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SharePoint 2010 threatening ECM vendors, ESN to wane, and other thoughts from Gilbane Boston 2009

Overall, I thought the Gilbane Boston conference was a great learning experience. One of my biggest takeaways is that the industry has clearly moved past where it was one short year ago when most of the talk was about early adoption of social media technologies. The industry is now taking E2.0 seriously.

As these technologies "cross the chasm," it will become increasingly important to tightly integrate social media into real and practical applications. Otherwise, the industry will only create more information silos.

In fact, one analyst panel predicted a shakeout in the enterprise social networking (ESN) market as the "hype cycle" wanes in favor of producing real value to the enterprise. Social media isn't a market; it's a descriptor for technology. Vendors that succeed will be the ones that leverage these new technologies to help enterprises add value to their content and applications, and deliver real and tangible business benefits to end users and the business.

Basically, I think it comes down to this: Social networking tools are capturing a lot of buzz. But to what end? Are they tools in search of a market and business value? Will their value be limited, given their almost singular focus on connecting people to people, and not people to the crucial content buried in silos?

I also sat through the SharePoint 2010 workshops. I think the platform will become an increasing threat to enterprise content management (ECM) vendors. However, companies that focus on ease-of-use for end-users, bringing together disparate content into a single knowledge management portal, and leveraging and complementing SharePoint are in a great position, because our world is all about supporting the content user and knowledge worker.

I consider myself a classic "end user," and I would never use a product like SP 2010 out of the box. It's simply not designed or intended for me. I suppose I could wait for IT to build me a SharePoint app, but I'd rather use a product that is sit-down simple for me to use. Many of our customers share the same sentiment. That's why we've built Presto to leverage SharePoint, while delivering real end-user value through an application designed for their needs.

So from my vantage point at the show -- and maybe this is the marketer in me -- but I think our approach of using social media to create content-based communities (social knowledge networks) is spot-on industry trends. We had great feedback from attendees in the panels where Presto users were featured.

It's not a question of content management systems (CMS) vs. ESN, or proprietary ECM vs. open source CMS, which is the debate that most of the vendors seemed to want to make. It's really about solving business problems and delivering real benefit and ROI by making diverse content accessible to end-users.

It's also about using social media constructs to inform and enhance that content to make it more relevant. And it's about creating communities of knowledge around that content. We address the needs of content consumers, who have largely been on the outside looking in, whereas as ECM tools have been focused on content producers, and not accessibility by end-users.

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