Creating, editing, reviewing, approving and reading documents takes up a large part of most peoples workdays. 

Documents come in many shapes and sizes, and, despite Microsoft marketing, a world of documents exists beyond Word, Excel and OneNote: be that other types of MS Office formats such as Visio or Project, PDFs or less frequently used specialist formats such as SGML and XML.

Knowledge management (KM) puts a lot of effort into categorizing, tagging and indexing such documents using document management systems and other forms of content management systems. 

Almost two years ago I looked at how knowledge managers could use a new tool — Documize — to take an easy “structured authoring” approach towards achieving their goals.

An Updated Architecture

Documize has come a long way since then, so it's worth revisiting, again from the KM angle — which is not necessarily the focus of the team that created the product. Documize comes from a software development background — conceived as an easy way to create and add documentation to software development projects.

The product is open source and runs on premises or in the cloud. From its release it could ingest Word docs and convert them to a very high fidelity HTML version for online editing. 

Now the Documize team have taken that vision a step further, with a revised architecture that lets you embed not just new “text” sections into a document, but to include new sections that can pull live data from other apps:

Adding a new section to a document including integrations with applications

Fig 1. Adding a new section to a document including integrations with applications

The website offers this example from the software development world:

“Compose a Change Request with everything in one place — code from GitHub, tasks from Trello, tickets from Zendesk.”

While the use case in development and documentation of software solutions is clear, how can this help with knowledge management?

Creating Structure and Oversight 

Aside from the long-term digital preservation benefits of having HTML documents rather than Microsoft “open standards,” there are many good reasons to create “documents” that are: template based, easily tagged with metadata, split into sections that can be edited and version controlled separately, and with the new functionality and its open API, can have live data embedded directly into them.

Example of adding an integration to pull in live data

Fig 2. Example of adding an integration to pull in live data

Learning Opportunities

One of the key features in the software is the ability to easily create and use templates for document creation, which brings us the benefits of a simplified form of structured authoring. Structured authoring removes the frustration of knowing where information should go and what the final document should look like. 

I could imagine using this feature in my organization's legal group to build out a set of templates, including section templates that realize clause and schedule language, allowing lawyers to quickly pull together a draft contract from these sections. All it would take is sending the URL over to lawyers with the appropriate permissions to edit or approve sections as required. 

Businesses can use Documize’s built-in functionality for sharing and document management to see monitor activity on the document — who has done what, who has viewed the document, manage permissions and sharing, and more.

Documize functionality showing the activity that has taken place on this document

Fig 3. Documize functionality showing the activity that has taken place on this document

The Benefits of a Web-Based Sharing Platform

The new API and integration capabilities can also aid in meeting KM goals. 

Continuing with my legal group example, imagine pulling in data from the procurement groups contract management system into your contract. Integrating e-signature software such as DocuSign simplifies the process as well — just send the document as a link, have them sign it and you're done. 

If you have developers who can code to a simple API, there is plenty of potential to explore here that might just move closer to the nirvana of fully digital, paperless end to end processes. 

Another potential scenario is for reporting. Think of how often you need knowledgeable experts to provide context and comments on the data that your big data, business intelligence and other analytics tools provide. By pulling data or visualizations of the data into easy to understand formats directly into the report you have all the benefits of embedding Excel graphs into Word or PowerPoint docs, but with the advantages of using a web-based platform built for sharing information.

The KM-related use cases, beyond the original software documentation, depend on the imagination of you, the readers. Go play with the open source community version of the tool and see what you can do with it. 

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