by Kyle McNabb.

Alfresco recently announced integration with Facebook. The news works well for Alfresco, which continues to demonstrate a bit more edge thinking in the world of ECM than their commercial counterparts IBM, EMC, Oracle, and Open Text. Facebook’s not making a big deal out of it, which should be expected considering their exploring what it means to deliver applications to businesses at this point.

Last October we published research entitled ‘The Top Five Technology Trends That Affect Your Enterprise Content Management Strategy.’ One of the most important trends we singled out was a trend we refer to as Tech Populism — or how the technology we use at work continues to find its way into the home (Outlook calendars and Microsoft Office for example), and, more interestingly, the technology we use at home — or our own personal technology — continues to find its way into work (Facebook, LinkedIn, and iPods for example). Many of us will increasingly use online social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn to help us get our jobs done. And sometimes getting our jobs done will require we work with, collaborate on, and access content (e.g. documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and rich media assets). Alfresco’s tapping into this trend, hoping to beat some of their commercial ECM peers to the punch, and be in front of the early enterprise adopters of Facebook that need a little ECM help.

But Facebook isn’t going to be your answer for all things ECM. Instead, you should look at this as a sign of things to come. Content, and content repositories for that matter, will be wherever people work. And your organization’s not going to be able to stop every employee from using online social networks like Facebook if it helps the employee get their job done. But how should you think about this trend?

ECM’s still valid…

Look, you still have a ton of unmanaged and underutilized content in your organization. Transactional business processes need content to be more efficient — e.g. accounts payable, new account opening in Financial Services, claims processing, and license renewals in local governments. And we’re just starting to tap into the persuasive power of content as organizations try to use content, across multiple channels (not just the Web site) to improve the customer experience. And there’s a mountain of content stuck on network file shares that need to be put to use to help improve how information workers get their jobs done more effectively. My contention: You can’t put this content to use if you don’t manage it. You need to manage this content to ensure you’ve got a single source of the truth, that you have the right content ready for use, and that you know where to get it. And from there you can use metadata to help drive it into the way a transactional business processes (supported by business process management technology), business people (supported by collaboration technology, including Web 2.0), and your customers (supported by marketing platforms, CRM, and ecommerce technology) work with your organization. That’s why we asked ECM suite vendors what BPM, collaboration, integration, and document output management technology they have to offer in addition to their core ECM suite in our recent ECM Wave evaluation — it’s about helping put managed content to use.

…but ECM’s definition is changing quickly thanks to more pervasive content usage

The usage of online social networks plus the pervasive use of Microsoft SharePoint document libraries and Lotus Quickr document repositories will soon put an end to the notion that content has to be in a repository to be managed and secure. Face it, without an ability to dictate what technology their employees use to get their jobs done, organizations have to shift their ECM focus from repositories to figuring out how to extend the security and management of content beyond the repository, and onto the content asset. You’ll soon have to work on answering questions of ‘How do we make sure our people can work in Facebook, but not take contracts in there that may put us at risk?’ Or what about ‘How can we let our engineers work in Second Life, but make sure they don’t bring in sensitive designs that may get lost or stolen in this unsecured environment?’ ECM has to do more than just provide the repository, it has to provide some of the answers for how do you effectively manage the asset, regardless of where it lives.

The future’s about policy management, just not today’s policy management

Tomorrow, in order to facilitate the way people and business processes work with content, repositories will still be in existence — hey, not all content’s going to be useful or needed in a social network. But organizations, and information & knowledge management professionals, will want a way to define and enforce how this information gets managed, how it gets retained, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, how it will be used, regardless of where it physically lives — Facebook, Microsoft SharePoint, or on my dreaded C: drive (I can never find anything on it). We asked ECM vendors what rights management technology they have in our ECM Suites Wave to help understand what they’re doing to help you answer these important questions. Frankly, I don’t think today’s rights management really addresses the concerns highlighted above, but it is a start. And maybe thanks to Alfresco working with Facebook, we’ll see rights management evolve into what it needs to be. Stay tuned…