Catalyze Community Featured in KM World Article

I was interviewed about my experiences with the Catalyze Community by Judy Lamont of KM World last month – and the article just came out today.

The Catalyze community is one of the B2B ‘community poster children’ and it was fun to share our story with KM World.  Of course, I haven’t done it alone.  Thank you to everyone who has joined Catalyze and continue to find value in our community.  And I’d like to give a special thanks to all of our bloggers and to everyone who has shared ideas in the Forums or uploaded content to the Resources and Events areas.

Here is an excerpt from the article that includes the ‘juicy’ Catalyze parts:

Catalyze was established in 2007 for professionals who are involved in defining and designing Web sites and software applications. The site offers forums, blogs, resources, events and opportunities to network with others. Participants in the community include both business analysts who are defining requirements from the business side, and user experience (UX) professionals who focus on usability, design and human factors issues. The community now has more than 3,400 members.

The community platform and site is hosted by Mzinga, which introduced its social networking platform in 2001. “We did an extensive search,” Humbarger says, “and found that Mzinga had a B2B product well suited to our needs.” Humbarger also considered the company to be knowledgeable about best practices in social networking and wanted the hosted service it offered. In addition, Mzinga helps to co-moderate the site.

The design field has taken off as Web-based applications have become ubiquitous and increasingly complex. Community members seek answers to their technical questions through forums in design, methods, usability and testing, and monthly webinars provide insights into topical areas in the profession. Questions that come up may be specific to development, such as products that work for usability testing, or how to interview someone for a business analyst job in software design.

The blogs on Catalyze also address a wide range of topics, including general questions such as how to present the profession of interaction design to the outside world. Usability professionals come from a diverse set of backgrounds—cognitive psychologists, computer scientists and design professionals with business backgrounds. Therefore, HR recruiters and online job listings may be unclear on how to classify such individuals. Catalyze provides an environment in which its members can address that type of professional concern.

One of the ways in which iRise supports the site is by producing monthly webinars, which can promote discussion and add fresh content to the community. Recently, a webcast entitled “The Five Myths of Rich Internet Applications” was presented by OneSpring, a company that specializes in UX design and uses iRise as one of its development tools.

Given the significant hours required to sustain the Catalyze site, what is iRise gaining? “Measuring the ROI of a community is difficult,” Humbarger says, “but the intangibles are important.” Creating a network of professionals who are not necessarily users of the sponsor’s product is a good way to expand access to potential customers. Also, within the Catalyze online community is a sub-community of iRise users that can be accessed only by its own members.

“Over time,” Humbarger adds, “we hope this group evolves into a self-sustaining peer support group in which members can help each other with questions and responses about iRise.”

Social networking has a remarkable ability to involve individuals, often in ways that are unpredictable. “One financial services company wanted a site where people could talk about their retirement goals,” says Aaron Strout, VP of new media at Mzinga. “People said things they would not likely say directly to their rep about their goals and dreams.”

A lot of qualitative information emerges, but also, because comments are documented, quantitative information can be obtained about the most common topics—information that would otherwise be very hard to aggregate. In addition, organizations can tap into reservoirs of knowledge that were previously tacit, and make them broadly accessible.

The entire article can be found at–49234.aspx


Adopting Rich Internet Applications

What are Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and how can your organization use them?

Maurice Martin, iRise President, COO and Founder, wrote an article recently that answered these questions for Hotel Business Review Executive magazine.

I’ve summarized some key points below and you can get a copy of the article from the iRise Website.

“RIAs represent a real opportunity for companies to improve their online offerings because they are the tools that provide Web designers the greatest flexibility in meeting the needs of your brand. But added richness will not always equate to an improved (or even a good) experience. At every point, you must think about what the best possible experience is for your customers.”

The article also included a discussion of the five pitfalls of adopting RIA:

  1. Not understanding customer needs
  2. Implementing for technology’s sake
  3. Creating a distracting experience
  4. Reduced web site performance
  5. Limited metrics tracking and reporting

If you are interested in learning if RIA is right for you and how to avoid the risks, be sure check out the article.

