Friday, January 14, 2005

Knowledge Management, Part 2

Jon Udell wrote an interesting article on the (in)ability for vendors to invest in
basic web pages for knowledge management and allow a collaborative
community based approach for knowledge gardening.

I blogged about this here a while ago.

There seem to be a few basic problems here:
a. Vendors are highly skeptical of trusting knowledge outside of the boundaries of their own company - although it has been repeatedly proven otherwise
b. Vendors do not have a correct strategy to reward the contributors
meaningfully.Vendors, however have talked internally about tracking via points that
can be exchanged for training credits, marketing goodies etc. Reputation management is a key here to sustain the contributions.
c. Message Boarding - by this, I mean the perpetual fear that there would be an outpouring of negative feedback on the products that would overwhelm the site admins and would add unnecessary overhead on the maintenance of the site.

Knowledge management is very much a fundamental part of CRM and self
service is on the priority list for every large customer I have worked
with - but in a very limited way. Until the fundamental perception of
how a community can change the support costs can be communicated,
companies will continue to do business the same old way - if you have
a problem call 1-800-help!
Andy Hertzfeld on Blogging and Podcasting

In this Cnet interview, Andy Hertzfeld (of says:

No. I think people overrate blogging. I think the overall phenomenon to me is Web pages. Blogs are just Web pages, a certain stylized form of Web page. Much of the blogging is driven by egotism.

Is it really? It is easy to mistake this as egotism due to personal nature of the information being shares. Andy - would this be non egoistic if this was a simple web page? The real point here is that blogging has unleashed a simple way for non technical users(read: not webmasters or developers) to post information on the web in a universally searchable manner. This, I would argue, has far more benefits to the community than to themselves. The blogs that singularly focus on themselves are very lonely indeed.

Andy goes on to say:
I'm down on podcasts. I think that's ridiculous. Suddenly you're taking the information and making it completely inaccessible. You can't read it, and besides a podcast is nothing. It's streaming MP3s that's good, but no one can take credit for inventing a new term because streaming MP3s is simple and has been around for a while. Doing it through RSS enclosures is basically bad--to automatically download big files before hearing them.

This is an interesting observation, and I tend to agree with this to an extent. I have several MP3s that I listen to from IT Conversations, but sometimes it takes me at least 5 - 10 minutes to determine even if I am interested in the content of the conversation. How nice it would be if I could immediately see a transcript for this even before I download, and that I have the ability to search for the content that I need before I decide to download ?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

RSS and Enterprise Applications

Here is a phenomenon that is sweeping the next generation of the Web often called Web 2.0 - the ability of expose information to a devoted set of people via RSS. What is interesting here is the lack of adoption in the Enterprise application areas. Do Enterprises do not need this ? Here are few examples:

CRM - can we get a RSS feed for new Knowledge base items that have been added for the products that a customer may have purchased? Or a Sales rep being notified when new marketing collateral comes out, competitive information is published or pricing is changed?

SCM - how about when a customer can easily track shipping information, replacing or augmenting formal ASNs(Advanced Shipping Notifications) with RSS feeds - that are personalized and relevant?

Typically event based frameworks have tried to get a stronghold in the enterprise application space - the ability to raise alerts and explicitly manage subscriptions, role and permission based content management, and end user filtration to ensure only the relevant messages get to the end users. This is a typical example of the control and auditing that is common in enterprise apps. Contrast this approach with the ones that we are seeing right now, founded on very basic principles:
a) There is only one set of information
b) The end user decides what is relevant and interesting

Now only if we add the capability to audit this information, and provide the ability to aggregate the RSS information into a portal, enterprise apps will now have a capability to participate in the next wave of the web.