Lotus Details Knowledge Management Product

At Lotusphere 2000 in Orlando today, Lotus Development Corp. lifted the covers on its next major product -- its long-awaited knowledge management offering, code-named Raven. IT users attending the show gave the product an initial thumbs up, but also wanted more details on it from Lotus.

But it will be at least until year-end before users have a tangible product from Lotus to consider for their knowledge management tasks. Raven allows users to search multiple document stores and the Web from desktop clients.

Jim Bird, an information systems adviser at The Boeing Co. in Seattle, said Boeing mainly uses Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange server for mail, but would consider Lotus for knowledge management.

"We're looking (at Raven) for data mining. There is so much data that is so disparate across the company," Bird said. "We need a way to get to our data easily and get it to the people that need access to it. Raven seems to be one of those types of tools that could help us."

Raven will offer the ability to continuously update end-user profiles and data stores with new information. For example, if new data on shock absorbers gets added to a document store, any users subscribing to that data store could be notified via e-mail. The profile of contributors would also get updated as new data is added to content libraries.

"Allowing people to automatically get the documentation that they need, but may not know is in their (document stores) is important," said Gresham Andrews, Notes administrator at Seagate Technology in Scotts Valley, California. "But the information they're giving is not technically specific enough. The sessions should be at a higher technical level. It's too basic."

Anita Moore, manager of network administration at Discovery Communications Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland, said knowledge management is a top priority at her company, but it's too early to tell which products fit the bill.

"They (Lotus) have made a big push for knowledge manage with Raven, but whether it will do the job remains to be seen," said Moore. "It's only in beta right now, so it's just vaporware. Last year, (Lotus) pushed Domino.doc, but there doesn't seem to be much mention of that now. So, we're in a wait-and-see mode to find out which products are going to be viable long-term."

Mail administrators also said migrating to Notes/Domino 5.0 is their next major project.

Seagate, a 25,000-seat Notes customer, started migrating to R5 two weeks ago.

"We always wait for products to become more stable and get the bugs out," said Andrews. "We were also a flat environment and we had to move to the hierarchical system."

"We have a lot of information all over the place and no one gets access to it.

It just sits there," said Michael Craig, a Notes administrator for a major pharmaceutical firm based in the Midwest. "I think Raven would help us deal with that." But first, Craig plans to move over 35,000 Notes users to R5. "We have people and servers all over, so it's a process to get everyone upgraded."

Raven will support client access from Microsoft's Outlook client and the Lotus Notes client. A Web-based standalone product, it doesn't require a Notes/Domino server. Lotus plans to initially support Microsoft's Windows NT and IBM's RS/600 and AS/400 servers. Support for Linux, Sun Solaris and the S/390 is under consideration, officials said.

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