Most of us, as individual consumers, rarely get information from a single source. Instead, we use an assortment of sources and media to find out what we want.
A similar situation exists in large organizations. Learning rarely occurs from a single source or in a structured manner. Instead, it bubbles up from people, social media or wiki posts and is presented in several formats including audio, video, and text.
With their structured, top-down and time-consuming approach, traditional learning management solutions are not sufficient to manage these streams of information. This week we will review a solution that promises to revolutionize the way we share knowledge in business. We will look at Bloomfire – – a SaaS knowledge-sharing tool for the modern workforce. We will look at its features, interface and see how it can be of use to you.
Solving the Sales Problem
In an earlier interview, Bloomfire CEO Craig Malloy said that behind every business problem lay a learning problem. Malloy tackled the sales learning problem in Bloomfire.
“The original idea for Bloomfire came from poor sales enablement practices,” says Heidi Farris, marketing director with the company. Such practices include pitching products with little or no product knowledge or making sales pitches without prior knowledge of audiences. “The reason (for poor sales practices) is that the only people that can truly teach sales reps how to sell products are other sales reps and no one wants to take them out of the sales cycle to onboard new hires,” she says. In addition, such knowledge is tribal knowledge and traditional learning management systems do not account for this.
Bloomfire makes it easier to capture such information on the fly. Thus, you can capture sales techniques, documentation, and questions and answers contributed by successful peers in multiple formats. Because it utilizes multiple modes and types of presentation material, Farris says Bloomfire sits at the intersection of content management systems, social business software, file sharing software and learning management software. “The common theme of these categories is information sharing,” she says. “Bloomfire takes this a step further by adding context to enduring content with social features.”
Managing Information Using Bloomfire
Bloomfire captures and organizes information and tribal knowledge into a single conversation. However, aren’t there tools – such as email conversations – already that capture such information?
“Bloomfire facilitates peer-to-peer mentoring and capturing of tribal knowledge that is otherwise lost in one-to-one email strings,” says Farris. “The application allows organizations to benefit from the collective wisdom of the team.” The benefit of this approach is that the application enables small teams to do more with less.
The interesting thing about Bloomfire is that it does not necessarily approach information in a structured or defined manner. Instead, the tool focuses on the way people really learn – from one another at the exact time of need. Important elements of the tool include advanced search facilities, creation and consumption of enduring content, and a question and answer engine (think Quora for business) that enables team members to follow experts or learn from a collective pool of knowledge. I especially liked the idea of experts and users intermingling as it creates a democratic setup within an organization and, also, facilitates interaction and team building activities within an organization.
In its most basic format, you can ask questions or contribute to a discussion on Bloomfire. The combination of question and answer and search techniques enables users to search out answers at the time of need, helping them perform better in their jobs.
Bloomfire does provide administrative features such as role-based access and analytics. Managers can grant access to content based on roles and answer important community questions. Who is posting what? Which questions are asked the most? What content is read the most? In addition, this feature could also enable small businesses to use the application as partner portal, allowing limited access to partners.
The Basics: What Does The Interface look like?
The user interface of the product has been designed with the non-technical user in mind. The simplicity of the tool helps reduce adoption hurdles – an area where other solutions fall short.
The site’s design is influenced by a social media aesthetic. The interface is split into three panels. The left panel contains action triggers and metadata about content including title and keywords. The right panel is required to produce content and ask questions. Finally, the top panel enables you to navigate between menu items using tabs and menus.
Supporting Your System
The application provides multiple forms of support including online support, email, and phone support.
The Bottom Line
The application is an innovative approach to solve the knowledge sharing problem. Unlike other applications, which burnish old solutions with new interfaces, Bloomfire tries to tackle the fundamental approach to information sharing. The application is definitely worth a try, if only for its new approach.