Knowledge Management à la Microsoft

At the Amsterdam Tech Ed, PDM interviewed Microsoft’s David Crockett and Scott Bowie. We learned how key Microsoft Knowledge Management technology is being deployed by companies such as Marathon and Shell.

PDM - There really is lot on offer at the show, what are the key technologies for Knowledge Management?

Bowie - KM functionality is pervasive in both Windows and Exchange 2000. On the server, this offers collaborative applications groupware functionality all with broad Internet support from the Internet Information Server.

PDM - What is Microsoft’s recommended client? IE, Word, Digital Dashboard or Outlook?

Crockett - A typical knowledge worker’s log on would involve firing up an Outlook client - which would display a Digital Dashboard showing key performance indicators and a toolbar for launching Office or other tools.

PDM - That’s still a lot of clients. Why not have just one?

Bowie - there is a tendency for convergence, but you can't do everything in a pure web paradigm. Things are getting better with DHTML, but still the browser is a long way off the functionality of a compiled 32 bit Windows application.

PDM - In E&P IT, although Windows NT has made inroads into the UNIX arena, one can't say the same for SQL Server. What is Microsoft strategy in respect to cohabiting with Oracle?

Bowie - We know we have to access foreign data sources. Centrica’s work on BP’s Common Operating Environment leveraged the functionality in MTS, now part of COM+.

PDM - What of other oil and gas K-Management clients in oil and gas?

Crockett - Both Marathon Oil and Shell are Microsoft joint development partners for Exchange 2000. Marathon has over 10,000 users and consolidating its messaging and collaboration infrastructure on Exchange 2000.

PDM - What of document management in all this. Seems like Microsoft is encroaching on  what used to be reserved for applications like Documentum.

Crockett - Well we do offer a lot, from document generation, to distribution and sharing. But if you have complex metadata requirements or need revision control functions, then a tool like Documentum is the way to go.

Bowie - Exchange 2000 will offer a lot to the document manager. We can save Word documents to the Web store which then offers a rich, semi-structured store of documents and binaries. You can program the store for synchronizing, triggers, track what has been posted, modified and deleted. And of course you can index the whole thing.

PDM - So you are saying that the end is nigh for Documentum.

Bowie - Actually no - Documentum is a partner of ours . They offer a vertical, industry-specific solution and will probably be deploying all the above tools. Increasingly the DMS vendors are acting as system integrators using Microsoft technology.

PDM - What big challenges are left in Knowledge Management.

Crockett - to beat Lotus! [laughs] Taxonomy is an issue and key-word searching. We  are also working on intelligent information searching with natural language query. Speech is just around the corner - lots of money being spent here. Bill Gates is a strong believer!

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