Open Text unveils social media tool with ECM backend

Open Text Corp. unveiled Tuesday a social media productivity software for enterprise users to collaborate and leverage corporate knowledge, while offering the security and compliance features of an enterprise content management (ECM) back-end.

Open Text Social Media, the latest addition to the Waterloo, Ont.-based company’s ECM suite, is a software intended to give users the Web 2.0 functionality to perform their jobs more effectively than lacking point solutions like traditional e-mail used by most companies as a collaborative tool, said John Myers, vice-president with Open Text.

“And (e-mail is) not really a great collaborative tool,” he said. “The idea that people are drowning in 400 e-mails a day … is just a fact of life today.”

The software comes with features to let users, through a personal dashboard, build social networks of colleagues, form communities around various topics like projects and other specific tasks, engage in threaded discussions, blog, and edit and share Microsoft Office documents.

But the key differentiator, according to Myers, is the ECM back-end, because just as enterprises want to manage their e-mail within a compliance framework, the same holds true for digital content created inside Web 2.0 platforms.

In fact, it’s a “candy and aspirin scenario,” said Myers, in that the candy is the interesting and useful features that users want, and the aspirin is the governance framework that the chief information officer demands.

Scott Welch, product manager with Open Text’s collaboration solutions group, said such a platform is a form of knowledge management in that it collates and stores data. But it’s really about leveraging that knowledge by allowing enterprise users to identify peers with particular skill sets or interests based on profiles, threaded discussions, communities, said Welch.

The system has what Welch called a “social search” functionality that lets users troll through the content created by others, even showing the existence of private (not open to join) communities that a user would otherwise not be aware of. However, Welch acknowledged that for effective social search, users must actually create content by using the system. Unlike e-mail, social networking in enterprises is “one of the few instances when you can’t mandate that people use it,” said Welch. Besides the allure of the functionality, he said user adoption requires leadership buy-in, for instance with an executive using the software to blog.

The ease of use and familiarity of functionality – like sharing Microsoft Office documents – within the software is intended to make social media tools more palatable to enterprises, said Welch. “We do not want to teach users a new paradigm, that’s just a non-starter,” he said.

Besides the ECM backend and the ease of use, Open Text Social Media is available for the Apple iPhone and Research In Motion BlackBerry. Mobility is important to users, said Myers, and “if we want people to collaborate this way we must offer them rich mobile access.”

Myers thinks there exists a new wave of interest among enterprises to adopt Web 2.0 platforms given the “tidal wave of social tools on the Internet” and the ability for such tools to bring together groups of people, said Myers. Other forces contributing to the interest are Gen X and Gen Y workers, he said, who expect the Web 2.0 functionality they use in their personal lives.

According to Warren Shiau, senior associate with Toronto-based consultancy The Strategic Counsel, Open Text Social Media is something that could help push adoption of Web 2.0 among enterprises already interested in enabling their employees with social media tools, given that it is an in-house managed platform for interaction that can be used as a searchable resource.

“(It’s) all the things a corporation wants: data, the ability to analyze and manipulate data so they can apply metrics, and control,” said Shiau.

“If you want to boil down enterprise Web 2.0 adoption, you’ll come up with one pretty simple measure,” he said, “Which workers will Web 2.0 allow to be more productive or bring in more revenue?”

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