The Landscape of Knowledge and Collaboration

There are actually numerous landscapes within which knowledge and collaboration appears.  We can talk about them in several ways, starting with historical “problems” and their “solutions”:


¨        Too much information.

¨        People can’t get the information they need.

¨        People can’t find an “expert”

¨        Explosion of new media.  Tools for creating, organizing and publishing content most constantly adapt to these new media types.


Solutions have appeared for numerous of the knowledge “problems” workers have encountered.  Please realize that neither the “problems” nor the solutions always fall into precise categories.  These categories have emerged out of dialog between vendors, customers and industry analysts.  They are useful for discussing similarities and differences among these various solutions and for determining the suitability of a product in a specific setting.

We’re focusing more on “knowledge collaboration”, which we’ll define for the purposes of this paper.






























Document management














Project management and life-cycle tools



















Collaboration tools





















Workflow management























Content management














































Knowledge Mgmt













Solutions – Examined more Closely:

Document Management

Founding Idea

Large organizations needed to keep track of large numbers of documents.  Where the revisions and versions of documents have high-stake consequences, organizations needed to be able to distinguish between revisions and to manage updates.  Access should be controlled by user permissions, yet be facilitated via directories, keywords, and perhaps summary abstracts.



Does a very good job within its defined scope (see above).



It becomes more of a library or archival function and is thus removed from the key location of knowledge creation and sharing.



Project Management and Life-Cycle Tools

Founding Idea

Large organizations needed to keep track of complex interdependencies among a large number of tasks, their staff resources and resulting deadlines.  Project management tools could also identify “critical path” tasks and could present charts showing the project plan.  These tools also identified deviations from plan.  With the advent of powerful desktop systems, these tools became affordable and prevalent.  Life-cycle management tools acknowledge the adherence of many organizations to procedures for managing a project through different life-cycle phases. 



These are methods that derive their value by guiding workers through a highly defined sequence and procedure to produce predictable and reliable results.



These tools offer little support for the flow of knowledge in and around the project.





Collaboration Tools

Founding Idea

Organizations wanted to improve the productivity where multiple contributors are creating, organizing, and publishing content in an individual or group of documents or other information objects.  The toolset may include the capability for online discussion with “threads” or response “trees”.




These tools do a great job of managing the contributions of multiple authors, editors, etc.  They can support complex collaboration projects and protect against one author “stepping” on the work of another – at a cost.



Because the focus is primarily on the documents or objects, there is often a weak organization of the knowledge flow.  The more ambitious these tools are, the more challenging they are to learn and manage.



Workflow Management

Founding Idea

In many industries such as insurance and health care administration, work proceeds via a sequence of highly defined steps requiring review and approval from many different “agents”.  Thus, productivity is either enhanced or retarded in the timeliness of the pass-off from one worker to another.  Work flow systems allow organizations to define the “rules” of the flow of work via the various “steps”.  Managers can monitor the flow, identifying bottlenecks and then resolving them.



Invaluable in industries where a large number of small delays or misunderstandings between work stages can produce a serious degradation of customer service.




These systems are focused on work progress and organizational productivity, evaluated via established metrics.  Hence, they are rather unconcerned with the contents of work products, let alone the quality of the knowledge.







Content Management

Founding Idea

The key idea is to separate content from the delivery structure and delivery media.  This can support tool functions for more convenient update by non-expert users, and better control of access permissions, and more ambitious scaling of content size.  Content management includes numerous sub-categories.  Some content management is focused exclusively on Web content.  Other products are “enterprise” in scope.  Some help customers distribute content to a number of multiple subscribers (syndication).  Others help customers consolidate content coming from multiple sources (aggregation). 



Content management systems are crucial for large organizations to keep large Web sites “fresh”, while using staff with only modest technical skills.  These systems can scale up to support huge structures, with commensurate costs.  They provide great value by managing publishing in large, complex Web sites and other publishing structures.



The very strength of making it convenient to manage the publication of “perishable” content is their weakness.  These packages are not charged with managing knowledge.



Founding Idea

The founding theory has been that workers will respond well to and become more productive with a single point of entry into an organization’s business functions.  Prior to the ubiquitous presence of the Web, this idea was expressed as the menu trees within huge ERP systems, using client-server technology.  With the Web, however, the idea is to present a Web page and its many “children” as an entry into all or most business functions of the organization.



