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Users assess the confluence of DM and KM

This article appears in the issue March 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 3]

Forget the labels; judge on merits

Are document management vendors also knowledge management vendors? More to the point, do they portray themselves as document management vendors?

Interviews with three DM users who have systems from Dataware (Cambridge, MA), PC Docs (Burlington, MA) and Documentum (Pleasanton, CA) indicate that all three vendors strive to associate themselves with knowledge management to varying degrees. Of course, the three users' perception of how their own companies manage knowledge also colors their opinions.

Phil Perkins, director of knowledge management, and Jim Tchobanoff, program leader and manager of the Technology Knowledge Center, Pillsbury (Minneapolis)

As a longtime Dataware user, Perkins is well-qualified to comment on the company's knowledge management leanings, and he is impressed by what he has recently heard, i.e. Dataware's pitch describing its new Dataware II Knowledge Management Suite.

"I have to tell you, I was very impressed," he said of the product briefing. "It was as good a knowledge management presentation as you would get at any knowledge management conference. I'd call it knowledge management 101."

Dataware II is the renamed Dataware Electronic Publishing Management System (EPMS). It has been enhanced and repackaged as a modular suite of products capable of capturing, managing and sharing corporate knowledge assets.

Perkins is not one to be fooled by vendor marketing hype and said he is only "marginally" influenced by such claims. He also said that while some vendors are truly selling knowledge management products, others are jumping on the knowledge management bandwagon by putting KM labels on products that are two or three years old.

In some cases, he added, clever marketing presentations can gain an audience for those would-be knowledge management products. His advice to users: Judge each product on its merits and forget the labeling.

Perkins and Tchobanoff disagree on what is and is not knowledge management. For example, Pillsbury uses Dataware's BRS full-text search engine, and Tchobanoff referred to it as a "tool" that can help him toward his knowledge management goals. He pointedly does not call it "knowledge management software."

"Knowledge management is broader than just selecting and installing a piece of software and running everything in the world through it," Tchobanoff explained.

In Perkins' opinion, anything that can help him achieve his overall business objectives is knowledge management. In that vein, he said, E-mail or even a book can be a knowledge management tool.

Can Perkins and Tchobanoff justify product purchases to their managers based on the products' knowledge management capabilities?

"I would say partly, but mostly, no," Tchobanoff said, adding that his managers are more interested in achieving corporate goals than they are in concepts such as knowledge management.

Tchobanoff divided the knowledge management marketplace into two segments. On one hand are document management product vendors, like Dataware and Documentum, that offer software and services that help customers use their software. On the other hand are consulting firms, like Ernst & Young (New York) and Andersen Consulting (Chicago), that sell "a full service" including a strategy for implementing knowledge management.

Although Perkins is reluctant to be viewed as endorsing any vendor, he said, "We have been working with Dataware, and I have been impressed with their approach. We are currently reviewing some of their products."

He explained that since Pillsbury became part of Diageo--a gigantic global enterprise formed in December by the merger of Pillsbury's parent company Grand Metropolitan and Guinness--it is also considering products from a variety of other vendors.

After all the semantic smoke is cleared, the tools remain, and according to Perkins, "It's our job to encourage people to eventually use those tools."

Christopher Lee, director of information technology at the law firm, Lyon & Lyon (Los Angeles)

Lee is a happy PC Docs user, having just won the company's award for "Outstanding Docs Open Solution." Asked how PC Docs approaches knowledge management, he replied, "They're pretty heavy on that. They push that a lot."

Lyon & Lyon has used PC Docs' Cyber Docs product, along with the vendor's Interchange product for Microsoft Exchange and Docs Unplugged. The firm will soon use that system to manage what it refers to as a "brief bank," which is a repository of legal information.

"It's going to manage the intellectual capital of the firm," Lee said. "That's what we use PC Docs for. The backbone of this network is our intranet, along with document management and messaging. We've been successful in integrating them all."

Lee said the law firm's original goal was to implement a network based on mobility and collaboration that would allow the firm's lawyers to quickly and easily access legal data in any of its offices--via a corporate WAN and the Docs search engine--from anywhere in the world.

