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Preserving Institutional Memory

Social networking inside your firewall can help you compete

Social networking inside your firewall can help you compete

Today’s Web 2.0, wiki, social-networking, podcast and video-sharing technologies offer exciting, low-cost ways to preserve institutional memory. These new methods for sharing knowledge provide a framework for adding depth and clarity to traditionally cryptic technical documentation. They’re also well suited to today’s distributed work force, where team players may rarely meet face-to-face but must interact across time zones and, sometimes, national borders. E-mail alone isn’t enough for this function as messages aren’t centrally stored, are often lost or deleted, or are left unshared with the whole team.

Imagine the Benefits

Imagine if you could review the traditional program and database documentation for a custom executive dashboard application you’ve inherited and also watch a series of short videos where past developers explained the architecture, the interfaces, how important values are being calculated, why the underlying queries were designed to work a particular way, shortcuts or compromises that were made to meet a deadline, major changes made after the initial release and why. What if you could also read a wiki where the users had posted comments on how they interpret the dashboards, including how they use particular data elements (possibly in unintended ways), which users or departments receive related reports or other output, how that data is used and how the dashboards could improve.

Imagine if, inside your corporate firewall, you had a Facebook-style application where everyone involved in developing, supporting and running queries could share information about the tables being joined, the complex calculations and business logic encompassed in their queries, the business purpose behind the most frequently run queries, the great little tricks users had discovered to save time, query-performance considerations, and how or when a query is executed. Imagine if your power users took a few minutes to record videos of how they perform some common and advanced functions and linked these recordings right to the application.

The Advantage of Relationships

Sharing internally is critical, but establishing an open line of communication with your ISVs is just as important. In my experience, customers who spend time talking to and exchanging e-mails with technical support and training staff are the ones who get the most value from their software. These are the customers who attend educational webinars, enroll their new employees in training classes, take the time to install new releases as they become available, request enhancements and learn how to use new functions. Some of them even have internal user groups that periodically meet over lunch to share their experiences.

Bill Langston is director of marketing for New Generation Software Inc., and a developer of iSeries BI software. He can be reached at



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