The Finders - InformationWeek

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The Finders

Presumably your employees know useful things, things that other employees might benefit from knowing about.

Presumably your employees know useful things, things that other employees might benefit from knowing about.But often this information is difficult to find and use because it's squirreled away inside people's heads, in documents, and elsewhere throughout the enterprise.

The startup Trampoline Systems aims to help employees find the data and people that are relevant to their work. Founded in 2003, the company's flagship software product, Sonar, scans e-mail and archived data to map business relationships among employees and identify subject-matter experts.

Users identify their own areas of interest within Sonar, and the software presents graphical representations of the people and information related to those interest areas using tag clouds. The software also makes inferences about expertise based on a variety of factors, including the amount of information about a subject that a user has generated, and how much that information is shared with and used by others in the organization. Sonar provides a search function to help users find subject-matter experts, and can provide contact information.

Unlike other Enterprise 2.0 software that encourages collaboration by creating spaces in which employees can work together, Sonar encourages collaboration by mapping existing relationships. Because relationships are graphically structured around content, users can mine the information presented by Sonar to connect with other employees on relevant topics.

However, privacy and data exposure is a key concern with such software. Trampoline Systems includes a user-controlled privacy management system that lets users opt out of having specific types of data or e-mail correspondents mined by the system.

At present, though, its basic policy controls are "shared" or "private," which seems insufficient for dealing with sensitive data related to intellectual property, new products, M&A activity, human resource matters, and so on. The company says its working to build more access control and identity management features into the product. In the meantime, enterprises trialing or deploying the software will have to take careful steps to ensure a good balance of data sharing and privacy protection.

Security concerns aside, the company has an interesting approach to the difficult problem of unlocking the knowledge that gets stored and compartmentalized in typical organizational structures.

Trampoline Systems has recently added two new executives: Peter Biddle, VP of development, is a former senior director of the Systems Integrity Group at Microsoft. Adrian Jones, VP of sales, comes from sales in Oracle's Embedded Business Unit.

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