Gist Develops Business Acuity 
and Information Readiness

The ability to develop clear and meaningful conversations often hinges on the first thing you say. If you can spark a relationship based on awareness, common understanding, or a philosophical viewpoint, you have a better chance of achieving your business and personal objectives.

Being “in the know” is a critical business requirement these days. The emergence of real-time social networks challenges professional workers to be “always-on” and aware of everything that’s happening in their business segment. The social, cultural, and business pressure to be on top of everything is relentless, and human nature suggests that we want to know as much as possible about those we deal with—individuals and businesses alike.

GIST was introduced about a year ago as a Web app designed to help you build stronger relationships by integrating your contacts, e-mail conversations, and the Web in order to provide you with business-critical information about the people and companies that matter most to you. GIST is designed to take advantage of information regardless of where it’s found and has the ability to understand which people and companies are important to you. It provides you with near-real-time awareness about people, companies, events, and the conversations that connect them. The key to making this application highly useful is its ability to integrate your e-mail and calendar activities in context with the people and companies with which you connect. The GIST Web application revolutionized the way we access and view the information that is at the core of our business relationships.

GIST for the iPhone

Gist DashboardThe GIST iPhone app places this knowledge in the palm of your hand. The content you’ll find in GIST is very similar to what you might expect to gather in advance of a meeting with a new partner or business acquaintance. But GIST really shines when ad-hoc meetings spring up and a company name surfaces, and no one in the room has much information about it.

GIST does the data foraging legwork for you and does it quietly in the background while you communicate through e-mail and establish new contacts, relationships, and conversations. GIST for iPhone makes your most important information more accessible to you wherever you are.

Organizing the information

As you can imagine, gathering information about a company or individual can be daunting task. GIST can help, but only to the degree that (a) it has access to public content sources about the topic, and (b) it can find sources that are relevant to the company or individual in question. Transforming the scope of this service from the desktop Web app to the iPhone was a tall order, but the designers created a reasonable compromise that serves its objectives well.

Gist DashboardGist CompaniesGIST for iPhone displays a Dashboard view (left) filters and presents the data you need. It also displays info by People (top-right), Companies (right), and Events (not shown).

GIST organizes all it knows into Events, People, and Companies. It also includes a Dashboard view that combines the most important people and companies you’re watching in a unified and easy-to-browse presentation. With the Dashboard view, you can also filter streams by content including general news, RSS feeds, and Twitter. Switching to any of these views or altering the content stream filters it fairly quick, even when dealing with large numbers of people and companies.

The Dashboard view also provides inbox-like functionality, allowing you to triage the latest information updates. For example, after you’ve examined an item, mark it as “read” to hide it, and the next item is displayed. This design approach provides a fairly productive way to maintain a pace as you review and digest what’s new in the dashboard.

Preparing for a meeting

GIST integrates just about everything concerning your business activities including your calendar. With a single action, you can notify meeting attendees you’re running late. But there’s more to meetings than just notifications. To provide advanced event productivity, the Event View creates updated profiles of meeting attendees and displays them in a single view that also includes a map to the meeting location.

Suppress the noise—increase the signal

GIST shines for people in sales, marketing, and management roles because it provides them with the tools they need to streamline the tasks and activities associated with contacts and awareness. With GIST, you focus only on people and businesses that really matter—you eliminate distractions and increase personal productivity. Two concepts make this possible: importance number and watch flag.

GIST lets you assign an “importance” value to companies and persons in your Contacts list.

The watch flag (configurable only in the Web application) allows you to control which people and companies you want GIST to follow and gather news about. The importance value (1 to 100) for each company and person in your contacts list causes GIST to seek out information about your people and companies in a prioritized fashion.

Get attention quickly

One way to get on a company or individual’s radar is to publicly recognize their products, services, or announcements. GIST (on the desktop) makes this particularly easy with its social media integration features. You can publish items directly to Twitter or Facebook with a single click. In this first iPhone release, GIST only provides e-mail sharing of items. This is one feature they should tackle in future releases for the iPhone.

Room for improvement

Without question, GIST for the iPhone shines because of the way it organizes, prioritizes, and lets you access important data. I suspect we can look forward to many improvements to the iPhone app in the months ahead. Still, there are some areas that need urgent attention.

Facebook and Linkedin streams

Facebook is quickly becoming a significant social media driver for businesses and business people. GIST currently supports the ability to integrate your Facebook account for contact import purposes but there are situations where a Facebook stream would be beneficial. Linkedin streams would be equally interesting.

Company information displays

GIST aggregates a ton of content and maintains a slew of one-to-many relationships between companies and people; this is evident when displaying company content. The latest version, 1.2 (48), is much faster than earlier versions. However, in cases where there are significant numbers of contacts and companies, and especially when you have less than five bars of signal, you need to be patient. I’m tracking 1400 people and 950 companies comfortably.

Tuning GIST

One of the best features of GIST is the ability to tune it to recognize people and companies that are important to you and to gather less information about those that are not so important. GIST for 
iPhone provides the capability to change the importance value, but doesn’t allow you to toggle the watch flag, a feature that would be handy when you’re on the road or out of the office.

A powerful business tool

GIST is a powerful business tool that can give you a significant advantage when dealing with new or established clients. You’ll have the information you’ll need right at your fingertips to create relationships, impress clients with your knowledge, and maintain communications with your business partners.

Spring 2010
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