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Rob Koplowitz remembers it well: that time a decade ago when document management was considered a "non-sexy technology." Thanks to the new emphasis on social business, those days are behind us now.

"Over the course of the last eight years I've been with Forrester, we've seen that completely slip on its head," said Koplowitz, a vice president and principal analyst for the technology research house. "Everything has changed so dramatically."

Koplowitz reviewed the reasons for that change on Feb. 19 in a webinar that also featured Marci Maddox, senior director for product marketing and customer experience management at OpenText.

Driving Opportunity

Coming out of the recession, there's been soaring demand to "do business differently" by empowering workers with technologies that allow them to collaborate while building their knowledge through real-time access to expert information.

"They want new technologies around content and social because they drive business value," Koplowitz said. "They drive huge amounts of business opportunity."

The analyst, who has spent a quarter-century in document management technologies, noted OpenText has been involved in many core parts of this change for many years. 

Today, he said Forrester is experiencing "white hot" demand for refreshing company portals to meet new requirements for multimedia, spoken word, video, podcasts and user-generated content. Sales staffs, marketers and other parts of the company now see great value both in having rapid access to in-house materials and to listening to their increasingly powerful customers.

"We have this redefined role of business content," said Koplowitz. Years ago, he said some materials were always sent to high-end document management systems, but the rest were being shipped around through file shares and other places "where it wasn't very useable." Today, companies are allowing employees to interact with each other in "much more interesting and compelling ways" thanks to the social revolution that began on Facebook and is now permeating the enterprise. He continued:

All of these things that I'm talking about, which were separate pieces of technology that were coming into the enterprise over the last several years and also addressed these opportunities for the more efficient knowledge worker are all coalescing into a single environment. We call it the engagement workplace at Forrester."

Evolution of the Workplace

Maddox responded that the cultural shift is pervading many types of companies today. "The workplace you've described around mobility and social is really an evolution we see for the conversion of these consumer technologies into real business value," she said.

How this began was surprising even to the analysts at Forrester, Koplowitz said. It began with the baby boomers who had a "really high need" for access to expertise in connection with their jobs.

Forrester created a model for a fictitious company that compared the ease of adoption to the value created; it found sales workers were at the top of that chart. And today, millennials are bringing their experience as digital natives into the workplace.

Collaboration Imperative

"Social has evolved into more of a collaborative culture where the sales team and other parts of the organization ... are looking to share information and accessibility in real time at the very moment they need it," said Maddox. "Having those right tools becoming the backbone of their business is critical to moving foward to the next era."

Social is becoming the foundation for other areas of the business, and companies of all kinds will need to share that information securely, she added.

Learning Opportunities

The speakers agreed that social technologies offer advantages over other methods of presenting information to customers. Email and thumb-drives are inefficient and lack the security of a proper content management system, they said.

"Social is really good to capture assets in an area of expertise and making those things accessible," said Koplowitz, who noted  email is limited to the individuals in the "to" line while social can unite workers across time zones.

The chart above provides an example of how a typical company can now bring together disparate teams that are needed to make a price change. In the past, each of those parties was isolated, making it difficult to make rapid decisions.

Maddox said she's also seeing cases where boards of directors want the info from their meetings shared in a more accessible way, so that they can access it from mobile devices away from the boardroom and document board actions.

Keeping it Secure

Of course, the need for security and compliance are critical, particularly in highly regulated industries.

"This is an IT-driven thing. We're talking about integrating technologies that exist in an organization in a fairly structured way," said Koplowitz. "Let's not forget, we still live in a world of compliance, we still live in a world where privacy is important, we still live in a world where security is important, and that investment in those backend documents systems of record ... is part of the overall continuum."

There are two other positives that are driving change in this area, Koplowitz noted. First, the adoption of social business technologies involving advanced document management actually raises employee morale and makes a company a "really attractive place to work."  Second, costs are dropping as these technologies are getting integrated into bundled services.

Maddox added the systems are also much better at handling huge files that, not long ago, would take hours or days to transfer.