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But isn’t SharePoint a KM application?

by Phil Green

But isn’t SharePoint a KM application? At Lucidea we work on KM projects with clients around the globe, in almost every industry. One question that we hear again and again is “But isn’t SharePoint a KM application?” I love this question and I hate this question, because the answer is “it depends.” It depends on what you mean by an application, and what that implies. Let me explain.

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On February 20, 2015 Lucidea’s blog moves to its new home at

Discovery: Moving Beyond Retrieval

By Ron Aspe

What actually motivates users of a knowledge management system? It’s the feeling we get at the moment of discovery.  Yes, we need the information we are seeking, but it’s the buzz we get when we find it that keeps us searching.  And if we get the hit we’re looking for, we’ll come back – guaranteed.

Ensuring that “Eureka!” experience is the key to a successful knowledge application. Making it possible to find information isn’t enough; the process must be engaging and result in success.
What does this mean? Let’s first look at a few examples of how ordinary search technologies can be frustrating:

  • A keyword search brings back everything containing the text you entered (literally)
  • The word you are using to find a document isn’t actually in it …so you get zero results
  • The word you are using to find a document is in every document, so you get hundreds of results
  • You have to know a document exists, what’s in it, and where it is before you can find it
  • You use the term “bridge” but what do you mean?  Dental?  Musical?  Logical?  Physical?

Systems that anticipate and address the above scenarios are true discovery systems – they easily expand the search, consider analogous situations, help users discover highly relevant content that narrow questions/search terms simply don’t unearth, integrate internal and external resources, and let users quickly analyze and manage their result sets.

As we heard at the Lucidea-hosted SLA 2014 Hot Topics panel discussion, Adapt, Act and Thrive, optimized content discovery requires more than simple retrieval.  Click here to download a white paper developed with what we learned during the panel. There are methods, techniques and/or technologies that Information professionals can leverage to ensure that important information is “discoverable,” especially to those who may not know the information even exists.  These include:

  • allowing users to search, browse, receive alerts, and quickly evaluate content
  • offering tools that allow users to leverage the wisdom of the community
  • content curation by subject matter experts

Functions available within excellent knowledge management and library automation platforms facilitate discovery. These include natural language search, faceted searching, tagging, linking, alerts and RSS feeds, along with enterprise social capabilities such as “liking” and “commenting” which allow users to act on content.  If your system has embedded social tools, staff can point their colleagues to the best of the best.

One of the most powerful methods for enabling discovery is offering “content in context.”  You’ve heard us talk about the importance of continuing a conversation that end users are already having (even if it’s one way and just in their heads!). Surfacing unexpected yet relevant content in the context of something users are already doing has big impact. For example, your organization’s subject matter experts can build and curate collections of resources and link in depth or related materials to summaries posted on the intranet. Someone on an industry page sees the link to a collection of materials on a different but related sector, jumps easily to that collection and uses it to generate new ideas about how to solve a problem.

Discovery is actualized when important yet unexpected information is revealed through multiple methods:  structured, guided, or expansive.  It’s not about searching, it’s about finding. Eureka!

Online Dating: SharePoint and SQL Are No Match for Lucidea

by Phil Green, Lucidea’s COO

I am often asked  “what’s the secret sauce in Lucidea’s applications?”  and further, I’m often asked why customers turn to our solutions rather than having IT build something in SharePoint or a SQL database.  

I am also asked  “What do I tell IT when they want to replace an existing Lucidea solution with one they promise to build in SharePoint?” Rather than discuss here the many advantages of our Lucidea solutions, I’d like to share one simple but very powerful differentiator:  date handling and date searching.

Just so we are clear, I am not talking about dates in the sense!  I mean dates such as the issue date of a serial publication, or the historical period of an artifact. 

In SharePoint and SQL databases, dates are very precise.  They use only two field types when dealing with dates: 
  • Date fields:  Formatted as DD-MM-YYYY  (e.g. 12-06-2009)
  • Timestamp fields:  formatted as  or DD-MM-YYYY + a timestamp (e.g. 12-06-20091:36:58 PM EST)
This means that in SharePoint and SQL you can search for an exact date or time, and you can search for a range of dates or times.

