Make the most of your content
Systems as diverse as maritime vessels, aircraft, and computer networks share one important thing in common: they are all highly complex. A big part of the complexity is found in the volume and variety of information resources associated with them. In order for these systems to remain operational and affordable, organizations need a scalable and robust way to manage, exchange and publish system information.
For numerous global customers over the last twenty years, Gnostyx has designed, developed and deployed innovative solutions to the problem of managing complex system information. These projects demonstrated the merits of leveraging, integrating, and managing open content standards so that customers can continue to evolve their solution investments over very long periods of time and even amid dramatic changes in the technology landscape.
Organizations of every shape and size are challenged by the fact that finding useful information is hard and only seems to get harder as time advances. Heavy investments on expensive search technology and ponderous enterprise content management systems have not helped. If anything these investments, by pooling ever larger collections of information together, only seem to make things worse.
For customers in the commercial, non-profit, and government sectors, Gnostyx has built a variety of information discovery solutions that have managed to cut through the fog of information to help users quickly find what is relevant to specific business needs. These solutions rest on a novel use of open content standards as a way to collect and distill descriptive details about important information resources that can then be presented through a simple faceted navigation interface.
Although it is an activity that has occurred several times since the early days of the web, the meteoric rise of mobile devices and social media has forced many organizations to take a hard look at their online presence. In doing so, these organizations find that they have not only become out-of-step with prevailing design practices and accessibility standards but that their online presence is cluttered with mountains of unused and disjointed content.
For several large enterprises servicing diverse communities of users, Gnostyx has undertaken strategic reviews of their web presences and of the technology infrastructure supporting them in order to frame a practical renewal roadmap. A key part in each of these engagements has been the deployment of tactics for reintegrating data sources that had over time become disconnected. These engagements also reintroduced these organizations to the core content standards from which the web was originally constructed and that can be called upon again to reduce the cost of sustaining and continuously improving a compelling online presence.
Organizations in a range of industries fall under varying degrees of regulation. These organizations are subject to specific requirements largely around how they handle information and how they use it to conduct their operations. In more formal scenarios, these organizations undergo stringent filing and review processes and must operate in a way that conforms to strict compliance guidelines. Needless to say the cost of achieving and maintaining compliance can be high both financially and operationally.
Working in healthcare, defense, energy and aerospace sectors, Gnostyx has tackled these challenges on many occasions. Each time the real goal has been to improve the efficiency of all parties in the regulatory process so that savings can be realized, in terms of funds and time, by everyone. And in each case, the collaboration amongst the parties found ways to move beyond saving time and money to improve the overall level of compliance being achieved.
Large providers of educational services and information are confronted with a common problem. How do they create and manage a formal body of curricular material so that administrators, instructors, customers and learners can easily access the information they need? And how can these stakeholders actively participate in the ongoing evolution of the curriculum? The explosive growth of eLearning tools and techniques has made a solution to this challenge more daunting and more pressing.
For a major education ministry, Gnostyx implemented one of the most complete and advanced curriculum management solutions ever developed. This solution has since provided inspiration to subsequent Gnostyx projects where organizations of different sizes needed an effective solution to managing learning materials and in particular where those materials would be deployed to learners using mobile devices and blended learning techniques.
Software developers deploy a range of tools and techniques in order to manage the complexity of the software design and development process. This is always a challenge but for some software teams it is a challenge that blocks the path of their innovation plans. One example of this type of challenge is the need for a broad range of stakeholders to contribute to the design of software. Another is the need for software to adapt dynamically to different environments. To meet these challenges, radically new approaches to software design are often needed.
For one global leader in optical networking, Gnostyx was called upon to design a radically different approach to designing and generating software. The goal was to equip customers with the ability to completely reconfigure a network to meet their own requirements and to do so in near real-time. The networking company had pushed the state-of-the-art software design tools to the breaking point so Gnostyx implemented a solution whereby designers, including customers, authored extremely precise design specifications using open content standards. Software artifacts were then generated directly and dynamically from this software design knowledge base.
