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Collaboration becomes more consumer-like in its ease of use

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Engaging domain experts

TallyFox was founded in 2009 with a vision of building an open core platform for knowledge sharing. Its Tallium platform is a fully configurable solution that builds digital business ecosystems from collaborative workspaces. The contextual computing backend presents relevant information to every user in an engaging way. The most popular uses are for procurement and as an internal technical support portal, providing information for employees who are responding to client inquiries.

“A company that needs to turn on its knowledge network for a business process—such as risk management or compliance in a bank, competitive intelligence, or to find out what is working from a sales perspective—would benefit from Tallium,” says Trudi Schifter, founder and chairman of TallyFox. Users discover relevant information automatically or send questions to a community of users. “Tallium is designed to be easy to launch and use, an important quality for today’s market in which users have grown accustomed to well-designed consumer applications,” she adds.

Tallium Network provides three levels for its users. The highest level includes all users, who are loosely connected as in an intranet/extranet or sector network. The second level is for specific programs or communities of practice where a smaller group of people are more closely linked due to the theme. The third provides an unlimited number of digital work spaces within each community of people, who are closely associated in a real-world project. The networks share a common core taxonomy with the communities, and each community can add its own specialized terms.

Users can browse and search as well as quickly filter content and people using the expertise taxonomy. A smart Q&A functionality is provided in addition to a large selection of other collaboration and communication features. Users can send out questions to a selected community. When users send out a question, they can see who the experts are. Tallium also alerts the experts in the area in which a question matches their expertise and encourages them to help to answer it.

The search function is powered by Solr, an open source semantic search engine, and is specifically configured for knowledge sharing. Tallium operates on a knowledgebase of content and profiles of people. Users can set up their own areas of expertise based on simple expertise taxonomy and interest. The product’s functionality is built on SmartMatchPro, a proprietary set of algorithms that address ways in which people can be encouraged to discover information and enabled to share it.

“In many collaboration solutions, content pushed to the user is simply the most recent material, but that is not always the most relevant to the task at hand,” Schifter says. “Tallium provides contextual computing with machine learning utilities that allow people to view information based on their personal expertise, actions and preferences.”

For example, venture capitalists are probably not seeking other VCs in their region, but more likely would want to find investment-worthy companies in a particular sector of the U.S. or Asian economy. The user can dynamically choose areas of interest using the same taxonomy via a simple graphical interface.

High strategic value

As an enterprise application, Tallium has an information architecture that provides multiple levels of access rights, including role-based permissions. That allows many different use cases, from ideation to program management. “It may be appropriate to share information differently with people in different categories,” Schifter explains, “or to allow only one particular group to provide answers to a question.”

The incentive for providing a collaborative workspace in today’s competitive environment is strong. Productivity improvements range from 40 percent to 60 percent when such an environment is offered and used effectively. Strategically, the value is much higher, since transitioning an organization to the digital world opens opportunities for innovation and transformative engagement with their ecosystem members.

Engaging loosely connected people in an ecosystem who do not have a common program they share in the real world is a different type of challenge. Some research shows that as few as three percent of the members of such networks ever log in, let alone engage. “We believe that the future of collective intelligence and building dynamic virtual business ecosystems is to develop ways that dynamically motivate loosely connected users to collaborate,” says Schifter.

Given the many collaboration software solutions that are available, choosing the right one is not an easy task. The best approach to selecting a collaboration platform, according to Kompella, is to work from a set of use cases rather than a list of desired features. “If you provide a checklist of features, vendors will invariably say their product has them. Instead, establish detailed narratives of what employees want to accomplish,” he advises. “What are the key business requirements and which set of employees are going to use the system?”

The context for use, such as whether the individual will be in the office or on the road, should also be considered. “Go through the entire journey that the user would experience. Then give the vendor the scenarios and ask how the product supports those use cases,” Kompella says. This approach will be more effective in selecting software that fosters and facilitates a productive working environment.

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