MindTouch Deki Kilen WoodsThere are a lot of solutions on the market today that you could implement to provide social software to your employees and customers. And they all offer very similar functionality. So there is a need to differentiate and offer specific point solutions based on that technology.

This is what MindTouch (news, site) is doing. Today they announce the first of three collaborative network solutions based on their open source collaboration platform: MindTouch Collaborative Intranet.

Collaborative Networks

In the first of a series of articles on Collaborative Networking for OStatic, Aaron Fulkerson, Co-Founder and CEO of MindTouch says "Collaborative Networks will increasingly be critically important to business and organizations by helping to establish a culture of innovation and by delivering operational excellence."

He says that Enterprise Software has been on a roller coaster the past few years and that this new breed of solutions we refer to as social business software is about creating conversations and one-on-one interaction. This is not, he indicated, what business needs.

He says, instead, that "businesses must be concerned with creating an information fabric within their organizations." Information fabric is the bringing together of business information from disparate systems into a single interface to edit. This is all done in a real-time, secure and well governed manner.

The result? What Fulkerson refers to as Collaborative Networks. "Collaborative Networks are focused on groups accessing and organizing data into actionable formats that enable decision making, collaboration and reuse."

MindTouch 2009 and the Collaborative Intranet

MindTouch 2009 is a developer's platform. It is designed to assist developers in quickly creating collaborative solutions that involve any number of enterprise applications or web services.

Built on a web oriented architecture, this platform is a combination of a wiki, enterprise portal and a number of Web 2.0 applications. Pull all these things together you have the makings of a collaborative network.

What better a place to start than with a Collaborative Intranet.

MindTouch Collaborative Dashboard

MindTouch says their Collaborative Intranet enables IT departments to easily federate information from the various enterprise applications and data repositories that employees need to do their jobs. Information from file servers, ERP systems, CRM systems, email, social networks and web services is brought into a central interface that is collaborative, interactive and scalable.

MindTouch Team Collaboration

Here's a video, demonstrating a Collaborative Intranet:

Collaborative Networks vs Social Software?

The concept of Collaborative Networks is good, although maybe not completely new. Organizations have been trying to implement service oriented architectures for a while now and building solutions that pull together information from various sources, creating mashups.

What is more new is the idea that they are collaborative, coming into an environment designed to make people work together. These types of networks need to be carefully designed, a clear strategy developed on how they are going to work, what information is needed and how you can be sure they are working better than the individual applications that most have come to know fairly well.

You can't dismiss social software though. It's really not an either or situation. There is a place and room for both, working together to provide real value to the organization. The best social software vendors (Telligent, Socialtext, Atlassian all come to mind) selling their solutions for internal use understand that it's not about conversations, it's about knowledge sharing and collaboration, and they have designed their solutions to support those things.

The reality is, too, is that we are social creatures, and we are individuals working together. While we don't need an internal Facebook or MySpace type solution, there's nothing wrong with being able to talk as individuals and show our personalities. True team building is not just about the work, it's about the people.

You can learn more about MindTouch's Collaborative Intranet on their website.