Business-like, isn't he?



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    Locals delivering knowledge management solutions

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business in Vancouver Business in Vancouver February 21-27, 2006; issue 852

    High Tech Office

    How to access what we already know can be a challenge. A trio of local companies offer various options for collaboration, compliance and knowledge management.

    Yaletown-based Blast Radius is perhaps better known as what the company's Robert Miller describes as a "customer experience innovation firm." Over the past decade, it has helped corporate clients such as Nike, BMW, Nintendo and Electronic Arts build marketing campaigns around "high design" websites. Less well known is a software division that provides tools to help "deliver the substance that goes beyond the flash," with XMetal, a cross-Canada product that migrated from Toronto-based SoftQuad to Ottawa-based Corel before settling in the West Coast.

    According to Blast's Michael Ferguson, XMetal, which is built on XML standards, enables real-time collaboration between multiple subject matter experts (technical and legal, for example) to build online documents. Changes are stored behind the scenes, which helps provide the record-keeping needed for compliance with ever-stricter regulations, and hides complex data structures behind user-friendly interfaces.

    Content can be reused in various ways, including online, print, customer support and marketing, and revised as needed. Companies requiring multiple language versions of documents benefit because only changed content needs translation. The result can be much quicker (and cheaper) production of complex and content-rich documents.

    Kitsilano architecture firm was looking for help with the deluge of paperwork associated with ISO 9001 certification. Finding no software designed for small or mid-sized firms, the company built its own.

    After using it internally for a year, Eco-design is making, which it describes as a "unique turnkey professional office mounted on the Web" available to other architecture and construction-engineering firms. The Web-based interface can be used across computer platforms and is described by's Brian Palmquist as "feature sufficient/content rich."

    Bundling 200 industry-standard activities and 400 tasks with relevant code information, content from the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada and more, it enables builders to look at multiple building projects by individual floor, building or project and generate work plans complete with instructions for each task.

    By documenting the many steps required for a building project, the software simplifies creation of insurer-required project summaries and other documents. The software supports multiple users, is customizable to fit a range of building projects and bundles a large collection of codes and other documents. A free trial version is available from Subscription pricing will start soon at $150 per month.

    While Blast Radius' XMetal and's software rely on Web-based standards, South Granville's ECL Computing works with Richmond consultants Design Dogz to help clients build customized knowledge management solutions based on Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft's Exchange and Sharepoint server products.

    As Design Dogz' Chris Burt points out, "Everyone already owns them."

    As a result, they have helped organizations such as chartered accountants Manning Elliott maximize investments already made in software and hardware. According to ECL's Edward Lee, because so many business users already use Outlook for e-mail and calendars, it's a familiar interface, helping to reduce training costs. As an example, ECL built an inventory for Richmond City that tracked tools across multiple worksites to ensure that teams had access to required tools and manuals as needed. Another project helped city management track WCB claims as employees moved across departments.

    In a variety of ways, each of these locally based companies is helping clients get a better handle on the knowledge that's scattered throughout most organizations.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan