Search Blog:

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!

Let's catch up at SLA 2014 in Vancouver!

By Ron Aspe and Phil Green

At this year’s SLA Conference we’re offering three ways for you to catch up with Lucidea’s Inmagic and SydneyPLUS staff:

One - Please join us for the annual Lucidea SLA Cocktail Party!  It’s happening at the Pan Pacific Hotel (next door to the Convention Centre) on Monday June 9 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  We’ll be in Oceanview Suite 2 (Restaurant and Gallery Level). Just take the lobby elevator, press “R” and follow the signs. Let us know if you’re coming! Sign up here and download the invitation.

Two - Please join us for our SLA Hot Topic Session “Adapt, Act and Thrive: Ensuring a Sustainable Library.”  This session will examine serious challenges that threaten the sustainability of special libraries, and focus on strategies for proactively overcoming them.  A panel of your peers will discuss how they ensure and leverage info-ubiquity; embed themselves within their organizations; engage end users; manage challenging vendor relationships; control costs, and demonstrate value.  The session will focus on how the panelists are making their departments and functions more relevant – now, and into the future.  This session will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre West, Room 114 and 115, on Monday June 9, from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
The panelists are: Judith Bloch, Corporate Librarian/Information Resources Manager, Shannon & Wilson, Inc.; Joan Cunningham, Regional Librarian, SGH; Jennifer Hermsen, Global Library Services Manager, Kemin Industries, Inc.; Karen McQuillen, Manager, Library and Information Services, Educational Testing Service (ETS); and Susannah Tredwell, Manager of Library Services, Davis LLP.  The panel moderator is author and library authority, Joe Matthews!

Three!  Of course, your third option is to visit us at Lucidea booths 816 and 817.  We’ll be there on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

We can’t wait to catch up – please stop by for a visit.

6 Principles Supporting the Sustainable Library: SLA 2014 Hot Topics Session

By Mark Maslowski

The simple truth is, there are serious challenges to the long term sustainability of special libraries, many of which may threaten your future if you don’t act.  These challenges include the need to:

·         Stay relevant by leveraging and managing social tools
·         Reach an increasingly mobile user base
·         Integrate your library’s knowledge with an increasingly complex IT environment
·         Do more in an environment of ever-shrinking budgets
·         Avoid being made redundant by content providers who reach out to end users directly

In addition, competition from external search engines (i.e. Google) cannot be ignored – you know that Google is a search engine not a lie detector, but do your end users understand the critical importance of curation by librarians and knowledge experts, resulting in vetted, truthful content that is relevant and current?  In the face of all these challenges you need a full range of information management solutions designed especially to meet the requirements of special librarians, and a strategy that focuses on building the sustainable library.  You want not only to survive, but to adapt, act and thrive!

Lucidea’s client service and product development strategy rest on six principles which we believe are integral to special librarianship’s ongoing value and viability. These six Lucidea Principles are: 
  • Access - knowledge that informs action should be easily accessible
  • Discovery - the discovery of information should effectively accommodate user preferences
  •  Independenceself-sufficiency increases efficiency and productivity, and reduces costs
  •  Integration with your existing systems and applications is critical
  •  Partnership with vendors should be based on a mutual interest in success
  • Security – you must manage access to your organization’s most important information assets
Special librarians and knowledge managers can achieve sustainability and thrive by employing solutions and practices built on these six principles. With the help of several valued clients who have followed that strategy, Lucidea is hosting and moderating a Hot Topics panel discussion at this year’s SLA Annual Conference and INFO-EXPO, in order to share examples of the ways in which visionary information professionals are pressing the reset button and making their departments and functions more relevant - now and into the future. 

Participants in the Hot Topics session will discuss the major challenges to the sustainability of special libraries and will hear about powerful ways in which their peers have overcome them in order to thrive and extend their reach.  If you’re reading this and will be attending SLA, please register for the Panel taking place on June 9thLucidea’s commitment to supporting the future of special librarianship doesn’t end with our presence at the SLA conference – we’ll be addressing the topic and its many facets in future blog posts, so please stay tuned.  

