Distributed KM system for non-profit
July 24, 2006 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Distributed knowledge management system: I'm working with a large internationally distributed non-profit group on the design and needs specification for a knowledge management system. What are the best technologies out there today? What are some of the key issues to think about?

Some general principles for the design:

1. ASP model if possible. We don't want to saddle this group with having to maintain their own applications.

2. Expert finder capabilities. A big need here to find relevant people who have done similar things. This group is spread over 80 countries, with many people reinventing the wheel all the time. Combine this with a lot of turnover, and you can see the need. Being able to find someone "who's done it before" is a challenge.

3. Document management, search and sharing. A real need to share documents on a variety of levels:
a) between teams on similar projects
b) "standard" administrative forms
c) best practice examples of project plans, grant requests, etc.

4. If this solution can integrate well with a document printing product, that would also be helpful. Given where these guys operate, a large portion DON'T have internet access.

I recognize that a lot of success depends upon a cultural shift in orienting the organization toward best practice KM orientation. This organization is not going to do that in a week - so the solution needs to be dead simple, and not require a lot of time (or critical mass of users to generate decent material - Wiki's not very helpful here.)

Thanks in advance for the help.
posted by mtstover to Technology (2 answers total)
I work for a non-profit, and we are in the midst of this very process. I'm on the tech steering committee so I got to be a part of the needs analysis and decision making. What we decided to go with was Alfresco, an open source enterprise content management system. If your users are at all used to saving documents on a shared network drive or similar, it shouldn't be too hard to get them to use a similar system. While Alfresco has a browser interface, it can also be used in a way that feels like you are just saving a document to a folder. This is fairly common in the closed source systems as well, from my understanding.

One thing our consultants did was conduct interviews with various departments in our organization. These interviews/focus groups had a dual purpose: both to get an idea of the needs of that department as it relates to document/knowledge management, and to pre-sell the idea to the end users.

Some of the key issues we thought about:

1. Records retention - how robust were our needs for records management?

2. Web content management - did the system have a module for publishing content to our websites?

3. Permissions - could we create various levels of security and access to our content within the organization?

4. Flexibility - could we customize fields for meta-tagging content?

5. Workflow - was there a workflow management system?

6. Price structure - this was a biggie, and a part of why we ended up with open source. Closed source systems can get pretty pricey, and seemed awfully restrictive in terms of transferrability of user licenses and such.

Good luck!
posted by misskaz at 7:12 AM on July 24, 2006

When I hear the words Distributed, Knowledge and Management (or Capture) all together in the same sentence, *my* thoughts turn to MediaWiki.

You might need to work it a little, to fit your requirements, but I think I'd have it on my shortlist, at least...
posted by baylink at 10:49 AM on July 24, 2006

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