The Intranet as a Management Tool
General Electric (Fairies, Connecticut) has excelled in many product arenas. The leadership of Jack Welch, who was once described as "Neutron Jack," has achieved what only a handful of executives in any industry have accomplished.
Information technology has been a key component of GE's business toolkit for decades. The company's recipe for success is a search for what works. Mr. Welch is a pragmatist who combines vision with exceptional financial acumen.
The recent announcement by SageMaker, Inc. (Fairfield, Connecticut)that General Electric had selected the SageWave Intranet system for three different GE business units struck a chord.
GE may manufacture jet engines, electric locomotives, and hundreds of other products. It may provide financial and credit services to thousands of organizations. GE, however, runs on information.
The global reach of GE produces and consumes internally-generated data, memoranda, and digital In addition, GE has been recognized as an organization with a thirst for financial, scientific and technical,and other types of information. Mr. Welch may not agree with my view that GE does not run on business plans and clever staff. The company pivots on information.
The SageWave tool competes with products from dozens of other companies, including Plumtree Software and Documentum, among others. To the casual observer there is not much difference between a systems that use Internet-centric technology and ubiquitous Web browsers. The less casual observer sees four aspects of the SageWave system that warrant comment:
An Intranet provides employees and other authorized users to information resources and applications accessible via an network. Web-centric Intranets usually permit the use of a Web browser to provide access to content from the public Internet, proprietary content generated by employees or constituents of an organizations, and third-party data from such sources as Dow Jones & Co., journals, and market research firms.
First, the SageMaker SageWave tool does all of the personalization and portal functions that are becoming ubiquitous. However, the SageMaker implementation allows a client to access the service under the ASP model with internal and external content, seamless access to other applications, and management services handled in a Virtual Private Network or public Internet setting. Alternatively, SageMaker can install a dedicated Windows server at the client's location and provide services in an on-site model. For large clients with many different requirements like a General Electric, SageMaker can support any combination the client requires.
Second, the SageMaker service performs the normal indexing of documents produced by employees. Like systems from dozens of competitors, SageMaker offers indexing of third-party branded content. SageMaker has engineered an indexing and search-and-retrieval architecture that allows near real-time access to any document that is included in the SageMaker service. Instead of delays that can amount to several hours, the information becomes immediately available to authorized users.
Third, the "branded" content offered by SageMaker includes the blue-chip news services, many specialized data sources for specific industries, as well as general business information. However, the SageMaker system offers a simple approach to displaying the source or original document that is intuitively right for employees and professionals with many different backgrounds and expertise. The source documents carry the logotype of the source document. Busy people know and trust a document because of its source. Displaying the logotype of Merrill Lynch on a brokerage report provides a simple, yet vital chunk of information to a user.
Finally, the SageMaker service has confronted directly the need to measure the effectiveness of an information system. Reports are generated by the system with a single mouse click. A manager can monitor content, functions, services, and dozens of other metrics. What news service is most used in a particular department? SageMaker can provide a report that appears on the screen after a single click. To move the data into Excel or a similar spreadsheet, the user need only highlight, copy and paste. The controls also permit accurate reporting of usage of information sources that require an additionalper-use fee. SageWave reports provide information about use and reuse of information for various auditing and quality assurance purposes. SageMaker's metrics remove the uncertainty about online information access and information use and reuse.
With the retirement of Jack Welch approaching, it is very likely that the management controls of the SageMaker system sold General Electric. The truth, of course, is that a number of features and services comprise the solution that General Electric licensed.
Whatever the reason, the GE decision marks an important Intranet benchmark. With GE's acceptance of the online access to internally=generated and third=party information, many companies will take a longer look at Intranet solutions. SageMaker's sale will at the end of the day provide a useful case study for other Intranet vendors.
More importantly, Jack Welch has left behind a software system and information environment that allows eneral Electric's thousands of employees a way to stay informed, share information, and measure themselves using a suite of powerful information tools. SageMaker's system helps GE ensure that information and control mesh smoothly with the post-Welch General Electric.
42 Halley Court
Fairfield, Connecticut 06432
Phone - 203.368.4888
Fax - 203.367.6849
Web site: www.sagemaker.com
Stephen E. Arnold
Arnold Information Technology,
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