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The real portal to knowledge! What organizations can learn from news reading applications.

I admit it – I am a huge fan of news reading applications such as Pulse or Flipboard. Because of this I have been advocating a similar approach for company internal news and information for many years already. A couple of years ago we thought a news reader app would do it but applications like the above mentioned taught us which direction to go. Last year we finally launched the first version of our News Monitor inside of SAP as a beta version attempting to make a drastic shift in how news are shared and consumed in the enterprise. Now with Facebook launching its paper app I feel it is time we should talk about it a little bit more in public – and in particular with everyone interested from within our multimillion member ecosystem.

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Let’s face it – there are big challenges in large organizations when it comes to information overload while people at the same time are at constant unease since they don’t have the information they need to do their job to the extent they eventually could. There is much evidence by well-known research institutions on the web underlining this paradox: Too much but not the right information. And: this challenge is much older than knowledge management as a discipline. But there is hope and we can learn from things that work well on the web.

Today we find news about everything that exists on the web and so it was and is fair to say news act as a filter. When news are well curated and aggregated in a personalized fashion however the aggregation can become the individual entry gate into the world of knowledge – on the web and within an enterprise. Also in professional organizations news is the currency that helps to exchange knowledge. There is corporate news, regional news, management news, technology news, product news, social news, personal news, organizational news and much more. To a large extent however news is pushed based on affiliation with a certain area in the org chart or membership to a distribution list. While this type of segmentation makes sense at times it is not enough in times where the “segment is one”. Too much push to everyone’s inbox leads to ignorance and that is bad for two reasons:

  • Communicators spend much money in writing articles and designing newsletters that not many read and
  • Employees miss the information that could be relevant to them in order to do a better job  – which is what everyone wants. If they haven’t heard it you haven’t said it.

On top of everything news are at the center of a shift in communication practices that we are witnessing for many years now:

  • News come in various shapes: audio, video, text, …
  • News come via various platforms: personal, desktop, mobile, social, …
  • News are a dialogue: commenting, rating, sharing, …
  • News traffic comes from everywhere: search, rss, …
  • News success needs to be measured: analytics

The classical newsletter approach has limits when it comes to user preference with respect to the when, where and how employees want to consume their news.

At SAP we embarked on a journey to becoming a knowledge company and the way we share, curate and consume news is critical as amount of information and velocity of business further increase. What needs to be told needs to be told quickly to the individuals that need to know.

In fact the biggest challenge for the News Monitor project success as the company continues from beta to productive solution will be to mobilize the hundreds if not thousands of communicators that distribute news via the standard approach and to motivate them by proving the new approach will lead to more and real traffic and thus to more business success. Let’s see how the story unfolds – on the web and within the organization.

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