Panelists: Content management, meet social networking

Social networking is being to make inroads into the enterprise content management space, according to software executives who spoke at a panel discussion.

Enterprise content management and social networking form a natural nexus that is already taking tangible form, a software executive said during a panel discussion Wednesday at the Gilbane Group's annual conference in Boston.

"People have real requirements to secure information, but also have a demand to interact with people," chief technology officer of Alfresco, an open-source content management software maker, John Newton, said. "We are starting to blur the lines between what's inside the enterprise and what's outside the enterprise."

Senior vice-president of Adobe's enterprise and developer business unit, David Mendels, echoed the idea. "The biggest single shift we're seeing is from the infrastructure of content management to humans -- to how humans engage with it," he said. "The real question is, what experiences are you going to build for your end users, and how are you going to securely connect that back to your back-end systems?"

CTO of IBM's emerging Internet technology group, David Boloker, touched upon security concerns as well. "When you end up in the Facebook world or the Web world, you have to ask yourself, is that information correct? Do you have to annotate it, do you have to clean that information?"

"There are people out there who will try to take your information or plant a worm," he added.

Mendels predicted that enterprise rights management software for securing content will see wider use. "We've talked about this for a while, but I think we're really on the cusp of it starting to accelerate," he said.

Beyond addressing bottom-line concerns such as security, enterprises will soon be compelled to apply social-networking principles in a wider range of areas, vice-president of product management in Oracle's enterprise content management division, Andy MacMillan, said. "The Web is going to lead the way, but pretty soon you're going to be talking about the call center, the checkout kiosk at the airport -- how do I personalise those things?"

Panelists took questions following the main discussion. One audience member asked them to render an opinion on content management's adoption rate around the world.

Newton said lower-cost options have diversified the roles of content management software: "We see content management being pulled into types of applications it normally wouldn't have been before. ... It's changing -- it's much more democratized. It's not so much about compliance."

Mendels said hosted content management services, such as Adobe's Share and Buzzword offerings, will see faster growth outside the US, particularly among small to medium-sized businesses.

Panelists at one point peered into their respective crystal balls. Mendels said Adobe's goal moving forward is "creating applications and experiences that keep people in context."

Ideally, he said, the current practice of jumping among email programs, instant messaging services and the phone would be no more. "We see a world where you should have all those experiences tied to one document," he said.

Mendels gave the example of a person sending an email that prompts the recipient to return the query by phone. "Instead of picking up the phone and calling you, the document can call you," he said.

Boloker pointed to mashups, saying they represent a new "application paradigm we're all walking into." IBM is working on a drag-and-drop mashup development environment called [QEDWiki], which Boloker demonstrated for IDG News Service following the panel discussion.

MacMillan said enterprises must now focus on not just cataloging their structured and unstructured data, but also applying analytics against it. "I think the next big step for content management from the infrastructure layer is to turn BI loose on it," he said.

But Newton's take centred more on philosophy than a given technology. The Web 2.0-social networking boom has unleashed a "wave of creativity" that stands in contrast to "introverted, left-brain thinking" types, in Newton's view. "What our industry needs to do is get out of our left-brain, introverted mindset," he said.

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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