Good Times: How to Select a Library Automation System, Part 2

By Mark Maslowski

In my first post on this topic, I shared a few guiding principles learned during our history as a preferred library automation and knowledge management application provider. If followed, these will ensure a successful implementation and a fruitful commercial partnership. The first set of factors for consideration was internally focused; in this post I’ll share some suggestions that focus on the external environment, and by the way:

If you’re thinking of building it yourself…beware!
  • Organizations document many failed attempts to build applications themselves. For example, one company spent over 100 person months developing an application before giving up and buying SydneyPLUS software – they were up and running in a week.
  • Often, solutions built in house no longer meet requirements by the time they’re ready to launch. 
  • Internal cost of building an application can be high, and often the solutions aren’t fully documented.
  • There is often no support for enhancements or bug fixes, and given the time to results, the original builder has often left the company by the launch date
Carefully evaluate commercial versus open source products 
  • Purchase price isn’t the same as total cost of ownership (TCO), which includes support and customization costs
  • Open source products have their own inherent costs, often difficult to itemize, anticipate, or estimate
  • Choose between commercial and open source products based on your goals, needs, and your available resources – don’t forget that you do need staff to implement and maintain open source platforms
Consider hosted versus licensed software
  • Vendor hosted software ensures that it will be maintained and upgraded – it’s their responsibility, not yours
  • You’ll always have the latest enhancements and bug fixes
  • Hosted software has minimal impact on your IT infrastructure and staff resources, lowering the TCO and removing complexity
Ask potential vendors what product support and enhancements you’ll receive
  • What support, upgrades and bug fixes are included?
  • What happens to support if you customize?
  • What does the quality of support tell you about the supplier’s attitude toward its customers?
Develop a realistic implementation timeline and share it
If there is an event-based launch date, such as a partner meeting, internal conference etc., make sure that your vendors know about it and can confirm that meeting the date is realistic. When you think about timing, remember to include testing (and time for users to beta test) so that you have worked out any issues prior to launch, and finally, adjust for any events that will impact the schedule, such as holidays, staff PTO etc. Share your preferred kick off date and drop-dead launch date with your potential vendors; if they cannot meet those dates, it should be a non-starter.

Making the final decision
You will have learned a lot during the pre-selection process. It’s important to look, one more time, at your goals and requirements, and to make sure that the products on your short list meet them. As insurance, you should get demos of your favorite two products again, and don’t be shy! Vendors like you to ask questions and fully evaluate their products. (And if the vendors don’t like to help you, do you really want their products?)

You’ll need to contact a few references given you to by the vendor, and in addition to that, you should get informal input by checking listservs and the Internet to see what has been said about the supplier over time.

Go over the pricing and contract terms with a fine toothed comb to make sure there are no surprises after the contract is signed. Make sure to observe your organization’s policy on contract review – involve someone from Procurement or Legal if required. Two sets of eyes are always better than one. Then, make your decision: confidently choose the product that is right for your organization, regardless of whether it’s the marketplace favorite.

Good Times: How to Select a Library Automation System, Part 1

By Mark Maslowski

Once you and your manager have made the decision to invest in a library automation system, the fun begins. Through the years and over the course of many client relationships, we’ve seen several guiding principles emerge, which if followed, will ensure a successful implementation and a fruitful commercial partnership.  In this first of two posts let’s take a look at the first stages of the pre-selection process – assuming that you have already done some homework and have a few vendors in mind.

Get your priorities straight
First and foremost, you are buying library and knowledge management applications from a software provider in order to support a business strategy and to fill important functional requirements.  It is critical that at every step of the way, you test each decision against these two sets of requirements.

