Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Corporate Document Management With RSS

All organizations need to keep a record of policies, procedures, current prices, and other important information.

This information needs to be easily and quickly available for employees, clients, or the public to refer to.

In addition, companies need to advise these parties as changes are made.

This combination of maintaining a permanent record (traditionally kept in a loose-leaf binder) and the need to inform parties about updates can be time-consuming and expensive.

In the 1950's, making changes to procedure manuals was difficult, involving retyping and reprinting the changed pages, then distributing the pages to everyone who had a copy of the manual. Luckily, the pace of change was slower than it is today.



In the 1960's, the introduction of the first commercial Xerox machine made making copies much easier. However, records were still kept on paper and distribution was still via mail or the ubiquitous inter-office mail boy who dumped them in your in-box. Thus, changes were still cumbersome.

By the 1970's, the pace of change was increasing and keeping up with them was getting to be quite a chore. It wasn't until the 80's and 90's that computers made making changes to documents easy. Nevertheless, most manuals were still on paper. Not everyone had the book and they weren't referred to very often. (Sound familiar?)

By the mid 1990's, e-mail made notifying people of changes easier and much faster. Recently, I've noticed that many organizations, especially small ones, have virtually stopped updating paper manuals and started exclusively using e-mail to tell people about changes.

This has led to a new problem, because e-mail is a very poor way to save and organize documents. New employees coming in miss all the latest changes, because they didn't get the e-mails. Even employees who got the e-mails have trouble finding them when they need to refer back to them.

Because there is no whole document organized by topic, finding the information you want, when you need it, is difficult.

How can an organization keep a unified document up to date, while notifying employees of changes instantly?

With RSS, of course.

A RSS news feed is based on the content of a Web site. The Web site contains the source document.

The RSS feed notifies subscribers of new items as they are changed and links back to the site. Finally, you have a system that combines a permanent, organized source of information with instant notification of changes, all in one process.

Here's how it works.

You create your document on your Web site or Intranet. It can be a procedure manual, employee handbook, price list, press releases, anything. You organize this document so that it's easy to find anything via a menu. To further enhance the usability of your Web-based document, you can add a search feature.

You then create an RSS feed from that Web site. You can use a RSS creation tool (such as UKOLN's RSSxpress Channel Editor or Webreference's RSS Channel Editor) or write your own XML file. Some Web site content management systems can automatically create the RSS news feed for you.

RSS feeds contain a list of "items." Each item is a new paragraph and has its own title. You want to be able to feed just the new paragraphs as they change. You just need to add anchor tags to your new paragraphs. In the RSS feed, you can then link directly to the marked paragraphs. For example, www.yourSite/hr/benefits.html#whenyouleave

One of the often-touted advantages of RSS is the ability to choose when you get your information. Instead of having information shoved at you via e-mail, you can open your reader whenever you want. However, if you're using RSS as a notification tool for your employees, you want to make sure that they know when you've updated your feed. You can do this by specifying that they use a reader that displays a popup notification or plays a sound when new content is available. Note that most of RSS readers allow users to disable or customize the notification feature. RSS Reader, SharpReader, and FeedReader are a few of the free options with popup notifications from the Windows system tray.

Put this system together and you have the best of all worlds: an organized, easily accessible, easily updated document and instant notification of changes.

by Ellen Finkelstein,
author of the upcoming book,
Syndicating Web Sites with RSS Feeds For Dummies

Ellen Finkelstein -
Readers' Comments    
2005-06-26 11:29:32

Robert Lawton

Holy cow, Batman, IBM/Lotus Domino has been doing this sort of thing for 10 years now.

posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, October 13 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




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