Jive , Alfresco and SolutionSet turn Content into a Social Object

Over a year ago I wrote about Why ECM is critical to your Enterprise 2.0 Execution Plan. I wrote then about the pitfalls of closed content management processes:

If you’re a large organization using enterprise content management systems (ECM), chances are that its powering images, documents and records management, and web content. These systems enforce roles, workflows, access control and versioning to enable the creation, management and dissemination of media assets.

What this means is that from the very beginning of a given business activity, a few people control the creation of information that employees, customers, partners and suppliers rely on to move your business forward. Like it or not, this puts the responsibility/power to influence business performance in the hands of a few, with little input from other unknown experts, or consumers of this data. You only find out how effective the content turned out to be once its consumed (and long after you can optimize).

I had also reached out to Billy Cripe, then a Director in Oracles Enterprise 2.0 group and now a VP at Fishbowl Solutions. We identified overarching inefficiencies in Content Management where social and collaborative concepts can help:


Now its 2011 and as we see more business challenges emerge, there’s more to be said about the inefficiency of excessively locking down the creation, management and dissemination of content. To summarize:

Context: “One man’s food is another man’s poison”. A central taxonomy can never account for varied and dynamic usage scenarios of each digital asset. Every asset has a different purpose for, say, a sales, marketing, product management and service professional. When you let content flow through social and collaborative metaphors, its amazing how each of us can fulfill our unique consumption use cases.

Data Association: Systems Integration to associate events and data from ERP/CRM/SCM systems to ECM content is extremely expensive and static. You get IT to make a customization and then go back to the end of the line when you need another one. As a result we have limited system scaling to meet evolving business requirements. In contrast, integrating people does bring scale and can serve as a far more effective glue between events that need action and content/documents/digital assets that can help you take an optimal course of action.

Enterprise Search: Know anyone working at a large company that loves their enterprise search functionality? Yeah, me neither. It’s time we give people a shot at recommending the right content and documents. For that we need a social layer that sits atop enterprise content management to offer contextual meta data.

The solution still remains the same: Infuse Content and Document Management with Social and Collaborative approaches to get the best minds to contribute, vet, validate and recommend digital assets in the context of varied business activities.

Microsoft SharePoint has seen a majority of the social platform integration effort, thus far. Oracle has its own content, portal and collaboration components systematically meshed together. And I have other examples in my previous post.

This morning Jive Software, Alfresco Software, and SolutionSet announced that they have collaborated to turn content, documents and digital assets into social objects. Jive offers the social components, Alfresco does the Content Management heavy lifting, and SolutionSet, (the most experienced social software SI you’ve likely never heard of) engineered the connecter that makes this happen. This integration enables bi-directional content creation, editing and management. Per Matt Tucker, CTO and founder of Jive:

“Alfresco provides a proven enterprise content management system. Jive taps into the Alfresco system to ‘socialize’ the content, facilitate collaboration, and make it available in the activity stream. Access and interaction with Alfresco content becomes seamless in Jive. This makes content management more searchable, ratable, likable, commentable, and most importantly, more social.”

I don’t generally cover software announcements on this blog but when I see an attempt to combine content, process and people in an effort to contextualize work (as opposed to social for social’s sake), I consider it a meaningful effort towards performance acceleration – something I do write a lot about.

The devil is in the details when it comes to making two systems talk to each other. But what’s neat is that this connector is not about just adding comments and ratings to documents. It proposes to enable broad collaboration when it comes to the creation, validation or approval of content and digital assets.

We see a growing need for this in our work: Talk to most executives at large organizations and they will quietly admit that content creation budgets have become a “black hole” over the last decade. What’s worse, it’s extremely challenging to find a way to get off the spending treadmill or know which efforts truly provide value. Such integration can now federate the creation and uses of content to reduce significant risk, give you crowd sourced insight into top performing assets, and promote new applicability for a very expensive line item in the operating budget of many many large organizations.

