Knowledge Management Strategy Spans Microsoft Products

Microsoft Corp. parceled out a few more details of its knowledge management strategy with the release of several metadata standards proposals.

The proposals provide models for describing how data is categorized, how a business is organized and how business rules are written. Together, the models would help a business create knowledge portals, also known as "digital dashboards."

Barry Goffe, a product manager for SQL Server, Microsoft’s flagship database and a key component of the company’s knowledge management strategy, explains how a digital dashboard might work: "If someone is negotiating a contract with a customer and that contract comes up on a hit list of the top 10 most important customer activities on my digital dashboard, I need to know what’s the next step in the process of getting that contract signed off. These rules allow you to capture the workflow and the rules associated with that piece of knowledge."

The proposals, called extensions, were released to the industry for an open design review in late July as the Meta Data Coalition (www.mdcinfo.com) announced it had accepted the Open Information Model (OIM) as a metadata standard. The knowledge management extensions amend the OIM.

Metadata is data about data. It helps people or applications determine what a record or field means and where it came from. The OIM was Microsoft’s model for defining metadata until the software giant turned the standard over to the coalition in December. A dozen vendors and consulting companies from the coalition, including Computer Associates Int’l Inc., KPMG, Lexis-Nexis, ICL Inc. and Deloitte & Touche Consulting, helped Microsoft draft the knowledge management extensions.

Microsoft says OIM is technology-independent and vendor-neutral. The most significant implementation for OIM, however, is within the Microsoft Repository -- SQL Server 7.0’s metadata component -- which uses a proprietary version of the OIM. Few industry observers hold out hope that the metadata efforts coalescing around the three main relational database camps -- Microsoft, Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp. -- will unite soon.

Goffe characterizes the extensions as a step near the top of a long ladder. Microsoft’s overall knowledge management strategy also includes the next generation releases of its SQL Server product, code-named Shiloh; its Exchange messaging product, code-named Tahoe; and Windows 2000’s directory services, Active Directory. "Really, where it becomes important is how SQL Server, Exchange and the Active Directory interact," Goffe says.

"The Tahoe approach is more of a document-centric approach focused on content indexing information from documents, the file system and the database," he explains. "On the SQL side, with the repository, it’s more of a data-centric approach -- more looking at the world in terms of data and using traditional database technologies as the foundation for doing those kinds of searches and queries."

Microsoft is focused less on providing specific knowledge management solutions and more on the enabling technologies that support the solutions, Goffe suggests. "All of these technologies will interoperate, and it’s open to the customer, system integrator or ISV in terms of which approach works best for them."

The extensions will be implemented in the next version of the Microsoft Repository, which will ship in Shiloh, Goffe says. In the meantime, systems integrators who worked on the extensions -- such as KPMG or Deloitte & Touche -- can begin creating solutions based on the extensions this year.

Adding to Knowledge Management

Proposed knowledge management extensions to the Open Information Model, put forth by Microsoft Corp. and partners, include the following:

  • Knowledge Description Model. A consistent vocabulary reflecting a business- or user-specific view that forms the core of the knowledge portal when catalogued and categorized. This model allows knowledge workers to retrieve information more easily through standard business terminology. It also supports the interchange of business concepts and terms between applications.

Co-developers: Computer Associates Int’l Inc./Platinum Technology Inc., KPMG, Lexis-Nexis, News Edge, ICL Inc., DMSoft Corp.

  • Business Engineering Model. Helps customers develop a blueprint that depicts how a company operates in terms of processes and goals.

Co-developers: AppsCo Software Inc., CA/Platinum, Deloitte & Touche Consulting, IntelliCorp Inc., Micrografx Inc., Visio Corp.

  • Business Rule Model. Allows metadata types to capture, classify and store business rules. This enables interchange between rule-capturing tools, business process modeling environments and back-end tools such as workflow engines.

Co-developers: Longs Drug Stores, Visio Corp., Rule Machines Corp., the Meta Data Coalition Technical Committee.