Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Convergence of Social Media and ECM

Social Media gets a lot of press these days and rightfully so. This article discusses some of the old school technologies that have incorporated the concepts and have set the stage for the rise of Social Media. While there are several baseline technologies, including CRM and Search, that have been precursors to the rise of the Social Media space this blog post is about the convergence of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Social Media. More specifically, this is a post about how Social Media tools will continue to provide the keys to building the next generation of ECM solutions.




What is the link between Content and Social Media?

I hope you are asking yourself this question. I will try to answer this, and perhaps a few others, with five trends I have observed over the past 16 years working in the software industry. I’ve seen projects succeed and I’ve seen them fail – the difference was Social Media. The successful projects incorporated Social Media tools and technologies with their corporate content. They may have used different names to describe the features and functions, but the underlying concepts were the same.  My primary premise is that the next generation of ECM solutions will continue to require even more Social Media technologies in order to be successful. How do I define ECM? – read this.

So, what’s the link? Content is being created all the time – in the form of documents, form data, web pages, workflow input, and more recently “tweetstreams.” The concept of Tweetstreams and similar “stream of consciousness” feeds are one of the elements organizations are just starting to grasp.

  FACT: Corporations have lots of content. They generate, capture, and manage content on a massive scale.



Some content is public and some needs to be protected (e.g. customer lists, buying patterns, credit card data, etc.). The enlightened companies are starting to put a “face” or a front end to expose this content by using Social Media technologies.






Again, my premise is that content management tools, enterprise or otherwise, will incorporate more and more Social Media components. One of the most visible Social Media technologies today is Twitter. Unstructured and unpredictable – yes, but Twitter tweets are content. While this post is not focused exclusively on Twitter there are a lot of parallels to be drawn from the excitement Twitter has generated about the Convergence of Social Media and ECM. Keep in mind this article is focused on companies using Social Media technologies. Also, I will be posting more detailed examples of each trend shortly. So, without further ado:

Five Trends that indicate the
Convergence of Social Media and ECM

For Details on each Trend click (Details) below

Trend 1
1:1 Markets – Closing the Gap and Reducing the Supply Chain

The goal is to shorten the supply chain. Companies are starting to take advantage of Twitter in particular to provide a better clip_image011customer experience. They are closing the gap on trying to create a 1:1 relationship. Examples include Comcast, Dell (see Trend 1 post), Whole Foods, Zappos. Some are doing it much better than others, but I give any company credit for at least trying. However, “Trying” is NOT enough - See Trend 5. The companies listed here are closing the gap. I expect to see many more companies starting to use Twitter and other Social Media technologies in the coming months. (Details)

Trend 2
Real-Time: The Use of Chat and Search to Access Content

Chat –
Chat has been part of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems for years. There are numerous clip_image013providers of Chat Services as components of Call Centers. Chat allows agents – either human or bots (see Trend 5) – to connect people with content. Chat scales globally and can be very cost effective – especially with rise of IP based chat solutions. Chat is here to stay.

clip_image015Search –
Requests using natural language queries and computer generated queries that can dive into content and retrieve information will be tipping point for the Convergence of ECM and Social Media.

Search will be THE KEY to the success of any enterprise application going forward. The ability to search content in any form (text, audio, and video) is the nirvana and no one has cracked it in its entirety. (Details)

Trend 3
People Helping People – Build your Community Wisely

Social Media encourages and supports people to help others. People that are not part of the formal organization will spend inordinate amounts of time to help others. clip_image017While this may be a good thing a key factor to consider is that the people responding may NOT have access to the content a corporation maintains. Enlightened companies will open up their content repositories. One of their challenges will be to insure privacy.
IDEA – This is an opportunity for vendors to provide tools and solutions to drive the convergence of Social Media and Enterprise Content Management. (Details)

Trend 4
IRL becomes Global - Tweetups will become Meetups

clip_image019The ability for people to connect via Social Media tools, like Twitter, is global by the very nature of the internet. However, people have taken it the next step and have gone on to meet up in person. To meet In Real Life (IRL) in order to continue the conversation. Twitter users have given a name to these IRL encounters – they call them Tweetups. I think companies can go to the next step to what I’m calling Meetups. Ostensibly IRL events are about content sharing – not content access. (Details)


However, the creation of the IRL events and activities can be designed and focused to a group of people (a target audience, if you prefer) by using the content that companies already have in their repositories. Of course, Meetups have been happening for years in the form of user groups, trade shows, etc. Social Media combined with content stored in ECM systems can help make them better.

Trend 5
Authenticity – Be Real or Be Gone!

clip_image025Authenticity does not need to be an added expense. Real does not necessarily mean a person needs to be on the other end of the line. There are some transactions that are best done by systems (bots) and don’t require human interaction. This might fly in the face of the concepts behind Social Media. However, there are cases where I don’t want, expect or need a human to have an authentic experience. The key point here is that the people or systems (bots) have access to the corporate content in order to provide access to your data. (Details)


clip_image026There you have it. Five trends I have observed and why I think there is a convergence between Social Media and Enterprise Content Management. Access to content is the key. The use of Social Media tools and technologies will continue to drive the ECM market and many other traditional “Enterprise” Software Application markets (e.g. ERP, CRM, SCM, PLM, etc.) as a means to expose and utilize content.

Thinking Points:
Will Social Media continue to be a significant part of ECM systems? I think the answer is yes. Why? Because consumers will demand access to “their” data. Companies that provide this access will survive and succeed. Those that don’t … wont! Got a different opinion? I’d love to hear it.

Your comments and feedback are greatly appreciated. Please feel free to comment on this blog, tweet about it, Retweet it and if you are so inclined send me e-mail directly. You can also find me on Facebook and LinkedIn too.



About The Author:
I have spent the better part of the last 16 years working in various aspects of the ECM space. I spent time at
Kofax, Microsoft, FileNet, K2, and most recently Captaris (which was acquired by Open Text in Nov 2008). Prior to that I was a Unix VAR running my own company.


WebUrs said...

Nice post just some thoughts:

1) this may work for some companies with some products but may fail for others (e.g., private banking) it definitely is a bit different if you are a small or micro business see here:

2) Might be true in the U.S. but in some countries people do not want a relationship or something called engagement with a supplier or brand or if they do, they want it in person or face-to-face.

3) Our objectives for 2009 are far simpler than what you suggest:

4) I am not sure if I want to have a Tweetup that becomes a Meetup with my fellow iPod or Sony consumers, do I?

My life is rich as it is. Meeting with fellow consumers is not on my agenda ... maybe tomorrow.

Besides the caveats that I outlined above, I do think that there is a convergence of social media and Enterprise Content Management for some of the large corporations in the consumer brand space.

For the rest of us and because the weakest succumb first in a recession, we continue to be agile and adjust to the demands put upon us by the market. If this means blogging and sharing content, so be it. In the meantime let us pay this month's bills and wages.

Samuel Driessen said...

Great post. One thing I'm curious about is how content management in the broadest(blog, wiki, PLM, ERP, etc) will change from a security perspective. All companies want their content to be management on corporate systems. However lots of their employees are working more and more outside the company, using blogs etc. These two worlds need to merge somehow. I'm sure they will, but not sure how.

John Currah said...

Great post Jeff. Very well thought out and smartly presented.