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3/29/2011
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Consona Adds Social Media To Knowledge Management

KM v8.0 captures information from a variety of sources such as social media, blogs, office suites, and other repositories to empower customer service to support clients.

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In the 3.5 years Consona spent on a major upgrade to its knowledge management software, the developer teamed-up with some of the world's largest high-tech product support organizations to pinpoint areas it could enhance to improve the user and administrator experience, redesigned its architecture, and added more than 40 new features.

Other than several minor tweaks to the application, Consona Knowledge Management 8.0, or KM v8.0 marks the developer's first release since Consona acquired the knowledge-management program from Knova Software in 2007, according to Consona. Typically, knowledge management software -- a subsection of enterprise management software -- empowers users or groups to collect, share, search, and analyze data in multiple formats such as word processing documents, graphics, emails, and PDF files.

On Monday, Consona unveiled the results of these efforts, which features redesigned database tables for improved performance; a consolidated RDBMS access layer; Spring Containers for additional performance and stability, and a move to RMI -- or Remote Method Invocation -- for intra-process communication, which are a set of methods for exchanging data among multiple threads in one or more processes. RMI is designed to deliver straightforward support for distributed computing when clients and servers are written in Java, rather than XML (Extensible Markup Language), to improve simplicity, generality, and usability over the Internet.

"Consona started from the inside," Mitch Kramer, senior vice president and senior consultant for Patricia Seybold Group, who has written four in-depth evaluations of the product and its predecessors since 2003, said in a statement. "Version 8.0 has a new architecture. Recognizing fundamental design issues and understanding the requirements of Consona's high-tech customers for performance and scalability under complex workloads, the firm's engineers reorganized application components and redesigned and rebuilt the interfaces and mechanisms for process communication and data access. The results? The benefits? Version 8.0's new architecture demonstrates stunningly improved performance and scalability."

Enterprises recognize they must tap employees' wealth of knowledge, but may struggle with the many tools at their disposal. Harnessing some of these tools can help corporations reduce reliance on unnecessary and time-consuming duplication of efforts, wasted storage, and drain on productivity, while simultaneously enhancing the company's knowledge base and creating a searchable, real-time resource, according to a paper by Pricewaterhousecoopers.

Consona allows enterprise users to search knowledge from throughout various sources such as social media, blogs, office suites, and other repositories, Tim Hines, vice president of product management for Consona's CRM products, said in an interview.

"We have refined and expanded our ability to service content, meaning the different content sources we need to access has expanded. Our goal with knowledge management is a little different than say, a search appliance. Google wants to find every instance of a 'k' word that someone types into a search bar. We want to find the exact answer to the question that someone asks," he said. "What has evolved for us is not the goal: We're still trying to find the exact right answer for that question. What has changed is the types of sources that we tap into to get that answer."

Many Consona clients are high-tech companies' support groups, plus customer support organizations, that not only must capture user manuals, technical diagrams, and marketing materials, but also need to leverage the often-valuable data floating around the Internet, said Hines. One customer, for example, is a name-brand manufacturer of consumer electronics that has, over its lifetime, generated more than 30,000 products, he said.

"Now it's not just the manuals, but they've got years of fixing those products, people writing about those products on FaceBook, [and] they've got forums on the Web, so the amount of content is huge and it's growing because consumers continue to create more information," said Hines. "We're able to leverage that and bring it as a potential solution to a question someone is going to answer."

The vendor worked with 15 customers to test both the new architecture's performance and scalability, and created more than 40 new features based on clients' requests, Consona said. New features include support for additional client and server environments such as Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Oracle Database 11g; administration improvements designed to enhance efficiency; expanded content-viability tools to increase user feedback and improve the user experience; better logging and system-monitoring tools for enhanced operational manageability; content-authoring feature improvements to better-align with Knowledge Center Support best practices, and enhancements to the software's international capabilities, according to Consona. In addition, KM v8.0 includes CRM integration improvements such as a self-service user experience and extensive capabilities designed to improve both efficiencies and user adoption of the software, the developer said.

"We have a unique process around our customer-development process. Consona acquires companies -- we've acquired 11 or 12 -- which means we've probably evaluated a couple of hundred and we've never come across a company that has our development process," Hines said. "What that does is allow us to ensure the product that we release is really well-suited for our existing customers. If we serve our existing customers well, then new customers are served well, too."

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