A recent CMSWire article noted that content management and social business are two very different technologies, and while vendors try to incorporate social business functionality into traditional ECM solutions, that there is no real effective way for a system to fill both shoes.
While traditional ECM systems are considered “systems of record”, social business tools are in a newer category of “systems of engagement“, and the differences between the two seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.
“These aren’t just differences of philosophy or look and feel. They extend to the software architecture itself. CMS has its roots in transactional, database-driven systems. There are no provisions for essential social constructs such as activity streams, user profiles, social feedback and reputation mechanisms, a centralized view of community activity and collaborative messaging. These capabilities come from a bottom-up design, not just slotting in some new modules or slapping a new UI on top of an existing CMS foundation. Actually, adding social features after the fact can make matters worse, creating more walled-off information that is hard to manage and search.”
To support the argument, SharePoint was used as an example, where a user survey concluded that enhancing SharePoint for Social Business could cost between $500,000 to over $1 million, with more for ongoing maintenance, and that organizations serious about social business should consider a purpose-built tool, rather than a customized SharePoint solution.
While a lot of what this article states is true, I don’t necessarily agree with the argument that the same application can’t have both traditional ECM and social business functionality, and be able to do it well. A good example is Alfresco, which has a robust content platform for building a variety of content-rich applications, along with a social user-interface for collaboration and document management. Alfresco’s focus is on a new vision of Social Content Management, which sits at the intersection of traditional ECM and Social Software, with its own social applications to the left, and a strong content repository on the right.
And by focusing on this intersection of Social Content Management, users have the ability to discuss content, and then capture the results of that discussion inside an ECM solution in order to retain it and derive value from it.
So while ECM systems and Social Business solutions do serve very different purposes, it doesn’t mean the same technology platform can’t be used to satisfy both sides and be able to do it in a cohesive manner.