Choosing the RIGHT technology for KM

April 11, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

This is a question that a lot of you might have battled with at some point in time and if i’m not mistaken continue to do so. Before we get into the “meat” of this post let me sum it up for you , there is NO right technology for KM.

While we all agree KM is more of a cultural initiative, there is no doubting that without a solid technology backbone chances are you’re heading down a dark road.

I’ve reviewed a large number of applications that claim to provide the perfect KM solution, and guess what? they don’t. No surprise there for those of you who’ve spent time trying to find an application that suites your needs. Please feel free to disagree with me, and if you’ve stumbled upon that “Perfect” KM tool do leave a comment. I’m sure the rest of my readers would love to get their hands on that information, as would I.

Traditionally speaking, a large percentage of corporates seem to have gone the Microsoft way. Starting at Sharepoint 2001 then migrating to 2003 and now 2007. The reason this is the case is because unlike certain other very specific applications like documentum which cost the earth, Microsoft’s Sharepoint is a lot cheaper and integrates extremely well with all its other products. Let’s face it, MS Office Suite is the basic technology foundation upon which almost every company works on.

I’m currently working on a MOSS 2007 deployment, and while this isn’t my first choice for a KM product, certain constraints ( like those i mentioned above ) prevent me from going in any other direction. Though, i was pleasantly surprised to see certain major improvements in the technology (There are a number of posts on MOSS 2007 in my blog if you are interested).

At the end of the day, If you want an application that is simple and easy enough to use – get one that provides the very basic features right out of the box. However, if you have more specific requirements i’d advise you to develop one from scratch.

This is a balancing act, if you have a great technology team to back you up its probably a good idea to go this route. I’m certain you’ll find open source applications that cater to your every requirement. Its just a matter of integrating them to ensure that you get a functionally seamless tool.

Would also appreciate it if you could leave comments on the various tools that you’ve used and the benefits and drawbacks you’ve observed.


MS Wiki Vs Wiki

April 2, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

Right, i’ve already put up two prior posts on the wiki functionality thats available on MOSS 2007 ( Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007 ) , You can read them here and here.

Now while it’s a great thing that Microsoft have finally awoken to the wonder that is the wiki, an in-depth look at the functionality would give an average wiki user the shudders.

While it is true that MS Wiki ( thats what i’m going to call it going forward ) does have a few of the basic features that we’ve come to expect of any wiki, the features it doesn’t have really makes you wonder if this isn’t a 1.0 version that’s been launched on the unsuspecting public.

Being a fan of mediawiki i’ve come to expect that all other wiki’s display the same high standards ( i’m pushing it here i know ) . But basic things like a categories function seem to be missing from the MS Wiki package. Which means that grouping the “articles” you create becomes a logistics nightmare. The only actual wiki feature that microsoft have managed to incorporate into the product is a web based UI and an interlinking feature ( i dont consider versioning a true innovation as its functionality derived off MOSS 2007 ).

So, to sum it up…….. What Microsoft seem to have done is create a web based front end for microsoft word, and slipped in a interlinking system and called it a wiki. Even with the versioning system this is probably the simplest and least effective wiki i have come across ( Please feel free to disagree with me if you’ve seen worse ). I truly hope they plan to move to a “2.0” version quickly, ’cause i dont see people waiting till MOSS ’09.

Blogs and SharePoint 2007

February 23, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

In “Its all about the Blog” we discussed how the Blog has gone from being a simple medium of communication to a powerful media tool, and “Blogs and KM” addressed the issue of managing knowledge in an organization through Blogs. Since the last few posts have focused on certain aspects of the Sharepoint 2007 server ( MOSS 2007 ) i decided to do a small article on how Blogs were implemented in this environment.

Microsoft realized that in creating a content authoring platform they couldn’t afford to leave out the one aspect that has revolutionized the method by which content authoring is being tackled today, namely blogs. So in an effort to harness Blogs and promote their use in a corporate setting Microsoft introduced Blogs in their latest version of Sharepoint.

Being true to Blogs Microsoft hasnt tampered too much with the basic layout, which means there is a seamless transition to corporate blogging for people who are already familiar with the concept of personal blogs.

They’ve incorporated a complete gamut of features that we’ve come to expect from any Blog.

Some of these are :

  • Comments
  • Categories
  • Blogroll
  • Search
  • Permalink
  • RSS feeds
  • Calendar

Using the Sharepoint platform allows for certain additional features to be incorporated into the Blog. You can now publish information on your blog via e-mail’s, this includes sending documents as attachments ( something most blogs dont support ). API support for word 2007 actually allows you to directly interface with your blog and submit content through a word document on your desktop. Advanced features like Sharepoint permissions can be inherited and used throughout the Blog.

Multiple Authors can contribute to the same blog, and since the Blog ( like most of the features on Sharepoint ) is built on Webparts it really allows an amazing level of customization. Mobile View allows users to access blogs on Sharepoint via their mobile phones, a very useful feature as the percentage of people living on their Blackberry’s and Treo’s seem to be growing at an alarming pace.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of using the Sharepoint Platform to host your Blog is the fact that you can get details like user contact info and such as the application interfaces directly with the organizations exchange server. A feature that most corporate would definitely find very useful.