But for museum collections, KM initiatives and libraries, dates are often less precise.  In fact, sometimes dates get downright “fuzzy.”   For example, publishers often publish materials with imprecise dates, such as “Spring 2014” or “Winter 2002” or “2015 Edition.”    Maybe you need to enter a date for an item in the collection, but it’s only an estimate so you need a text annotation. The problem with both SharePoint and SQL is that they are unable to deal with these kinds of situations. this reminiscent of a bad date?

At Lucidea, we understand dates, and we understand that they are often “fuzzy.”  Below are some questions you can ask IT about how dates will be stored and how dates will be searched in SharePoint and SQL.
  • Does the date query “2014” get automatically run as a date range query:  Jan 1, 2014 to Dec 31, 2014?
  • Does the date query “June 2014” get automatically run as a date range query:  June 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014?
  • When importing records with the value “Spring 2014” in the date field, will the records be imported?  (Don’t be shocked when the IT answer is that these records will be rejected.)
  • Does the date query “Winter 2014” find serials with a published date of “Invierno 2014” in the date field?
  • Does the date query “Jurassic” have any meaning?  (In Lucidea’s Museum application,, it does!)
  • Can you store a date such as “June 1, 2014 – estimate”?   (In SharePoint and SQL, I don’t think so!)
  • Can you easily (by “easily” I mean with no coding) set up relative date searches so that your users can answer questions such as "What new content has been added in the last week?  or “What articles have been published on topic X in the previous two months?"
You can tell your IT department that Lucidea develops KM, library automation and collections management solutions so that we can answer “yes” to all these questions, because we know that in the real world, dates are not always well-behaved (just like the “dates” from

How do we do this?  Simply put, at Lucidea we add a layer of natural language date processing during data ingestion and during search.  This ensures that the information exists in its raw and organic form, but we store more than the raw data: we store its meaning.  We do the same during search, interpreting the query’s underlying meaning.  So, for example, “Spring 2014” isn’t just a word search - when it’s entered in a Lucidea date field it has a very specific meaning – it’s a date range search, combining both precision and flexibility.

Does your knowledge management system do that?  Can you or your IT department answer “yes” to all the above questions?  Let us know.

Faceted Searching is Just Better!

By Sal Provenza

Faceted searching is becoming a standard for special libraries that want to help end users find relevant content quickly and easily.  Not all library automation systems today offer faceted searching; if they do, it’s definitely a competitive advantage.  

What is faceted searching?

Faceted searching, browsing or navigation is an efficient way to quickly access a library’s collection, internal or external databases or other information repositories.  It renders faceted (e.g. categorized) results classification, allowing users to discover content by filtering.  A good faceted searching system associates an item with many different taxonomic terms, rather than into a single determined order.

Faceted searching is to end users what Boolean search is to a librarian. Users love faceted searching because it gets them the benefits of Boolean/fielded searching -increased precision and small numbers of high quality results -without AND/OR/NOT drop downs or multiple search box interfaces.

Faceted searching doesn’t work on full text data, which is why Google doesn’t offer it.  A well-structured database and fields that are well curated are essential – that is why good faceted searching requires a good librarian in the background!

Can you see the value?

Each user who conducts a faceted search can get a quick overview of results by category, and then continue refining their search until they get the best content.  Users can see how many results are in each category, making it obvious which to look at first.  They can decide on their own search strategy and change their search result filters at any time.

When you are considering investing in a new library automation system, you need to carefully consider how well the system searches and whether its search capabilities are end user focused.  Faceted searching is a clear winner!

Want to learn more about faceting searching and how it can help you quickly find relevant information?  Email or call 604-278-6717.

How to Avoid Empty Portal Syndrome

By Marcus Liban

The majority of firms that approach us are struggling with low intranet /portal user adoption.  There are many factors that contribute to this problem, but “empty portal syndrome” can be overcome if administrators stay focused on some key success factors.

What Does Success Look Like?
Law firm portals should be the primary source for information storage and access, advocacy and contributions from executive management must be expected, and the portal should be actively, continually managed.  Legal portals should offer:
  • Relevance to target users (know your audience!)
  • Site structure and logic that supports those target users
  • User-centric design with an intuitive, dynamic, flexible interface
  • Support for search, without dependency on search, through automatic content mining from critical in-house systems (HRIS, Finance, DMS, CRM).  This provides a complete picture of the firm’s:
    • client lifecycles  and details(from initial matter intake to identifying a roadmap for the client based upon firm expertise and other services relevant to the matter, client).
    • practice areas
    • work product (who, what, activity level)
    • experience, successes and failures
  • Integration with external systems offering access to:
    • research
    • customer/industry/market trends
Pitfalls to Avoid
Representatives of firms struggling with user adoption tell similar stories.  For many mid-market firms, Phase I of their portal project is basic software installation – with the expectation that everything should “just work.”  The reality: intranet/portal software is never turn-key or immediately relevant.   Portals are continually evolving platforms that require expectation setting, thoughtful planning and an understanding of business needs and workflows.  A SharePoint project, for example, is not complete simply as a result of having installed the software.

