On being our own worst enemy

Sometimes you know you need something different and you ask for it. Then when you get it, you ask why it isn't like what you expected – based on your experience with what you already had…

I'm seeing this in new enterprise content management (ECM) products, especially around social media applied to Enterprise 2.0 concepts.

While ECM now covers a wide range of technologies, at its core many of the concepts come from document management. Those concepts are mature and consequently well-embedded.

Many, but not all ECM systems follow a 'folder' paradigm – Livelink is one such ECM system – and of course Windows and Mac OS has used folders for many years. Most people just expect folders.

In the case of Livelink, as collaborative tools like Forums, Blogs, Wikis, etc. were added it was 'logical' that these be offered in the context of folders (and other Livelink folder-like container types like Workspaces and Communities). In Livelink you can add a Blog to any Folder for example, if you have the appropriate rights.

This approach works well when the collaborative discussion is centered on related content.

For example, a set of product specification documents are reasonably grouped with a product discussion in a Project workspace.

In fact traditional knowledge management (KM) approaches emphasised the importance of providing context to documents – grouping the documents and the related discussions about them while they are used and when they are subsequently archived achieves this.

While Livelink collaborative objects must be placed in Folders, tools are also provided to find them irrespective of location. You can list all Blogs, Communities, etc. on one page, but in my experience almost no one uses these features – the expectation and habit of navigation to a folder location is just too strong! And when you give users a range of different approaches, they generally only follow one well worn path.

Social media comes at the problem very differently – it is people-centered
document-centered. You listen to what people are saying, and then create a social network based on who you want to listen to and the discussion topics you want to hear about. So users and topics become the organizing elements instead of folders. Topics are often multi-faceted and un-predictable, so are quite different from the parent-child taxonomy type of classic folders.

Sure you can add documents to the discussion, and you can link to other documents, but fundamentally you are saying, "I'm talking about this document," irrespective of its location. In fact a document is still best managed according to a document management paradigm in a repository.

Very shortly Open Text will be releasing Open Text Social Media – a solution designed to support social networks in an enterprise, both internally in the social workplace, as well as externally in the social marketplace of a company's partners and customers. The user interface is simplified in a 2.0 style, and focuses on what a user needs to network socially. It does not have the full set of document-centric options – and therein lays the rub.

Most people who have seen Open Text Social Media love it! It's easy to learn and easy to use. The key to that ease is simplicity – that means there can't be too many options and the ones that there are revolve around social network activities.

So it's interesting to watch people start asking for folders/hierarchical classification and a whole raft of document management features – they love the new stuff, but want the familiar as well. If we gave them what they asked for, then they'd loose the initial benefits.

But we haven't forgotten the document management world. Open Text Social Media allows you to talk about documents in other repositories like Livelink, while they remain where they are in an organized hierarchy, with appropriate permissions, lifecycle controls, metadata, records management, etc.

In the real world of the business or government enterprise, it's necessary to balance the what you want of 'candy' with the what's good for you of 'aspirin' (see video below).

Two paradigms. Two approaches. Designed co-existence!

1 comment:

  1. Great example of how ones preconceptions can sometimes get in the way of new ideas! We would see this same issue with DAM where folks initially would ask about "folders" when the activity was really supposed to be "digital asset" centered. It is great to see this new technology being pushed from "people" perspective and shedding some of the legacy conceptions while also leveraging some of deep experise around document mgt, search, records mgt, and archive mgt. I agree this is a great tool that will provide a balance of candy and aspirin.