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Categories blur ... cloud, social and mobile dominate

This article appears in the issue January 2012, [Volume 21, Issue 1]
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An exceptional trend in knowledge management over the past year has been the spike in mobile technology use, thanks to the growing use of smart phones and the iPad. Also prevalent has been the incorporation of different KM technologies into the same application-for example, content management is becoming an integral part of customer relationship management. The use of social software platforms is expanding too, and social elements are being built into nearly every KM application. Cloud technology continues to grow as a model for delivery, with most vendors now offering that option even if their product was not originally developed for the cloud.

On-the-road Access

Illes Seasonings and Flavors is a family-owned business that manufactures and sells custom seasonings and flavors. The products are used in restaurants and packaged consumer goods. Illes' research and development department creates the seasonings according to customer specifications, and prides itself on meeting customer needs in a timely and responsive manner.

The company was using a business intelligence (BI) tool developed in house, which provided weekly data to salespeople. However, it had a significant lag time because the data was based on invoices, and when salespeople were on the road, they did not have access to the information.

Les Howell, executive director of IT at Illes, says, "In today's competitive environment, our company president, Rick Illes, wanted to find a way for our sales folks to access sales data while they were on the road, so that they could respond to customer questions on the spot."

The release of the iPad by Apple two years ago was the catalyst for Illes to begin exploring BI solutions for mobile delivery. In looking for BI tools that would run on the iPad, Howell came across QlikView, a BI solution from QlikTech. "I gave a presentation that showed how it worked on the iPad, and at the end, the salespeople stood up and applauded," Howell recounts.

Illes had found its solution, and QlikView was rolled out to the salespeople within two months. Subsequently, executives in the company received iPads so they also now have mobile access. Salespeople see only their customer data, while management can see a comprehensive view across all customers and staff.

Information is now much more current. "Instead of being updated just once a week," Howell explains, "the data is processed every 30 minutes. We found that this frequency gave us the timeliness we needed, without tying up the servers." The iPad connects either via WiFi or a G3 network, which means users have access nearly everywhere.

The new system allows salespeople to check on purchase orders while they are with customers. "In the past, they had to call our office to get this information," Howell says, "but now, because QlikView is connected to our enterprise resource planning system, they can find out right away." In addition, QlikView has five years' worth of data, so users can look at trends by year, product line, shipping location or other variable. The information can be seen in spreadsheet or chart form. "Because of the data architecture," Howell adds, "the response rate is extremely rapid."

"Executives from five different departments are lined up wanting QlikView," says Howell. "We are in the process of rolling it out to manufacturing and purchasing. Customer service will also get a version that has a view of the data that is appropriate to its needs." Eventually, customer service will be able to access SharePoint through QlikView and see documents such as correspondence and invoices that are associated with each customer.

QlikView was built to run in memory, which is why its response time to queries is very short. "Most BI systems pre-calculate answers to any predefined questions and store the information on disk," says Jeff Boehm," VP of global product marketing for QlikTech. "With all the raw data in memory, users can ask any question they want, and QlikView dynamically calculates answers on the fly very quickly."

Both mobile and social technologies were a major part of QlikTech's strategy in developing its BI solution. "We see a blurring in the marketplace between product categories such as BI and social software," Boehm says. "BI should be a collaborative process. Users can bookmark and annotate any set of results, and other individuals can add to the annotation to form a threaded discussion. In addition, users can share discovery sessions while in progress, even if the other individual does not have the QlikView application."

KM integration in the cloud

Kearney & Company is a government contractor that specializes in financial management and information technology services solely in support of federal government clients. The company uses Salesforce.com to track contract leads and projects, but did not have an effective way to access content from within Salesforce.com.

Recently, Kearney tried out the free VIP Edition of SpringCM for Salesforce, which was just released by SpringCM. "We discovered the VIP Edition at a trade show, and I knew right away it could help us," says Richard Gustafson, principal at Kearney. "We got in touch with SpringCM a week later, and in 30 minutes we had an initial integration with Salesforce."

The VIP Edition allows uploading of documents to two Salesforce objects (such as opportunities and accounts). "After giving it a workout, we decided to bring in some other objects, including proposals and contracting," Gustafson explains, "and we are now moving ahead with a full license for SpringCM."

Prior to launching the SpringCM application, Kearney was storing documents in multiple locations, including file shares. Uploading them into SpringCM was straightforward. "The initial uploading is done from a link built into the Salesforce interface," Gustafson says, "and during that process, the file structure is captured along with the name of the account and the opportunity name. Additional information such as the solicitation number can be added manually.

"The killer app for us is the ability to see all the information relevant to the type of work we are seeking," Gustafson adds. "We can search in SpringCM for RFPs we answered that are similar to ones we are considering bidding on, find out if we won or lost, and see the evaluation criteria."

Now that a content management system is in place, it is being expanded to others in the company who are not Salesforce users. "We can set up folders for each proposal, and the writers can put content into the right location by sending it to an e-mail address associated with the proposal," Gustafson says. "It is automatically indexed in the process. We also used the scanning feature to OCR an image version of a solicitation, and the accuracy was 99 percent, which was enough to let us search for what we needed."

Content management comes down to one thing, according to Roger Bottum, VP of marketing at SpringCM, "It has to be easy. We developed the VIP Edition because we discovered that Salesforce.com customers were finding it difficult to access content from within Salesforce."

Workers in many different areas need access to content, but they want to do it through their primary application. "Salespeople want to operate from Salesforce, the legal department wants to be in Word, and people looking up an order may be using SharePoint as their interface," Bottum says. "But in all these cases, the content they are retrieving is in SpringCM."

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