Installation is the initial, foundational step.  Project teams must then consider site navigation informed by the activities and preferences of the firm’s departments and practices, the content types and application relevant to these teams, and the needs of other stakeholders.  Phase I deliver must deliver attorney relevance and business value in order for adoption to take off.  If the best foundation isn’t set, problems ensue –they tend to fall into three major categories, all of which are related:
  • IT dependency - experience has shown that most project failures result from this
  • Lack of relevance
  • Lack of governance
IT Dependency
Often the IT department is given responsibility for Phase I of a portal project, even though they are not subject matter experts, nor can they usually influence or change the firm culture.  Problems include:
  • Responsibility for content publishing ends up in the hands of IT
  • IT staff become content owners for Administrative departments or Practice Groups.  Familiarity with the tools doesn’t guarantee familiarity with content requirements, workflows or external resources
  • Portal Sites conflict with (and sometimes compete with) other systems, e.g.:
    • Exchange Public Folders
    • DMS and SP document lists (resulting in confusion as to which are authoritative documents)
Lack of Relevance
The term “empty portal” is a figure of speech.  We hear many stories about portals that contain lots of content, but not necessarily the right content - and it may be organized in counterintuitive, illogical ways that don’t mirror the firm’s own structure and workflow.  It might as well be empty.  At Lucidea we refer to this problem as the content being physically captured but logically lost.  Problems include:
  • Site structure doesn’t reflect the firm’s organizational structure
  • Sites are shallow and focused on primarily administrative content (e.g. staff directories, office maps, weather, office events etc.) with little substantive work product  
  • Compromised access to important information due to bad layout, poor navigation and dependency on user structured search
  • Static content, often submitted by a few die-hard users who do actually publish– but who often aren’t subject matter experts  and  don’t know the true context, value or priority
Lack of Governance
As mentioned earlier in this post, legal portals must be “continually and actively managed.”  Adhering to this is the biggest problem of all for firms who struggle with poor user adoption.   They tell us:
  • The portal is a “free for all” and content is not filtered or targeted 
  • Information is dated and mainly administrative
  • Staff see portal engagement (publishing, leveraging work product, updating content) as just one in a group of responsibilities and place it low on the priority list
  • There is no formal information governance policy that dictates retention, expiration of content, etc.
  • Portal contribution and usage isn’t part of performance measurement, so staff aren’t accountable
In another post, we’ll focus on the ways in which a basic content dashboard can be a powerful tool for content and knowledge managers to view and influence how firms value and leverage their critical information assets.

Sometimes it’s only possible to succeed because we know what failure looks like.  Avoid the pitfalls of legal portal implementation and management and stay focused on the key success factors outlined at the beginning of this post.  Then you need never suffer from empty portal syndrome!


By Phil Green

As an SLA 2014 Gold Sponsor, Lucidea played a significant role at the Annual Meeting and INFO-EXPO in Vancouver.  Part of this sponsorship included our Hot Topic Session - Adapt, Act and Thrive: Ensuring a Sustainable Library.  In this session a panel of visionary information professionals discussed the serious challenges that threaten special libraries’ sustainability, and they discussed how they “adapt, act and thrive” in the face of these challenges. 
The Hot Topics round-table discussion was moderated by Joe Matthews who questioned the panelists on issues such as:
How do you...
·        ensure and leverage info-ubiquity and deliver universal access to information?
·        embed yourself within your organization and work with IT to integrate with existing systems?
·        engage with end users who wish to influence and interact with content via social tools?
·        manage challenging vendor relationships?
·        control costs, and
·        demonstrate value to upper management via tracking, measurement and monitoring of services? 
Our panelists were:
·        Judith Bloch, Corporate Librarian/Information Resources Manager with Shannon & Wilson, Inc. - a geotechnical and environmental engineering consulting firm.  Judith and her team use CuadraSTAR.
·        Joan Cunningham, Regional Librarian at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger - a national engineering firm that designs, investigates, and rehabilitates structures and building enclosures.  Joan and her team are SydneyPLUS clients.
·        Jennifer Hermsen, Manager, Knowledge Services with Kemin Industries, Inc. -  a life science company that innovates to improve the lives of humans and animals around the world.  Kemin Industries is an Inmagic Presto client.
·        Karen McQuillen, Director,Knowledge Services at Educational Testing Service  - an assessment development and research organization. Karen and her staff use SydneyPLUS
·        Susannah Tredwell, Manager of Library Services, Davis LLP - a national Canadian law firm headquartered in Vancouver. Susannah and her team are SydneyPLUS clients.

