AKO adds collaboration, other features

Army Knowledge Online users will soon be able to share information and collaborate through the portal.

'Soldiers at any level can create their own structured professional forum,' AKO chief Lt. Col. Kenneth Blakely said. 'If you happen to have an interest in Chinese bayonets and know five other guys who share that interest, you can create your own forum.'

AKO already has a repository for shared documents, but the new version will let groups set up their own message boards, chat rooms and e-mail lists, said Michael Beckley, chief technology officer and co-founder of Appian Corp. The Vienna, Va., company supplies the portal software for AKO.

'AKO will become the engine for the entire Army to build knowledge capabilities,' Blakely said.
The upgrade to AppianPortal 3.3 began in March and will continue over the next few months, Blakely said.

In addition to collaboration, the upgrade portal will have a unified messaging console where users can pick up messages and alerts from all their applications.

The pages themselves will have a new look, Blakely said, to deliver applications appropriate for various categories of users. 'We're looking for the ability to define what each user sees and how they see it,' he said.

More features coming

AKO will experiment with other features and gradually add them permanently if they prove useful. One is what Blakely calls a request-for-information tool. It would let a user set up workflow for passing documents from party to party and checking for status updates.

Appian 'is giving us the ability to create a certain number of workflow things. If we decide we want that, we would have to buy that license later on,' Blakely said.

The portal uses a dozen servers and has 1.6 million accounts. Users can access about 2,000 applications, including 200 that require no additional authentication for users with the appropriate permissions.

The Army in November 2001 awarded GTSI Corp. of Chantilly, Va., a $60 million contract to build the portal using Appian's software. Appian itself won the Version 3.3 upgrade contract last October.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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