It's a good time to be in knowledge management. With the push to consumerization, new tools are released on a regular basis which simplify and help solve business problems, without negating the value of previous technological investments. Let's take a look at a couple newer releases that might fit nicely into your KM tool box.
Law firms and internal law departments have a well understood definition of the term "Knowledge Management." ThreadKM is a new legal focused KM tool that was launched earlier this month.
We've previously discussed the many intranet use cases that remain for simple web publishing of text based information. Good information sharing is the basis of a knowledge management strategy. Documize is a very different tool from ThreadKM, blending lightweight, templates-based structured authoring with a wiki based approach. Documize is in late beta and will be released soon.
ThreadKM: Knowledge Management for the Legal World
I spoke with Dan Hauck, CEO and one of the founders of ThreadKM a couple of months ago, and then met up with him and Dedrick Duckett, CTO and the other founding partner, at the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) show in August for a demo. Hauck is a lawyer by trade, and his aim was to produce a tool that gave lawyers a holistic view of all of their work activities, pulling together all the threads (hence the name).
KM has a real, tangible and specific meaning in the legal world, much of which revolves around document management. There are many forms of legal documents, and correspondence in the form of email is a major element of any legal file.
ThreadKM is a knowledge management and collaboration platform designed for advanced knowledge workers. Using a matter-centric approach, users can communicate with colleagues, receive activity notifications, review and discuss documents, and organize projects in real time.
Figure 1: A view of a thread of information in ThreadKM
There's a concept in the legal KM world called matter centricity. A "matter" in this case equates a case where the industry generally talks about case management. ThreadKM takes a fully matter centric view to KM and provides a layer over the top of existing document management systems and other tools. A quote on the ThreadKM website dives deeper into the idea of threads:
Threads are what drive ThreadKM. You can create threads in any matter and use them to track information, discuss ideas with other participants in the thread, or get automated updates about calendar events, task completion, etc. For example, create a "Deposition" thread and post excerpts from documents you intend to use."
ThreadKM provides an open API, which allows you to push data from any system to a thread. And because document management is such a key element of legal KM, ThreadKM integrates with an existing DMS providing access to documents from mobile devices, and adding features such as annotations -- with said annotations appearing in the appropriate thread for your colleagues to read.
Figure 2: Highlighting and commenting on a document
In a forthcoming release, ThreadKM will be adding simple project management in the form of Kanban boards for to-do lists, etc., providing another intuitive and easy to use KM function.
Figure 3: simple project management via Kanban boards
I look forward to keeping a close eye on ThreadKM as more and more integrations are developed for the open API and third party applications are integrated.
Documize: Structured Authoring Tool
An interesting potential application of ThreadKM's open API might be in integrating Documize. Still in beta and not yet released, its website includes a video introducing the concepts (with a frankly atrocious, if witty, attempt at a rap for the voiceover!). Harvey Kandola, co-founder (and company rapper?), recently stated on Hacker News that Documize is not really a wiki, but it's a word they keep running into -- it was the first word that came to mind for me, too. However, Kandola pointed out that Documize is a fully WYSIWYG online document editing platform with document management features such as version control, diffs, etc.
Figure 4: Tags and existing documents view in Documize
Documize's targeted audience according to Kandola are enterprises with mountains of Word documents full of know-how and knowledge that people struggle to find and maintain. I am sure we all can think of many potential use cases for a robust and simple online document creation and management tool!
Documize intends to offer a broad set of implementation options and is taking a dual license approach -- both open source and commercial licenses -- with SaaS and on premises offerings.
A freemium model will offer free single user SaaS accounts, with paid options for multiple users. The core of the software will be offered in an open source mode for on premises installation with charges for extra modules such as AD integration, redaction and workflow, and of course, support.
Uploading documents and converting to HMTL
My testing of the Documize beta has resulted in a high fidelity conversion to HTML for every MS Word document I have uploaded. I have then edited existing sections, added new sections and exported back to MS Word, again with no problems whatsoever.
Figure 5: The document upload dialogue
Editing document sections is where -- despite Kandola's dislike of the comparison -- things get a bit Wiki-like. The simple on page WYSIWYG editing works really well, and with security permissions set accordingly, would allow multiple authors / editors to work on different sections of a document. This reminded me of some of the heavyweight XML Structured Authoring environments I've worked with.
Figure 6: Using the built-in editing functions to edit a section within a document
Documents don't have to be uploaded to get started. You can setup up as many templates as you like in the system and start a new document from scratch from one of these existing templates. This is a good idea and could offer potential solutions for standardized contract documents, Non-disclosure Agreements, etc.
Figure 7: The Documize document templates selection screen
Again, I'm looking forward to getting a personal account on the Documize freemium cloud system, so I can have a good play.
A Good Time to be in KM
The push to the consumerization of IT eventually leads to simple and effective tools that can be deployed within even the most conservative of organizations -- even highly regulated industries that aren't running full tilt towards the cloud. Neither of these softwares would invalidate an investment made in other tools such as SharePoint 2013, your favorite legal DMS or other web publishing tools.
It’s difficult to keep up with the innovation across a broad set of industry sectors. As noted, in the Legal world “KM” means something very specific -- it tends to focus on document management, contract management, email management and specialist tools for building clause libraries and precedent libraries. In other industries, KM tends to mean whatever you want or need it to mean, and both approaches are just fine. To deliver a knowledge enabled organizational strategy requires good information sharing tools, and Documize and ThreadKM are two very interesting new tools for you to add to your tool box, to help your colleagues solve business problems and generate value.