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 controlcreating 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
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 groupsthousands
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 productionand 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.