A new generation of tools is linking collaboration with knowledge management

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

March 7, 2003

3 Min Read

Barclay's Global Investors is hoping a new financial-services suite from Intraspect Software Inc. will help the asset-management company create a stronger workflow for developing ideas and supporting business processes. The software, which includes templates for building collaborative workspaces focused on such processes as generating proposals, managing projects, and developing contracts, is among a series of tools Intraspect is unveiling this week. The contracting template will let Barclays' legal staff more effectively manage the contract-development process, says Tim Swan, global IT product manager for the 2,000-person subsidiary of Barclays plc.

Currently, contract versions move between the legal departments of Barclays and its customers as attachments, and E-mail exchanges related to contract development get lost in people's in-boxes. If Barclays decides to use the Intraspect suite, its legal staff will be able to create an internal Web site specifically for contract flow. Anyone working on the contract can route all related discussions directly to the site, creating a searchable history of the contract's creation. "To us, it's about velocity," Swan says. "When people have to search for who's got the latest copy, it slows things down."

A new generation of software tools is establishing tighter links between collaboration and knowledge management. ERoom Technology, acquired late last year by Documentum Inc., is also offering new software designed to make better use of knowledge created in collaborative workspaces. Meanwhile, Tacit Knowledge Systems Inc., best known for its E-mail-mining software, is jumping into the fray with software to help companies make better use of collaboration apps by automatically determining which employees should be working together based on current projects, then connecting them. And expertise-management vendor Kamoon Inc. last week acquired ActionBase, a maker of project-management collaboration software; the result will be a product called Connect Actions, which will let teams of experts track the actions that result from knowledge-sharing processes.

Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc., a drug maker with $22.6 billion in annual revenue, says the integration of eRoom's online workspace application with Documentum's document-repository technology has solved all kinds of problems, most notably what to do with the content created in the company's huge stable of eRooms. The company has used eRooms primarily for informal research in the early stages of drug development. But because it wasn't sure what to do with the information, it was preserving hundreds of eRooms that were no longer in use.

Documentum's release late last month of eRoom Enterprise has made it possible for Aventis to save eRoom content directly to a Documentum repository, creating a searchable archive of the knowledge created in early-stage research discussions. "It's really the best of both worlds," says Peg Mitchell, senior director of information solutions for Aventis' drug innovation and approval unit. "We have the capability to keep that content and let the eRoom go away."

Delphi Group analyst Hadley Reynolds says it's time online-collaboration capabilities and knowledge management were brought together in a more meaningful way. "The collaboration tools have been threatening to become completely ad hoc," Reynolds says. "A longer-run view says you need to capture the knowledge you're creating."

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