Lotus Announces Knowledge Management Server

Lotus Development announced its forthcoming knowledge management (KM) server, code-named Raven, at IBM's Lotusphere conference held in Orlando, Florida, January 16 to 20. Raven is automated content-indexing software that creates content and skill maps. The maps look like the maps from Yahoo and Lycos except that Raven's maps chart your company's documents and experts instead of Web pages. Raven is a standalone server, so it integrates with the Lotus Domino and Notes messaging platform and Microsoft Exchange Server. Scott Eliot, Lotus' senior product manager of KM products, said that Raven integrates many KM applications into one product. KM tools are available from various vendors, but according to Eliot, the integrated package is unique. Raven catalogs the content of your corporate network. "It discovers who works in the organization, what their skills are; it discovers content," said Eliot. Raven uses Lotus' linguistic-analysis algorithms to examine documents and discover their themes. Raven moves around your computing environment looking for productivity suite files, such as documents and spreadsheets, HTML files, and more. Raven finds repeated words, phrases, and word patterns and can also associate themes with people by tracing document authorship. For example, if Raven finds 50 documents about Extensible Markup Language (XML) and sees that Josef Kafka authored 48 of them, it connects Kafka to XML. I asked Eliot if Lotus had facts and figures on how reliable Raven is at discovering expertise relationships. He said that Lotus hadn't tested the accuracy percentage yet; however, nothing is put in a profile until that user approves it. Eliot said, "We're based on the idea that, if you ask a user what he's good at, he'll say, 'I don't know.' But if you send him a list of 10 things, he can click on two of them, and Raven will just throw away the other eight." Raven clusters articles under nodes with single titles. For example, Raven might arrange all the articles that discuss customer relationships under one node, and those that talk about customer relationship management (CRM) software under another node. Raven takes the nodes and creates content maps. For example, you might drill down from Programming to VB to Databases, and find a list of 30 documents on databases and 23 people who are experts on databases. Raven orders and provides numerical rankings for all the documents and experts, giving their relevancy to the current node. (That means that an article might be highly ranked under one node and lowly ranked under another.) Raven also keeps track of how frequently anyone in the company accesses each node and document. "This process is prohibitively expensive if you do it manually," said Eliot. He added that although Raven automates the content-mapping process, "it leaves plenty of room for user intervention." Raven also includes tools for personalized portal creation, by user and by community. Lotus plans to release Raven in mid-2000. Eliot said that the company hadn't decided about pricing and packaging for the server.

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