It’s all there, accessible via a single starting point.  Users should be able to navigate their way to important resources and functional pathways.



The industry reports that organizations are discovering that most workers do not need to be presented with the entire breadth of the organization as an access point to their day-to-day work.  In fact, this monolithic presentation becomes intimidating and counter-productive.

Knowledge Management

Founding Idea

The availability of inexpensive desktop tools opened up the way for ordinary workers to create and publish vast amounts of information.  As consumers of information, we were already aware of “information overload”.  Management appropriately found cause for alarm that corporate information assets were no longer under clear-cut central control.  The emergence of the Internet as a forum for inexpensive and blindingly fast information exchange has tended to “democratize” the publishing of information.  With so much information available, it is not always clear how authoritative or legitimate the information is.  Due to the availability of inexpensive and powerful tools, information and knowledge have expanded in quantity, and also in diversity and specialization. 

In response to these challenges, industry leaders reasoned that a productive solution would be to “manage” the great amount of knowledge created within the boundaries of their organization, or to be able to access knowledge in affiliated domains, such as in the Internet.

Because this initiative has been broad and, perhaps, poorly defined, the “solution” offerings are diverse and attack problems that are sometimes divergent and sometimes highly related. 



It is impossible to characterize strengths within the entire spectrum of products because they cover so much breadth.  Some vendors are advancing research and development into discovering the meaning within existing loosely structured data sources.  Others are attempting to locate “knowledge” or expertise by linking humans via profiles.



Surprisingly, some respected analysts and commentators have concluded that “knowledge management” is a failed concept.  While they do not dismiss the accomplishments of vendors in some specific feature areas, they suggest that “knowledge sharing” is a better way of thinking about the problem and hence will better influence resulting solutions.

Further, there is emerging opinion that the key location for knowledge creation and sharing is in the small group.


infoSavant is not intended to compete with any “knowledge management” products currently in existence.  It is focused on small groups and has a mission of helping these groups create, acquire, organize, and disseminate knowledge.  It fosters the natural organizational structures that emerge as the group performs its essential knowledge functions.


What is infoSavant?

Knowledge and collaboration exists in a vast sea of human concerns, served by a very large universe of products and services, in turn organized into a seemingly confusing set of product categories.  At infoSavant, we like to make it simple – but not simpler than reflects your actual needs.

A framework for knowledge creation

We realize that the small group is the engine of knowledge creation.  infoSavant provides the framework for the small group to:

Create knowledge

Capture it and organize it in simple, intuitive ways

A convenient tool for knowledge collaboration

Update stored knowledge

Participate in discussion threads, using them in creative and flexible ways

Organize information intuitively, for others to access conveniently

No rigid data structures, the organization flows from the group

Monitor and manage phased activities

Assign objects to project phases

Generate delivery reports for other team members, management and marketing

Quickly adjust phasing contents with no “dropped balls”

A toolkit for knowledge publishing

Project knowledge is conveniently available

Assemble project knowledge “chunks” into publishable documents

A repository for knowledge archive and retrieval

Research the earliest discussions on an important topic

Trace knowledge evolution in time via discussions and documents

Build and use Subject Matter Guides

infoSavant repositories, views, discussion groups, and templates are pre-configured for a specific Subject Matter domain – such as ISO compliance or software development

Integrate documents and procedures for key process in infoSavant

Improve compliance with team process using built-in forms and tool settings

Empower the wisdom and effectiveness in the group

infoSavant operates well under any group leadership model

Permissions and data access are all determined by the group


infoSavant aims to stay grounded, highly practical, and close to the needs of ordinary workers of all kinds.




The infoSavant founding principles:

Shared knowledge is valuable knowledge. 

Knowledge is most useful and hence attains value, when it is shared.

Make it convenient for sharing.  

Knowledge can be best shared when it can be stored, accessed, and transmitted conveniently and in patterns accessible to workers with ordinary skills and training.

Harmonize content and context. 

Knowledge quality is related to a wise harmony between the content and context of the knowledge subject, its producer(s) and consumer(s).

The small group is the engine of knowledge.

The small group, in many configurations, is the most productive functional organization for effective knowledge generation, organization and dissemination.

A useful taxonomy is not a universal taxonomy. 

