KM Integration: Part 3; Software Integration

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

May 07, 2020

Effective process, platform and software integration can help achieve a productive knowledge management ecosystem. Smoothly integrating processes, workflows, platforms, applications, systems, and software makes life easier for users and delivers improved business results.

In this final part of a three-part series, I’ll suggest ways to integrate software tools using a variety of methods in support of a knowledge management program. There will be a companion free webinar on May 20, 2020 (subscription link at the foot of this post).

Software integration enables a variety of independently developed tools to be interconnected in useful ways. This avoids the need to require a single platform and allows independent software to be developed, best-in-class products to be selected for each business need, and innovation to be encouraged and embraced.

Mix and Match

It’s tempting to use a single system for all office, collaboration, and knowledge management applications. A common example is “we’re a Microsoft shop,” meaning that non-Microsoft applications are not considered, acquired, or installed. Microsoft Office 365 is good at a lot of office, collaboration, and KM tasks, so it’s a logical choice for a single platform.

Other enterprises have standardized on Google, IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, and other vendors, each of which is better at some tasks than others. Instead of rigidly locking into one vendor while locking out others, it’s a good idea to standardize on open interfaces that allow diverse tools to be readily integrated. This allows mixing and matching software components that are ideally suited for each key task.

The intent of using open interfaces and a variety of components is to encourage new and better ways of accomplishing key tasks. Watch out for an unintended consequence: different groups creating their own versions of software for the same purpose. It’s better to choose one application for each task and avoid redundant versions. This avoids user confusion, focuses effort on extending functionality instead of replicating it, and results in a more comprehensive portfolio of integrated technology. APIs, hashtags, LDAP, RSS, search, and web parts can be used to integrate tools that are both homegrown and purchased.

Integration Methods

APIs (Application Programming Interface) are subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software. They are a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. For example, the Google Maps API lets developers embed Google Maps on websites using a JavaScript or Flash interface. The Google Maps API is designed to work on mobile devices and desktop browsers.

Hashtags are a type of metadata tag used in social software. They let users apply dynamic, user-generated tagging that helps other users easily find content in a specific category or with a particular theme. Users create and use hashtags by placing a hash symbol (#) in front of a word or unspaced phrase in a message or applying it to an existing post. For example, if you encourage users to add the #reused hashtag to all content that they were able to successfully reuse, you can program enterprise search to elevate such content to the top of the search results. Or you can tag discussion threads that include examples of successful KM in action with the #wins hashtag and automatically display them on a success stories page.

LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) is a mature, flexible, and well supported standards-based mechanism for interacting with directory servers. It’s often used for authentication and storing information about users, groups, and applications, but an LDAP directory server is a general-purpose data store and can be used in a wide variety of applications. For example, LDAP integration allows a knowledge base to use an existing LDAP server as the master source of user data for authentication.

RSS (Really Simply Syndication or Rich Site Summary) enables syndication (a way of providing content such that it can be subscribed to using a feed reader, integrated into a website as a subset of that site, or aggregated with similar content) and aggregation (a way of collecting multiple syndicated feeds into a single feed or as part of a unified website). For example, RSS feeds can be used to aggregate all content produced by a single user into a single view on that person’s profile page. This could include blog posts, wiki page edits, and threaded discussions. Another example is pulling in a variety of subscription feeds and displaying them in a single stream.

Search can be used to find content in different sites and repositories and return it to a single user screen or application. For example, a saved search using a specific set of search terms can be regularly performed and the results fed to predefined pages and users.

Web parts are server-side controls that run inside a web part page. They are the building blocks of pages that appear on a website. They can be used to integrate one application into another. For example, a Yammer group can be embedded into a SharePoint site.

Integrate Emerging Technologies

Knowledge management programs should take advantage of new and emerging technologies through software integration. Here are a few suggested ways of doing so.

Mobile devices: Create specialized KM apps and allow other apps to access data from and provide data to these KM apps.

Texting: Allow users to text queries and receive replies, receive alerts from KM apps, and subscribe to get notifications from saved searches.

Chat: connect tools such as Slack to other collaboration tools and community software.

Enterprise Social Networks: Embed ESN threads into all important application software.

Cognitive computing and artificial intelligence: Use autoclassification to assign metadata to documents contributed to repositories. Automatically review uploaded videos to annotate them with the times that specific topics are covered and allow viewers to go there directly.

Analytics and business intelligence: Distribute automated email messages with recommendations for decisions and actions by extracting insights from collected data.

Gamification and digital badging: Feed all qualifying KM and L&D activities into gamification systems and automatically display all earned digital badges on personal profiles.

Without being integrated into an organization’s infrastructure and workflows, a KM system will never reach its full potential, no matter what features and functions it offers. Knowledge management tools should integrate with existing systems and applications, leverage existing assets (including people and repositories), and work seamlessly with the current IT infrastructure. With good integration, you don’t need to overhaul your entire information architecture. Instead, you can connect existing resources so that users get exactly the information they need when they need it. Develop a holistic integration strategy, and your KM platform will be your organization’s knowledge engine.

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

KM expert, consultant and author, Stan Garfield, will be presenting the next in a series of KM Conversations for Lucidea on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 at 11:00 am Pacific, 2:00 pm Eastern—subscribe here to be notified. Read Stan’s posts for our Think Clearly blog, and learn about Inmagic Presto, which has helped build the knowledge ecosystems of many organizations.

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