Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Enterprise RSS, wherefor art thou...?

Toby Ward over at Intranetblog has a post "Enterprise RSS is not dead, its still being born" in which he references ReadWriteWeb and some other sources.

I will not regurgitate the post here. but I am a big fan of RSS and ATOM content syndication technologies, however as Toby points out lack of enterprise take up is more to do with cultural, human factors issues.

However within the Information Management / ECM sphere, RSS / ATOM can be hidden away from those poor 'deer caught in the headlights' end users.

For example Alfresco uses the ATOM publishing schema internally for its RESTful interface for publishing content. It would appear to this (admittedly non-developer) writer that you might be able to address the CMIS web services 'meta-standard' using RSS or ATOM interfaces.

However on a less complex level, RSS can allow you to syndicate or pull content into your portal or intranet page from your CMS or other source, with out explicitly stating your using RSS and without having to educate your users on the new technology. In this more limited use case scenario you can set up the RSS reader portlet or web part and decide on what information 'feeds' you want it to present to the users. As they are not getting to choose the feeds to subscribe to, there is no training issue, it may just appear as the 'news box' on your portal page.

So for example the communications department at one of our clients sees this as an excellent mechanism for bringing in news from its sites and divisions all round the globe. So only the techies need to know what mechanism / technology is in use, the 'normal people' just see different categories of news presented to them on the page.

However the same client has users who want to 'personalise their corporate news experience' - this seems to me to be a heaven sent opportunity to gently introduce RSS, but as Toby noted, without actually using the term 'RSS' - lets stick to calling it 'syndication' or even just 'subscription' as in 'subscribe to this news channel'. So maybe RSS could find a sweet spot in a personalisation scenario.

The other thing that I take away from the lack of runaway success for enterprise RSS is that of user education and training. Recently listening to one of Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech (TWiT) podcasts, there was a a bit of a discussion about users having to be 'licensed' to use technology. In Europe there is indeed an end user certification called the European Computer Driving License (ECDL). This leads me to postulate that an organization that takes the education and technology training of its workforce very seriously, to the point that RSS is not considered as voodoo, witchcraft or just plain ' too difficult', will possibly gain considerable competitive advantage over those that don't.

By the way, I don't subscribe to age based arguments on skill sets in this domain either. My father was 66 before he got his first computer. He secured the post as secretary of the local social club because he could word process letters and do the accounts in a spreadsheet. Now he is in his mid 70's he Skype's me every weekend....... :-)

1 comment:

sniesen said...

Attensa's Charlie Davidson gets to heart of the issue with this:

"Enterprise RSS doesn't mean much. When vendors and solution providers emphasize secure communications channels that intelligently and automatically route relevant information to the people who need/want it, light bulbs start lighting up."

"Enterprise RSS - The End or the Beginning?