We cant live with e-mail; we cant live without it.
Indispensable to most businesses today, e-mail can be a millstone around the necks of office workers and the corporate IT professionals who serve them. Bloated in-boxes conceal rather than expose critical e-mail messages, and vast archives of spam and useless messages clog servers and network pipes.
Skilled professionals waste precious hours scanning in-boxes and browsing Web sites for vital information. Saying "enough is enough," many IT pros are turning to RSS technology for relief from e-mail malaise.
"E-mail was never designed to be a news source," said Charles Kevin Hill, IT entrepreneur at consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, in Cincinnati. Hills job is to see that the companys knowledge workers get news they can use in their work, free of the e-mail clutter that could so easily plague them.
Foremost among the companys knowledge workers are 200 sourcing specialists who make P&Gs highly outsourced business model run. "Our sourcing specialists experience the extreme of all knowledge-worker problems. We provide the sourcing specialists RSS-based tools to manage their own news feeds, which they pick from the outside," said Hill, who is using NewsGator Technologies NewsGator Enterprise Server software.
"RSS" stands for several terms, the most widely accepted of which is Really Simple Syndication. There are a large number of RSS readers—browser utilities, for the most part, free—that retrieve and present RSS feeds to PC users.
RSS made its first appearance seven years ago in Netscape Communications Netscape Communicator browser and has since attracted a big following among tech-savvy consumers. The technology is poised for a surge in enterprise adoption in 2007 as Microsoft implements more robust support for RSS in its Outlook e-mail client and SharePoint Server and IBMs Lotus division bolsters RSS support in Notes Domino 8, due in mid-2007.
RSS joins blogs, wikis and podcasts as one of the technologies embraced by members of Generation Y—those born in the 1980s and 1990s—who have begun to enter the workplace in force. RSS can serve up blog, wiki and podcast content.
"Even though its a consumer-driven technology, it may have more benefit for a company than for an individual user. It helps streamline existing forms of communication, so a company will see benefit right away," said Oliver Young, an analyst at Forrester Research. "It can mean more efficient use of e-mail. Its geared toward timeliness and what needs more, or less, attention. RSS can really drive benefit that way."
NewsGator is the largest of three tiny startups trying to make a name for themselves in the emerging market of enterprise RSS. The others are Attensa and KnowNow. All three boast integration with Microsofts Exchange e-mail platform, a key to penetrating the enterprise market.
Finding the right way to bring the benefits of RSS to corporate users is a challenge that IT pros, including P&Gs Hill, are facing. "The technology is not a barrier, but the willingness of people to use it might be. The people most inundated with news have the least time to catch up on new technology," said Hill.
His response: Identify those users with a bent toward new technology, send them feeds from NewsGator Enterprise Server software and let adoption run its course. "Almost all of this has been done by word of mouth. Were tapping innovation leaders and waiting to see who comes to us," said Hill.
Although generally not early adopters of new technology, law firms are facing a new competitive landscape, one in which firms market their services as never before, and on a global scale. Dykema Gossett, a national law firm in Detroit, is using NewsGator Enterprise Server to make its marketing managers more efficient.
"When big corporations are looking for legal services, they put out an RFP [request for proposal], and law firms come in and make a pitch," said Bill Gratsch, Web technologies manager at Dykema. Information about the pitch and customer follow-up is stored in a database that serves up RSS feeds to Dykemas marketing managers.