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Thursday, May 8, 2008

The value of Enterprise RSS

I personally often argue for the potential that Enterprise RSS has for the purpose of improving decision making within an organization. The reasoning is as follows: By encouraging conversations between people in different initiatives and making them explicit as RSS feeds and by making it possible for anyone within the enterprise to tap into (subscribe to) these conversations and passively observe them, managers as well as any stakeholder can get valuable information to make better informed decisions, as well as getting signals about things starting to happen and react on them before it is to late.

When I manage a project, I usually ask each member in my project to write a diary (either as text stored stored in a document or send via an e-mail) about what they have been doing, what they are currently doing and what issues and risks they see. This way I have been able to stay on top of things and resolve issues before they become real problems. I also get information telling me if we are on schedule or not. The problem has been that these diaries have been hard to access and that anyone who wanted to read them had to actively look for them on a file share or in their inboxes. As a result, the only one who have read them has been me. Occasionally. I have also had to remind and motivate each and everyone to write their diaries, which is hard to do when they know that the only one who is reading their diaries is me. Hopefully.

But things are changing as technologies such as blogs and RSS are becoming more common even for enterprise use. With a project blog which every project member can contribute to and an RSS-feed that all stakeholders can subscribe to, the whole process of informing each other within a project as well as informing externa stakeholders becomes so much more simple and powerful. When the effort to inform yourself is small enough, then you find it worthwile. The value is simply so much higher than the cost. When that happens, then you also see a value of sharing information with others. If you know that someone reads what you are writing, then you get the motivation needed to continute writing. And then it becomes a positive spiral.

In the post "How Corporate RSS Supports Collaboration and Innovation", Dennis McDonald advises his readers to read the post "RSS: Underappreciated Web 2.0 in the Enterprise" by corporate IT manager Jim MacLennan. So I did and here is an excerpt:

"We added RSS capabilities to our internal PMO systems this past month, and traffic & content is already building up to become a valuable resource. Some have [correctly] noted that this increased visibility puts a bit more pressure on project managers and team members, to keep updating project blogs with pertinent information. This "time shifting" of communication should develop into the most effective way to let the rest of IT know what is happening in all areas"

"These spontaneous, organic, and very impactful "conversations", between people still experimenting with a new technology, show me real potential for spontaneous innovation and idea sharing. More evidence of the value of [judicious] experimentation with new technology - no silver bullet, but just enough spark to start a few fires."

Dennis McDonald makes a summary of Jim MacLennans findings:

  • "RSS feeds make it easier for people to kee up with what a lot of different projects are up to.
  • This has led to better communication as well as innovation.
  • Email is still the most ingrained communication platform.
  • Upper management still expects PowerPoints for reporting purposes."
  • He then continues by addressing the problem to quantify the costs and benefits of Enterprise RSS:

    "Simply put, a generally available RSS feed creation and subscription capability can increase the number of projects any one person can remain abreast of for the expenditure of a given unit of time — just as it can increase the total amount of time a person devotes overall to managing — and responding to — the monitored RSS feeds."

    "Granted, taking such a quantitative view does not tell the whole story about what might be gained by making RSS subscription features generally available across projects and the people they interact with. There’s no way to predict, for example, when an innovation or improvement will occur as a result of a communication that might not have otherwise taken place."

    "That’s a disadvantage of taking a “beancounter” approach to implementing social media within an organization. While you might be able to quantify the time, effort, and technology associated with impacted processes, you can’t necessarily predict when and where the benefits (such as innovations or new ideas) will occur."

    If you want to know more about Enterprise RSS, the ChiefTech blog by James Dellow is a good starting point.


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