Two posts caught my attention last week. Stu Downes’ Enterprise RSS Day: Why Don’t you use Enterprise RSS? and Craig Roth’s Cornering the Corner Office about Information Overload.
What is striking about these two posts is how they address the same issue from two completely different perspectives: the Technologist Perspective and the Business Perspective.
Stu wonders why "I haven’t seen people beating my door down to architect enterprise RSS capability over the last 12 months." Maybe they’ve been coming to our door. In fact, the interest in Attensa’s managed RSS platform has accelerated exponentially over the last six months.
He also asks "Is RSS anywhere near the top of enterprise collaboration agendas?" As far as agenda setting goes, in our view RSS might not be near the top of a CIO agenda, but it is at the heart of streamlining communication and collaboration.
I doubt Stu is getting many customer inquiries regarding the purchase of wikimarkup language or metablog API’s. It’s more likely his customers are looking for collaboration platforms and tools that reduce the friction of information transactions and make it easier for people to discover, filter, share highly relevant information.
We’ve struggled with similar questions until we wrapped our minds around separating the business questions from the technology questions. When we launched Attensa in the summer of 2005 we brought on a team of college interns to help us research the applications for managed RSS. We called them the Dog Pound because we were barking up the wrong tree in our approach to customer conversations.
Like most new technology companies we had a vision of how RSS could be used behind the firewall and we wanted feedback to see if we were on target. In the early days we started these conversations by focusing on the technology. These conversations didn’t get very far. The inside joke was that we were starting the conversations by asking, "How many pounds of RSS would you like to buy today?" You live and learn. Now we start the conversation talking about communication and collaboration challenges. The conversations last longer and are far more meaningful.
Take the conversation covered in Craig Roths blog about a Wall Street Journal interview with Chevron’s CIO, Gary Masada. This interview echoes the conversations we are having on a daily basis with customers and prospective customers."What is the biggest challenge you face as a CIO?" Masada’s answer, "Getting our arms around all the information we have."
When it comes to talking about getting your arms around the information you and Enterprise RSS, it all comes back to Andrew McAfee’s SLATES:
Search | Links | Authorship | Tags | Extensions | Signals
"SLATES describes the combined use of effective enterprise search and discovery, using links to connect information together into a meaningful information ecosystem using the model of the Web, providing low-barrier social tools for public authorship of enterprise content, tags to let users created emergent organizational structure, extensions to spontaneously provide intelligent content suggestions similar to Amazon’s recommendation system, and signals to let users know when enterprise information they care about has been published or updated, such as when a corporate RSS feed of interest changes."
Replacing the abbreviation RSS with words like signals, alerts, delivery is far more descriptive and useful to customers. One of our customers has named their RSS initiative project: Communication & Collaboration Delivery. That’s got a much better ring to it than Enterprise RSS.