Questions for Itensil CEO

    December 11, 2006

Keith Patterson is the CEO and visionary behind Itensil, Inc., a web 2.0 software firm that develops web 2.0 user interface technology and provides a hosted service called Itensil Team Activity Manager.

The product features a unique wiki + workflow integration that enables teams to turn collaborative ideas into reusable workflows. Patterson bootstrapped Itensil from a Silicon Valley ad and web services firm. Version 3, the Enterprise 2.0 version of the product, is currently in early access user trials and is producing promising results.

What is Itensil? Is it a wiki? A content management system? A hybrid of both. Something else?

Itensil is what we call a “Team Activity Manager.” It enables any user to set up a business process quickly, link together all the people and groups that are involved it its execution, and then monitor progress as the process moves along. And it does all that using only a web browser. Itensil provides just enough technology for teams to reuse available knowledge and processes without inhibiting the continuous, innovative process change required in unpredictable situations. So we’ve got just enough of a wiki, just enough workflow, just enough content management, and combined them in a unique way that makes it easy for users to adopt.

You could say it’s a hybrid, but we focus on how a business process works first, and the specific technologies are secondary. So we expect the technology to change over time as new tools and utilities come to market that make team activities easier to manage.

What does it allow organizations or teams to do better than they’re doing now? In other words, what is its business value?

More than 40 percent of jobs require people to make decisions, and not just follow orders. Most of those decisions are based on personal knowledge, Google searches and data buried in individual hard drives. Itensil enables people to make better decisions consistently by keeping them organized, coordinating their team, and reusing knowledge. Not just static knowledge, like you’d find in a manual. Itensil captures the tacit knowledge – the tips, case studies, experiences in specific situations, the “street smarts” that are the key to getting things done. Users collaborate by adding to a freeform journal entry as a process is performed. A searchable archive of every journal entry previously created for that process is available to users as they work on their process step. It’s simple, always current and very effective. Think of it as a virtual water cooler.

There are lots of collaborative tools on the market these days. What does Itensil do that makes it more valuable to users than the other applications now available?

Imagine a company’s teams as a fleet of sailboats. Most collaboration tools are designed to help individual crews and boats perform better. Itensil makes the strategies and methods used in the lead boats instantly available to all the crews so that the entire fleet performs better. Itensil is a platform that orchestrates the use of methods, tools and technologies across the organization to achieve consistently improved performance.

Give some examples of organizations that are currently using Itensil and explain how they are using it.

Responsys, the leading email marketer for global enterprises, is using Itensil to manage the creation and production of direct marketing campaigns. With our wikiflow, every team has consistent, current information about client requirements, government regulations and their own organization’s IP and best practices. Other customers are developing Itensil solutions to manage outsourced IT operations, coordinate emergency response procedures among multiple government agencies, and streamline communications with retail franchisees. The common thread to all these users is the need for consistent performance of recurring activities in dynamic, high pressure, no-time-to-plan situations.

How well does Itensil play with other enterprise software? How secure, reliable and scalable is it?

We play, but in a different way than traditional IT people may be used to. Itensil provides the glue, the context, the wrapper – whatever you want to call it – that adds value to other products and tools: value from speedier adoption, shortening the learning curve, and orchestrating the use of enterprise applications to spreadsheets or mash-ups. We can connect as loosely or as closely as the application requires it. From a simple html link in a process step that says run this tool now’ to an API with single login or web service such as a stock price or other event that triggers a process, Itensil can orchestrate the use of best of breed’ solutions.

Itensil is one hundred percent web 2.0, so there are no user installation or support requirements. We’re on our third product release, so the feature set is solid and extensive. In fact, our workflow technology is licensed by leading software firms that subject it to rigorous code review and Q.A. procedures. Like most enterprise 2.0 companies, we provide tiered layers of security depending on end-user needs.


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Jerry Bowles has more than 30 years of varied experience as a writer, editor, marketing consultant, corporate communications director and blogger. For the past 20 years, he has produced and written special supplements on new technologies for a number of magazines, including Forbes, Fortune and Newsweek.