Business Collaboration: Combining Open, Social & Content

3 minute read
Cheryl McKinnon avatar

The inherent tension between structured and unstructured, formal and informal, product and platform is at an interesting phase as content management collides with social software. Whether we call it Enterprise 2.0, enterprise collaboration or social content management, this intersection presents a challenge for both IT and content managers.

Enterprise content management systems are typically repositories of business documents, with business rules and access controls to manage distribution, edit rights, approval cycles and categorization. Enterprises in both public and private sector rely on enterprise content management systems to ensure an end-to-end managed lifecycle for business content across its useful life.

But what about new forms of micro-, social, component content that is created in a newer forms of business applications that typify the open, mobile and social nature of the participatory web? How can this emerging content help enrich a content management environment? Perhaps with OpenSocial.

OpenSocial was first conceived by Google in late 2007, with the 1.0 specification published in March 2010. Even in early stages, enterprise software vendors including Atlassian, Nuxeo, Jive, SocialText and SAP, along with a number of consumer social network sites, began incorporating support for the emerging OpenSocial specification. By offering a component model called “gadgets," as well as APIs for accessing social content, OpenSocial helps build a bridge for businesses needing interoperability between managed repositories and new social web applications.

But does OpenSocial have a place in the business context? Often perceived as consumer web specification, in fact OpenSocial has found a place inside enterprise collaboration. Web 2.0 underpins Enterprise 2.0. The ability of OpenSocial to present small, granular packages of content in a "gadget" makes it appealing to organizations seeking fresh approaches to business collaboration.

Learning Opportunities

Open, Interoperable

Social content and enterprise content can be effectively bridged using open and interoperable specs such as OpenSocial and CMIS. A Leading European do-it-yourself retailer Leroy Merlin served the internal communication and content accessibility needs of 20,000 employees by building a next-generation intranet portal using the lightweight, “mashup” flexibility offered bycontent and collaboration platforms adopting OpenSocial.


Requirements included a space for teams to exchange information, such as tasks, agendas and documents, as well as personal areas that staff could use for their own productivity needs and content storage, including video or images. Serving a wide range of non-technical employees, including retail workers, Leroy Merlin needed to have an easy, familiar user experience, similar to the iGoogle or NetVibesinterface that many people had learned in their personal Internet use. OpenSocial gadgets fit the bill for presenting small, easily consumable content components.

After selecting an open source platform for the enterprise content management requirements, Leroy Merlin was able to establish a strong use case and got the developer commitment needed to contribute the OpenSocial integration back to the primary code stream. This ensures the longevity and a product roadmap that will carry the OpenSocial integration work forward with subsequent releases of the ECM platform.

Forward Momentum

The momentum in the enterprise content and collaboration market continues toward this direction of open and interoperable standards and specifications. Build once, reuse many; code and contribute; harvest content, don't migrate and duplicate. Organizations ready to reap the rewards of the maturing world of Enterprise 2.0 can at last find both ECM and social applications that deliver productivity while playing nicely together in the IT sandbox.

About the author

Cheryl McKinnon

Cheryl McKinnon is the founder of Candy Strategies Inc., a consulting and marketing services firm helping organizations make the jump to the digital workplace, and embrace open source and open standards as part of their information management strategy.She blogs at www.candystrategies.com and can be found on Twitter @CherylMcKinnon