Social computing should influence IT strategy, EMC says

According to Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp., today’s knowledge-based economy necessitates that an organization’s IT strategy integrate social computing, team collaboration and enterprise content management (ECM), if it wants to improve its competitive position.

With the explosion of digital information, knowledge workers want to be able to create and share that content in a collaborative and managed manner across the enterprise. And, according to Kevin Quinlan, director of content management and archive with EMC Canada, “social computing really fuels a lot of expectations in terms of how users interact and exchange information.”

Social computing platforms like blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS and content tagging are essentially “vehicles for people to work and collaborate in different ways,” said Quinlan.

The demand by users to control that information, in turn, places responsibility on the IT department to enable an environment where information is “protected, managed, controlled and backed up,” he continued.

In keeping with this integrated IT strategy approach, EMC released version 6.5 of its Documentum Enterprise Content Management Suite last July.

Quinlan, however, cautioned that having an appropriate framework that governs the strategy is a prerequisite to success. That framework would include, for instance, policies and procedures associated with the information and its access to different user communities, be they employees or customers. “The challenge…is employees are going out and they’re exposing information through other networks, collaboration Web sites, social networks,” said Quinlan, “and the responsibility is upon IT to be able to manage and govern that.”

For organizations that may be new, or even wary, when it comes to implementing an IT strategy that provides social computing capabilities, a modular, long-term approach that allows IT to plug in additional capabilities down the road is a viable option, said Quinlan.

But the level of comfort in enabling employees with social computing capabilities “is evolving,” according to Quinlan, who has observed large enterprises wanting to know “how to integrate Web 2.0, XML rich content into [their] framework, put information rights control on content, create a workspace that provides users with personalized and dynamic ways to find, interact and share information.”

In fact, said Quinlan, knowledge workers are less interested in the vehicle that enables them to interact with their information, than a desire to “create an onramp to that information and effectively manage that as a true enterprise.”

Geoffrey Bock, lead analyst for collaboration with Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm Gilbane Group Inc., said that the integration of social computing and team collaboration is very much a business trend impacting strategy and direction “and businesses have done a poor job to date of doing this level of integration. But it’s certainly the way to go.”

The reason for the poor attention in that area, said Bock, is “we forget that content is the currency of competing in the digital economy.” Social computing, team collaboration and ECM, he said, are concerned with managing content of different types and in different contexts.

“I think the EMC vision is really pointing to the next generation of the kinds of the systems we need to build,” said Bock.

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