noHold Launches Confederated Knowledge
I know what you are thinking, that the past two posts I did on The Problem with Knowledge and How to Build a Federated Knowledge Base were interims to this announcement (I noted at the end of those posts that it was sponsored research). To a certain extent, yes — however, when I first started talking to noHold we decided to do something different: I was going to focus on Federated Knowledge as a research topic, and after I did so they were going to show me what they had been working on and they wanted to hear what I had to say. They wanted me to write a review (this post) comparing their product to the research I had done.
On March 16th, noHold introduced Confederated Knowledge, a product modeled after the concept of Federated Knowledge. I got a briefing and full product demo. Below are my notes comparing my research and knowledge of Federated Knowledge to this release.
One of the first things that surprised me when researching Federated Knowledge was that there are no implementations I could reference, and nothing more than research on it. When I wrote the article on how to do it I saw the problems behind it: very complex management of the integration, and almost impossible to manage the logistics of connecting the different repositories.
The idea of creating a conjoined knowledge base with input from many different places, or at least to display knowledge from different repositories into a single view is too complex for many people to think about. As hard as it is to manage a single instance of a knowledge base – imagine having to do the same for two or more. Worse yet, in addition to managing these repositories you also have to manage the integration points between them. It would take very specific cases, and even then, the scope would have to be very limited for it to work.
Attempting to integrate two massive knowledge repositories, and find the common points between them, is impossible. Well, nearly impossible. I am sure you can find some integration points, but as soon as the knowledge begins to change, retaining those connections becomes very, very difficult (if not impossible).
What noHold did, and I like, is that they found a specific case where this works. This release of Confederated Knowledge is geared to a specific industry (internet service providers) and business function (technical support). The target market is one where customers who don’t know where to turn for help, usually come first.
For example, if you have an anti-virus application installed and it stops working – who is responsible? Is it the operating system vendor or the anti-virus vendor? Or is the computer manufacturer to blame? The answer, as usual, is it depends. Troubleshooting this type of problem, which used to be done by finger-pointing away from the organization, can now be done via Confederated Knowledge leveraging the answers and knowledge from each of the partners.
Leveraging noHold’s virtual agent, an organization can help their customers troubleshoot across vendors and knowledge repositories from a single interface. No longer do they have to open two, three, or more windows to find the right answer from the many knowledge repositories where it may exist, or navigate to several web sites or search engines to find their answer.
Now vendors can provide a single-point-of-access to all the knowledge that fits their clients’ needs, raising customer satisfaction, vendor accountability, and response times for solutions; a win-win-win solution for customer, vendor, and partners (see the screen below for more details on how you cross knowledge domains with the same interface).
That is what I like about Confederated Knowledge: they deliver the value of federation without the hassle of the actual federation.
I was expecting a far more complex product with more administrative features to let users and knowledge administrators integrate disparate knowledgebases, multiple methods for accessing them, and sufficient smarts to be practically automated in the integration of KB.
What I saw was a good solution to a pre-determined problem with tools to create and manage it, administrative functions, and the ability to solve problems as addressed. It is a troubleshooting and resolution tool for complex environments with two or more partners providing content and knowledge.
There are certain things I’d like to see done differently as it grows and evolves.
There is great value in using virtual agents, but being able to leverage the power of the Confederated Knowledge model via email, chat, even mobile would make it more powerful and more useful for the adopters. I would also like to see a method to bring ANY data, whether partners or not, into the confederate solution. Truth be told, there may be some external issues, even legal, with accessing data in other vendors’ web site – but if they can be worked out, the Confederated Knowledge would be ever so more powerful.
Finally, I would like to see more dialogs built for other industries and functions. Yes, this will take time – but there are many untapped areas where this product can become very useful and would like to see it expand into those areas (troubleshooting is not exclusive to technical support; many other functions also require it).
All in all, I think that the launch exceeded my initial expectations and gave me something to try in certain circumstances. No, it is not for anyone who would like to use it – it requires a specific problem that fits the solution, and willing partners that collaborate on the knowledge to be distributed. However, it is a good first step towards leveraging the Federated Knowledge model for organizations and brings together disparate repositories of knowledge to connect people to solutions.
Disclaimer: noHold is a customer and I was retained to help them develop content for the launch of their Confederated Knowledge product release.