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Expertise rules at Expo

A modest but focused audience at KMExpo '98 (Chicago Oct. 13 to 15) was treated to a broadbrush look at the technologies--new and traditional--that comprise knowledge management.

Highlights: Several new companies chose the event as a showplace for their emerging technology sets; established companies (e.g. Lotus, Xerox, IBM, Documentum) explained their increasing roles in knowledge management and presented new deliverables within it; and trends emerged, including a nearly universal focus on expertise in organizations rather than merely on document-based information.

"Attendance was lower than expected, but we had people specifically seeking KM solutions. And we forget how new this market really is--it usually takes a trade show three years to become 100% productive for both the exhibitor and the attendee, and this was our second year," said Jim Povec, CEO of Marketing Forums for Knowledge Asset Media (www.kmworld.com).

As the market continues to take shape, terminology also evolves to describe the many variations on the KM theme.

Exhibitors on the showfloor covered familiar and new technologies, from Datacap's (www.datacap.com) total capture solution to Centillion Digital Systems' (www.centilliondata.com) digital asset management, from Quest Software's (www.quests.com) report-based information management to Excalibur Technologies' (www.excalib .com) knowledge retrieval software.

Xerox (www.xerox.com), the document company, is hedging toward "the knowledge company" but one could say Xerox has been helping companies manage knowledge from day one--think of the photocopier's influence on information sharing, reminded Patricia Peper, marketing manager of the software solutions business unit. Whether people stopped by the Xerox booth to see the new drag-and-drop scan capabilities of the Docushare 1.5 system, the KM community was talking about the Xerox commercials featuring the Seinfeld show's former "Mr. Peterman" as a sort of classical business knowledge god.

PC DOCS (www.pcdocs.com), which has renamed itself PC DOCS Fulcrum, unveiled its schedule for delivering integrated knowledge management--a combination that unites document management with knowledge retrieval. Perhaps the most interesting component of DOCS unfolding components is one planned for end of year 1999: "people profiling." The solution, if not able to offer an answer in text, will point to a person who is likely to be able to answer the query, because ultimately, "you really want one person who can correctly answer your question," said Gwyn Fisher, VP of research and development.

The people link was an underlying theme on the show floor. Text mining company Semio's (www.semio.com) director of sales and marketing Gail Claspell said a side benefit that some users are finding very useful in their product is its ability to map "who knows what" within their organizations.

Other companies with a clear "expertise" focus include Hyperknowledge (www.hyperknowledge.com) and Orbital (www.orbitalsw.com), but perhaps it was best summed up by Andres Rodriguez, chief technology officer of Abuzz (www.abuzz.com), who said knowledge management "is about connecting people with people, not like most of the companies here who are trying to link people to documents."

Abuzz is developing its Beehive product (just announced in beta) to deliver answers to queries either from a continuously growing archive or by passing the question to experts.

While keeping its upcoming technology under pretty tight wrap, Verge Software (www.vergesoft.com) plans to announce a "contextware" product in Q1 of next year that keys on allowing users to quickly submit information, link structured to unstructured information and deliver it dynamically.

KnowledgeLink Interactive (www.k-link.com) displayed PerSavant, a "personal savant" service that brings together internal and external information sources on a user's desktop. PerSavant pulls and distributes to individual users information from internal sources (databases, Lotus Notes, document management systems, etc.), news feeds, Web pages and online fee-based content services.

Services companies bringing their experience to the product front were also evident: IntegrationWare's IntraBlocks (www.intrablocks.com) division promoted its e:Folders Web server for creating, organizing, viewing and interacting with information, and Wizdom Systems (www.wizdomsystems.com) brings its consulting experience in commercial, manufacturing, healthcare and government markets to play in its WizdomLive work management product.

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