For more, see this post by Barb Mosher on CMS Wire and from Tim Ross, GM at SolutionSet Digital.

Kudos to all involved.

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Billy Cripe
Billy Cripe

Great write up Sameer. You hit the nail on the head when you point out that the socialization of the information creation processes are the big win here. From the crowdsourcing advantages to the interest boost that comes from having more stakeholders involved to the social uplift that comes from spurring participation, the trends we spoke of months ago are becoming a reality. Folks should not mistake the significance of this as a mere "integration announcement" this is a clear marker on the new information pathway. Kudos to the Alfresco, Jive and SolutionSet teams!

Bart Schutte
Bart Schutte

Very happy to see Jive and Alfresco releasing the toolkit. I spent much of JiveWorld2010 and since then trying to communicate our needs to bother vendors. Our primary need was to give jive users access the hierarchical library of documents stored in Alfresco related to their Jive group. This was not the use case that either Jive or Alfresco were anticipating, which is why we engaged AlfStore to build our custom widget. It's been in production since the end of january 2011 and our users love it. So for those who can't wait for 5.0, I would encourage you to look at it. But the new tool kit means that Alfstore will be able to evolve (or rewrite) their widget using vendor support frameworks, which is goodness for us.

Enguerrand Spindler
Enguerrand Spindler

I think this integration between Jive and Alfresco is clearly a good approach for both vendors. As a solution provider, we have already implemented very similar features between Jive and Alfresco a few month ago, for a big french industrial company. Clearly this toolkit would have help...but it was not available at this time. This is at least an evidence that Customers understand that content is important (not only documents, but also discussion, blog, etc), should be managed by ECM solutions, to ensure long term storage, retention, etc. This toolkit is for Alfresco the opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to be THE foundation for Social Content Management and to be the repository for other Social Networking softwares. I think the same kind of partnership would make sense also with solutions like IBM Lotus Connections, etc. On the other side, it is the guarantee for Jive's Customers to build highly scalable infrastructure, without worrying about the data volume bottleneck, which is usually a big limitation in "Portal like" solution as Jive, which are designed to optimize relationship and conversation, not to manage huge volume of documents. However, there are a lots of distinct social and/or document-centric use-cases to manage when you want to deals with documents stored externaly. This is why Jive/Alfresco decided the positioning for this connector should be a “toolkit”, rather than a fully fledged solution. This relative complexity have been described in our previous blog post : http://alfrescoshare.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/integrating-alfresco-with-social-software-principles-and-real-life-use-cases/ , and also by Peter Monks (Alfresco) : http://blogs.alfresco.com/wp/pmonks/2011/03/29/technical-overview-of-the-alfresco-jive-toolkit/ This is why the v1.0 toolkit does not address use-cases like "Alfresco library explorer features" for the moment. For customers who want to expose Alfresco library in Jive, our company (www.alfstore.com) do provide a complimentary solution. Basically, you can use our Jive Widget to browse Alfresco documents and folders, and perform all the document management operations you need. Demo here : http://www.alfstore.com/news/news_alfresco_widget_for_jive.html As per our discussion with Alfresco the Toolkit should be completed before Jive 5.0 goes GA. Our component works with Jive v4.x, and early version of Alfresco 2.x and 3.x. Clearly this toolkit is a great opportunity for solution provides (like SolutionSet and Alfstore) to build more advanced Jive applications for social content management ! -- Enguerrand SPINDLER CEO at Alfstore e.spindler@alfstore.com http://www.alfstore.com

Sameer Patel
Sameer Patel

Thanks for the comment, Billy. This is the first of many to come. Since the writing of this post, Ive been pinged about similar efforts in other ECM + Social Software areas. The benefit of this to both internal processes as well as to unified Customer Experience Management efforts is significant.

Sameer Patel
Sameer Patel

Excellent. Thanks for some good practitioner insight. Great to hear that you have this working and that users are all over it.

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