The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) has attracted a great deal of attention since its initial public release in early 2005. Organizations have been eager to jump on board with a standard that offers a great deal of capability out-of-the-box with its widely-used open toolkit. And many vendors of content technologies quickly refocused their marketing and product development investments towards supporting the DITA standard. The net result is that many organizations find themselves on the brink of, or in the middle of, DITA implementations only to realize that they do not really know how best to proceed.
Starting from the very beginning of 2005, Gnostyx has supported organizations efficiently and effectively adopt and leverage DITA. These have included specialized software companies and government institutions, as well as global enterprises looking to use DITA in ways that the originator of DITA, IBM, never imagined. In each case, Gnostyx has sought to provide a grounded approach to deploying DITA and DITA tools so that individual implementations were as successful, affordable, and supportable as possible.
Many organizations have been exploring how to apply the principles of library science to their information holdings with the view to making that information more findable. They quickly discover that this effort demands a great deal of investment. Approaching this challenge in a way that can be converted into business benefits by leveraging technology proves to be an even bigger challenge.
For a number of customers in the aerospace, manufacturing, healthcare and government sectors, Gnostyx has tackled this challenge with an innovative solution to taxonomy management. Essentially, these solutions revert to a basic notion that a taxonomy is first and foremost a document that clearly describes a perspective on a domain of knowledge. If a taxonomy is created and managed as high quality content, then it can be extended by linking to other taxonomies, it can be published into multiple forms that support intelligent discovery processes, and it can be leveraged to effectively inform and guide information classification.
The drive in many organizations is towards increasingly standardized work procedures. Sometimes this is undertaken to achieve specific types of quality certification. More often it is undertaken to achieve heightened targets for quality, efficiency and sustainability as have been set as part of an enterprise-wide implementation of lean manufacturing principles. And in today’s increasingly automated work environments, these procedures must be something that both people and machines can understand and act upon.
Gnostyx has played a lead role on a number of large enterprise initiatives to apply lean manufacturing principles to a broad range of business processes. In each case, Gnostyx has been responsible for designing the content structures that would be used for standardized work procedures and for developing an application suite that supports the authoring, publishing and even automatic interpretation of these instructions. One particularly large initiative, where Gnostyx helped a global aerospace firm better integrate its design and manufacturing processes, was recognized with two consecutive annual awards for global leadership in lean manufacturing.
Many organizations initiate, manage and complete cases. Accordingly, there are a great many case management tools on the market. What is less visible is the fact that the life cycle of any case will almost never occur within the confines of any one of these tools. More commonly, case files need to be shared with other organizations and sometimes with many other organizations. Also, the information collected around cases becomes a record that must be accessible for long periods of time and sometimes forever. Many of these requirements are simply not addressed by mainstream case management tools.
On a number of large projects, Gnostyx undertook to design and implement an approach to case management that ensured that organizations using different case management tools would be able to inter-operate and that case information would also be shareable with other applications including archival systems. This approach leveraged open content standards to provide a tool-independent representation of case holdings and to provide a relatively simple way to augment the functionality of different case management tools where their capability was found to be lacking.
The engineering design activity, undertaken in many sectors ranging from pharmaceuticals through to aerospace, is an even more complex and challenging task than it already appears. One factor often missed is how engineers interact with a large body of engineering standards that apply constraints to almost all design decisions. Improving how engineers access and use engineering standards, and participate in their ongoing evolution, is a highly sought after, but daunting, goal.
The solution to this challenge lies in modernizing how the engineering standards themselves are maintained and made available for use within design environments. If these standards can be converted from massive bookshelves of loose-leaf binders to being data resources that can be precisely searched and directly reused, the engineering effort can be given a dramatic boost in productivity. One major project undertaken by Gnostyx tackled this challenge head-on for one of the world’s leading manufacturers and delivered a solution that constituted a major competitive advantage.