Wiki’s in SharePoint 2007 – Part 2

February 22, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

My last post introduced you to Wiki’s in Sharepoint 2007 ( MOSS 2007 ). I have since had the time to explore this feature in greater detail, and to be honest was very impressed by what i discovered. I was a little apprehensive about the wiki feature for the simple reason that being part of the Sharepoint platform might have encouraged over-engineering. However aside for the rich text editor ( which makes the process of adding content that much easier ) the basic layout and functionality of the wiki hasnt changed. So if you are a contributor on Wikipedia you needn’t worry.

The major benefit for corporates of having Wiki as a part of the new Sharepoint Portal is two-fold. The first obviously is that now corporates have the ability to tap into and facilitate the creation of information using tacit knowledge. The second is making use of Sharepoint features like security controls allows them to impose a greater level of control that doesn’t exist in wiki’s like Wikipedia ( a thought that scares them half to death i’m sure ).

So what does Sharepoint allow you to do with the wiki?

  • Wiki pages can be created under any group or library , if for example you have a particularly interesting post on your Blog ( Another new feature of MOSS 2007 ) you could spin this off into a Wiki and have other people collaborate on it.
  • Permissions can be set at a page level, which means you can restrict which pages other users have acces to within the wiki structure ( something i havent heard off in most other wiki’s )
  • You can also add Meta-data to your wiki pages, as with any other document library. So you can showcase pictures ( for eg ).
  • You can also set e-mail alerts on your Wiki pages.

It also offers other features than we’ve come to expect from all Wiki’s :

  • Interlinking / Creating new pages using double brackets ( [[ ]] ).
  • History tracking of the document. The added advantage here is that being incorporated on the Sharepoint platform you can actually pull the persons contact information of the exchange server.
  • Lastly, versioning and reverts of wiki pages.

If you are interested in the product i’d suggest downloading a free version and experimenting with it.

Wiki’s in SharePoint 2007

February 21, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

We’ve known for a while now that Microsoft was slow in catching up with the rest of the world when it came to online collaboration and social networking. SharePoint 2003 is still being used to this day by a large number of corporations, and is widely renowned as the product that failed as a Knowledge Management tool.

SharePoint 2007 has made huge leaps ahead with incorporating social networking features like RSS, Wiki’s and Blogs as part of its basic setup. Sticking to the simplicity that we’ve come to expect from Microsoft products a person with zero technical knowledge can make use of these features. Though there will be a slight learning curve for new comers as most corporate users arent aware of what a wiki is and how it can be leveraged to generate information.

Creating a wiki is a pretty simple process, its like creating a document library , and once you’ve set it up the process of building on it is pretty straighforward. It even incorporates a full set of rich text tools and buttons that we have gotten used to on Word. They’ve even provided a provision to track the history of every wiki page!!

I’m still in the process of experimenting with the wiki’s on Sharepoint but from what i can see the future looks very promising. Sharepoint as a Knowledge Management platform? never thought i’d say those words, but looks like Microsoft have finally gotten their act together. A blessing for the organizations running 2003, if you still indend on sticking to the same platform i’d suggest upgrading, and upgrading fast.

Microsoft Knowledge Network

February 19, 2007

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Microsoft KN was started with the sole objective of tapping the tacit knowledge of an organization. Designed to complement the Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server ( MOSS ) the knowledge network determines who an expert is and defines a social structure of all employees.

KN has 2 components, a client side application that resides on the users desktop that actually does the “Analysis” and a server component running on MOSS 2007 that collates all the information.

Figuring out what you’re expertise is, who your contacts are and so forth by mining information in your email box is the job of the client app. After completing the mining operation the KN client app suggest keywords and contacts that define you role in the organization. You can add/modify / delete the information here before its sent for to the server.

The client application also allows you to target folders in your outlook so that you have greater control over which areas the application is allowed to search and analyse.

Once your profile information is published to the server, when your colleagues use SharePoint Server’s search facility to try to find someone with a particular area of expertise or particular contacts, the KN server responds to the query with personalized results that are displayed according to social distance and inferred relationship strengths, which were calculated by algorithms developed at Microsoft.

Keep your eye open for more information on this, somehow i think this is going to be of huge use to the corporate world.

Sharepoint 2007 feature Comparison

February 19, 2007

This article has been moved here…..

While i havent actually gotten around to doing a comprehensive write-up on this new application from Microsoft i figured that prospective users out there might be interested in knowing how different this new version is from the older one.

I’ve spent the last 2 years working with Sharepoint V2 ( 2003 ) amongst many other KM tools and honestly while perfectly suited as a document management tool it is FAR from being even close to a KM application.

Sharepoint V3 has made up for it by providing a very tightly integrated platform to faciliate sharing of knowledge. Having worked on it for the past couple of months i can say this is the first time i have felt Microsoft has a KM contender. This excel sheet ( put together by Microsoft ) is a feature comparison between the various types of Sharepoint. Go through it when you have the time, will give you some insight on what you can expect from this new tool.

The areas covered in this document are as follows :

  • Collaboration
  • Enterprise Portal
  • Enterprise Search
  • Enterprise Content Management
  • Forms-Driven Business Processes
  • Business Intelligence
  • Management
  • Platform Capabilities
  • You can pick up this document from here.