RSS – CI Professional’s best friend?

RSS or Real Simple Syndication has revolutionised the way I consume information. In good ways, and also in a couple of negative ways.

Gone is the need to spend the first hour of the day trawling through online journals, emails alerts and websites.

RSS as a research tool:

RSS has really enhanced my ability to consume larger ammounts of information in a much hoter time period. I wont write much on using RSS as a research tool. Have a look at August Jackson’s excellent article on using RSS at his website or download it here. August’s piece was featured in the SCIP Magazine. If you like August’s work I’m sure you’ll enjoy his podcasts also.

RSS as a publication/communication tool:

I’m still undecided about using RSS as the primary form of communication in a CI context however. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a lot of value in users getting content pushed out to them automatically, and being able to send short, sharp bursts of information out to user communities is always a key feedback from users I’ve worked with in the past.

My largest concern with RSS is getting the critical mass of my users to start using a seperate (though better) technology to consume information.

Email, web portals, web conferences, Word, PowerPoint and Excel files. These are all established ways of sharing information.  RSS is still a bit of an unknown to many people.

Pros:

  • Updates to web pages, blogs and podcasts are quickly and uniformly sent out to users.
  • Increased flexibilty with regards to communication schedules and formats.
  • Statistics of users and most popular links and downloads can still be performed with more advanced systems.
  • Offline RSS readers offer users a “one stop” offline data store of competitive information. This is particularly useful in supporting highly distributed and occassionally connected sales reps.
  • For small organisations or groups you can create a very direct conversation with your users as they have a certain level of buy-in with the system.

Cons:

  • Users have to be migrated off older systems (ad-hoc systems) to an RSS reader environment for this to be effective.
  • Additional training may be required.
  • Email overload makes people extremely wary of adding additional “rivers of content” into thier professional lives.
  • Lack of offline browsing features in some clients, though I recommend an offline thick client for RSS management.
  • Need familiarity in setting up a RSS feeds or budget to buy a bligging platform that you can host within your company’s firewall.

How I’ve been using RSS as a communications tool:

I currently use Feedreader as my RSS client of choice. It’s free and has excellent search capabilities. It is also, as I mentioned previously, a fat-client. I like it for this reason as it enables me to “hoad” (I believe that’s a technocal CI term!) information. I love having the majority of my info at hand so this works well for me.

I’ve set up a blog internally and try to post to that at least five times a week, mainly as a by-product of research requests and proactively focusing on several key competitors in the software space.

I’ve done informal training and have got some key members of my stakeholder teams to download Feedreader and to let me know how it is going as a tool to consume Competitive Intelligence being published by myself.

A lot of the posts are short but snappy, such as “New sales kit on competiting against XYZ has been uploaded on the corporate CI site – download it here – this is how it can be used”. These are nice and informal, provide a good amount of detail on what’s been posted and for my stakeholders, it doesn’t jam up thier inboxes or get lost in the noise. They know that to get the latest, they go to Feedreader. Plus they get more than just the reports – they get my opinion and my early warning advice.

So far, I’ve been having mixed results. Obviously posting takes time, it also is limited in feedback so far. People read the RSS, download the reports or read my analysis, but they don’t go to the blog to post replies or thoughts. I believe this is the weak link in RSS as a communication tool for CI – it’s just not as conducive to dialogue as email is (and even then, email is pretty poor). Ithink this is a maturity thing, but it is something to consider.

Anyone else using RSS as a means to pump insight out to your stakeholders? Anyone getting better traction? I’ve be very interested in people’s experiences.

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