Field engineers and equipment support technicians have the unenviable task of arriving at a customer’s site at a time when a problem with a critical system has disrupted, and sometimes halted, operations. Whether it is a large printer, an aircraft, or a mining tool, there will be people anxious to see the problem fixed and fixed quickly. How quickly these problems will be fixed will largely depend on how complete, up-to-date, and easy to use the maintenance information that these field engineers and technicians have at their fingertips. Improving this information is something that is always welcomed.
This is an area where Gnostyx has extensive experience, having designed, developed, and deployed intelligent maintenance aids over the last twenty years for customers in the defense, aerospace, energy, healthcare, and construction sectors. This experience has included working with various commercial products designed to address these requirements. And in this experience, it turns out that the most attractive solutions, and the ones that have proven the most adaptable to changing requirements, have been those that leverage web-based interfaces that are low-cost and mobile-friendly, and that facilitate the provision of a very wide range of support information to users working in many different environments.
Commercial publishers as well as large enterprises have come to see that what they need is a dynamic publishing capability. Such a capability will allow them to deliver content that is packaged for every user’s needs and prepared to perform optimally on whatever device this user happens to be using at a given time. The explosion in eBook readers and mobile devices has thrown a spotlight on the fact that most publishers are limited by legacy publishing infrastructures that struggle to produce two different versions of their content let alone an unlimited array of renditions.
Equipping organizations, whether commercial publishers or large enterprises, with a dynamic publishing capability calls for two things. One is that their publishing infrastructures typically need end-to-end modernization. The other is that they ultimately need to get back to the basic question of how their content is prepared and managed so that it can actually fuel a dynamic publishing process. Gnostyx has worked with several of the world’s leading commercial publishers, and some of the world’s largest enterprises, to tackle both of these solution dimensions.
There is much talk about the innovation economy, and about how leading companies are repeatedly disrupting traditional industries with game-changing innovations that combine new technologies with new service models. These innovators themselves face the challenge of managing their innovation processes, and of managing the information resources that make it possible to acquire, share, combine, unbundle, license, and sell innovations. Market leaders planning to stay in front need to support their creative activities with information services that make those activities manageable and scalable.
For some of the world’s leading innovators, Gnostyx has contributed architectural guidance and technology reference implementations that help organizations to support teams in creating, sharing, managing, and leveraging the content that embodies their innovations and that constitutes what they actually retain once the teams disband. These solutions have continually sought to introduce measures of formality and discipline into the innovation process and to do so in a way that helps instead of hampers the dynamic flow of creativity.
All institutions buy goods and services. Large organizations can easily have annual procurement budgets that run into the billions. And the lion’s share of these procurement budgets (typically well over 80%) are directed to the acquisition of complex solutions that are customized to their unique needs. Whether buildings, ships, or software systems, the efficiency and effectiveness of the procurement process ultimately comes down to how completely and clearly the organization articulates its requirements and how usefully the supplier prepares the support information that comes with the acquired solution.
Whereas many organizations have sought to save money purely by shaving small amounts from their high volume transactions (representing only 20% of their overall expenditures), leading organizations have looked more deeply at the procurement process to find much greater savings in how they acquire complex solutions. Gnostyx has a unique background in tackling the information challenges surrounding procurement reform and has overseen the design, development and deployment of solutions that have helped global organizations save significant amounts of money while also improving the quality and sustainability of the solutions being acquired.
Many business activities depend upon information aggregated from many sources. Some of these activities are large-scale, such as seen with a commercial publisher aggregating sources into a reference portal or a prime contractor pulling together the contributions of thousands of suppliers. Some of these are very small but important nonetheless, such as when an individual accesses a government website looking for information on how to do something that will invariably cross a number of jurisdictional boundaries. Creating an integrated view of information from sources that were never designed to be consolidated is a challenging task to put it mildly.
On many occasions over the last twenty years, Gnostyx has worked closely with some of the largest information aggregators in the world. These projects tackled the underlying challenges of bringing content assets together, smoothing over the gaps and overlaps, so as to provide a single, coherent information experience. Customers in the automotive, finance, healthcare, government, academic, and publishing sectors have all found the ability to aggregate information from disparate sources to be increasingly indispensable.
