An Interview with Michael Hack of QuePort

Here is an interview I conducted recently with Michael Hack, CEO of QuePort (pronounced “Q Port”) a very interesting social software company based in Germany.  QuePort allows information to find you, as they say.  It expands your network beyond people you already know and finds people you might want to know.

Dana Stanley: OK. We’re here today with Michael Hack of QuePort. Welcome, Michael.

Michael Hack: Thank you.

So for folks who aren’t quite familiar with QuePort, tell us a little bit about the company and what it does.

So QuePort is a company that focuses on not primarily information enrichment and, you could say, puts social context to information. That’s what our focus is. So we make content socially aware, maybe in a nutshell.

We’re a technology company. We have a solution. We currently focus on SharePoint as all our prime, let’s say, system to work with. We are open to other solutions too, but for a variation of reasons, we have decided to focus on SharePoint in the first step, simply because SharePoint, especially now, does a lot around social, but also has on the other side some challenges if it comes to get the right information in front of the people.

And there’s obviously a huge install base. Focusing on SharePoint in the first step is the right step for our company. It’s a German-based company with a lot of experience and background, also on search-related applications. And that’s where we come from.

So give me a sense of the types of customers you’re working with, and specifically how you’re helping them.

So the typical customers we have are the larger organizations that have a bigger amount of people, or are working in a decentralized environment, which is typically the case for multinational organizations. We have larger customers, like BASF or Boehringer that are using our technology.

And what are some of the analytics that people get when they’re working with QuePort?

So currently, QuePort is the only known solution that is able to combine and aggregate all kinds of company information from the line of business profile, social activities, and user profiles. And therefore, it is able to deliver the right information to the right user context at the right time.

And that’s kind of unique what we’re doing. I know it’s used quite often, but if you have a look at the solution, we are able to really to tap into all kinds of information, whether it’s the normal information people work with, or it’s their social activities, their context, their work environment, whatever, and put it together so that we are really able to get the information that’s needed for employees or people’s day to day work in front of them exactly when they need it.

So, what would be an example of combining social data with more traditional data?

An example. You work on a document, it doesn’t even need to have text. It’s just the context of the document. You start uploading the document the moment the system gives you a recommendation. It says, hey, there’s another guy in Japan, whatever, working on kind of similar topics. Wouldn’t it be interesting to get in contact with him?

And I think that’s one of the main challenges that the normal collaboration or social business technologies you have, is that they work differently. They work on people you know, people you have in common, or based on that you actively tell the system what you’re working on or what you put in your profile. But the reality is most people are kind of lazy – lazy in brackets – when it comes to the day to day work.

And I think that’s one of the big challenges and pitfalls organizations have, especially if they start working with social is that it’s highly dependent on the user being active.

And we focus on the day to day work. And based on what you’re doing, we then put in recommendations or information that is helpful for you for your day to day work. And without that you, for example, tag the system, or you tell the system you’re looking for a specialist or those kinds of things. And it’s really based on your behavior. So what you work on at the moment, the system will recommend or give you information that is relevant to the work you’re doing.

And it integrates directly with SharePoint, so people don’t have to leave the application in order to get the benefit?

It’s completely integrated in SharePoint. But we can also, for example, include data from other systems, whether this is aggregated information from whatever CRM systems, or ERP systems, or other social systems like NewsGate.

Another challenge you typically have– I mean, I’m sure most people are Facebook users. So, the challenge you have is, there’s a lot of information added in these social streams or whatever. If you miss the right point in time, where information that may be relevant for you is just published, then you most likely won’t get it unless you may search specifically for it.

That’s a typical thing you have with Facebook. You go in in the evening, and there were a lot of topics that were discussed. But they are moving down, and then you just get it. I think it’s a typical challenge of these social tools. And most of the tools that are used in the companies are working the same way.

We take all the information, and even if whatever blog post or microblog that is two or three days old, but it’s relevant for the work you’re doing right now, the system will recommend you and say, hey, there was somebody mentioning this in a microblog three days ago. This could be interesting for me, and maybe it would make sense that you connect to this person.

What are some of the benefits, the surprising pieces of data that people have found that have led to these kind of social interactions?

The feedback we are getting from the customers we are talking is that this is really helping them to tap, let’s say, information that’s available in the organization, but that people are not really using that’s somewhere, or people don’t know, or it’s duplicated work. Because the relationship between the information is not really there in the organization.

Now we focus on SharePoint at the moment. We could do it basically outside of SharePoint too, but just doing it in SharePoint is already a big thing, because if you look at SharePoint, the average SharePoint user I think has about seven different SharePoint sites just in SharePoint. And just to aggregate the kind of information, or somebody called the bombardment, of information you have all the time.

To keep up to date with all this, you constantly need to switch sites or whatever. And there is no real consolidated view or interface, whatever you call it, to get all the information that are relevant for you. And I think that’s for most of the people in the organization today, you have your SharePoints, you have your other internet sites, you have your system of records, and so on and so on.

But you don’t have a real consolidated feed between this information. You have maybe the data about the customer in an SAP system or on Salesforce. You have the marketing material in SharePoint. And so on and so on. But there’s no real link between it.

As a technology developer and an entrepreneur, how do you go about getting feedback on your product overall, user interface, new features? How do you get feedback on those things? And how do you decide what to incorporate into your product?

We are doing a couple of things. We just spoke to a SharePoint expert who knew almost everything about SharePoint. And we let him review and give feedback on the products. We speak with partners that we have. And we have a good collaboration with Microsoft. That’s more of a kind of technical review.

And then, we obviously have some very good customers that are working with us for quite some time that help us by giving feedback on user interface.

Thank you so much, Michael, for telling us about QuePort. I appreciate your time. And it’s very interesting stuff. I look forward to speaking to you again in the near future.

Thank you.

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About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.