There is no universal organizing principle for knowledge, other than that it emerges dynamically in the framework of the group mission.  Thus, a useful knowledge collaboration tool permits small groups to establish the structure that suits their goals and efforts. 

Agnostic towards leadership style. 

A useful knowledge and collaboration tool should function equally well in a variety of leadership settings.  Its design and feature set should not restrict an organization’s leadership style, nor should it overly influence a group’s approach.  Thus, it should support a functional team, whose leadership is highly defined.  Team members report to the “owner” of the collaboration world.  It should excel in the hands of a cross-functional group led by a facilitator.  It should be equally effective in the hands of an interest group whose members are in different organizations, and are separated by geography and time zones.

“Tight” or “loose” information model. 

Many tools require that every aspect of the captured knowledge be stored in a native format imposed by the tool.  Others loosely “collect” a series of documents or other objects and loosely associate them via path-name links or other methods of access.  infoSavant takes a middle path.  There are core elements in infoSavant with a native storage method to produce highly efficient collaboration.  infoSavant also permits group members to conveniently link external documents and objects.  Further, a group can use infoSavant in either a very “tight” mode, a very “loose” mode.  They can shoot right down the middle.  Or, they can implement aspects of their endeavor using “tight” approaches and other aspects using “loose” methods.

Neutral towards knowledge ownership, accessibility. 

There is no “correct” (politically or otherwise) philosophy of the ownership and accessibility of knowledge.  infoSavant does not impose an agenda on your group.  You implement the permissions, access views and procedures that are compatible with your mission.  infoSavant does not add unnecessary complexity to your access strategies.

Knowledge endeavors are alive. 

They are not static.  They are not one-dimensional.  They change form and shape.



How infoSavant Works

The following information is a high-level overview of how infoSavant works.  For more details about its features and operation, see infoSavant Product Description.  For a comparison of features with other “knowledge products”, infoSavant Feature Comparison.  Detailed instructions about how to use the product are found in infoSavant User Guide.  You can learn about system requirements in infoSavant Technical Overview.


capture knowledge while project is in progress


Workers create knowledge while they work on the project.  Neither the creation, discovery, organization, nor publishing of knowledge is separate from project work.  Certainly, like in most information products, there are options for more sophisticated organization and presentation.  These may require a modest amount of extra formatting.

store knowledge in workable chunks: knowledge units


Workers enter information in “knowledge units”.  These are discrete, usually small, units of information that infoSavant stores in its repository.  This ensures that the knowledge remains available to the team, and to anyone else to whom the team wants to make it accessible.

but, organize units naturally, according to group needs and preferences


Rather than imposing an organization on your group, infoSavant presents you with knowledge tools.  Your group establishes the organization of the project knowledge based on group preferences.  In keeping with the highly flexible approach mentioned in the previous section, infoSavant allows you to empower your group “administrator” to establish the project organization.  Or, you can let the group discover the optimal organization while it is generating knowledge.  Or, you can experiment with the organization and then later improve it.

allow the group to define its access views

Similarly, you can let the group define its optimal access views while the project is under way.

permit flexible attachment of affiliated documents

Because of infoSavant’s flexible approach to information models, you are free to use document and object attachments in a variety of useful ways.

threaded discussions appear where needed


The people have voted and they find discussion groups to be highly useful and productive.  infoSavant makes discussion groups interoperate with other knowledge handling features.

format key infoSavant objects into specialized forms

Does the success of your project depend on documents with special formatting?  Invoices, requisitions, claim checks or others?  infoSavant allows you to define special documents with your custom formatting.

trace the history of an idea

Find out how an idea developed into a working project feature or how it was debated, improved and finally adopted by the group.  infoSavant can quickly and conveniently lead you through this knowledge archeology.

flexibly create cross-references for convenient review

Need to keep track of which features will be implemented in which product release?  Need to record and manage which special procedures go with which customer?  infoSavant makes it easy to set up these kinds of cross-references.  Reduces confusion, eliminates costly project errors.  Improves inter-worker communication.

integrate contents with discussions

infoSavant makes it easy to integrate content items with ongoing discussions.  The “see also” feature works much the same as the “attach document”.  The smooth integration of knowledge contents with rich discussion scales up easily, both in technical and in human terms.

assemble publishable documents out of knowledge units

Most of us develop published documents from other in-house sources.  Marketing materials may be derived from design notes.  A letter to shareholders may consolidate the ideas in numerous memos, EMAILs, financial reports and other documents.  infoSavant makes this process so much easier and gives you the confidence that you are using valid, approved information.