Although it has been growing for over thirty years, there has been a lot of attention gathering recently around digital humanities, where computing technology is deployed to assist and advance traditional humanities scholarship practices. Initially confined to the academy, digital humanities projects have been recognized as being very close to the types of research activities that are essential in today's interconnected world. What makes these projects interesting is the fact that they confront the complexities of text and media head-on and do so with some very challenging examples. These projects also must find ways to collect and manage collections of data resources that are notably large, rapidly-evolving, and at times unpredictable.
Gnostyx worked on a major digital humanities project at the University of Oxford and did so as a charitable undertaking. The rationale for making this contribution has been that the project exhibits, rather graphically, the pitfalls of applying overly rigid technology tactics to complex and changing data resources that collect around large text collections. The Digital Miscellanies Index (DMI) gives researchers the ability to access and explore data about the publishing history and composition of poetry miscellanies from 18th century England. Gnostyx designed, developed, and deployed the DMI platform so that this valuable data collection could be made freely available to, and usable by, a global community of humanities scholars.
For decades in the past, and probably for decades to come, organizations have sought cost-effective ways to convert legacy content from single-purpose formats to open, digital representations that can be used in many ways. This activity has proven difficult and expensive for a number of reasons. One is that legacy content formats can be stubbornly obscure. Another, and a more important one, is that in order to be fully useful in a new world the content will need to be enriched and improved at the same time as it is converted. And this effort relies on the insight of subject matter experts who understand the domain but whose time, and patience, is often limited.
Working in numerous industry sectors, Gnostyx has designed, developed, and deployed a variety of content conversion solutions. In these projects, a number of solution patterns have emerged. One is the use of interactive interfaces whereby subject matter experts provide input and feedback to conversion processes, effectively adapting conversion rules based on accumulating experience. Another pattern is the deployment of aggressive content analysis and validation processes that can be used to push data about the conversion to stakeholders who can, again, provide corrective feedback. In many domains, a key hurdle to be overcome is guaranteeing the parity of converted content with the original source, and here there are several design patterns that have proven consistently useful.
Although its history is longer than is often assumed, the practice of Content Strategy has gained a high level of visibility recently. More and more organizations have realized that they really do need to think about their content if they want to improve the online user experience they are providing. Content Strategy looks at what content an organization needs to acquire and at how that content will be used to materially improve business performance. As a practice and as an undertaking on individual projects, Content Strategy is a challenge due to its fundamentally interdisciplinary nature, bridging as it does different business areas, communication practices, and technology domains.
For customers all over the world, Gnostyx has pursued the practice of Content Strategy far longer than it has been a popular phrase. From these projects, several important lessons have been extracted. One is that a Content Strategy is a plan of action and as such it should be advanced in a way that pushes an organization to act – to make investments in improving how they acquire, manage, publish and evolve their content assets. Another lesson is that content cannot be productively considered separately from the technology domain within which it lives. Yet another is that when pursued in an active and integrated manner, Content Strategy can be a powerful catalyst for constructive change.
A common refrain, heard in many a meeting room, is that organizations need to understand and articulate their business requirements first and only after these requirements are nailed down should they look at the available, or possible, technologies. There is a serious problem with this edict in that technology has a habit of changing the business landscape and that as soon as a new technology is introduced the business requirements tend to change and sometimes radically. How can an organization explore the business impact of technology without committing itself to a particular technology investment?
In support of a long series of projects, Gnostyx has evolved a response to this challenge. It’s called Information Prototyping. Low-cost, open-source web technologies, coupled with open content standards, are deployed so that organizations can inexpensively explore new information experiences, and new ways of conducting their business. This way the organization can begin to encounter the business impacts of technology, and of new ways to engage customers, so that their understanding of the business requirements catches up with the possibilities provided by the new technologies.