A Conversation with ... Mike Vertal, Rivet Logic
The Content Balancing Act
There's a common misconception about information management. People frequently moan that they don't have enough of it. I think that's incorrect. There is no shortage of information management. In fact, I think there's too much. Every business application you can shake a stick at has information management embedded into it.
But successful information management... that's another thing.
When you talk with someone like Mike Vertal, CEO of Rivet Logic, you begin to understand the problem. He understands the challenges presented by the multiplicity of content management systems currently chugging away in most organizations. Between Web content management, enterprise content management, records management, legal case management... let's just agree that there is no shortage of information management systems, products and things. That does NOT mean it works.
"The more information there is, the harder it is to get to," said Mike. He uses SharePoint as an easy example. "Because SharePoint is easy to use, it ends up as a storage mechanism. But that's not management," Mike correctly assessed. "Things in SharePoint kinda grow without control."
But then add social content... and it's the wild west. There is no law. "Blogs and wikis proliferate. Content is locked within those systems, and there's a LOT of it, because people use them so heavily. But because they are stovepipes, it's not easy to get at that content." And that's a shame, because the value of that collaborative interaction among users inside and outside the organization remains largely unavailable.
Keep in mind that information access—a trendy term these days-is not without risk. "It's a balancing act," agreed Mike. "The more information that's available, there's value in that. On the other hand, there are security and access concerns that need to be addressed. You have to have an agile platform that allows you to get to information based on the nature of the content as well as the person's role."
Usability is another unmet challenge in most organizations. "Everyone expects their enterprise search and content applications to be as easy to use as Facebook, Twitter and Google." If the system is easy enough to use, Mike explained, it promotes what he called "emergent" behaviors. "If users can naturally use the tools and find their own ways to collaborate, there's no need for top-down enforcement," Mike insisted.
Does this emergent behavior imply that there's no need for training, or an agenda of corporate policy-making? "No, there's still training that needs to take place, as well as a need to think about business process change management." Oh, boy. Yippee. Another management fad. Bet THAT goes over well...
"Actually, we don't see much user resistance," he said. "In most cases the users are as frustrated by the problem as everybody else, so they welcome it. They want to change. They recognize the problems with legacy systems, and they understand that the lack of usability works against them and prevents them from doing their jobs."
It Takes A Village
Mike described some more key components in the Rivet Logic strategy. "We strongly recommend a user advisory group of some sort—power users who act as a representative sample and can be the voice of the rest of the users."
"We also follow the open source philosophy," he added. "Release early, and release often. The open source model is by its nature iterative. Every two weeks we release a new version. This way we get pretty-much constant feedback." Isn't that disruptive? I wondered. "Not really," he said. "We release only to the evaluators, not the general users. They know they are part of a development effort, and things will change. They expect to come in Monday morning and spend a couple hours working with a new version."
New software isn't the only change Mike anticipates from his customers. "Social content represents a brand new challenge for management. Only a third of the work is replacing legacy content management systems... two-thirds of the time is spent dealing with brand new problems!" said Mike. The good news is that social content is recognized for its value by the people who matter. "The executive level is starting to care," Mike insisted. "That's because they know about customer loyalty, and the difference it makes to the business."