In keeping with the ever-present themes of Web 2.0 and social computing, Inmagic has launched a new version of Presto that fully embraces these concepts and casts a new approach to knowledge management, which it terms Social Knowledge Networks. Initially announced at the Special Library Association Annual Conference in June 2008 and released in late 2008, Version 3 of Inmagic’s Presto product has been enhanced with a number of features that enable the organization to enhance and extend its knowledge assets through controlled use of social networking technologies and concepts. Though the growth of new features in the product extends only incrementally beyond previous versions, the shift toward Social Knowledge Networks represents a new strategic focus of the company and its approach to knowledge management.
Presto for Research Asset Management
Since 2003 Inmagic has shown an increasing focus on products for knowledge management for organizations in addition to its products for the automation of special libraries. In April of that year, the company introduced the Inmagic Content Server, based on Microsoft SQL Server, as a new platform for helping organizations organize, create, and access content. Inmagic released the first version of Presto in August 2004. Presto was based on Content Server, but offered a new design and many new features.
Presto was initially positioned as Web-based research asset management software designed to help an organization access and manage both internal and remote information resources. Presto Version 2.0, released in Feb 2007, introduced new features like RSS feeds, alerts and logging to track all changes to content.
One of the key concepts behind Presto involves creating a single unified repository of an organization’s content, thus avoiding isolated silos of information that impede efficient access to information. The vetting of content placed into Presto facilitates the development of a repository of reliable information available to the community of users. The centralization of content formerly housed in multiple systems into a single repository represents major progress from the perspective of knowledge management.
Today, information comes in many forms and on many different media. This product aims to help organizations manage a wide range of information assets. Presto can manage documents, images, video, and other media, each with customized metadata structures and display tools.
The heart of a product like Presto is in tools that enable users to find information. Presto offers a number of methods for exploring content, including a basic, Google-like search, an advanced search feature where one can specify combinations of terms, date ranges, and other qualifiers, and the ability to browse through hierarchies of directories. The product can also deliver results through RSS feeds.
In addition to its own centralized repository of content, Presto provides access to remote content resources through federated search. In January 2007, Inmagic partnered with WebFeat, now part of Serials Solutions, to incorporate their federated search technology into Presto in order to access to external data sources.
Given the high value of an organization’s information assets, security stands as a major concern. Presto includes rolebased authorization that controls all access to content, giving administrators the ability to specify what individuals or groups can view, modify, or create any given category of content or perform tasks within the application.
Embracing the concept of Social Knowledge Networks
This new version of Presto uses social technologies to allow an organization to enhance its body of information resources. By providing features that empower users to interact with the content and contribute, the organization is able to create what Inmagic terms a Social Knowledge Network. A traditional content management system simply presents information to the user for consumption. A social knowledge network provides a collaborative environment where individuals throughout the organization develop and refine a body of knowledge.
A socially aware system encourages users to interact with the content to add value to the overall body of information. Presto allows users to provide tags, ratings, comments and reviews to any item of content. The system displays tag clouds to help users visualize the context of content. This contributed evaluative information helps other users in selecting content and can be helpful in identifying low quality and outdated information that should be expunged. Presto also allows users to use tools like blogs to share their knowledge with the broader community.
Unlike the open Web where anyone can launch a blog, Presto follows a more controlled approach where such tools can be assigned to experts in a given domain. These new social features, built on top of the existing research asset management infrastructure, create an information environment based on top-down vetted content that is evaluated, refined, and extended through constant social interaction.
To ease the transition to a social knowledge network, Presto offers the ability to introduce these features incrementally. Traditional library functionality can be brought into the environment through the company’s Genie technology. Presto Social Library combines the special library automation tools found in Genie with the Presto social knowledge network platform.
Inmagic offers Presto either as locally installed licensed software or through Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The company recently formed a partnership with SAVVIS Communications Corporation for the provision of the technical infrastructure for remotely hosting both its Presto and Genie products for its SaaS customers. Through SaaS, organizations pay a fixed annual subscription fee rather than incurring the costs involved in maintaining their own hardware and purchasing software licenses. Inmagic indicates that the annual subscription fee for Presto starts at $15,000. The annual fee for Genie starts at $7,000. Actual costs for any given organization will vary based on factors relating to the options selected and the scale of the installation.
Inmagic also announced the launch of DB/Text Library Suite, a comprehensive Web-based integrated library system comprised of the company’s products for special libraries, including Genie, DB/TextWorks, and WebPublisher Pro. This product will be launched concurrently with Presto Version 3. This group of products represents the latest developments in a long line of software descended from the company’s original database software. While Presto targets the enterprise knowledge management market, Genie and the products based on DB/TextWorks tend to be used in special libraries.
Inmagic company background
Inmagic is one of the veteran companies providing software for special libraries. The company was spun off of Warner-Eddison Associates, a consulting firm that originally developed the software. Headed by Alice Sizer Warner, this company was involved in a wide variety of activities, including the development of a database product called Inmagic in the late 1970’s that ran on mid-range minicomputers. Inmagic was founded as a new company in 1983 by Elizabeth Bole Eddison and Karen Brothers to develop, market, and support software for special libraries.
The management of the company has been stable, with a minimal number of transitions in top management. Cofounder Eddison retired as Chairman of the Board in 2001 and passed away on July 31, 2006. Karen Brothers held the Chairman position from 2001 through 2003. David M. Darsch was appointed Chairman in April 2003 and continues in that position today. Karen Brothers served as President of the company through 1990, when her responsibilities shifted to development. Brothers continues to be active in the company. Phillip L. Green, currently Chief Technology Officer, served as president from 1990 through September 2006. Paul J. Puzzanghera was named President and CEO in September 2006. In broad terms, the management has evolved to bring in the leadership necessary to navigate major shifts in technology and product strategies.
The strategic direction of the company has evolved to deliver products that continue to appeal to its target market and that respond to broad business and technology trends. From its founding until 2003, the company focused on evolving its core product through changes in technology platforms and in extending its functionality. In 1983 the software originally developed for minicomputers was released for DOS and other microcomputer operating systems. DB/TextWorks for windows was released in 1995. WebPublisher came in 1996. The shift from providing automation software for special libraries to enterprise content management solutions began in 2003 with the launch of the Inmagic Content Server. Genie, a Web-based library automation product that blends the DB/TextWorks database technology with Microsoft SQL Server saw its initial release in 2004.
From its founding twenty-five years ago, the company has focused on special or corporate libraries and litigation support. Today the company’s clients number over 5,000 worldwide. In addition to its direct support and marketing operations, Inmagic works with a network of distributors that resell its products and provide support to their clients. According to Inmagic, its products find use in sixty percent of the Fortune Top 100 companies, in large numbers of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, US legal firms, and in the financial services industry.
Inmagic is a privately held company. In December 2007 the company received $5 million in venture capital from Edison Venture Fund. This infusion of capital provided the resources behind the reshaping of Presto from a research asset management system into a platform based on the concept of a social knowledge network. The similarity between the name of this venture capital firm and the company’s co-founder is purely coincidental.