Every company suffers from the same problem: Key documents are emailed, buried, and then forgotten about — until they're needed. Then the cycle repeats again. But a pair of ex-Microsoft execs say they have the solution.
Their new startup, Highspot, actually looks very Google-y: Users can sign up to follow and funnel their own data into "spots," but can also search for what they want using natural language via a search box. And the service also "bubbles up" relevant information, so that if a co-worker finds a relevant news story, for example, Highspot will push that to your attention.
Highspot CEO Robert Wahbe, formerly the corporate vice president of product management for the Server and Tools Division at Microsoft, says that too much time is already spent hunting down information that simply gets misplaced, using cobbled-together systems that don't necessarily work. At Parallels Inc., for example, the company used a system of folders within Dropbox to store marketing documentation, John Zanni, the company's chief marketing officer, said in an interview.
"People are spending time looking for content they're not going to find," Wahbe told PCWorld. "They're also spending time recreating content that already exists, and on the other side they're creating content that's not going to be found."
Social networking meets collaboration
Highspot doesn't exist in a vacuum. Microsoft might argue, for example, that Yammer serves the same purpose by allowing employees to "follow" one another, share documents, and collaborate on projects. But Wahbe said the Highspot technology goes a step further, mining documents for their internal content and better assessing whether they'll in fact be relevant to the user. That, in turn, eliminates the need to "tag" documents with user-created metadata, which can grow stale and out of date the longer a document lives within a system.
So how does it work? When users sign up for Highspot, their companies have one of two options: a free service that allows unlimited Web links, five "spots," 500 files, and five downloads per month; and a $20 user/month business option, which allows unlimited use of the service plus spot editors, administration tools, help getting started, and premier support.
A user then updates his information and elects to create "spots," which on the surface feel a lot like a Google+ circles. These spots can be collections of content: people or documents, either created by the user himself, the company, or by others. Users can also elect to "follow" other people, such as a team leader. A particular document can also be "re-spotted," or liked.
Basically, corporate knowledge floats to the user in one of three ways: automatically, via the machine learning algorithm; via spots; or through a dynamic search. Not surprisingly perhaps for Microsoft veterans, the system appears to work best when documents are maintained and updated rather than constantly being revised and discarded. But an out-of-date marketing document can be marked as such or it will also trickle down out of sight as co-workers continue to migrate to newer versions.
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