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KM past and future—Fixing the pain points

This article appears in the issue January 2011, [Volume 20, Issue 1]
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The future of knowledge management in the coming year will include progress on some of the most challenging issues facing enterprises, including making sense of social media content, dealing effectively with video and managing e-discovery.

Many of the more straightforward knowledge management tasks have been addressed and if not conquered, at least organizations can see a clear path ahead. Last year’s “KM Past and Future” article, for example, focused on closing the loop on knowledge sharing through better integration of applications and by modifying underlying processes. Those improvements continue incrementally, building on enterprise content management (ECM), business process management (BPM) and business intelligence (BI). Information access is being enhanced by integrating search technology with applications to provide context-relevant results.

Social media in the mix

The emergence of vast quantities of social content, much of it outside those formal enterprise systems, poses problems for organizations that want to tap into the value that its candid and spontaneous nature offers. The task of finding, analyzing and interpreting the information is more difficult because of the diverse locations in which it is found and the broad spectrum of subject matter.

Provo Craft and Novelty manufactures precision equipment for use in the craft, hobby and education markets. The company has a devoted following of customers who share information in a variety of social media settings, including a community forum provided by Provo Craft. However, using that information productively was an elusive goal until Provo Craft deployed ForSight, a social media analysis solution from Crimson Hexagon.

ForSight was developed at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences a text analytics tool, and Crimson Hexagon was spun off to commercialize the solution, which is offered as a service. Its primary use is to make sense of the burgeoning volume of content emanating from social media.

One of Provo Craft’s most popular products is Cricut, a paper-cutting device that uses cartridges to cut designs, letters and phrases without requiring connection to a computer. By analyzing customer comments in the Cricut forum (which has more than 1 million posts), Provo Craft learned that customers were using the product in unanticipated ways, and was able to further determine what percent of customers were doing so. As a result, Provo Craft developed new cartridges to facilitate use of Cricut.

Confident that it has an understanding of its online communities, Provo Craft is now using social media effectively for purposes such as introducing new products, as it did on Twitter with its Gypsy cartridge carrier. Users also share their projects in other social media environments such as Facebook.

An individual Tweet may carry information to its recipient, but aggregating Tweets in real time provides insight about patterns. Cable news broadcaster CNN uses ForSight to analyze Tweets during elections, for example, to show how voters are reacting in exit polls. When integrated with geographical information, the social media content shows patterns within states and across the country.

Analysis of blogs and forums provides more extensive information. “We wanted to move beyond sentiment analysis into looking at explanations for the reactions of individuals,” says Scott Centurino, CEO of Crimson Hexagon, “so we analyze content in detail.” Through its text analytics, ForSight helps determine whether customers think a product is impressive compared to those of competitors, whether they think it is good but too expensive and whether they plan to buy it.”

ForSight categorizes information based on its natural language processing of the content of comments in social media channels. Initial categories are developed by humans after reviewing posts in a certain domain. ForSight then finds statistical patterns in the data and places the additional content into the established categories. “We combine the best of human intervention with the ability to deal with volume through computer analysis,” Centurino says.

Video made easy

Creation and management of video information is an area that offers a lot of potential, but like social media, is no easy task. The use of video is increasing rapidly, with broad application expected in education, marketing and many other fields.

According to Cisco, use of video will increase sixfold  from 2009 to 2014; two-thirds of Internet users watch video now. Video is increasingly being used to record nuggets of know-how from individuals who are about to retire or to present brief instructional modules. Yet the process of capturing and delivering video is still expensive and time-consuming. More importantly from a knowledge management perspective, finding information within a video is time-consuming and tedious from a user perspective.

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