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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

Users Not Sharing? Tighten Security!

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Listen to my interview with Scott Ryser, CEO of Yakabod, whose collaborative knowledge-sharing system is used extensively within the US intelligence community.

In this podcast, learn why implementing strong security to protect information is sometimes the key to getting people to start sharing it with others within their organization.

Listen to or download the 7:49 minute podcast below:

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PW: Scott, can you just start off giving us a quick rundown of the Yakabox product and the functionality that it offers?

SR: Yeah. Phil, we really started in 2001 as a company, Yakabod did, and we've been delivering a secure knowledge network application to the intelligence community since 2003. And that's really the birth of this product — the Yakabox — has been from the intelligence community to help them share knowledge. To help them find, share and create all the information they need to use every day without having to plow through the stuff they don't. So the product really has a lot of different functions in it. We've chosen not so much to focus on a traditional technology stack like an enterprise content management, or search, or social networking — or any of those individually — so much as we've built a platform where we integrate the best of all those things together, so that people can use it to get work done every day.

Right. Now, I guess security is also quite an important technology feature because that evidently is going to be a big concern for users in the intelligence community.

Yeah, yeah, naturally, Phil. This is being used in the intelligence community. It has to meet a series of strict accreditations and approvals and everything, so they can share sensitive information on it that they need to share every day. So it's accredited to a level called PL3, Protection Level 3. That's kind of their 'Good Housekeeping' seal of approval for very sensitive information that can be stored and shared in the repository.

So when we talk about activities like collaboration and social networking, I guess there is this tension between sharing on the one hand, but being secure on the other, and how do you strike the right balance there?

Yeah, that's a great question Phil. That's one of the big challenges here. It's counter-intuitive really, but security is one of the elements you have to have to be able to enable sharing. Unlike Web 2.0 applications out on the open Internet, when you're talking about being inside the enterprise, there's just certain information you aren't going to share. The engineering department isn't going to share this stuff with the marketing department until they're ready — and no matter whether the CEO declares that we will all share or not, that level of sharing isn't just going to happen immediately. Those stovepipes aren't going to come down just by a CEO mandate.

So instead, by having a secure platform and giving people a level of trust — that, 'I can put this stuff out there and only my team can see it, I can put the financials up there that our team uses and we don't have to worry about that other group seeing yet.' That starts to build the trust where you can start to, rather than trying to push the stovepipes down all at once, you can start to poke holes in the stovepipes; get people sharing information in the context of specific business challenges they're facing. And that builds the trust, where those stovepipes eventually collapse under their own weight after you've poked enough holes in them. So it's counter-intuitive really, but it's that security that really enables the sharing to take hold in a culture that's not used to it.

Right. So what you're saying is that people are not going to share if they feel that it's an anarchic free-for-all; that they want the confidence that they can manage what other people can see and what they're still holding back from other people. So that [they want to] just feel in control of the sharing process, I guess.

You're absolutely right, Phil, yes.

So, is this just the intelligence community or — I know you were talking about engineering, and finance, and marketing — do you see other markets in the more general commercial arena where the Yakabox has got applications?

Yes, we do Phil. Actually, that's taking a lot of our energy right now. We've started in the intelligence community and built a nice base of business there, but now we're busily and happily engaged in trying to roll that out into a much broader market segment. We're not so much focused on a few vertical market niches, as we are functions within some markets. Really, any place where people are trying to solve that problem of, 'If we only knew what we knew.'

Now, you can fill in the blank from there. If we knew what we knew, we could get products to market quicker; or if we knew what we knew, we would've caught the fact that drug was going to fail trials a year earlier. It's any place where that knowledge-sharing and the corporate knowledge base can come into play for a strategic advantage to get products to market quicker. It's really about driving that top line growth, that's where this product fits best.

Right. Okay. So really any arena where people need to be sharing more information to make sure that they're not reinventing the wheel in one part of the organization when it's already been made and ready-to-roll somewhere else.

Yeah, absolutely right Phil. Yeah, there's definitely an ROI benefit and a cost saving benefit to this type of technology that — the figures are something like, if you can ask the knowledge network to find the answer, it's going to cost something like eight cents, where if you'd have to ask Joe to find the answer, it costs something like thirty dollars to find it. So there's definitely an ROI to this type of technology. But that's not why people typically deploy it, at least our customers. They're really deploying it for that top-line advantage — the strategic advantage or the knowledge sharing — and then they're realizing the ROI as a bonus benefit, if you will.

Right. Okay. So, is this typically a workgroup kind of implementation or do people put it in as an enterprise-wide infrastructure?

Yeah, it's ultimately designed to be an enterprise-level activity, and it's architected for that and it scales for that. But really that's not where we start the process if we're going to drive adoption. Something like 80% of all knowledge-sharing applications end up failing. That's a pretty high number, software in general [is] something like 70%, but [it's] even greater for these knowledge-sharing applications. And there's just a lot of cultural barriers in the typical organization that keep these things from being used every day.

And so to overcome those, we have a lot of things we do, of course, but one of the keys is, we start that rollout middle-out rather than trying to force it from the top-down throughout the organization. We get executive buy-in at the top of the organization, but we really deploy it middle-out. We start with a business unit, or a department, or a division — wrap it around a real problem they're struggling with every day, so they can use this to get work every day — and then it spreads from there. So it's designed for the enterprise but typically starts in the middle.

Yes, because the big challenge really with these technologies is not the technology, it's the people, isn't it? It's getting people to change their habits.

Yeah, that's it. Absolutely Phil. I'm sure you've seen that in a lot of other domains, not just these knowledge-sharing applications, but it's certainly — especially holds true here.

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

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