Social technology arrives in corporate space
Enterprise information management systems are finally embracing the social media revolution. Significantly, the ability of the organisation to access and control mission-critical data is enhanced, rather than diluted.
Enterprise information management systems must, per force, deal with systems of record, where the focus is on control and transaction. The imperative of accurate record keeping, for operational and legislative compliance reasons, has seen most organisations watching the information revolution taking place in our private lives from the sidelines.
Since the advent of social media, the divide between organisational knowledge management and the way friends share information informally has grown in overwhelming increments. While any employee can now privately interact with friends on social media, take advantage of cloud storage or utilise fundamentally important services such as Internet banking, the same methods of information flow have been markedly absent from their work paradigm.
At times it has looked likely that organisational teams would forever be bound into a world where the information system is complex and inherently unfriendly to the user. Into a world that works, on a technology level, in complete contrast to the ever widening social media horizon.
"Complexity has been the status quo within the office," says Bennie Kotze, Manager of the ECM Consulting Division at Enterprise Content Management specialist NokusaEI. "Creating structure from the unstructured flow of documents, e-mails and scans has seemed to be an exercise in direct opposition to the principles of social media, where the user can communicate with anyone at any time, in an asynchronous fashion a lot of the time.
"Our goal has been to find a way to leverage the power of social media within the organisation. Not to drive social interaction at the office, but to engender a complete mind-shift in the way information is utilised."
Key features of this mind-shift include a system with the ability to:
* Allow team members to be in communication with stakeholders (internal and external) at all times
* Move away from e-mail as the de facto collaborative tool
* Leverage a collaboration network that communicates seamlessly using blogs, wikis, status updates and other features of the social media world
After years of exploring this new information management frontier in theory, Nokusa EI has established a partnership with Firestring - one of the most significant new information management tools to arrive in the enterprise space.
"The system has huge potential in using the principals of social media for business," says Kotze. "What we do as humans is collaborate. While an organisation may exist in the sense of bricks and mortar, it's the interaction of people that actually constitutes the work of the company. Firestring allows people in large organisations to interact instinctively and organically, and in addition, it brings information and people together through its semantic engine. The engine, Serendipity, automatically tags information on behalf of users, which means manual indexing to bring structure to information is no longer necessary."
Most organisations, and especially large, geographically disparate entities, currently work with multiple large technology systems that challenge users in terms of control and understanding. In this traditional context, the user is the vital point of integration and intelligence. But Firestring offers a radical alternative. Imagine, for example, the shift boss on a mine being able to submit his report via video. Or, important contextual notes for a meeting being posted into a social media styled team interface, before the meeting even starts.
Firestring removes the burden placed on humans to make the information system work, fundamentally altering the way knowledge flows through the organisation in the process. The system, underpinned by its sophisticated semantic engine, is able to analyse what users do with information within the network. It then brings the two elements together in an interface which is familiar to social media users, but which contains significantly more technical power.
A key feature is the ability of the system to finally remove the vexing human task of manually assigning metadata or indexing to each piece of information within the organisation.
"The Serendipity semantic engine uses the latest intelligence of the semantic Web to index documents and records and all other content," says Kotze. "There is no longer a need for the user to create and assign categories, or index documents. The system automatically organises the information and enhances the ability of the user to locate the information."
"So the user can do a Google-type search, but within a far more structured interface and with much more control in terms of selecting categories of information. Based on this intelligence, the system will then also push information to the user, but this information will be highly filtered, so as to be truly relevant to the individual. One of the major advantages of this approach is the way the system removes human error and the tendency of a group of users to be unable to maintain a taxonomy or an indexing protocol over time."
Ultimately, Firestring is an evolutionary shift in organisational information management. The shift is creating excitement among decision-makers desperate to engender a technological landscape within their organisations that facilitates collaboration, rather than restricts it.
"The information management challenge has always centred on finding technology neutral ways to deal with content, and to therefore facilitate genuine, ongoing collaboration," concludes Kotze. "Firestring created a leap in this direction. We have no doubt that it will spark a new paradigm in the way organisations think about, and manage, their information."