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Adding Context to Corporate Intelligence with Town Halls

11/18/15 9:17 PM

One of the most difficult scenarios for most organizations is the process of capturing corporate knowledge, and then making that knowledge relevant and accessible. We spent vast amounts of budget and engineering resources on data capture, integration, and search so that we can get content and knowledge out of our teams and into a format that can once again be discovered, and, if all goes well, used to solve future business problems.

The problem is that our data -- most of it unstructured in Office documents, email, and social conversations -- is not easily reassembled into a usable context. And without context, the individual artifacts become less useful, less relevant.

That's why social collaboration can be so powerful. In a social conversation, for example, two users might point to seemingly disconnected projects or documents and identify important points that link them together. That conversation serves as a connecting node in a broader social web of content and conversations and ideas. Of course, that's one of the value adds of social collaboration, in general.

Here's an example: two documents of equal value, with similar titles and assigned metadata are uploaded into SharePoint and indexed. While the first document remains in place and unchanged, the second document is shared with the author's peers, who tag it, Like it, rate it, comment on it, and add additional metadata (both formal taxonomy and informal folksonomy, or end-user generated tags). With each interaction, the second document gains richer metadata, and contextual relevance. As information workers search for content, the second document will be more relevant and findable within the system, while the first document finds its way further down the page of the search result.

While this scenario makes sense and makes a clear case for the value of social collaboration, we still have not answered the more difficult proposition of capturing the collective knowledge of our people.

The problem is: How do you apply metadata and context to ideas and conversations?

One of my favorite features within the Beezy solution is the Town Halls. The idea is simple: provide a place where people can gather (virtually, of course) around a topic or shared purpose and ask questions, receive answers, share links and relevant content, discuss ideas, and most importantly -- capture corporate knowledge in a contextual format.

Beezy Townhall

Beezy Town Halls incorporate what is essentially a community site with Q&A capability, providing a real-time conversation as well as an offline knowledge-base around a topic or activity, such as a monthly discussion with the CEO, as shown above. Other scenarios where a Town Hall could be used might include a monthly project management Center of Excellence discussion, or an ongoing interaction with an internal governance body where people benefit from a transparent, non-hierarchical discussion and sharing of ideas around policies and procedures. Whether a single event or recurring activity, Beezy provides a single place to capture questions and answers, with threaded discussions around each so that people can ask clarifying questions and share their perspectives, all of which adds rich context to these interactions -- context that is usually lost when attempting to capture and document corporate knowledge.

For those familiar with the "tweetjam" concept, the idea is to use a shared hashtag and have a community discussion using Twitter. Everything is done in the public view, and while it can be a great way to have an open discussion, is not a very good way to capture corporate knowledge. Yammer offers a step up to this, protecting your corporate conversation to those who have access to your network (ideally, your employees), and conversations are shared. But retrieval of content and context can be difficult long-term.

Unlike either of these, Beezy is built on SharePoint, for SharePoint. Therefore, the Town Hall feature stores all questions and answers, all conversations, all links and content shared within your SharePoint environment -- subject to all of your governance, security, and compliance policies and procedures. But the rich user experience of Beezy goes beyond what SharePoint or Yammer provides. As you would expect from any social collaboration solution, including a person or a relevant tag in a Town Hall conversation is as simple as using an @mention or #hashtag, allowing you to pull people into a conversation and automatically notify them of the dialog underway, or allowing people to participate by following or searching on a tag. And when searching on a document or topic or using SharePoint's discovery features, these Town Hall conversations will be included in your results, because every artifact created or uploaded is stored to your SharePoint environment. It truly is a powerful tool for giving context and relevance to structured and unstructured data, leveraging the collective intelligence of your entire organization.

To find out more about Beezy and to see Town Halls in action, contact us and set up a personal demo today. You can reach us at

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