A few weeks ago we covered that Cisco/WebEx and California-based enterprise wiki provider eTouch Systems were integrating SamePage, an enterprise wiki, into the WebEx Connect collaboration environment. Since that time, I had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Aniruddha Gadre, CEO of eTouch. eTouch is very focused on usability and their Same Page wiki allows customers and employees to "access a secure wiki that enables them to communicate, collaborate and organize energetic ventures."
By closely integrating the collaborative content editing capabilities of SamePage with the application mashup capabilities of WebEx Connect, the new platform is expected to be available to more than 2 million Cisco customers in an effort to allow users to create content and collaborate on the go. I asked Gadre about the significance of the partnership with WebExConnect, his thoughts about the future of Enterprise 2.0, and the importance of collaboration and workflow. CMSWire: What sets eTouch apart from the rest? Mr. Gadre: There are a number of important factors that set us apart from the other wiki players. First of all our wiki is built on top of a solid, enterprise CMS core which allows us to scale up and offer a lot of enterprise features very elegantly. Further, we have focused on three critical aspects that a lot of wiki players ignore or cannot provide:
* Security: Offering granular security, role-based access, LDAP single sign-on, etc...
* Usability: Offering WYSIWYG editing, Integrated Search, linking, comments, plugins
* Support: Deployment, customization, integration etc
We feel these aspects have definitely helped us become an attractive Wiki player to partner with. CMSWire: Can you talk more about how the collaborative content editing capabilities of SamePage will be integrated with the application mashup capabilities of WebEx Connect? Describe a business scenario or two that would benefit? Mr. Gadre: The collaborative content editing capabilities of SamePage would be obvious to any user who has used our powerful WYSIWYG editor to create complex wiki pages by interacting with colleagues. The integration with WebEx further simplifies this by allowing any WebEx Connect user to get these collaborative editing capabilities within the WebEx Connect client. For example, a user with the WebEx Connect client can simply add the SamePage widget and then invite any other WebEx Connect user to join his wiki for collaboration.
In terms of mash-ups, our powerful plugin architecture inherently allows you to create mashups with Google maps, YouTube video, Google calendar, etc. We also have plans to develop composite applications with other Connect partners moving forward.
The business potential of such composite applications can be immense. For example, a WebEx Connect user may be able to launch a WebEx meeting; then get feedback and collaborate with the attendees using a wiki application like SamePage; then publish specific content from the wiki into some other application within Connect and so on. CMSWire: How are you planning to implement an infrastructure secure enough to ensure high volumes are supported adequately? In addition, how will you provide a secure service that combines multiple SaaS applications? Mr. Gadre: We already have a pretty robust infrastructure hosted in a secure data center to take care of the volumes for the hosted version of SamePage. Our clustered architecture also allows us to expand our infrastructure elegantly as we start seeing more volumes.
Like I mentioned: security is something that we have integrated at every level of our SaaS architecture rather than adding it as an after thought. That allows us to provide a secure service even in a complex environment with multiple applications.
The widget we are offering already has a single-sign on integration with WebEx Connect. We also cross-verify the proxy credentials with the WebEx Authentication Service. Connect Space Owners can choose whom they want to add to their Connect Space and their wiki. Finally, our project level and page level permissions are respected even within the widget in the WebEx Connect. CMSWire: CMSWire has reported on many predictions for the future of content management in 2008. How do you see the potential of Web 2.0 in the enterprise evolving over the next few years? Mr. Gadre: We have seen the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies like wikis, blogs, forums, mashups, etc. increasing within enterprises as they start seeing the benefit. A lot of enterprises that were in a "wait-and-watch" mode are now taking the leap and embracing Web 2.0 technologies.
While pure-play Web Content Management may always have a space in the enterprise, we increasingly see a lot of WCMs being replaced by Web 2.0 technologies like wikis, which are simpler to adopt and can show results faster as more people within the organization participate.
Of course, any collaborative approach can bring along its own headaches: security concerns (who sees what), too many opinions, etc. And organizations will keep learning and improving on how to best use these technologies. Vendors like us who provide these cutting edge solutions should also keep their ears open for customer feedback and improve their products based on the lessons learned. We see Web 2.0 playing a big part in the enterprise in the coming year.CMSWire: Why do you think businesses have been slow to incorporate Web 2.0 technologies in their operations? How does eTouch go about demonstrating the value of wikis in the enterprise? Mr. Gadre: Businesses have been somewhat slow to adopt Web 2.0 technologies so far due to a variety of reasons.
* Geeky Image: Web 2.0 technologies like wikis, blogs and mashups are sometimes perceived as geeky, nerdy tools that may not be useful in the business world. This perception is of-course changing as people see how these technologies are being put to good use.
* Invested Costs: If enterprises have already invested a lot of capital in traditional Web 1.0 technologies like Lotus Notes, etc., they tend to see how they can make do with existing technologies.
* Inertia: Often in large companies the sheer inertia slows down adoption of new Web 2.0 technologies. They may be so used to doing things in a particular way - say creating an Excel or Word document and emailing it back and forth for collaboration - adopting newer technologies to do the same task takes them away from their "comfort zone".
* Security: A lot of enterprises see the lack of adequate security in wiki and blog solutions as a road-block in adoption. These are being addressed by enterprise solutions like ours that incorporate a robust and comprehensive security architecture.
The best way we demonstrate the value of wikis to new customers is allowing them to talk to our existing customers. While concerns over usability and security are typically overcome by demos and evaluations - it is only when enterprises see wikis being put to good use in other large enterprises that they really get convinced about the value. CMSWire: When working to streamline business workflows, how important is collaboration to the process? Mr. Gadre: Collaboration and Streamlined Workflow - both are important for an enterprise but they don't necessarily lend themselves to the same type of activities. There are lots of mundane activities within the enterprise, say filling up forms or getting authorization, that inherently need to follow a typical workflow.
But there are also lots of activities where it is better to provide a secure, collaborative workspace and not enforce any strict workflow. These are activities that involve creativity and feedback from a larger audience: idea generation, knowledge gathering, documentation, etc. The latter is as important in an organization as the former and it is important to recognize what type of solutions are best suited for which activities.
For SamePage, we have really focused more on collaboration features like collaborative editing, comments, moderation, forums - suppressing the more rigid workflow-type features of our content management platform. However, we do provide the option for a simple approval process even within a wiki environment.