Addressing PC Docs' marketing approach, Lee said he is pleased with the general product direction being taken by the vendor, especially the way it is moving to integrate document management with messaging. He thinks that combination is critically important to accessing and using knowledge.

"That was a big selling point to us," Lee said.

Lyon & Lyon also intends to use PC Docs' intranet product in conjunction with the firm's extranet, which will be extended to clients as a knowledge management tool. Clearly, Lee is enthused. "I'm telling you this stuff is great!" he said. "My goal for the extranet is to do it as early as the third quarter of this year. Our whole basis for the extranet will be the browser along with Cyber Docs Version 2.0."

How can he and others tell what are and what are not true knowledge management products? Given the ever-growing numbers of offerings to choose from, he takes a process-oriented approach, which involves evaluating the process flows within the law firm and then finding products that can streamline those flows.

Does Lee justify new product purchases to his managers based on their knowledge management capabilities?

"That is correct. My big push is toward building and managing intellectual capital within the organization," he said, "and that is a big thing to the technology committee. That is an important aspect of any major product purchases."

Citing the huge volume of paper generated by his firm, Lee said that imaging is also an important part of the Lyons & Lyons' knowledge management mix. That is largely true because hardware and software licensing costs have dropped. "PC Docs has the ability to handle that part of our information flow," he said. "It's great to have a solution that can do that."

He also sees a role for workflow, saying the combination of PC Docs' process flow and its Interchange products provide a powerful vehicle for managing the flow of information. The interchange product publishes documents to public folders via Microsoft Exchange.

Jan Johnston-Tyler, senior manager for central documentation services, Cisco Systems (San Jose)

Johnston-Tyler prefaced her
comments about Documentum by pointing out how knowledge management is widely defined, and how that definition has already been changed by the passage of time. According to her, the "traditional" version of knowledge management was workflow-based and oriented toward moving information around organizations--for example, content started in engineering and moved to technical documentation, marketing, product marketing and manufacturing.

Now, she said, the new knowledge management is more externally focused, meaning the ultimate recipient of content is the customer, not some internal organization.

"In my opinion," she said, "most electronic document management companies are just starting to get that now." As evidence, she said that document management vendors are offering products that allow content to be delivered through the Web to extranets. Still, she added, the primary vendor focus is on areas such as establishing workflows and transforming documents from one format to another so they can be shared across the organization.

"I don't think that true knowledge management has made it to the realm of the externally focused customer," Johnston-Tyler said. Most document management vendors are slow to change because they are rooted in large user companies that maintain voluminous amounts of static content, she said.

Documentum, like most of its major competitors, is coming around to the new knowledge management, according to Johnston-Tyler.

"They're starting to realize that delivering a static Web page to a customer on an extranet isn't really knowledge management," she said. "It's got to be dynamic, it's got to be based on query, it has to be based on real time. There are some other elements that aren't currently captured in their infrastructure."

Johnston-Tyler said that Cisco deployed its Documentum system on Dec. 22 as part of a hybrid environment that includes document management capabilities wrapped inside an electronic publishing system with a Web interface, which allows authors to set meta data on files.

In the first phase of the new system, a writer checks in a Frame Maker document, sets meta data on the file with Documentum. The file is then transposed to Post Script, PDF and HTML and delivered to one or more targets, depending on the meta data.

In the next phase, the system will move toward SGML with the goal of being able to single-source a document in SGML and mark it up for decomposition. In that environment, a single file will be pulled apart into its individual components. Those components will have meta data on them and they will be stored, searched on, retrieved and assembled in one or more formats and document types.

Johnston-Tyler said that assembling all the pieces required for a system that meets Cisco's needs is a complex task. Although most of the "bits and pieces" are available and can be put together, "nobody has complex relationship management," she said. "When you suddenly have a million bits in your EDMS, how do you manage those relationships and still have a robust and high-performance system?"

Does she sell knowledge management when she asks for new products? "No," she replied. "I get funding for my projects based on the ultimate deliverable that we put together. All that I'm asked to do is to ensure that the applications that we purchase are the best of breed."

Although she pointed out that Documentum is not able to perform all the tasks she would like to see accomplished off the shelf, she lauds the company, saying, "If I had to make the decision again, I would definitely buy Documentum again. It's the best EDMS on the market. I'm confident that they are going to get it."


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