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Total solution goal of alliance - Lotus sharpens focus with Compaq and IBM agreements

Combining their strengths--the expertise of Compaq in the NT Server market and of Lotus in collaboration--the two companies are launching into a knowledge management marketing push borne from Lotus' recent announcement that it and its parent company, IBM, plan to take the lead in developing and delivering knowledge management solutions.

Lotus (www.lotus.com) and Compaq (www.compaq.com) will market hardware and software packages, starting with two from Lotus Premium Business Partners Cipher Systems (www.cipher.com) and GlobalServe (www.globalservecorp.com). Packaged with Domino 4.6 and Compaq's Windows-based NT Servers, Cipher's Knowledge.Works is used to capture, process and analyze competitive intelligence and GlobalServe's ResearchAccelerator is a collaboration tool focused on R&D applications.

"Through our work with Compaq and our business partners, we will leverage our collaborative computing expertise to help our mutual customers fully reach the knowledge and intellectual capital resident in their organizations," said Dave Laverty, Lotus' VP of North American marketing.

While the agreement is between two major companies, some analysts feel the move is not as relevant as other recent announcements from Lotus.

"Lotus continues to aggressively deliver knowledge apps (vertical knowledge-based applications) based on Domino, in its quest to stake early dominance in the knowledge management market," said Carl Frappaolo, executive VP at The Delphi Group (www.delphigroup.com). "While this partnership with Compaq is viewed as a positive move, it is not seen as strategic."

Lotus, with IBM (www.ibm.com), held a positioning day in June to announce other doings in the KM realm, demoing products from its upcoming Sametime line and modeling plans and technologies for a KM future.

"Taking what you've learned and turning it into an asset for the company. That is knowledge management," said Michael Zisman, Lotus' executive VP of strategy.From an IBM vantage point, it's all about "transforming information into knowledge that can lead to action," said Janet Perna, general manager of data management with IBM's Software Solutions Group.

Applied specifically, Lotus takes a collaborative or "people-centric view" of knowledge management--to quote Brian Bell, senior VP of Lotus' Emerging Products Group. IBM takes more of a broad-brush look, with its Business Intelligence tools and database-related products playing a part in KM solutions.

Perhaps Perna said it best when she suggested that IBM's role in a KM system is as the "pipes and plumbing of information," while Lotus is about "getting to people who can take action."

Among analysts that combined approach produced primarily optimism."KM is a practice that must span technological and organizational boundaries. That, in fact, is the whole point," said IDC (www.idcresearch.com) research analyst Gerry Murray. "Therefore, a vendor that can combine data, document and collaborative expertise represents a great resource for customers."

"Knowledge management isnÕt one thing," said Amy Wohl, consultant and editor of the TrendsLetter (www.wohl.com). "It's a combination of a number of technologies and a lot of changes in organizational behavior. Lotus has experience in both of these. IBM technology and the breadth of systems integration they can bring will greatly enrich and speed up Lotus' KM offerings."

Stan LePeak, VP of the Meta Group (www.metagroup.com), said, "Lotus' focus on collaboration and information management is more relevant than IBM with its emphasis on business intelligence--important for some types of KM--and its inference that databases or DASD relate to KM. In this context, all technologies are KM technologies. IBM's better KM angle is in services."

According to Tim Sloane, director of messaging applications research for the Aberdeen Group (www.aberdeen.com), "Just as IBM drove awareness of EBusiness, I suspect they are capable of doing the same for KM. They are the only major vendor focused on this today and have a range of products that makes them instantly credible."

The vendors seemed to openly recognize that technology is only part of KM. LotusÕ Zisman said that systems are useful as "tools to help us codify what weÕve learned."

Developing KM solutions out of business process is the challenge for these companies and others in the market, according to Meta's LePeak, who added that users face the challenge of "separating the KM wheat from the chaff."

Just as collaboration is the foundation of Lotus Notes, systems need to "collaborate" with one another to be effective solutions. The Domino.Doc repository doesnÕt enable knowledge management, nor does IBM's recently released Intelligent Miner for Text. Instead, a KM solution must be "a combination of applications and services that really address customer pains," said LotusÕ Bell.

Here is a glimpse of some of the developing applications shown:Building from the recent acquisitions of Ubique (www.ubique.com) and DataBeam (www.databeam.com), Lotus modeled tools including the Sametime Server, Space and TeamRoom--a handful of technologies that will be developed into products as soon as later this year.

Sametime Server--part of the Sametime line of clients, servers, application development tools, solutions and services--will merge real-time services with asynchronous services.

The demonstration started with a one-on-one E-mail chat between two people addressing a business problem. Seeking more information, they were able to reference who had knowledge to offer on that subject based on updating profiles. The list of parties across the enterprise came up on Notes with those currently available highlighted. Those participants could be brought into the discussion. The real-time collaboration string could then be saved as an asynchronous string for later reference.

TeamRoom is designed to add structure to discussions by providing tools including a mission statement, facilitator function, defined participants, events, newsletter notification and reminders.

LearningSpace 2.6, a new version of Lotus' distance learning product, will allow students to work asynchronously on a project and then meet at a specified time for real-time discussions.

IBM demonstrated the Intelligent Miner for Text, a text analysis and search tool. IM for Text includes tools for clustering, feature extraction and categorization.

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