When push comes to shove Featured

10:03am EDT July 22, 2002

Push technology offers an automated way to sort out the clutter of the Internet and deliver specific internal information to the employees who need it most.

"Push technology is basically about automation," says Maureen Fleming, senior research analyst for the Gartner Group, a Stamford, Conn.-based information-technology research firm. "Information can be published content or pure data. The technology has been around for about a decade, but it's just now migrating to the Internet."

The business use of the technology is twofold:

  • Monitoring external factors. The technology can monitor competitors' or customers' Websites, or sources of industry news. The technology will notify you when there is new information available, saving you the time of continuously checking the sites.

  • Distribution of information. Using this technology, companies can create specific channels of information that relate to specific topics such as human resources, supply needs, general company information or contract requirements. Rather than inundate everyone with every bit of information, people "subscribe" to the information channels that interest them. Employees might subscribe to human resources, while suppliers would want updates on supply needs and contract requirements.
"For smaller firms, this solution may not be any better than e-mail," says Dan Weiss, director of technical operations for Cleveland-based MFA NetWorks. "A lot of employees are still having trouble using e-mail, so push would just create more problems."

Weiss oversaw the implementation of push technology for a large corporation with more than 1,000 desktops. From the company's perspective, its Website had all the internal information available to all the employees, but the workers were not taking time to check the site. With push technology, the company was able to deliver specific content to the desktops of affected employees, who no longer had to check the Website or sift through countless e-mail messages that weren't relevant to their position.

In a smaller firm, it's usually just as easy to create a few e-mail lists targeting specific groups of individuals or suppliers. Industry and other news can be delivered using a free news-clipping service provided by most of the major search engines.

"Push technology may be more trouble than it's worth for some firms," says Fleming. "But smaller companies need to be careful about staying nimble from a customer service standpoint. The monitoring aspect can also be very critical, particularly when it comes to monitoring opportunities."

Push technology can also increase security risks, because a virus from a supplier's computer could be "pushed" into your network. Bandwidth may also become a problem if 20 people are downloading all the updated information at 9 a.m. every day.

"Figure out what you want to do with the technology," says Fleming. "Don't count on sales and selling opportunities with it. Deploy it for internal use if there is enough of a critical mass to justify it."