itensil at Office 2.0

A few months ago we were having a serious discussion about marketing processes with our good friend Mat Atkinson.  Mat is the original founder of Mtivity, a SaaS based Marketing Resource Management product that we partner with.  Mat had been squeezed out of Mtivity and has started a consultancy called Marketing Operandi that we do work with.  We were talking about the lack of control and systems that many corporate marketing departments have, and brainstorming the kind of product that we would like to develop that would help tackle the issues.  We decided that the product needed workflow capability, linked to a wiki/social media, linked to a digital asset management system.  I've just seen two out of three of these component in a new product called itensil (short for information utensils - like it!).
David Tebbutt and I itensil - makes information utensilsmet with Keith Paterson their CEO, Grant Gongaware their CTO, and Susan Scrupski, one of my fellow Enterprise Irregulars who is advising them.  The demo was just before the reception on the eve of the Office 2.0 Conference.  I hope they don't mind me saying this, and maybe I caught them before they got in to their stride, but their demo needed an "elevator pitch" to introduce the concept properly and some real world examples to bring the possibilities to life.  Quite a few of the demos I saw at the conference suffered the same way.  The other David T is a very bright guy with over 30 years experience in the software business, who also develops a product called Brainstorm, but was struggling to "get it" for quite some time during the session.
itensil is essentially injecting a workflow engine in to a wiki page.  Their aim is to have just enough workflow capability, combined with just enough wiki and content management capability to keep things straightforward, avoid any complexity, and allow their tool to be used for a whole variety of task and project management scenarios.  I've spoken about how many businesses develop ad-hoc systems using Excel and e-mail before.  They work, but often use complex drop downs and macros, and are prone to problems when somebody on the team has been missed off the circulation list, or has got the wrong version of the spreadsheet.  itensil addresses exactly this kind of ad-hoc system.  They're targeting the many places where organisations have repeatable processes, but with lots of exceptions.  This could be things like a product launch, a company's emergency procedures, the workflow around an ad campaign, or the recruitment process.  The product gives me a mechanism for creating my workflow or "to do" steps, and links that to wiki pages where I can capture the unstructured information that I want to document around this task.  Where there is a structure, I've got a form builder to develop that data format and drop on to the wiki page, and then all of this is captured in an underlying MySQL database.  Importantly the MySQL data is accessible by their rules engine.  Although the product itself isn't open source, they are using an open source stack as their infrastructure.  The product uses Java and flash in a neat way.  The products search capability can't search documents I've attached to the process yet, but hopefully that will come. 
For their wiki capability, they have incorporated TiddlyWiki.  I met the developer, Jeremy Ruston, at the last London based Wiki Wednesday back in March.  That's a really elegant product, and so I think that's an excellent decision. 
They say they have several, very interesting corporate clients, that they can't talk about yet, that are using the beta version of the product and helping them bootstrap the business.  One client they can talk about is McDonalds in Canada.  They will be adopting a self service model and selling itensil as a Software as a Service solution, although they could install if for corporations who want their own "instance" if required as well.  This is a generic tool that could be used in hundreds of ways in a variety of business types.  However, I would recommend they target some very specific market sectors and particular application areas, and so build up a body of clients who can help evangelise for them.  I'm particularly interested in applying it to the corporate marketing department's problems, and so I'll be talking to them very seriously about that in the future.  This is a new product that is well worth checking out. 

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Thanks for the kind words, David. We are looking forward to working with you and your clients. We are presently seeking beta customers with dispersed teams of varying skill levels and turnover that perform continually changing processes requiring the application of best practices, collaboration, and judgment. I invite anyone that fits this description to get in touch.
Thanks for the BrainStorm link. A lot of people don't 'get' that either. We have movies and help files and explanations all over the show. If any of your readers are interested and still need a hotline to human help, they can come straight to me.

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