Are documents still relevant in the world of Enterprise 2.0? Web 2.0 pundits have argued that wikis, activity streams and real time status updates will soon replace the “archaic” document concept. But they’re wrong, and here is why…

Today, enterprise users are creating and sharing more contracts, resumes, presentations and financial analyses than ever before. And these are just some examples of the mundane, day-to-day tasks that are best captured in a document or in a spreadsheet. But now, these documents are routinely authored and edited by multiple contributors; for example, a contract may involve a dozen collaborators such as lawyers, sale people and technical experts. So documents won’t suddenly disappear, but they do need to evolve; they need to become more social to be relevant in an Enterprise 2.0 world.

Let’s look at an example. I am working on a new sales presentation with my team. I would like to be able to post this document on Microsoft SharePoint or Google Docs, send a link to my co-workers and then “follow” the document as it evolves into a ‘market-ready’ presentation. For instance, I want to know when the graphic designer has made her changes, and when my senior sales execs have weighed in, without playing email ping pong with everyone. A far better approach would be to view the document’s evolution as an ‘activity stream,’ so that I can follow the changes without any intrusive email messages or alerts….something like the figure shown below.

YC_CanDocumentsBeSocial.jpg

Document Activity Streams

Enterprise activity streams need to include document updates, and users need to be able to define which document they want to follow, the same way they define which colleagues they wish to ‘follow’ in an enterprise social network. In other words, I want to be able to “follow” a document the same way I follow or connect to a co-worker on my enterprise social network. Oh, and of course, I want these updates regardless if I am traveling, or working from home or at the office. Therefore, I need the activity streams to be available from my smart phone, my tablet computer and my desktop.

What this means is that Enterprise Content Management and Social Software platforms will rapidly converge, because documents are just one aspect of the social enterprise. Documents need to be integrated into communities, profiles and activities. Simply put, documents are just another social artifact.

Planning Your Enterprise Social Strategy

To sum up, here are 5 things to think about when planning your enterprise social strategy:

  1. Since we primarily work with people, we must be able to access documents from peoples’ social profiles, not just from a document repository.
  2. Links to documents in the ECM system need to be accessible within an activity stream on the social platform. For example, if I create an activity stream about ‘getting ready for the upcoming Orlando conference’, I want to be able to add the documents for the signage into the activity.
  3. Document links must be available from my ECM system to a community. For example, the annual budget (spreadsheet) for our conference needs be added to the team’s community.
  4. It must be possible to search across documents and activities streams.
  5. It must be possible to be able to receive updates on documents I care about from my smart phone, table and desktop.