by Stephanie Watson
Published on 8 May 2012
Today, we review Bloomfire, Inc. company dedicated to team knowledge sharing. The big idea is to ensure that people who have questions are connected to those who have answers in an easy-to-use SaaS application. A team leader can create a personal Bloomfire with a customized URL, invite team members and start sharing tribal knowledge - sort of SharePoint meets modern-day technology.
Users can upload existing documents from their desktop or jump right into their Bloomfire and create a document, spreadsheet, webcam video or screencast on the fly with built-in tools. No Microsoft Office required. In addition, questions that are asked in a Bloomfire can be answered with the rich media tools. For example, if a rookie sales rep needed tips on how to sell to someone in the financial services industry, a veteran rep with success in this area could quickly do a webcam video or screencast demo to point out what to highlight during the pitch and share it in the team's Bloomfire.
The company's manifesto is based on the idea of social learning and that "None of us is as smart as all of us," and "top-down training methods do not work." But rather, that people really learn from one another by asking and answering questions and sharing valuable tribal knowledge with one another. Take for example, an accountant might know all the pertinent tax laws, but an inexperienced one might encounter a strange situation not covered in any formal training. The only way he is going to get the information he knows is from a veteran accountant who has encountered the same situation at some point during his career. A Bloomfire embraces the concept of virtual mentorship - a place to go when you need advice and ideas.
Anyone who needs to share team knowledge is the short answer. However, the company does see specific use cases pop up more often than others, including using Bloomfire as a sales enablement intranet, partner portal, technical support forum, internal wiki on steroids, etc. The goal is the same across the board though - improve team productivity and make each individual better at their job.
Several companies are beginning to experiment with adding social features to collaboration, content sharing, and content management applications but Bloomfire ads great value with built-in content creation tools - webcam video, screencast tool, document creation, etc. The screencast tool allows you to record your screen with audio for quick "how to" demonstrations. No need to buy AVID or Newtek or some other expensive, IT-dependent piece of technology.
In any kind of endeavor, knowledge is power. By creating a Bloomfire for your team(s), you can unleash a very powerful asset that will save you time and money. How? A Bloomfire eliminates repeating mistakes that someone else has already made, creates a collaborative space that encourages input from everyone, and gives finger-tip access to content-creation tools that most team members would otherwise not have access to.
A Bloomfire is a cloud-based application, accessible via any web browser from any Internet enabled location. At first glance, it is reminiscent of Google+, in how it initially appears to the eye, although further examination of the interface shows much better organization. A left-hand column allows for browsing via subject, author and media type. Entries into a Bloomfire are tagged by the creator with keywords, making searching a bit more sharp and less prone to false hits.
A user creates their own profile, which looks a lot like any profile in a social networking site, and allows the user to "follow" other users within the environment by adding them to their personal list. These users appear by profile picture in a left column segment, as well as the profiles of others following the user. This format also allows for individual correspondence between users. Posts the user has published show up in list format in his or her profile, along with his or her personal biography introducing him or her to the community.
As for uploading media, that area is also well-designed and simple, allowing for uploading of a file from the user's computer, or the option to record new media via a webcam or screencast. Navigation is intuitive and simple, it has drag and drop features which are always good, and the website isn't busy with unnecessary information and graphics.
The list of advantages to being part of a Bloomfire are so many, it would be difficult to cover them all. However, the most obvious ones are the ease of access to expert opinions, advice and intelligence in one place by your team. Even if your team is located all over the world, you can easily collaborate, learn and teach each other. The advanced search capabilities within a Bloomfire combined with the ease in creating new topics and asking questions, is second to none. The variety of formats in which that information can be delivered all make for a very usable and friendly system regardless of your technology acumen.
The mobile app for smartphones means this information is never far away, and each user entity can have its own series of passwords for members of its group to access the Bloomfire.com account for information. Being a cloud-base application, it is accessible across every platform and not limited to a specific method of access, which is another great strength. Additionally, as a manager of a Bloomfire you have control of statistics, metrics and ultimate approval of all information.
The one thing that would make it even better is to add a spell checker in the text editor. Right now, the user needs to check spelling outside of the system, which almost makes the point of the text editor moot. Without a good spell checker, it's easier to upload a completed file to ensure that the documents look professional. The creators of Bloomfire are very serious about making a friendly and usable system for businesses and will surely get right on this issue as users bring it to their attention.
Considering how much it can cost to source the technology, much less to build such a secure system, to do everything that a Bloomfire does, the cost is quite reasonable. With the cost of traveling reaching an all-time high, and the ability to securely upload videos, screencasts, and all manner of files and resources, this system will actually save your company money on training costs. Attending conventions and conferences can cost many times what a Bloomfire costs per month.
As the website says, "Team Knowledge is Powerful." This wisdom embraces the idea that a collective of minds and experts can be far more valuable than one expert alone. Consider the last time you had a question, presented it to an expert in your company and he or she did not have the answer. What did you do next? You probably called others, and hoped that you would get an answer. This can be especially challenging when your team is all over the country, which is often the case for most businesses these days.
How wonderful to be able to ask everyone at once, then collaboratively work on the answer. Once there is an answer, it can be added to the Bloomfire like a knowledge base for your organization. A Bloomfire makes this possible in an online, cloud-based, collaborative environment. If you think access to this kind of collective knowledge sharing could make your business and team productivity better, go get your own Bloomfire.