Delano smartens up agencies

Capturing the knowledge that flows through the electronic communication

of an organization has been a dream for many government agencies. If only

you could search through every e-mail message, memo and document for specific

ideas or topics and categorize the results into some kind of meaningful

index, you'd have it made. Unfortunately, that task is much easier said

than done.

Delano Corp. has added a Knowledge Management Server to its e-Business Interaction

Suite that attempts to deliver just such capabilities, and largely succeeds

in this goal. Bear in mind, however, that the product is not designed as

a general purpose, knowledge management tool but rather as an adjunct to

Delano's existing product base. As such, you must have applications built

and deployed with the e-Business Interaction Suite prior to installing the

Knowledge Management Server.

It's also important to note that this product is a tool rather than

a finished solution. You'll have to invest a significant amount of time

and effort before you should expect to see any results, a characteristic

shared with other knowledge management servers.

After installation, the program's components appear as Actions on the

e-Business Application Builder tool palette. The four components are Knowledge

Base (KB) Add / Delete, KB Category Trainer, KB Search and KB Text Categorizer.

Building a knowledge base application with the graphical Builder tool

is a lot like constructing a program flow chart. Each application begins

with a start event — something that triggers the process. Start events include

things such as receipt of an e-mail message, receipt of a Hypertext Transport

Protocol request, a direct message input or a scheduled event. You then

add appropriate process steps necessary to complete your application. The

Builder includes flow control functions, such as loops and decision blocks,

to allow you to take different actions based on the input received.

Two additional functions make it easy to add content to a knowledge base

from external sources such as HTML files or a World Wide Web site. The http

Get component will import content from any Web site that the server can

connect to. You can extract a single page or walk through an entire site

if you choose. The HTML-to-text conversion component will process an HTML

file and remove all the HTML tags. It will also selectively remove things

such as comment lines, script code and header sections.

Completed applications run on the e-Business Application Server in conjunction

with a Web or e-mail server. The e-Business Interaction Suite monitors

e-mail accounts in much the same way that your e-mail program does. When

the suite detects a new message, the program processes it according to the

rules established using the Builder. There's also a way to process Web form

data using a special Common Gateway Interface program installed with the

e-Business Application Server.

Making full use of a knowledge management system is somewhat of a chicken-and-egg problem. In order to get the full benefit out of the system you need a populated

database, but the database doesn't get populated until people use it or

you force-feed it. To help jump-start the process, Delano provides tools

that allow you to search through external files to add to the knowledge


The most complex part of the product is the use of knowledge domains

and categories. In general terms, a knowledge domain is the highest level

under which a body of knowledge is grouped. Categories represent subgroups

of knowledge. The training of a category uses natural language or "show

interest by example" techniques to build and group similar sets of information.

Building the simpler types of domains with a limited number of categories

should be within the reach of most organizations. However, if you need something

more complex, you'll need help from someone trained in natural language

or artificial intelligence techniques.

Documentation for the product is minimal at best. The 15-page Getting Started

guide included on the installation CD-ROM in Adobe Systems Inc.'s Portable Document

Format provides the bare minimum on how to get going with the Knowledge

Management Server. There's also online HTML help for easy reference.

Creating a knowledge management solution with the Delano suite of tools

is, in short, not a simple task. You'll also find a hefty price tag to go

along with it. If you're not using Delano's e-Business Interaction Suite,

however, you'll want to consider easier-to-implement alternatives. Specifically,

two other companies, Kana Communications Inc. and eGain Communications Corp.,

provide similar capabilities at similar pricing.

— Ferrill, based at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is a principal engineer

at Avionics Test & Analysis Corp.


Delano Knowledge Management Server

Score: B

Delano Technology Corp.

(905) 764-5499

Pricing: Available on the open market for $100,000.

Remarks: Delano's Knowledge Management Server works in conjunction with the company'se-Business Interaction Suite to add intelligent searching and categorizingof information from various sources. The server is complex to set up, whichisn't made any easier by the sparse documentation that is provided.

BY Paul Ferrill
May 15, 2000

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