Visualize SOA with iRise

SOA or service-oriented architecture is a chronically hot topic – and there are as many opinions about it as there are IT vendors.  According to Wikipedia, SOA is “is a computer system’s architectural style for creating and using business processes, packaged as services, throughout their lifecycle. SOA also defines and provisions the IT infrastructure to allow different applications to exchange data and participate in business processes.”  And for a more humorous definition of SOA overload, check out Greg the Architect in the “SOA This, SOA That” video from YouTube.

We recently had an interesting internal email discussion on how iRise deals with SOA and I have excerpted the highlights below:

From Sherrick Murdoff, VP of Alliances and Business Development:

  • “SOA is most often interpreted as back-end plumbing only, but this is not the case.  SOA includes the back-end plumbing, but you don’t start with the back-end plumbing and you don’t start with building web services
  • What many CIOs and industry leaders have learned and are promoting is to start with the customer experience – this should drive your SOA implementation more than anything. iRise lets you visualize the customer experience and iterate with both end-users and IT to gain alignment on what needs to be built that drives the “how”
  • Visualizing SOA is important to let the customer experience drive the requirements for what infrastructure you need to put in place
  • iRise aligns well in any SOA discussion and brings the customer back to what is important – visualizing “what” you need before you begin to think about the “how” you want to implement.”

From Matt Smith, Senior Enterprise Solutions Manager

  • “Most people over-think the relationship between SOA and simulating applications.  SOA basically means there is a provider (machine) and a consumer (machine or human) of a service.
  • The processing of the service is all the back-end wizardry that goes on within the SOA, which iRise doesn’t diagram in the traditional sense of architecture modeling tools, but it does simulate the action.
  • The line of business manager and end-user don’t care how the SOA actually processes the service request.  iRise simulates the important bit from their perspective of application usability.”

From James McWethy, Enterprise Solutions Director

  • “SOA…three loaded letters.  I’ve seen companies spend years talking about defining and implementing an SOA strategy.
  • Why not simulate the end-user experience that will result from the tiresome SOA planning process to: (1) Verify that the information being delivered via the service (informational or transactional) will be of value to the end user, and (2) simulate a set of components (portlets, widgets, gadgets, web parts, etc.) that will show the end result of a system comprised of multiple services.

iRise Customer Success Story – At Fusion ‘07, the Customer Experience team from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan gave a presentation on how they used iRise to simulate a technical proof of concept for their new member portal.  The presentation is available here and can be viewed here.

So, why risk building your SOA infrastructure without using iRise to engaging your end-users?  By simulating the end-user experience with iRise first, both business stakeholders and IT will win.

Do You Twitter?

Twitter logoDo you Twitter yet? Do you even know why you should? Do you know what Twitter is?

What is Twitter? According to the Twitter website, ” Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” . Twitter lets you send 140 character messages that are visible to anyone and the messages can be sent via the web, IM, cell phone SMS text messaging and the Twitter API. Twittering is also referred to as micro-blogging – and most Twits are easier to read and scan because of the 140 character limitation. Twitter is definitely moving into the mainstream as evidenced by these two recent quotes:

  • “Twitter is one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet” – New York Times
  • ‘Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app” – TIME Magazine

Common Craft put together this short video to explain Twitter:

Why do I care? Sure, people share some mundane things in their life, but the real value of Twitter is gathering a group of people you follow and learning from them. I use Twitter to find great blog posts and other resources that I may have otherwise missed. Many astute companies are now using Twitter from a marketing perspective to listen to what their customers are saying and to promote blog posts, news articles and press releases. For example, is active in Twitter as well as the Editor-in-Chief, Abbie Lundberg, and editor/writer Esther Schindler.

There is even a website called Tweetscan where you can search on companies, people and other phrases.

Twitter Resources Here are some other essential Twitter links to check out:

It does take some upfront investment of time to get started with Twitter and you have to find the right set of people to follow who are not going to waste your time.

You can find me on Twitter at @tomhumbarger. I look forward to seeing you in the “twittersphere”.