The session was extremely well attended; we had 190 registered participants!  In fact, it was  standing room only and unfortunately there were some attendees out in the hallway.  We tell ourselves this is actually a good problem to have – but we’ll definitely work with SLA to ensure that we get a larger room for future Lucidea sponsored sessions.
For those of you who couldn’t attend  our Hot Topics session or even the SLA conference, I’d like to provide a quick overview of some of the highlights:
The biggest laugh:
o   During the introduction of the panelists, Joe Matthews asked each person to tell the audience something surprising about themselves.  Karen McQuillen stated “I have three cats and I like to read…but anyone would know that about me, because I am at this conference.”
Most surprising answer:
o   “People should know that everything is being tracked.” This was Jennifer Hermsen’s answer, when asked by the audience about what to track and how to leverage metrics to understand library usage, and whether it makes employees uncomfortable.
Best audience question:
o   “Do you really have the right type of IT people with the right experience to help you?”  The panelists all acknowledged that IT is very busy and that while they understand the technology, they don’t know much about content.  This led to a discussion about how important it is to build a strong relationship with IT, even though it takes time and energy.
Thanks to our great facilitator Joe Matthews, our terrific panelists and an engaged audience, the morning was a big success.  As attendees left the room we overheard some comments:
o  “I was really impressed with the panelists; they had some great ideas!”
o  “I had to stand up the whole time but it was well worth it!”
o “I hope Lucidea sponsors a similar panel discussion next year.”
o  “The moderator did a great job at keeping the panel focused.”
o  “That was one of the best SLA sessions I’ve ever been to - it was so practical.”

Please let us know if you attended, and if so, what you thought of the session.  And for everyone else, please let us know if you would like Lucidea to do more of these types of sessions at future SLA Annual Meetings and suggest some topics – we very much value your input.    

Note from the Author - I've attended the SLA conference for over twenty years and Karen is right (I have two cats and I like to read).

Lucidea / Inmagic Announces Key Presto Improvements – You Asked, We Acted!

By Phil Green

A fully loaded service pack is now available for all clients running Inmagic® Presto 4.3, and is ready for download by Presto customers, from the Presto Knowledgebase.

Presto V4.3 Service Pack 1 includes a number of fixes and improvements requested by our customers.  It’s available for download now, and offers enhancements such as:
  • External Widget Builder now enables the inclusion of various widgets widely available on the Web (weather, time zone, etc.).  This fixes the issue of some widgets not running in the HTML widget, and was specifically developed in response to customers’ desire to run widgets developed by content publishers like EBSCO.
  • Quick Search widget now enables the administrator to specify the initial settings for the Advanced Search controls. For example, you can set up the Quick Search widget to default to searching the Title and Subtitle fields in the Catalog content type.  This fixes the issue where administrators could not specify the initial settings and users were required to do so.
  • RSS widget now supports more flexibility in how many items to display, and permits the “Published On” dates to be hidden.  Both these changes were requested by many customers.
  • Editing Value Lists now supports copying and pasting an entire list of values into the list, and offers more editing flexibility.
  • When configuring a new Content Type, an Any Word box is now automatically generated at the top of the default Search Screen.  Many clients requested this time saving capability.
  • Custom Menu Items now have no URL character limit. (The previous limit was 255 characters.)
  • The release also includes a number of other fixes, including fixes to Blog RSS Feeds; Cart Count; editing Alerts, Profiles; configuring Custom Menus; Home Pages, and the Connector System PDF thumbnail generation.
As you work with Presto 4.3 and think of improvements you’d like to see, please don’t hesitate to let us know via our Ideation Repository.  While we cannot accommodate every request we do rely on you, our valued customers, for your input and innovative ideas that help make our products better.  Thank you!


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