In Part II we looked at how WebLogs and RSS might be used in a Project Management setting. Now I want to look at how lightweight (or “low impact”) KM tools might be used by teams to share information. I do not mean lightweight or low impact in a bad way but rather in a good way. Many of the more traditional KM tools are ‘heavy’ in that they often require a shift in the way users do their work. They are heavy on process and workflow. While this can be very good in that it enforces a system of use that can be good for the organization it can also stifle the use of the tools. Low impact tools do not require a strict workflow to be followed and they do not have a significant impact on the everyday work that people do. They can be worked into almost any work routine with almost no effect on that routine.
One such tool is Onfolio. This tool integrates into the IE interface and acts as a collector of web pages, images or text snippets. These collections are organized by creating folders within the collection. When you capture an item you specify the folder into which the item should be placed. You also get to provide notes about the item and can also define other meta-data in the form of custom fields that you can define.
Now this might not sound revolutionary…yet. There are other applications that do similar things. But the really neat part is the Onfolio Publisher. This is where it gets really cool. With this you can create reports on the items you have collected. So if you collected a set of code snippets from various programming sites you could create a report and upload it to an intranet or internet site or email it to a coworker as a .mht file. You can even save the whole thing as an RSS feed. (Here is where it gets cooler.) You can save the report to an RSS feed and then upload that to an intranet\internet site where your coworkers or others can subscribe to it in their aggregators! Each report you create gets saved as a different RSS feed so they can subscribe to the ones that they like. You keep collecting and then every so often you update the report by dragging the new content into the report, save it and publish the feed to update the xml file. Poof! You have knowledge sharing going on with out a wildly expensive server-based KM system.
What I envision here for a future version of this product is a predefined report that goes and builds itself based on the contents of certain Onfolio folders and then publishes itself on a preset schedule. Then what you have is one very cool way for project teams to share the information they are finding in their own personal research about the project. The developers on your team have these Onfolio reports about code they have found. They also have reports about the research they are doing on the different ways the system could be architected. You are interested in the architecture stuff but not the code part so you only subscribe to their architecture feed! I have been told by people at Onfolio that this exact feature is on the list for a future release. But even as it sits the updating and publishing of a report would take no more than about 5 mins a day. Drag a few entries onto the page and click 2 or 3 buttons and you have updated your feeds.
I have been using Onfolio for about under a week and it is already part of my daily routine. I have collections for Project Server sites, competing product information, documents of interest, project and portfolio management sites, etc, etc. I find something interesting, I right click on the page in IE and I select the option to Capture Page to Onfolio. I select the folder and click OK. Done.
Im also told that they are looking at integration with many of the blogging packages so that you could capture pages or snippets of pages into Onfolio and then blog them right from inside Onfolio.
So I guess the call for Part III is to go check out Onfolio or one of the other apps like it and spend a hour checking it out and then think about how you might work a tool like this into your project team. How might this kind of tool increase the sharing of information among your team? What impact would this sharing have on your project? Download it and give it some thought.