Last week I attended Enterprise 2.0 conference and I saw the enthusiasm among businesses to leverage the Social Business tools to greatly increase the productivity within the organization. In my opinion, these social business tools should have the following three essential characteristics (well, there are few others but these are the ones I consider to be the most important for any organization)
- Social media tools
- Collaboration and Communications tools
- Organizational workflow tools
A good Social Business platform should be able to accommodate various tools that enable an organization to not just leverage the social and collaboration tools but also integrate them with the workflow tools that are critical to the organization’s very success. In order to seamlessly integrate such disparate set of tools on a platform and help businesses take advantage of these tools without disrupting their existing processes, the underlying platform has to be open and extensible. Mindtouch (see previous CloudAve coverage) is one such platform and we will look into it a bit deeper in this post.
Essential characteristics of the platform
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, a good social business platform should be open and extensible. Even though the open source evangelist in me tend to insist on open source to be part of the “open criteria”, it is not crucial. However, the platform should definitely support open standards and open formats. If the platform is also open source, it can be considered as an added bonus. If you are a buyer and I am advising you on your buying decisions, this will be my first key criteria.
Open standards are crucial not only for integration and interoperability between disparate components, it is also important from the data portability point of view. This will help organizations avoid the dreaded vendor lock-in. The platform should take advantage of open standards like XML, JSON, XSLT, WSDL, etc..
The other aspect of a platform I would emphasize as strongly as openness is the extensibility of the platform. Unlike some of the big vendors who build a complete suite of applications, startups and other small vendors cannot offer everything an organization needs from their platform. In the case of Social Business platforms, it is not possible for vendors to offer wide range of tools from many different categories like Social Media, Collaboration, Communication, Workflow tools, etc.. However, if the platform is extensible, third party vendors will complement the core tools offered by the platform vendor and, more importantly, it will allow the organizations to build custom tools needed for their business processes. The Mindtouch story I am going to discuss in the next section is an example of this. Extensibility is also a key characteristic for the Social Business platforms.
I have written about Mindtouch, the San Diego based enterprise software company, previously. They started out as a Wiki company focussed on collaboration and then added social layer over their content platform so that businesses can build a community on top of it. Later, they shifted gears and started disrupting the technical documentation market with their Technical Communication Suite. They positioned their offering in such a way that vendors can use the modern day technical documentation beyond the traditional documentation needs. The modern day technical documentation tools, along with collaborative authoring, can help in marketing, shorten sales cycles and, also, in support. With this premise, they are pushing hard to be the dominant player in this market segment.
However, as I mentioned in my previous post on Mindtouch, their platform is much more versatile and ideal for implementing Social Business strategies inside any organization. Even though they are pushing ahead in full steam in the technical documentation market, the extensible nature of their platform opens up many opportunities for them. One such solution is their recently announced Social Intranet done in collaboration with Dachis Group.
Mindtouch Platform already had powerful collaboration and social features. Dachis Group was using this platform for their internal purposes to share information inside their organization. Taking advantage of Mindtouch’s extensibility, Dachis group extended the platform to include information from other systems and to make their new collaborative environment more efficient and productive. This helped them break silos that existed inside their organization. Some of the features they developed, and delivered under the Dachis Group Workforce brand, include:
- Workforce Projects – A very powerful project management tool which adds project management capabilities inside the Mindtouch platform
- Workforce Comments – Something like a forum which brings discussion inside the Mindtouch platform instead of having another silo outside of it
- Workforce Issue Management – It is more like a helpdesk with features like color coding, charts and graphs
Dachis Group has been advising enterprises on how they can increase the information sharing within the organization and, also, with customers, partners, etc.. Upholding the same philosophy of sharing, which they preach to their enterprise clients, Dachis Group transferred the IP of these extended features to Mindtouch so that it can be offered to a wider market. This is one example of how an external organization can build features on top of an open and extensible platform and push it to market. Dachis Group is not the only one to do this on Mindtouch platform. Other organizations, including some government agencies, are extending the Mindtouch platform to build powerful Social Business tools. For example, WiiKno has built a powerful collaboration tool for next generation knowledge management using Mindtouch platform.
Mindtouch Platform is a powerful platform which can serve as the nerve center for enabling Social Business. Its support for open standards and open formats, along with the extensible nature of the platform, makes it a very compelling platform for any organization interested in implementing Social Business strategies. In fact, the core of Mindtouch platform is open source and it makes the platform even more interesting for such use cases. However, Mindtouch has its task cut out in the market. It is a highly competitive space with many other platforms vying for attention (I will try to cover other platforms in the future) of the enterprise CIOs and other decision makers. Plus, as I mentioned in my previous post on Mindtouch, their are not actively pushing their cloud strategy yet. But it should also be noted that they still have time to spruce up their cloud strategy as enterprises are very slow in cloud adoption. They are an interesting company and I will be closely watching them along with their competitors in this space.
Disclaimer: Mindtouch was a client of Diversity Ltd. when I was part of the firm. I also attended a dinner organized by Mindtouch for Enterprise 2.0 conference attendees.
- MindTouch and Dachis Group Announce MindTouch Social Intranet with Workforce by Dachis Group (prweb.com)
- Social Intranet Software | Extranet Software by MindTouch – MindTouch, Inc. (mindtouch.com)
- No More Hand Holding: Why Consultants Need to Build Apps (readwriteweb.com)
- Replacing SharePoint with Open Source CMSs (itexpertvoice.com)