Plan your software selection process

  • Schedule adequate time for the due diligence
  • Include key decision makers, e.g. management, IT staff and library staff

Lay the groundwork

  • Make sure you have management support for the funding and staff time you need
  • Confirm real requirements versus nice-to-have 
  • Consider staging your requirements based on what’s vital to startup, versus longer term needs

Assess your existing resources

  • What software do you already use?
  • Is your data in a format that can be easily converted?
  • What internal IT resources do you have?  Are in-house programmers available to you and will they make you a priority? 

Be open to adjusting your workflow and protocols

  • Automation imposes order, and your current processes might include tasks you don’t need or want once you have suitable software

The above are important internal factors; in my next post on this topic, I’ll discuss some critical external factors that should be taken into consideration when selecting your LAS.

DBTextWorks 14.5 – Delivering Style and Substance

By Warren Ganz

The DB/TextWorks product suite reminds me of a car that a good friend of mine purchased in his younger years and continued to drive well into his 30s.  It’s an amazing car, to this day one of my favorites.  He drove that car for many, many, years, while the rest of us changed vehicles once or maybe twice.  One afternoon he stopped by to show off a new car, or so I thought.  I assumed he’d finally come to his senses, traded it in, and upgraded to something completely different and new.  However, the car he pulled up in seemed oddly familiar, and on a closer look I realized it was the same car.  But there was something different. He had given it a paint job, and most importantly used a modern color.  This amazing classic car  is now setting a new standard.  Brilliant!  And this is exactly what we have done with the DB/TextWorks product suite.  It’s still an amazing piece of software, and with a fresh coat of paint done properly it really shines.

It’s true that this DBTextWorks 14.5 release is most notably a UI refresh, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  When new users look at the product, hopefully they’ll ask:  “Wow, what does it do?” and they’ll want to take it for a spin.  At clients’ request, we’ve replaced over 400 “classic” icons with modern-looking industry-standard images that display more robustly in various toolbar sizes.  This was no small feat.  Optimizing a user interface is always a delicate process – there are as many possibilities as there are stakeholders.  With your invaluable input and after many spirited internal reviews (fortunately there were no fist fights) we reached consensus and then we made it happen. We have an improved product that we are proud to show off, as it truly is an ageless beauty.

I encourage you all to upgrade to version 14.5; we guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Riding the Rails with Presto – Thoughts on Implementation

Posted by Erika Halloran

Recently, the first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics was awarded to a snowboarder named Sage Kotsenburg for his performance in the Men’s Slopestyle competition. The Slopestyle event is making its Olympic debut this year; the athletes go downhill while performing a series of difficult tricks on strategically placed structures.  
Although I don’t know a lot about Sage Kotsenburg, I think it’s pretty safe to assume he didn’t “ride the rails” or perform a "1620 Japan Air Mute Grab" in his first season strapped to a board.  While Olympic athletes are widely considered to be the World’s best at their respective sports, they still start with the basics and add frills progressively as their experience grows.
Successful Inmagic Presto administrators follow a similar path.  The teams with the most successful Presto implementations choose to excel at using Presto’s core functionality before unveiling the bells and whistles, ultimately  leveraging all our tools (which are more than enough to perform the software equivalent of a “1620 Japan Air Mute Grab”) as their experience grows.
If Presto lets you provide your end users with their first opportunity to search a Catalog by themselves and easily retrieve relevant records with a few keystrokes, they will undoubtedly be pleased and impressed.  They’ll see it as a win – the equivalent of a snowboarder who can now confidently ride down a “black diamond” trail.  This is no small feat, especially when they used to slide down the mountain being expertly towed by a skilled Librarian. 
Furthermore, since Presto launch announcements spotlight features that are “coming soon,” users can eagerly anticipate the day they’ll discuss their own research in Presto’s Forums, read comments about the latest additions to the Catalog, and maybe even become published as Presto Blog authors.  Imagine their excitement when, a few months down the road, you announce the incorporation of these options.  People who’ve become accustomed to using Presto for their research will be excited when they discover that it “just got better.”
The urge to immediately enable every feature of a new software product is a strong one, but it sometimes pays to fight it.  Most successful implementers start by thinking about what the users need and providing them with tools that will help them do their jobs, while also letting them know what is possible down the road. 
Once you have configured Presto to meet your users’ needs, thinking about what they’d like becomes fun and exciting.  Perhaps the users themselves can help decide which features will take center stage in the future, and you can focus on a strategy for providing these features in a way that will create excitement and encourage active engagement. 

