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Portal Project: Time to Think about your Social Networking Enterprise Strategy

· 4 min read

Most of the enterprises these days have already put in place a portal -- with more or less success. These projects have started most of the time, with the goal of providing personalized information to users and communities. When working in a Portal project you probably define many objectives, that are represented from a technical point of view by the following features:

  • community and group of users
  • easy content management, allowing people to communicate and share
  • data integration of many types of data related to the information needed by each user/community.I do not see anything special there except that is exactly the same goals that what most of the Web2.0/Social Networking applications do have:
  • User management and creation of the community is something that you do on a daily basis with FaceBook and LinkedIn (and any equivalent sites). The key here is the fact that it is the user that define its own community, not an administrator that does not know “my” business that put me in a specific bucket.
  • Content Management: Blogs are very good example of communication of a single person (or team) to the rest of the enterprise, (or the rest of the world). Wikis are tools helping you to share content with other people in a very efficient way. If you are working with OpenSource you see that most of them are using a wiki to communicate with user. This is true for the documentation, but also any type of content that is related to a project.
  • Data Integration: Web 2.0 is all about RSS feeds and Mashups that are, at least today one of the most efficient way, from a user perspective, to integrate content.This is why I do believe that if today you are thinking about an enterprise portal for your organization, it is probably time to step down a little and think more about:
  • the “enterprise social networking strategy”, that is often also related to the “Web 2.0 enterprise strategy”.So some ideas to approach this:
  • create a community with some internet tools, for example start by creating a network in Facebook for your enterprise. Some if you will probably think that it is not productive for the enterprise... Hmm I have to say that it is not directly, but at least it helps people to be familiar with a new way of using the computer and the Internet. Companies I am working in or with do have their network already (Sogeti, CapGemini, IBM, Oracle, ...). An example of this is the way Serena is using FaceBook as part of their intranet and as a tools to do better business. (and some people reactions to this: FaceBook Friday:Bad Idea)
  • if your challenges are around content management start by installing a Wiki in house or using an internet one. I am sure you will be surprised to see the adoption and use in your team. I have many experiences where a regular "Portal/CMS" failed regarding the "community sharing" where Wikis have been a great success.
  • if your challenges are around data integration, I will encourage you to learn more about Rest/RSS and other technologies that are used in mashups. It is true that this one is probably will need more effort from IT to provide the good content feed, but instead of giving the data already packaged in an HTML view (portlet?) do send only the XML using a proper format (RSS/ATOM) and give correct tools to the user, to see how then will be consuming it.

I see this approach more business oriented, this is empowering the business user giving them an infrastructure to select their own tools. Portal the Darwin way kind of approach.

So if you have an existing portal, or more important if you are thinking about starting a Portal project, add the “Web 2.0/Social Networking strategy” question to your plan. And to be honest, asking yourself this question about Web20/Social Network does not cost that much but could probably help yourself to satisfy your end users and customers...

Note: It is voluntarily that I am mixing up the Web 2.0 (technologies) and the social networking (behavior), since these two are intimately linked. Web 2.0 being the set of tools and technologies facilitating the social networking.