Knowledge Management on the GrapeVINE

BY JIM ARTHURS, Vice president of operations for grapeVINE Technologies, a knowledge management software and services company in Troy, Mich.

If you've ever pondered any of the following questions, you'll be intrigued by knowledge management and what it can do for you:

The Knowledge Chart

At the core of grapeVINE is a knowledge chart, an outlinelike list of items about which a company wants to accumulate knowledge. One person administers or maintains the chart, but any number of people can help compile it.

Most companies' knowledge charts consist of several major headings, such as customers, competitors, products, sales and marketing, industry news, and technology. Major headings are usually divided into smaller ones, as suits a company's needs. For example, the technology section of my company's knowledge chart consists of 93 subheadings, including competitive technology, database products, development tools, and operating systems. You can define headings even more precisely by adding keywords and Boolean matching rules to them.

After a company has set up its knowledge chart, grapeVINE goes to work, comparing the content of documents on your company's intranet, Notes databases, and other data sources with the chart's keywords and matching rules. When grapeVINE finds a keyword match, it creates an extract of the document which it places in a central database whose format mirrors that of the knowledge chart. Each extract is placed in the proper category and linked back to its source.

Finding Information

Using grapeVINE, you can access documents in two ways. In one way, you can browse the entire central database of the documents grapeVINE found and categorized. You'll get a single view of everything your company considers to be important, but you'll have to access and read each document to see if it's what you're looking for.

In another way, you can set up a personal interest profile, instructing grapeVINE to alert you to relevant documents. You set up such a profile by selecting headings from the knowledge chart and specifying their significance. By allowing you to assign significance to entries in the knowledge chart, grapeVINE enables you to easily monitor activities that are of varying interest to you. For example, my own personal interest profile tells grapeVINE to alert me to anything having to do with my company's products, prices, and technical support efforts. But I don't need to know about sales prospects unless there's a serious problem with a prospect, so I've set my interest profile accordingly. grapeVINE alerts me to such problems automatically.

By changing the importance level of a document, you can alert your colleagues to crucial issues automatically. For example, grapeVINE considers a document to be routine unless an individual changes that rating, which means that I will not see any alerts on prospects unless someone in the sales department escalates the importance of a document dealing with a prospect. Since I've already informed grapeVINE that I want to be alerted to problems with prospects, I can count on such problems being brought to my attention.

You can also add comments to the documents. These comments not only circulate with the documents but also trigger grapeVINE to distribute the documents to other people, as the comments may contain keywords that weren't in the original documents.

The Advantages

I no longer need to know where a particular piece of information resides in order to find that information, because grapeVINE tracks it down for me. I also no longer need to know who needs to know what I know, because grapeVINE automatically routes information to the right people according to the content and importance level of that information. When I escalate the importance level of a document about a technical problem, for example, I don't have to worry about the accuracy of my e-mail distribution list to make sure that all of the right people are informed. I simply set the appropriate importance level, add my comments, send the document to grapeVINE, and grapeVINE alerts everyone who needs to know.

According to the company, grapeVINE remains the most full-functioned knowledge management and collaborative communication tool available. grapeVINE's innovative design is based on original research work, carried out at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, by Dr. Cyril Brookes. His research studied how ideas, rumors, and forecasts are critical to making sound business decisions. The results showed that knowledge:

These findings were the basis for developing grapeVINE. This unique approach has been awarded a US Patent.

Go to GrapeVine's Website.