Open Text Marries ECM and Social Media

It would be an understatement to say that social media is a hot topic nowadays, including in the enterprise. You may be terrified of using it in your organization, but you really have no choice. Social media is here to stay, and you may as well embrace it rather than fight it.

Open Text (news, site) watches this trend closely and acts accordingly, in its true “candy and aspirin” fashion. Today, the vendor has announced a new addition to the Enterprise CMS platform -- Open Text Social Media, which may help conservative organizations to (safely) warm up to social media.

We discussed the new software with Open Text’s John Myers, GM of Communications Solutions, and Scott Welch, product manager at Collaboration Solutions.

Coincidentally, Welch, as we found out later, came to Open Text following an acquisition of a company whose technology is in the foundation of this new social media product, but more on that later.

Having a Social Media Buzz?

Myers started off by saying that social media is a hot area for organizations to explore and there’s a buzz about “something rather social in the enterprise”. Riding the Enterprise 2.0 wave, Open Text put some thought into the new styles of collaboration currently taking place. According to Myers, we are at the point where social media movement can go into the mass adoption phase.

Traditional tools may not always work for employees looking to connect in networks. Chances are, your employees will find and use the tools that work for them, with or without corporate approval.

When it comes to using social media in the enterprise, concerns about security, compliance, eDiscovery, protection of intellectual property and archiving are quite valid. Open Text is proposing its “candy and aspirin” recipe, where you can still have the cool stuff but sans any headaches.

Social Media the Open Text Way

The new software from Open Text offers a set of tools for collaboration, discussions, blogs and wikis with the same set of security, compliance, and archiving policies used for management of corporate e-mail, for example. Security mechanisms can be used to manage access to information inside and outside corporate firewalls.

Just as its competition, Open Text is looking out for workers on the go. The social media tool can be accessed via native mobile applications for Apple iPhone and RIM BlackBerry. The mobile client is based on a persistence model, so server sync-up is part of the deal, allowing for actions similar to BlackBerry offline email.

In one user interface (and it’s a nice UI, by the way), the following features are available:

Personal Dashboard

The home page gives users a quick overview of communities, "My People," "My Watches" and other pending and status details. Red dots (having nothing to do with RedDot apart from possible nostalgia) indicate new content and disappear as you check those updated items.

open text social media home.png

The idea here is to push content to users rather than having users to pull it.

Communities

These are virtual spaces with messages that haven’t gone into your inbox. Collaboration happens here, when users share ideas, author wiki entries and work on document sharing.

Open Text Social Media offers full MS Office support. Under the umbrella of what the vendor refers to as “cloud computing,” documents are not actually downloaded to users’ hard drives but are served by the social media server using WebDAV.

Profiles

Typical features like profile editing, photos, status update are available. Mini profiles are generated automatically on hover over with zero-click contextual display of a user's name, photo, contact information and status.
Some corporate, structured data can come from an LDAP or PeopleSoft directory, for example, but the ability to change that data can be under end user control.

Blogs and Wikis

All the expected functionality like editing, publishing, tagging and commenting is available for blogs. The Wiki tab within a community provides a simple WYSIWYG wiki system. Page linking is supported and an automatic navigation pane expands as new pages are created. All content is searchable and real-time indexable.

Using Existing Technology Stack for New Good

From the technological perspective, Open Text largely tapped into its resources gained via an acquisition. There is, of course, some new code and a brand new UI, but the underlying engine used in the new product is FirstClass Communications Platform from Centrinity, which was acquired by Open Text in 2002.

Now Open Text’s Welch co-founded SoftArc Inc., which started developing and shipping FirstClass in early 90’s. In 1999, SoftArc merged with MC2 Learning Systems to form Centrinity.

In addition to Centrinity’s platform, Open Text Social Media is also tied to what used to be called Livelink (the product acquired in 1995) -- Open Text’s collaboration and knowledge management product -- using it as the main repository. Web services technology and proprietary APIs were leveraged to tie in the existing platforms.

The new software can, naturally, be integrated with Open Text’s own records management (RM) and archiving products as well.

With all of the above in mind, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Open Text Social Media is quite document-centric at the moment.

Another concern we had was regarding maintenance. Imagine this: if a user checks out a piece of content, that piece of content has to be manually placed back into the original Livelink repository after it’s been socially collaborated on. But there are no mechanisms or reminders (outside Livelink) enforcing content to be checked back in.

Open Text’s hopes are that casual users are unlikely to “copy out” a document, thus the possibility of unmaintained duplicates, let's say, should be low.

There is a probability that the social media application will be coming to WCM and DAM, as Open Text is working on some prototypes with its Web Solutions and DAM groups for the 1.1 release. Open Text Social Media 1.0 should go GA in July 2009.