The future of knowledge management in the coming year will include progress on some of the most challenging issues facing enterprises, including making sense of social media content, dealing effectively with video and managing e-discovery.
Many of the more straightforward knowledge management tasks have been addressed and if not conquered, at least organizations can see a clear path ahead. Last year’s “KM Past and Future” article, for example, focused on closing the loop on knowledge sharing through better integration of applications and by modifying underlying processes. Those improvements continue incrementally, building on enterprise content management (ECM), business process management (BPM) and business intelligence (BI). Information access is being enhanced by integrating search technology with applications to provide context-relevant results.
Social media in the mix
The emergence of vast quantities of social content, much of it outside those formal enterprise systems, poses problems for organizations that want to tap into the value that its candid and spontaneous nature offers. The task of finding, analyzing and interpreting the information is more difficult because of the diverse locations in which it is found and the broad spectrum of subject matter.
Provo Craft and Novelty manufactures precision equipment for use in the craft, hobby and education markets. The company has a devoted following of customers who share information in a variety of social media settings, including a community forum provided by Provo Craft. However, using that information productively was an elusive goal until Provo Craft deployed ForSight, a social media analysis solution from Crimson Hexagon.
ForSight was developed at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences a text analytics tool, and Crimson Hexagon was spun off to commercialize the solution, which is offered as a service. Its primary use is to make sense of the burgeoning volume of content emanating from social media.
One of Provo Craft’s most popular products is Cricut, a paper-cutting device that uses cartridges to cut designs, letters and phrases without requiring connection to a computer. By analyzing customer comments in the Cricut forum (which has more than 1 million posts), Provo Craft learned that customers were using the product in unanticipated ways, and was able to further determine what percent of customers were doing so. As a result, Provo Craft developed new cartridges to facilitate use of Cricut.
Confident that it has an understanding of its online communities, Provo Craft is now using social media effectively for purposes such as introducing new products, as it did on Twitter with its Gypsy cartridge carrier. Users also share their projects in other social media environments such as Facebook.
An individual Tweet may carry information to its recipient, but aggregating Tweets in real time provides insight about patterns. Cable news broadcaster CNN uses ForSight to analyze Tweets during elections, for example, to show how voters are reacting in exit polls. When integrated with geographical information, the social media content shows patterns within states and across the country.
Analysis of blogs and forums provides more extensive information. “We wanted to move beyond sentiment analysis into looking at explanations for the reactions of individuals,” says Scott Centurino, CEO of Crimson Hexagon, “so we analyze content in detail.” Through its text analytics, ForSight helps determine whether customers think a product is impressive compared to those of competitors, whether they think it is good but too expensive and whether they plan to buy it.”
ForSight categorizes information based on its natural language processing of the content of comments in social media channels. Initial categories are developed by humans after reviewing posts in a certain domain. ForSight then finds statistical patterns in the data and places the additional content into the established categories. “We combine the best of human intervention with the ability to deal with volume through computer analysis,” Centurino says.
Video made easy
Creation and management of video information is an area that offers a lot of potential, but like social media, is no easy task. The use of video is increasing rapidly, with broad application expected in education, marketing and many other fields.
According to Cisco, use of video will increase sixfold from 2009 to 2014; two-thirds of Internet users watch video now. Video is increasingly being used to record nuggets of know-how from individuals who are about to retire or to present brief instructional modules. Yet the process of capturing and delivering video is still expensive and time-consuming. More importantly from a knowledge management perspective, finding information within a video is time-consuming and tedious from a user perspective.
Panopto has developed an end-to-end solution called Panopto Focus for video capture and presentation, which is efficient and more economical than many alternatives. It can use a webcam, digital camera, high-end video or audio alone, and synchronizes on screen activity with the video or audio. Used mainly in the higher education market now, it is also suitable for many other settings to capture video and other simultaneous input such as a PowerPoint presentation. The video shows up in one window and the presentation in the other, so the camera does not have to pan back and forth.
At the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University, Panopto Focus is being used for several different purposes. In one case, student presentations are captured as part of a class on presentation skills, and the instructor then evaluates the student.
“Previously, we had to set up a video camera, microphone and then upload the resulting presentation separately,” says Eva Bradshaw, director of educational technologies at Fisher. “Now, with one push of the button we can start the capture process and have it automatically upload the presentation for the instructor’s review.”
Although Fisher is not recording all lectures, it is using Panopto Focus to capture some of them. “During a summer course, an instructor had to be away at a conference for one class,” Bradshaw says, “so he recorded the presentation for that day. Students did not have to miss out on material because there was a scheduling conflict. We archived it and the lecture was available for that week.” Similarly, when orientation was held for incoming MBA students and some could not attend, they were able to watch a video version of each talk.
