Document Management / Knowledge Management in Small Departments with Limited Funds

I have been so focused on document sharing (including: text, audio, video, etc) over the last 5 or so years, I’ve forgotten how difficult enterprise-type document management can be.

There are no lack of resources for document sharing (even the text kind). Scribd is one of the best. However, when it comes to a product that stores (all sorts of files), organizes (both keywords and indexed search), keep version histories, and provides a closed, shared workspace for group collaboration is a tough find. Oh yeah, did I mention that I can’t afford enterprise licensing for a small English language education department? The options are truly limited and frustrating in this case.

I don’t see that the larger, opensource Content Management Systems (CMSs) do this. Drupal, Joomla, and the like are focused on structured organization of content, but not large scale document repositories. If I’m wrong, please comment below. I’d appreciate the help.

Then I started looking toward knowledge management (KM) systems. There are essentially two kinds: (1) is post-centric and (2) document-centric. I’m looking for the latter and it wasn’t easy. Post-centric could really be done in any CMS, but document-centric views are hard to come by. In this area, I’m going to try KnowledgeTree. It’s paired-down community build is free and looks pretty good. Of course, the coolest features are enterprise and expensive 🙂 It looks like it has everything that I need as well as much that I don’t (document routing, check-in/check-out, etc).

Another service, Alfresco Share (http://www.alfresco.com), is an opensource project (with commercial supported version) that does a pretty good job with documents. It is not necessarily a KM application, but rather a online collaborative workspace. Unfortunately, I think that it’s overly difficult, which may be it’s kiss of death. IU isn’t very good; therefore, it times a long time to learn and a longer time to internalize the functionalities. It took me forever to find a document in a folder of less than 30 files. All I wanted to do was to find the most recent and there was no easy way to do it (fail). However, I’ve since learned to search for them, which makes it much easier.

Really, and I’ll be struck dead for this by Microsoft-haters, MS SharePoint is the best I’ve seen for this. It is really document-centric, which is exactly what I need for this project. It’s free, too (if enterprise is already using Server 2003 or beyond). Problem is that few people know how to administer it and I don’t think that anybody in my current organization will do take on that chore. The drawbacks? It’s Microsoft and all that entails. It can be overly difficult to accomplish tasks, user management is difficult (and somewhat locked down), and it can be really slow. Oh, yeah. And it requires Internet Explorer for full functionality. Again, I’d love to hear other opinions on SharePoint. My experience with it was over 4 years ago and things tend to change quickly.

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