The Promise of the Real Time Web for the Enterprise

Real Time Web is the latest trend to capture the media’s attention over the past few months, and indeed seems to encapsulate well the effect that Twitter and the social networks are having on the flow of information. The ability to get up-to-the-second information about people, news and activities around the world is a foundation for a new wave of startups and services and is being integrated into search and other services.

As many users of the real time web will attest, its constant stream of information can be overwhelming and disjointed but at its best, it allows awareness and insight to emerge as the confluence of information takes a clearer shape.

Can this be useful in the enterprise? (I’ll be careful about using the term “The Real-Time Enterprise” that Gartner coined a few years ago; it means something else).

Companies generate huge amounts of data that rarely sees the light of day. Let’s consider the following scenario – you are an account manager for several key accounts in a particular vertical. What information are you getting? Most likely direct and indirect emails consist of 90% of the information while the rest is verbal, non-documented conversations. But what if you could get real-time updates on the following:

  • Client specific news
  • Client brand related blog posts, discussions, videos and tweets in real time
  • Vertical news
  • Client services updates about milestones reached
  • Customer support alerts about open service tickets and their resolution status
  • Internal discussions and email regarding the client
  • External email communications with the client by different team members
  • Etc..

Not all of these would constitute information that someone will send a specific email on. Being aware of the stream of news, discussions and information can be invaluable for an agile and responsive approach.

Our current document and email centric information systems are not built to provide this level of constant details. Using the new generation of web mashups and aggregation tools are beginning to offer reasonable solutions.

As Jennifer Martinez had recently observed in GigaOm, there is a huge potential for tools that will help sift and provide context for all of these huge streams of data.

What surprises me is that most of the discussion looks at this as a new phenomenon while there is an industry that has been using this method very successfully for a long time. The Bloomberg (and other) terminals provide bite size financial information in a continual stream that can be filtered, sorted and analyzed. It combines company news, industry news, transactions, price changes, etc., in a way that for a novice seems indecipherable but for the experienced broker is a goldmine.

Providing the right tools are put in place, the potential business value seem significant:

  • Accelerating cycles of decision making
  • Pushing all relevant information to you rather than pulling from multiple sources is a great time saver
  • Decreasing the unbearable email load
  • Increasing and broadening awareness to domain knowledge

For more information on the real time web and the type of tools that exist around it, ReadWriteWeb has compiled a great list of top 50 real time web companies and services.

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