Readers of Novell Connection magazine have seen several articles throughout 2007 and 2008 that discuss the team productivity benefits of Novell Teaming + Conferencing. This article focuses on Kablink, the Novell-sponsored open source project that forms the foundation for Novell Teaming + Conferencing.
Kablink and Novell Teaming + Conferencing are "game-changers" in enterprise collaboration and team productivity. Most software in this niche focuses on either building team Web pages (think SharePoint) or small pieces of the overall collaboration needs of an enterprise (think blogs, wikis, forums, etc.). Kablink recognized that each of these collaboration tools fulfilled a real need, but still fell short of a total collaboration offering that would unlock team productivity. Truly unlocking collaboration, team productivity and knowledge sharing across all types of projects in an enterprise—and not just fulfilling documentation or file sharing needs—was the goal of the Kablink project.
This goal led Novell to look for better ways to collaborate in the enterprise and to seek answers to the question, “How can collaboration add value to the bottom line of a business?” The short answer is that it doesn't, at least not in and of itself. But collaboration in the right context and under the right conditions can produce spectacular results in the form of faster customer response times, better organizational knowledge or quicker time to market. Each of these business metrics can be enhanced through the correct use of collaboration tools—but harmed if done incorrectly.
Imagine this common scenario: you thought you had addressed your organization's collaboration infrastructure needs, but things aren't looking so good. Your IT department has provided popular tools to assist knowledge workers, such as wikis, blogs, threaded discussions, e-mail, file shares and more. But users are now burdened with having to learn multiple applications with different user interfaces, data is often isolated in one application, users report that information is hard to find and sometimes gets lost, and none of these applications reflect your core business processes. Instead, you often bend your processes to cater to the way these tools work.
The Kablink Way
This scenario, and others like it, led the Kablink community to look for new and better ways to facilitate knowledge transfer, sharing and collaboration within the enterprise. The process began with an exploration of the way knowledge is disseminated and used in an organization, which resulted in development of the Knowledge Cycle model. (See Figure 1.)
The Knowledge Cycle represents how information flows through the process as it is consumed, beginning with the Publish phase. During this phase, knowledge is converted into something explicit and consumable by others. This phase represents the transfer of one person's understanding, education and wisdom into a tangible good. The publication format can be nearly anything, such as a blog, e-mail, document or anything else that is consumable by another person.
Kablink also offers features that allow organizations to build highly relevant applications that capture knowledge that is specific to their business processes. Using Kablink custom Web forms (See Figure 2.),
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organizations may build custom forms that knowledge workers can use to capture specific business data such as market campaign information or help desk reports. The Kablink platform also allows organizations to capture all relevant publication events into one system so users always know where to go for their information needs.
The next phase is the "Discover" phase. During this phase the output of the publication event is "discovered" by another person via search, browsing or document sharing. This is a particularly important phase: without discovery, the publication event is useless and inefficient discovery processes can lead to lost productivity. Because search is key to avoiding these missteps, Kablink supports search across all types of data: attached documents, custom Web form data, blogs and wikis, all in one place. Even value-added information, such as user tags, are searchable in Kablink. These capabilities, as well as community reviews, dynamic data feeds and coming technological advancements, will support future innovations emphasizing personal relevance in this space.
Expert location is another important aspect of Discovery that Kablink has taken to a new level. When you perform a search in Kablink, you not only uncover documents that match your criteria, but you also reveal the experts in your organization that are driving innovation and productivity. Kablink even provides tools that allow users to monitor domain experts via Activity Feeds. (See Figure 3.) Imagine looking for information about some arcane topic. Kablink offers an expert ranking system to help you identify experts and then track those individuals so you can monitor their activities on your topic of interest, all without leaving your homepage.