So as you embark on your first trips down the “Inmagic Presto slope,” you might consider resisting the urge to ride the rail or go off the jump.  But once you’re comfortable… by all means, have at it!  You’ll have fun with the features and your users will feel the same way.

Securing Approval for a KM Solution Purchase – Part Three: What, Where, When

Posted by Jason Buggy

In my previous posts on the buying process I mentioned that in my experience, an effective purchaser of KM solutions needs to have answers to a number of WHY, WHO, HOW, WHAT, WHERE and WHEN questions.  In Part Two, I shared the “Why, Who and How” of it all, and I shall now reveal the “What, Where and When” questions!

WHAT:   When you can answer these questions for yourself, it will help you present a compelling case to your manager.

What is the size and scope of the project and solution that you are proposing?
What will we be able to do better today that we were unable to do yesterday?
What are the overall goals of this project?
What are the criteria that will gauge the success of the proposed solution?
What are the reasons (once you’ve decided) for selecting the proposed vendor?
What happens if you do nothing?

  • This is an extremely important question; be sure to present the answer to this without catastrophizing – there will be many real world scenarios that powerfully demonstrate problems with efficiency, effectiveness and cost.  Select examples that clearly show the pitfalls of a non-KM approach.  Since you already know who your stakeholders are (See Part Two of this series ), you can provide tailored input that resonates with each of them.

WHERE:  This isn’t as straightforward as it used to be.  There are readily available cloud services and hosting solutions that are as secure as your in-house environment; many organizations look at these as ways to offset hardware and personnel costs.  You must understand the protocols for where you should have the solution installed.  For example, if you work for a financial institution, there’s a high probability that your management prefers installed software, rather than using cloud services.   Vendors who only provide cloud services solutions are nonstarters in this scenario.  Make sure you fully understand your company’s security parameters before you decide where the software will reside.  Again you’ll need to consult with your IT staff to understand their preferred scenarios and support model.

WHEN:  As mentioned, it’s a good idea to definite “go live” date; this dictates when you must sign the contract and get it to your vendor.  Also important is knowing:

When will you be ready to train your end-users and administrators?
When is your IT staff available to work with the software vendor?

The IT team will definitely be working on several different projects at the same time - while also putting our unexpected fires along the way.  It’s  very important to make sure you are working closely with IT to make sure you know when they are available to help design, further develop and maintain the selected solution.

I know this is a lot of information.   I’ve taken the key components of the selling process and flipped them to help my (hopefully) future clients navigate the buying process.  After all, the hardest selling job is never performed by me, the sales person - it’s done by our clients trying to convince their companies and colleagues to allocate budget in order to buy our solutions.  That is not an easy task!

Securing Approval for a KM Solution Purchase – Part Two: Who, Why, How

Posted by Jason Buggy

In my previous post on  the buying process I mentioned that in my experience, an effective purchaser of KM solutions needs to have answers to a number of WHY, WHO, HOW, WHAT, WHERE and WHEN questions.  I shall now reveal the “Why, Who and How” questions that you’ll need to cover!

