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Portal progress and knowledge management: Hummingbird Enterprise

This article appears in the issue May 2003 [Volume 12, Issue 5]

By Joe Firestone

In developing and marketing its portal product, Hummingbird has followed a distinctly different strategy from vendors who have emphasized arriving at portal solutions through integration of third-party products. Hummingbird has emphasized the openness of its own architecture and its interoperability with the document, content management and other applications offered by others. But it has also drawn on its acquisition of a variety of technologies to emphasize something closer to a comprehensive, single-vendor solution in which the portal server is the delivery channel for diverse Hummingbird applications integrated within the portal framework. It calls the solution an Enterprise Information Management System (EIMS), and it—Hummingbird Enterprise (HE)—rather than its narrower portal product, will be the focus of this column.

HE features

Hummingbird Enterprise is a suite of components providing “the ability to easily access, find, analyze, manage and collaborate on enterprise content across a wide variety of formats, languages and platforms.” Those components include Hummingbird Portal (HP), Hummingbird DM (HDM), Hummingbird RM (HRM), Hummingbird KM (HKM), Hummingbird Collaboration (HC), Hummingbird BI (HBI) and Hummingbird ETL (HET). Here is a list of the most important HE features and the component applications with which each feature is most closely associated:

  • Web-based, visual Workspace metaphor (HP, HDM, HC) creating customizable, virtual document stores for individual work and collaboration.;

  • Java-based portal server engine delivering both information (data and unstructured content) and applications to the portal (HP). Channels of delivery are "e-clip" plug-ins, Hummingbird’s version of portlets, providing capability for portal interface integration of information sources and applications.;

  • Application integration for all applications in HE and for selected enterprise applications such as SAP (sap.com) and Siebel (siebel.com) (HP, HDM, HC, HKM, HRM, HBI and HET). “Application collaboration” provides cross-application functionality through drop-down menus. Additional content and application integration are gained by developing new e-clip plug-ins. Developer’s kit for new e-clips.;

  • “Look and feel” is “completely customizable” (HP).;

  • Consistent user experience across native application components (HE).;

  • Comprehensive security/administration model (HP, HDM). Can produce profiles by leveraging existing models, e.g. LDAP, NTLM, ADS, NDS or Netegrity SiteMinder. Highly granular administration capabilities including access control for applications, sources and portal communities, and single sign-on. ;

  • Unified repository. HP, HDM, HKM and HC share the same document repository. HKM provides integrated navigation of third-party document repositories, e-mail, Web sites and databases.;

  • Diverse search/categorization/content management capabilities (HP, HDM and HKM). Content indexing supporting “more than 15 languages.” Federated search across structured and unstructured information, and enterprise and portal sources by author, title, subject, keyword, date, size, relevance, source and concept. Result sets include document summarization, search term highlighting and navigation, and saved searches. Support for XML-document search and natural language processing. Automatic taxonomy generation for navigation of content. Search and alert agents to update and notify users.;

  • Other document/content management features (HDM). Provides familiar client interfaces natively and through DM extensions, including mainstream authoring tools and hierarchical folder metaphors supporting drag-and-drop operations. Multithreaded DM transaction server with fail-over, load balancing and document compression. Provides publishing and version/revision control both for documents and folders tied to security model. Through DM extensions can provide imaging, workflow, Web publishing and engineering drawing management capabilities. ;

  • Records management (HRM). Uses HDM as a platform. Support for categorizing enterprise electronic and paper documents as records within an integrated, distributed infrastructure. “Worldwide standards compliance” and U.S. DoD 5015.2 and UK PRO approved.;

  • Business intelligence (HBI). Provides query, analysis and reporting capability against structured databases including Web-based capability. Provides broad, native database and ODBC connectivity including native connectivity to multidimensional OLAP databases, and OLE DB connectivity to sources using MS SQL Server, Analysis. Provides BI Server. Provides data models stored in XML. Provides integration with HDM and HC through storing BI reports in DM repository.;

  • Data management (HET). Provides a generalized solution for extraction, transformation and loading from any source to any target. Provides broker-based transformation engine and O-O based hub-and-spokes architecture. Provides procedural language for defining rules, functionality to integrate data from multiple sources, and O-O-based open metadata repository easily integrated with HE environment. Provides reporting and change management capabilities including event-driven scheduling and automatic change propagation. Provides wide-ranging connectivity to file formats, mainframe environments, and SAP and data modeling applications. ;

Knowledge processing and KM

The ratings chart on page 21 (KMWorld May 2003, Vol 12, Issue 5) compares HE’s support for knowledge processing with the ideal enterprise knowledge portal.

HE provides substantial support for information acquisition, knowledge claim formulation (through its collaborative workspace and analysis capability), information sharing, broadcasting, teaching, and searching/retrieving. But like all of the products previously reviewed, it provides little support for knowledge claim evaluation and, therefore, for knowledge production or individual and group learning. Also, there is no explicit support in HE for the nine classes of KM activities distinguished in our KM framework. In the end then, in spite of its wide range of functionality and its integration of enterprise decision processing, content management, and collaboration, HE inadequately supports key aspects of knowledge processing and knowledge management. This EIMS needs considerably more development if it is to become an EKP.

Joseph M. Firestone, Ph.D, is co-CEO and executive VP of the Knowledge Management Consortium International and CKO of Executive Information Systems, e-mail eisai@comcast.net. He is the author of "Enterprise Information Portals and Knowledge Management," KMCI Press/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002.


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