Enterprise Social Networking Meets ECM

Michael Vizard

Every once in a while two classes of software come together in a way that has real potential to change the way we work. Most workflow today is wrapped around email systems that basically require people to asynchronously send around updates to a document as an attachment. This not only winds up consuming a phenomenal amount of storage space, it also results in people having a tough time keeping track of which version of the document floating around the email system is the most current.

With the advent of enterprise social networking systems, we're starting to see some fundamental changes to the workflow process. Instead of relying on email, people are starting to use enterprise social networking software to collaboratively work together. The problem is that most of these social networking applications don't have a repository that allows the final document to be stored and then shared with the rest of the business or the outside world.

That issue is what makes a new alliance between Jive Software, a provider of enterprise social networking software, and Alfresco Software, a provider of enterprise content management (ECM) software, worth nothing. Via a Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) interface, users of Jive will now be able to publish documents directly into the Alfresco ECM.

The implications of this integration, says Todd Barr, chief marketing officer for Alfresco, are significant because it should drive up ECM adoption in the enterprise. Conceptually, customers like the ECM concept, but getting people to use an ECM can be an uphill battle. Usage of social networking software in the enterprise once it is deployed tends to be well into the range of 70 percent of the employees exposed to it. By integrating ECM with enterprise social networking software, Barr says the ECM is essentially acting as the "system of record" for an ad hoc collaboration environment that will ultimately boost ECM usage.

Companies everywhere are trying to find ways to boost employee productivity. While email was once the great enabler of employee productivity, it's increasingly getting in the way because it was never really meant to be a document management system. Most employees are already comfortable with social networking software in their personal lives, so replicating that environment at work should meet little resistance. And the overhead this approach removes from the email system should more than pay for the initial investment, while at the same time continuing to pay dividends in the form of productivity gains for years to come.

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