WHY:  To quote Nancy Kerrigan, “WHY…WHY…WHY?”  If the answer is “well, I would really like one to make it easier for me to do my job,” that’s insufficient.  You’ll need to make a legitimate business case to get the approval you’re looking for, specifying  “day in the life” challenges that would be eliminated or made significantly easier with a new KM system.  Do you understand the drivers that create the need for your company to spend additional dollars on new software? Answering the following will help you to focus:

  • Why are we looking at this now?  
  • Why haven’t we done this in the past?  
  • Why would this make things that are currently problematic, better?  
  • Why would I need to purchase a new piece of software? Do we have something in place already that is underutilized? 

WHO:  It’s good practice to have the support of multiple people from different departments.  Make sure you understand the position and requirements of everyone with a stake in your purchase.  Definitely get your IT team involved early and make them a partner in your process.  They can help you understand the most important “who” related question:  Is the implementation of the proposed solution part of a larger effort within the company, and if so, who is the main decision maker for the overall project?

  • Who are the key stakeholders for your proposed solution?  
  • Who will benefit the most from having instant access to our corporate repository? 
  • Who will help implement from the IT side and end-user/admin side of the house?  
  • Who has the budget for this?  
  • Who will sign the contract?  
  • Who will issue the PO and how does this happen?  
  • Does the vendor we are looking at meet our corporate requirements for doing business?  

HOW:  It’s good project management practice to do a reverse timeline of the buying process. Start with the date you envision having your first user log-in and perform a search, then go backwards.   For example:  let’s say it’s January 20, 2014.  Your first user should log in on June 30th, 161 days from now.  Your contracts department typically takes 30 days for legal evaluation and to issue a purchase order; you also know that it takes 4 weeks to implement the solution and that your preferred solution has a waiting list of 4 weeks, so you’ll need to order by March 30, 2014 in order to be up and running by June 30, 2014.  But wait, your company requires an investigation of 3 vendors for any new software - that will take 20 days; they also require a Request for Proposal – that will take 10 days to write and get approval before release, plus 3 weeks for the vendors to reply …you see where I’m going with this.  So if you don’t know how your organization makes purchasing decisions, you may ultimately be unable to make the purchase, or will likely experience delays that prevent having the solution in place by the “Go-Live” deadline.  In addition to knowing how decisions get made, you’ll need to know exactly how you’ll roll out the platform.

  • How will you implement the solution - will you have internal support or be relying on the vendor to perform most the work? 
  • How much budget do you have?   (Knowing this will help eliminate vendors who are outside your price range and save you valuable time ; there is very little point spending 1.5 months talking to a vendor only to realize they are 200% high than your total budget). 
  • How much time and money will this solution save my company in the first 6 months, 12 months and 24 months?  (Also known as ROI – “return on investment”)

In my next (and final) post on this topic, I’ll share the “What, When and Where” of the buying process with you …please stay tuned.

Securing Approval for a KM Solution Purchase – Part One: Convincing Leadership

Posted by Jason Buggy

I’m a sales person with Inmagic, and when I sat down to write a blog post for you, our loyal customers, it dawned on me that perhaps you (and hopefully some prospective customers) would like some best practices on HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN BUY SOMETHING, in general.

Just before the Christmas break a prospect told me that they would not purchase our solution, but they didn’t want me to feel bad, because they were not purchasing anything.  “The VP of X did not really grasp why we needed a KM system, or what it could do for us, so she wouldn’t sign off on the project.”  These are the WORST words a sales person can hear.  I’m giving something away, but here is a little secret:  we don’t mind losing a deal here or there to a competitor.  It drives us to be better and in reality, there are times when someone is looking for something soooo specific, that there truly is only one right solution, and you know from the beginning that may not be your product.  That’s okay, it’s easy to tell our managers “we lost because of A, B and C.”  But when you walk in and say, “we didn’t get approval, they are buying nothing,” that’s typically a result of the sales person not understanding a prospect’s needs and internal approval process.  

