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This is the On-line companion to my monthly column in
Enterprise Reengineering
The National Publication for BPR

Personalized Subscription Services
(From the September 1996 issue)

Developers of enterprise networks should pay close attention to the rapid evolution of the Internet and its information delivery trends.

The Internet has succeeded in connecting the individual user to a vast array of online information. The challenge of this sea of information used to be finding it. I think the finding problem is pretty well covered thanks to the search sites mentioned in my previous articles and those listed on my Northstar Web page. Experienced Internet users can usually find what they are looking for in well under five minutes.

Once a good online resource is discovered, you may add it to your bookmark list to provide a direct link. But how often do you return to them? To test how well you have been using your bookmarked sites try this:

This should display your bookmarks as a web page within your browser. You will probably see a mixture of hyperlinks indicated in blue and purple fonts. The blue hyperlinks are those bookmarks you have NOT visited within the past 30 days!

Herein lies the newest challenge of the information age: The burden is on the user to regularly visit (and revisit) important resources to discover what's new. Most online resources are passive, they depend on us to take explicit actions to retrieve the information - data that is often submerged under several menus.

One of the latest "killer applications" on the Internet is personalized subscription services. These innovative services can automatically deliver customized information. The most impressive of these applications is Pointcast.

Pointcast can be described as your own personal CNN channel. To use it, you must download the client application which is available for free from their Web site. Then you define your interests and the frequency you want and your Pointcast client automatically downloads the latest scoop such as:

[ To view a selection of Pointcast screen shots, Click Here]

The delivery of the information is also compelling. Pointcast can be launched like a regular application, but it can also automatically send the latest headlines or stock information across your screen while its in screen saver mode. Best of all, Pointcast is totally free to users, since it derives its revenue from advertisers.

The popularity of this new approach is evident in the rapid growth of the service (250,000 new subscribers every month). With one of my clients (A Fortune 500 company) Pointcast traffic has already grown to consume over 25 percent of its entire Internet connection, while another client has taken the steps to block Pointcast at their firewall. Fortunately, a Pointcast server is coming available which can be placed within the firewall. Organizations will also be able to add their own corporate "channels" to their internal Pointcast network.

Before you start thinking I'm a Pointcast infomercial zealot, let me also outline several other services where you can customize information delivery.

Organizations need to give their employees the ability to tailor their view of the enterprise network, as well as broadcast information to individuals based on their user-defined profiles. There are several powerful tools on the market that provide this kind of functionality, such as Logicon's Message and Dissemination System (LMDS).

As an Internet consultant, I need to keep up with all the latest Internet technologies. I no longer spend hours surfing the web hoping to discover what's new on the Internet. I now receive about 90 percent of my new information automatically via E-mail. I encourage you to explore these sites, and also try the Pointcast application, paying close attention to its dynamics. You will discover just how powerful it is to have information automatically delivered to you instead of having to repeatedly go looking for it .

Russ Haynal

Please be sure to visit my Archive of BPR articles.

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