Content Management: Collaboration And Social Networks Change The Game

The blurring lines between different types of content mean IT organizations needs to adapt their strategies.
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Infrastructure Innovation illustration The realms of collaboration, social software, and document management are coming together, and your company is at the center. Your strategy over the next 12 to 18 months will determine whether these three pieces can slide together reasonably neatly--or end up scattered all over the floor.

Business content is coming from more sources and in larger quantities than ever. In addition to accumulating reams of traditional documents and transaction-oriented content, companies are wrestling with newer content types such as blogs, wikis, and threaded discussions on Facebook-style employee profile pages. All of this content needs to be accessible to the right people, meet regulatory requirements, and be governed by an appropriate retention period.

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Until recently, however, the content management vendors and the social software vendors didn't have much to do with each other. Social business software that encourages ad hoc information creation and sharing--meaning blogs, wikis, social profiles--stood apart, creating its own taxonomy through tag clouds and user ranking of content. Social software companies such as Jive and Telligent didn't see a need to build rich back-end content management systems with complex taxonomies, file plans, and retention/disposition capabilities because those systems already exist.

Meanwhile, document management systems usually have been relegated to being the back-end repositories for a set of specialized applications, such as loan originations or moving a new drug through FDA approval. While companies might benefit from enterprise content management, or ECM, capabilities related to data retention and access control, many employees never touch an ECM system. Such systems just haven't been relevant to the way most people work or to the content they produce. Instead, those systems stand like islands, open only to a segment of employees.

"Documentum, Open Text, FileNet--they don't handle blogs and wikis very well," says Mike Gotta, principal analyst at the Burton Group. "And you have social business software vendors that wish they didn't have to do document management. We're in a classic market gap."

CIOs need to close that gap in their information architectures, and vendors are responding, at least in a limited sense. ECM vendors are trying to become social software vendors. Collaboration products are taking on more content management features. And social networking software vendors are building connections, albeit slowly, into document management platforms.


Read Andrew Conry-Murray's detailed analysis of how companies justify the expense and effort of social networking software. There are some hard metrics, but many IT leaders are going with their gut.
The mega-brand vendors such as EMC, IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft are taking small steps to more easily integrate with other companies' content-related products, but most of their efforts go to building out their own software portfolio to make a suite broad enough to encompass all of a company's content needs.

They have lucrative reasons to do so. Gartner predicts that the ECM market will grow at a compound annual rate of 9.5% through 2013, with worldwide software revenue reaching more than $5 billion.

At the same time, collaboration and social business software are red hot. IBM says its Lotus Connections platform, which provides wikis, blogs, user profiles, and other social capabilities, has the fastest organic growth of any IBM-developed software in the company's history. Microsoft's SharePoint, which mixes document-centric collaboration with social features, has racked up $1.3 billion in revenue since 2001 and is Microsoft's fastest-growing server software product.

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