As a sales person, I have a process that I follow to help me understand when things will happen, what the likelihood is that they will happen, and by what date.  For you, let’s call this the sales process in reverse…let’s call it the buying process.  In this specific example, let’s assume you’ve made the decision to purchase a solution to your KM challenges. In a three part blog post, I’ll share some purchase approval and process best practices gleaned from my years in sales, and if you get even one pearl of wisdom , we’ll both be happy.

First, be prepared to quickly explain exactly what knowledge management is all about to your non-KM practitioner colleagues.  I’ll run with the Gartner Group’s sophisticated definition, which I have blatantly poached from a most EXCELLENT article in KMWORLD . “Knowledge Management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets.  These assets may be databases, documents, policies, procedures and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.”  That is from 1998, and I must say, it still holds true today.  Add a pinch of tacit knowledge here and a smidge of social components there and that definition could have been written yesterday.  To really bring things on home for your colleagues and management you’ll need to give concrete examples that show how the above concepts apply to your organization – in terms of its information assets and its needs.

You must be able to show and convince leadership of the importance of implementing a KM strategy at your company.  To do that you will need to have answers to a number of WHY, WHO, WHAT, HOW, WHERE and WHEN questions.  In my next post on this topic, I’ll share those questions with you.   I find that working through them with my prospects really focuses the process and is mutually advantageous.  If you are well prepared with information and answers to share with your management, you stand a better chance of getting approval for a purchase you may have spent a good amount of time and energy evaluating.

Inmagic Services Methodology - "Teach 'em how to fish"

By David Abels

Teach 'em how to fish
I was excited to join the Inmagic team last year as the Director of Client Services, when my wife’s job necessitated a move to Boston.  As a librarian and as someone with years of experience running Cuadra Associates’ client services group (Cuadra is a sister Lucidea division), I was looking forward to learning how client services worked at Inmagic.

I soon learned that a key pillar in Inmagic’s product design is to build products that typical people (or at least typical information professionals) can use without knowledge of programming or other technologies.  This seemed especially true of DB/TextWorks and also of Presto.

When I started, I felt like I had been thrown into the deep end.  I was assured that Inmagic customers don’t bite and that with all my years of managing client engagements at Cuadra how different could it be?  I was very pleasantly surprised to find that my previous experiences had indeed prepared me well for this new assignment and that for the most part, Inmagic customers are an enthusiastic bunch and fun to work with.

As I have gained more experience, I have noticed that the other advice I received day-one also seemed to be true.  Dave Golan, Inmagic VP Sales (and previous manager of client services) told me when I started “We have a simple approach here.  Teach’em how to fish and you will be better off and so will the customer.”  I could not agree more.  If you complete a services engagement and we’ve done all the work and the client has had only minimal involvement and limited training, I know what the hand-off is going to be like.  The clients are often nervous because they do not really understand the software or how to configure it and they are not clear about how they will maintain or administrate it in the future.

However, when the clients have been actively involved in the implementation and they have learned by doing, we find that they approach the launch of their new system with gusto and with little fear, because the client knows how the system works, they know how to make changes in the system themselves and they are confident that they can manage the system with minimal help from Inmagic.

So, job one in the client services group is to “teach’em how to fish.”  We help clients build the first Content Type (e.g. database) in Presto and then we let the client learn by doing and build the next two.  We focus our skills on the tasks where the client might not have special skills (e.g. general site look and feel is often controlled by Cascading Style Sheets), so we do the CSS work and train the client on the Configuration Menu and the various operations that are performed there.

It’s been really gratifying to see how quickly we can train experienced DB/TextWorks users to use Presto.  Defining a textbase in DB/TextWorks is very similar to defining Content Types in Presto.  Building Screens and Views in Presto is similar to building Forms in DB/TextWorks.  And it is even more fun when clients make unanticipated enhancements to their systems without our help or assistance after the implementation is complete.  For example, a recent Presto for DB/TextWorks client was able to add a chat feature onto their homepage without even calling us!

So when a client ends up being a fisherman, then I know that I have done my job, and most likely we will have a happy client for years to come!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...