“fence off” important group knowledge, provide a simple gate

Ownership and accessibility are important issues to most organizations.  Who shall be given authority to create information and who shall be given access?  Often these issues are intertwined with the storage methods and structures. 

We believe that the small group domain, the “project” defined within infoSavant is a healthy “fence”.  It is a useful boundary for knowledge.  infoSavant provides numerous other organizing principles for you to implement additional “fences” and “gates”  infoSavant provides the tools you need to configure ownership and accessibility. 

reduce information overload

Instead of merely hiding data behind “folders”, or making it searchable, infoSavant “tames” your project data by making it accessible via  convenient views .

reduce information “overlook”

This is a new “symptom” of the explosion of data.  Because we are overloaded, we “overlook” key information which may be “right under our nose.”  infoSavant helps reduce this effect through a combination of:  natural organization, conventional search capabilities and the ability to organize data the way your group thinks (not the way the product vendor wants you to think.)

use infoSavant to improve compliance performance

Perhaps your industry has rigorous requirements for compliance with standards, legally mandated procedures, etc.  Use infoSavant to set up tools to support the compliance needs within your subject matter domain.

managed archival via knowledge aging

It isn’t a good idea to throw away knowledge, but sometimes you want to filter it out.  infoSavant provides two convenient methods for this.  You can literally filter it out of views provided to the group members.  Or you can establish intelligent archive parameters to archive knowledge units that have not been accessed within a certain period of time.

helps manage projects w/ “life-cycles” – use existing guide or build your own

Project management is more than popular task management tools.  They are essential, even indispensable, but they don’t provide enough.  They don’t help you keep track of product features assigned to different releases.  They don’t help you assemble the information about features to edit and publish release documents.  They don’t help you keep track of quality documents.

infoSavant is well suited to help you manage your project which has phases in a “life-cycle”.  infoSavant has a life-cycle subject matter guide which applies defaults and structures to make it convenient for you to manage a life-cycle project.  Or, follow the suggestions in the User Guide to build your own highly flexible and capable tool to manage your projects. 

Of course you can acquire a full-blown life-cycle management package, but you will find that it exists outside of the environment in which you actually do your work.  infoSavant gives you the tools to capture and build knowledge while you build your product . . . . and to manage its deployment within phases . . . all at the same time.

How to Use infoSavant in Your Specific Knowledge Domain

Because infoSavant presents such an open and flexible toolset, small groups want to know how to become immediately productive in ways that address their specific subject matter domain. 

¨        Just start using infoSavant and let the best structure suggest itself to your group, naturally, which you are working on your project.

¨        Consult one or more of the published infoSavant Subject Matter Guides: 

·          ISO 9000 compliance

·          Software development projects

·          Project life-cycle management

¨        Read the material in the  infoSavant User Guide, which describes how to establish the knowledge organization most compatible with your subject matter

How the Landscape of Knowledge Collaboration May Change

What will certainly change

We can be sure that the landscape of knowledge collaboration will change.  We can predict that workers will want to be able to work with new and exciting media for the expression of knowledge.  Large vendors will compete and will attempt to influence corporations in directions supporting their commercial interests.  We should expect that information will be generated in an exponentially accelerated pace.  But, does this foster the creation of knowledge or present forces of confusion and dissolution?  Trends suggest that both effects will be in play.

How will your organization be able to take advantage of the emerging knowledge creation, yet be shielded from the onslaught of information?

What will probably not change

¨        Knowledge derives its value when it is shared.

¨        Hence, workers need convenient tools for creating and sharing knowledge.

¨        The “sweet spot” of knowledge will be found in a harmony of content and context.

¨        The most productive engine of knowledge is the small group, regardless of its organizational purity or affiliation.

¨        There is no one-size-fits-all principle for structuring knowledge data.

¨        Groups have differing leadership styles and needs and these can change over the life of the endeavor.

¨        Productive groups need a balance between “tight” controls as found in high-efficiency, native storage schemes and open or “loose” arrangements where external documents and objects can be linked to the project.

¨        There is no single answer for rules regarding knowledge ownership and accessibility.  Let the group decide.

¨        Knowledge endeavors are living things.  Give them the proper environment to breathe and grow.