Wednesday, May 7, 2008

AIM for Sales

In talking to Sales staff about our Alert Information Management (AIM) project, I've learned that Sales people in bioPharma are either on the road, in doctor's offices/hospitals or at home. It is basically a given that they shouldn't be using Blackberries or other mobile clients for reading news and information updates while driving for everyone's safety. It is also a given that they shouldn't be using wireless gadgets in hospitals due to potential interference issues and therefore patient safety. Therefore, staying up to date on new research regarding their drugs and disease areas is something Sales staff have to do at home. Of course, their management wants them out talking to doctors - not sitting at home catching up on the latest research even though bioPharmas all have staff devoted to delivering research updates to Sales staff.

It is public knowledge that I'm involved in a project using Newsgator's Enterprise Server (NGES) for our AIM project. It has a very nice concept of 'locations' for different delivery mechanisms. For example, we can collect news and alert streams of information from a variety of sources: RSS feeds, emails, website monitors, search alerts that all get converted to RSS for management and re-distribution. Re-distribution can be in a variety of flavors: RSS streams, aggregated RSS streams, website insertion as a portlet for RSS, email alerts, screensavers, ...

I was thinking that I really enjoy listening to podcasts in my car and catching up on news and learning from them which led to me thinking why don't we add a new 'location' for NGES such that RSS streams are converted to podcasts. Locations are RSS feed specific so a Salesperson could set up the 'podcast location' to only include the RSS feeds they need to follow in this manner. There are already several websites that provide RSS to podcast conversion such as YAKITome or Odiogo. With this, a Salesperson could stay up to date using the down time while driving by listening to these podcasts. All of this would be automated and not require any additional manual effort to deliver (i.e. no empire building by adding a group dedicated to reading the news or research reports).

Using the iPhone as the platform for this would provide high-quality mobile web access, an RSS reader, a phone and a podcast tool wrapped up in one device. One particular feature that I would love (and which is not possible with the Blackberry device I have to use) is the easy switch between listening to a podcast, taking a call and then going back to the podcast. This is key - because fumbling with multiple devices in a car is not a great idea.

Of course, it's obviously easy enough using the available 'RSS to podcast' tools to bolt onto the back end of our RSS management system. Either way, it's just another example of the flexibility of RSS for AIM.