Groupware is dead, long live knowledge management, was the cry at Lotus Development's recent US user conference.
Like all software companies, Lotus is trying to expand its core competencies and move into different areas. Most companies now use email, and with Lotus itself claiming an installed Notes/Domino base of some 56 million, the company is aware that it must move away from its core messaging product in order to guarantee its future.
Unfortunately for the technical people who have to implement the grandiose schemes of management, Lotus sees its future in knowledge management (KM).
However, for networking staff this means implementing a more complex architecture to control and mine information within a company.
The vendors, and Lotus in particular, have been enthusiastic about KM, but so far they have produced very little in actual product. They have come up with a theory with which to woo management and the HR department, but until now there has been nothing for the IT department to assess or trial.
Raven gets ready to fly
But last week Lotus announced that it will be shipping its product, codenamed Raven, by the middle of this year, with a beta version available in the spring. According to Scott Cooper, VP of knowledge management at Lotus, Raven will consist of existing Lotus technologies and products that already exist in IBM, such as Websphere.
Cooper said that if companies already use Domino and Notes, they have the foundations of Raven. However, he said that Raven will be a separate standalone product and not just a series of add-ons: "It will be an independent product. It will take advantage of Notes and Domino, but is not dependant on them."
Features of Raven will include improved intelligent searching, greater use of specialised information portals, and enhanced calendering and scheduling.
Lotus is also promoting the importance of its real-time email software, Sametime, as being another key component.
A call for consultants
Lotus has admitted that the complexity of knowledge management will mean that IT and networking staff will have to call in consultants to help them implement and manage the new architectures.
But Ashim Pal, analyst with the Meta Group, claimed that a greater involvement of consultants on the back of Raven wouldn't be a bad thing as most companies don't use existing groupware to its full potential. "Most companies haven't undergone any cultural changes from the use of groupware because they don't really understand how to use it."
However Pal warned that Lotus could be taking a gamble by tying itself so closely to KM if the user community doesn't greet Raven's release with the same enthusiasm as Lotus. "Positioning itself as the KM provider could prove risky."
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