Fisher is also using Panopto Focus for tutorials on SharePoint and other IT applications. “In this case, we use an audio narration as Panopto captures the screen that the instructor is discussing,” Bradshaw explains. “As the instructor moves from screen to screen, the narration is synchronized because it’s all captured together.”
Searchability is key
Panopto is the product of research at Carnegie Mellon University, which attempted to bring a digital library-style approach to distance learning video. The core use case for Panopto is to provide high-quality presentation capture capabilities to anyone with a computer, regardless of technical sophistication. Because anyone can now record, publish, edit and search those multimedia presentations, the product is often used to quickly and inexpensively capture daily lectures or, for users in knowledge-intensive industries, information that might otherwise be lost.
“A senior IT architect discussing the architecture of a component for new engineering hires is a good example,” says Eric Burns, CTO of Panopto. “Searchability is the key to useful content, so we also offer an inexpensive transcription service to make the video easily searchable by someone who wants to find a particular segment.” Viewers of Panopto content also have the option of taking notes in a chat-like window, and those notes are also searchable. “Our vision for the product is focused on making sure that everything you record with Panopto is easy to find and easy to navigate,” Burns adds.
The lack of metadata associated with rich media, compared to that available in text documents, makes discovery difficult. It also poses problems for integrating video content information into knowledge management solutions. A software service from RAMP automatically generates text transcriptions and metadata from audio and video content so that it can be integrated into existing ECM systems and located using their search engines. RAMP can also host search that is able to integrate the processed rich media with all other content types into a single search experience.
“Video has become a critical communication tool in the enterprise,” says Nathan Treloar, VP of technology for strategic markets at RAMP, “but users need to be able to find the information they want using familiar tools. This is generally difficult to do with video and audio content.” RAMP’s solution addresses that by tagging keywords and phrases correlated with specific events in the video timeline. The tags are created by automated analysis of the transcriptions and can be edited using a Web-based console. In addition, they can be placed along the timeline as cue points. RAMP’s solution allows users to search for segments within the video, jump directly to the points where tags are found, and find video and other content related to specific segments.
E-discovery hot spots
E-discovery remains another pain point and one that will come as an unpleasant surprise to companies that are not prepared. Two major issues combine to form the nexus of this particular challenge. The first is the difficulty of knowing where all the relevant material is and what it covers. “Organizations put themselves at risk because they don’t know what’s out there or where it is,” says Colby Dyess, director of product management at Digital Reef. “You may lose content that is critical to the defense, or miss out on information that the opposing counsel becomes aware of before your company does.”
Of particular concern is the “unmanaged” content that is not under control of an ECM or records management system. Blogs, wikis and the sometimes thousands of SharePoint collaboration sites used in an organization are all fair game. The Digital Reef Virtual Governance Warehouse is a platform for e-discovery and information governance that indexes, organizes and manages unstructured data across SharePoint resources to provide access to otherwise unmanaged information assets. It also provides visibility into data in repositories from leading systems from EMC, IBM and Oracle.
The second major e-discovery challenge arises during the review process, which requires significant human intervention by attorneys and paralegals. Organizations are interested in strategies for reducing the time for that step because professional time is expensive. Content Analyst Analytical Technology (CAAT) from Content Analyst provides concept search, dynamic clustering and document categorization; it can be used in many situations, including e-discovery.
Altep, a litigation support company, integrated CAAT into its Inspicio litigation review product so that documents can be grouped into conceptual categories prior to review. “The review process is more efficient when attorneys don’t have to shift gears from one document to the next,” says Trevor Morgan, manager of product strategy at Altep. “This process of reviewing documents of similar conceptual content is called ‘focused review.’ Keyword searches, which we used previously, did not provide the same cost efficiencies and precision as a focused review strategy enabled by concept analytics.”
Enterprise content can also be analyzed ahead of time, which makes a company more prepared for e-discovery. “Each company should think about what it does and what the most likely topics of litigation might be,” says Susan Ethridge, manager for marketing at Altep. “A technology company, for example, might face litigation related to patent infringement, while a commercial builder might have to deal with workplace safety or real estate contracts.” Anticipating problem areas can help companies focus their information management efforts, a useful strategy when resources are limited. “Categories should be re-evaluated periodically,” Ethridge adds, “because areas of concern can change over time.”
At first glance, social networking analysis, video management and e-discovery seem to have little in common, but they all pose some challenges when it comes to knowledge management. At the same time, they offer opportunities for organizations (both vendors and users) that decide to tackle them.