While conducting research for my yearly enterprise social network update, a trend that had been simmering for a while bubbled to the top: Quite a few enterprise social networking vendors had or were planning to extend their software in ways that make them nearly indistinguishable from web content management solutions.
That’s not too surprising. Jive Software has, for some time, supported external communities that provide a rich user experience with its JiveX product. Other enterprise social network vendors, for example Jostle, have positioned themselves as “social” intranets. While ostensibly an enterprise social network, products such as these often fill the same role as web content management software. They are used to create rich web-based experiences for internal or external communities.
Convergence of Tools
Enterprise social network vendors have been adding tools to create custom pages easily and allow end-users to update content without programming. For all intents and purposes, these enterprise social networks are looking and acting like more like Wordpress, DNN or Drupal. They offer templates and high degrees of customization of the user experience like web content management solutions. Pages can be constructed out of prefabricated widgets that allow non-programmers the ability to create visually stunning, rich, web experiences.
The upcoming update of IBM Connections previewed at last week’s IBMConnectED 2015 was a great example of how alike web content management and enterprise social networks have become. Expressing the new IBM design language (seen currently in IBM Verse), the tools for creating pages that look and feel like the best websites on the Internet were stunning. The SAP Jam Page Designer, which is already shipping, is similar. Both are more reminiscent of Squarespace more than a typical enterprise social network.
The available range of tools also resembles those found in web content management solutions. Enterprise social networks all include wikis, blogs and similar website type widgets. The latest releases incorporate rich media such as pictorial, audio and video content.
That doesn't mean that enterprise social networks have abandoned the activity feed or microblog either. Instead, web content management solutions have added them. Wordpress can easily be turned into an enterprise social network with the addition of Buddypress and similar plugins.
The latest generation enterprise social network looks more and more like a modern web content management system. At the same, web content management solutions such as Wordpress and Drupal are becoming more social. In time, it will be hard to tell these categories apart.