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Portal progress and knowledge management: eKnowledge Portal

By Joe Firestone

The Hyperwave eKnowledge Portal is a portal interface and server layer exposing the functionality of Hyperwave IS/6, eKnowledge Suite, and eLearning Suite to knowledge workers. It also allows integration of other applications through "tracks" (portlets). Unlike some other portal vendors that primarily provide a portal front end and attempt to integrate best-of-breed applications in most application areas, Hyperwave's portal is based on products built on the tightly integrated, object-oriented content management system, Hyperwave IS/6. The portal’s collaborative and content management features are themselves either tightly integrated into the portal system, or in the case of Hyperwave’s new workflow and Team Workspace options, may become so, through object model-based integration with IS/6. However, the decision-processing capability supplied by "track-based" integration with business intelligence programs is less well-integrated with the underlying CM/DM structure.

Important features of Hyperwave’s eKnowledge Portal (including all other applications in its eKnowledge Infrastructure) are:

  • role-based organization of content for controlling the flow of information to individuals, groups and communities and for reducing "infoglut";;

  • expertise location based on implicit and explicit development of user profiles;;

  • collaboration, both synchronous and asynchronous, based on document management, publication, messaging, workflow, Groupware, TeamTab, Team Workspace and other collaboration capabilities;;

  • integration of both Hyperwave and other applications through the portal "track" feature;;

  • Hyperwave Track Development Kit to facilitate creation of new tracks;;

  • continuous learning through integration with eLearning Suite; and;

  • all features provided by the other three applications in Hyperwave's eKnowledge Infrastructure.;

Hyperwave Architecture

The architecture of Hyperwave eKnowledge infrastructure is based on IS/6. It is an application layer based on a distributed object model functioning on multiple physical application servers. Servers may be pooled to provide a common view of enterprise objects and links across servers.

IS/6 incorporates metadata, search, taxonomy, personalization, security and access, document management, and link management services through various engines provided in the operational object models of the application servers. Object relationships are maintained by IS/6's link management capability. Each piece of data and content in the enterprise is stored as an object with attributes. Metadata and metainformation attributes and values are specified by administrators or users publishing to the system. As objects are changed, deleted or added, all related objects are synchronized. Either objects are added or deleted, or they and their relationships are updated, as the case may be. Any data or content, and any object may be tracked, indexed and retrieved throughout the history of the object.

In addition to the object/component model and its related services, the eKnowledge Infrastructure, and specifically IS/6, provides Oracle or MS SQL and content repositories to handle both structured and unstructured content. IS/6 also provides connectors to structured databases, legacy and ERP applications. eKnowledge Suite and eLearning Suite are both built on IS/6 and use IS/6 functionality to fulfill their requirements, including document processing, workflow and business process automation capabilities.

Hyperwave's architecture is both object technology-based and very comprehensive. However, it is not J2EE-based and therefore will be less attractive than other portals to some enterprises, despite its wide range of content management, decision processing and collaboration capabilities.

Knowledge processing and knowledge management

Among EIP vendors, Hyperwave currently makes the most emphatic claims about providing a broad-ranging knowledge processing/knowledge management portal. Its claims are mainly based on the functionality of eKnowledge Suite in supporting knowledge sharing. I’ve discussed those claims at length in Chapter 17 of "Enterprise Information Portals and Knowledge Management," KMCI Press/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003. There, I argue that the six-step, knowledge-sharing cycle specified by Hyperwave is one that represents knowledge sharing as a process, in which individuals convert their individual “knowledge” into “data” existing in "the knowledgebase". They then access and retrieve that data in the form of information presented to them by the "eknowledge portal." There is nothing in that knowledge sharing process, however, that justifies the use of the term "knowledgebase" to describe the contents of the repository. That is, there is no guarantee that what I put into the portal that gets transformed into "bits and bytes" is reflective of my "knowledge."

So, how well Hyperwave support knowledge processing and knowledge management? In brief, only a little better than products reviewed in previous columns. Hyperwave provides generalized support for information processing, including, increasingly, outstanding support for information sharing, collaboration and workflow/business process automation. In addition, Team Workspace, with its capacity for cross-enterprise collaboration, provides more support for information acquisition than is found in many portal products. However, it provides no specific support for knowledge claim evaluation, and it is not clear that it provides strong support for knowledge claim formulation, beyond that resulting from its extensive collaboration capabilities.

What of the eLearning component of Hyperwave? That component may begin to provide specific support for knowledge claim formulation, if it is specifically targeted at individual problem solving than conventional learning. However, it is doubtful that the eLearning application can be as flexible as the portal itself in providing the sort of ad hoc access to information that is necessary to solve many business problems. My specific ratings comparing knowledge processing in the Hyperwave Knowledge Portal system with knowledge processing are in the Table (P.21 KMWorld April 2003, Vol 12, Issue 4).

When it comes to KM activities, Hyperwave supports the obligation of managers to provide for the training of knowledge workers, and additional capabilities to build external relationships through Team Workspace. But the other KM functions (see my initial column) receive no specific support from Hyperwave. In the end, then, even though Hyperwave is closer to the knowledge portal concept presented in my opening column than other portal products, its lack of specific support for knowledge claim evaluation and most KM activities as well as its weak support for knowledge claim formulation, suggest that it still has a long road to travel before it can fully support the knowledge life cycle and the full range of activities that are available for managing it.

Joseph M. Firestone, Ph.D, is co-CEO and executive VP of the Knowledge Management Consortium International and CKO of Executive Information Systems (dkms.com), 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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