Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Enterprise RSS - alive and kicking

Awareness and interest in Enterprise RSS is on the rise.  Considering that awareness has been low for a long time (Enterprise RSS was recently declared dead), the change is significant. Several customers are curious and asking us about how they can improve their internal communication and knowledge exchange, with RSS technology as one important piece of the puzzle. Noteworthy is the interest in using RSS for business intelligence.

One explanation to this sudden increase in interest can probably be attributed to that RSS is becoming familiar to more people. As people start subscribing to content updates from external sources, they start seeing the benefits of doing the same thing with internal sources. As Forrester has pointed out, adoption levels are still low, but I am pretty sure they will take off this year. 

The most obvious benefit of subscribing to RSS feeds is that you can save a lot of time and energy by having updates come to you instead visiting web sites to check what might have been updated. Most people can understand this benefit without ever having subscribed to an RSS feed, but they might have to see it demonstrated by a colleague or friend to actually believe it and adopt.

If seeing is believing, then experience is revelation. Once you experience the sensation of having updates from a multitude of sources delivered to you in one single location and one single format, you also begin to understand that your information management capacity in terms of the number of sources you can monitor and the number of feed items you can scan and read is much greater the number of sources and items of information you can consume the traditional way (surfing). This benefit is hard to describe in a blog post like this one. You will have to experience it yourself to really understand it.

If you use a web-based reader such as Google Reader, you can access your feeds via a web browser on your computer or mobile phone. Once you discover how easy it is to check your feeds and read feed items via your mobile phone, you always have something to do when you have time to kill on the bus, train or while waiting for something or someone. 

The greatest - and probably also least tangible - potential benefit from Enterprise RSS comes from its ability to help making an organization more transparent and integrated. In a transparent and integrated organization, it is easier to discover and get hold of information that might be of value to you and which can help you to make more informed and better decisions. This benefit is amplified when you combine RSS with blogs, wikis, micro-blogs, video sharing, and so on. Notifications from enterprise applications that alert you about updates to data or tasks can be very valuable, but context is king. The more contextual information you have access to, the faster and more correct you will be able to understand how your project, team, business area or the entire business is performing.

When combined with RSS, tools such as blogs and wikis help to make work, knowledge and ideas visible and available to a broader audience than those who happened to be on the TO/CC/BCC list. RSS specifically contributes by makes monitoring, consumption and reuse of content easier. RSS provides a way to tap into information silos and monitor work and conversations that goes on distant corners of the enterprise.

Transparency is necessary to make ideas flow. It helps us avoid reinventing the wheel over and over again, to identify and manage dependencies, to discover people and content, to spot possible synergies and new opportunities... I think you get the message. But to REALLY get it, you need to experience it yourself. And if you have the role as CIO, exploring and trying to understand the value of Enterprise RSS should be at the top of your agenda.


  1. I agree that RSS is a revolutionary way to surf the web and get information, and it makes things much more efficient (the majority of my reading is through RSS…).

    But, how would you integrate it into the day to day workflow of employees?
    I do not talk about the 16% innovators and early adopters, but rather the rest of the organization, which already suffers from information overload… how would you get them to subscribe to get more information, information that is not even sent directly to them?
    And when is the right time during the work day to stop and start reading your RSS feeds?

    In my opinion, for organization to succeed in implementing RSS as a way of sharing information, it first must have enough employees who know and use RSS in their private life.


  2. I would start with making it possible for team members and managers to aggregate internal and external feeds into dashboards that allow them to monitor activities in their work environment. I would not start with trying to change how people consume content.

    Regarding information overload, the problem comes from overuse of email. That is the issue we should address, how to decrease occupational spam. We need to find new and better solutions that help to take some load off your inbox. Instant Messaging is one such solution. Another solution is to channel more information via blogs instead of via email.

    One of the biggest problems with email is that people force information upon you by putting you on the CC/BCC list of their emails, thinking/guessing that it might be relevant to you. But you know better yourself what information is relevant to you.

    A good thing with blogs is that you can choose how to consume blog content. Either you visit the blog, or you subscribe to its feed. If you do not need the information now, you can choose to take a look at it later. If you find something irrelevant in a feed that you subscribe to, you just let it pass you by without giving it anything more than a glance (you don't have to open it or delete it, just scroll past it and it will be marked as read and disappear into the background). If you are not interested in the blog at all, you can unsubscribe whenever you want to.