Companies tap RSS to tame info overload

RSS stories can be more precise and effective than email

At the U.K. National Health Service (NHS) division in Scotland, the IT department has significantly cut down on e-mail overload with a NewsGator enterprise RSS system, said David Rendall, a computer programmer involved in the project.

At NHS Orkney, few of the 600 or so users -- mostly doctors, nurses, physical therapists and business administrators -- are technically savvy. So, Rendall has reached out to departments and held frequent training sessions to promote the RSS system's use.

"The biggest challenge is helping people make the switch and get their heads around the new RSS paradigm," Rendall said.

This user indifference and ignorance, coupled with e-mail familiarity, is a common barrier to RSS adoption in workplaces, according to Forrester's Young.

"While most people have a love-hate relationship with e-mail, it's easy to use and very convenient to [copy] your entire office to make sure you get everyone involved," Young said.

This is why Young recommends starting RSS deployments within specific groups in an organization and with the purpose of improving a specific communication issue.

"Where I see most enterprise RSS solutions starting to fall down is when you're trying to encourage or bring a whole host of workers along all at once," Young said.

In addition to reducing e-mail, enterprise RSS systems often boost organizations' use of intranets, blogs and wikis by alerting employees to changes and additions, Young said.

At NHS Orkney, the NewsGator system lets employees subscribe to feeds from the organization's blogs and wikis, thus increasing their readership and boosting collaboration and communication, Rendall said.

Meanwhile, Union Bank trusts RSS will improve its intranet, currently being redesigned. "There are many applications for which we could use the intranet as a repository, and leverage RSS for distribution and change alerts," Penn said.

Specifically, RSS could help with notifying Union Bank employees about modifications to policies and procedures. This is key for banks, which are highly regulated by the government.

"Often a little nuance of a policy will change, and while not applicable to 90 percent of the employees, it's crucial for the 10 percent who need to know," he said.

Not to be overlooked is the ability of enterprise RSS systems to give managers a clear view into how popular blogs, wikis, external sites and intranet sections are with employees, Young said.

"Because it's all coming into one central location, you can do very advanced analytics on who is reading what," Young said.

For example, if half of the sales team subscribes to one specific journal's feed, it might make sense to suggest the feed to the other half. "It really helps information spread more quickly and best practices to proliferate across the enterprise," he said.

Likewise, it makes it easy to spot skunks. "If your CEO's blog has no one reading it, you know pretty quickly there's a problem there," Young said.

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