Tools & Technologies

Beyond eDiscovery: Supporting Organizational Collaboration

Vendors have developed some incredible tools to assist lawyers with eDiscovery situations. However, I wonder if we could re-direct some of the same technology to support organizational collaboration. For example, consider IBM’s InfoSphere Classification Module. IBM’s web page on InfoSphere opens with this:

InfoSphere Classification Module automates the organization of unstructured content by analyzing full text of documents and emails.

With advanced content classification, accelerate time-to-value from your Enterprise Content Management investments such as content archiving or electronic records management.

Key capabilities include:
– automatic classification of digital things, so people don’t have to do it themselves.
– re-training of the classification engine by people, with the classification algorithms updated in real-time
– support for multiple classification methods, such as keyword rules, proximity matching, pattern extraction
– natural language support, for 18 languages.

All of this is positioned to support archiving and records management, not collaboration.

Now let’s take a leap of imagination, and think about how these capabilities could be used to support organizational collaboration. As I outline in my next book, one of the keys to organizational collaboration is “summarized expertise”, or “who knows what?” Many “Enterprise 2.0” vendors deal with this through tagging (categorization) of people by other people. We know this broadly works across the Internet, where there are millions of people to tag and participate in meta-data creation, but the jury is still out as to whether it will work inside the enterprise, where the population size is so much smaller. So anything that can reason out expertise, either as a 50-50 complement to human tagging or a 95-5 near-replacement for it, should increase the odds that Person1 will be able to find Person2 to help with IssueA.

Now let’s take a second leap. The benefit of classification above a single system is that people collaborate by using multiple systems. Take any wiki provider — Socialtext, Atlassian, Jive, whoever. If the collaborative activity takes place inside the wiki, then stuff can be tagged and aggregated, and used to enable “summarized expertise”. But as soon as you step outside of the wiki, and start working with other people in other systems, then that material is … ignored … invisible … irrelevant. Email … is ignored … invisible … irrelevant … unless it is copied into the wiki. So … my contention is that a higher-level system that can sit across multiple natural repositories of collaborative activity, and reason out expertise and other points of classification, is going to give much more accurate pointers to people that can assist in collaborative activities.

So … three questions (comments please!):
(1) Do you agree that there is potential to use ediscovery type tools to support organizational collaboration?
(2) Have you explored the use of tools like the IBM one (and there are others) for supporting organizational collaboration?
(3) If the answer to #2 is yes, what was the result?

Looking forward to hearing from you …

Categories: Tools & Technologies