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Enabling Organizational Agility
Social Networking and Extended Enterprise Collaboration

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Enterprise Social Networking & Collaboration [July/August 2009]

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Social computing tools including blogs, podcasts, wikis, RSS feeds and tagging, as well as networking capabilities similar to those on Facebook and LinkedIn, are increasingly finding their way into the enterprise. Tools like these can help knowledge workers get work done more efficiently and cost effectively. They also make collaboration across different companies ("the extended enterprise") easier and much more efficient. Social collaboration technologies can help companies attain the organizational agility necessary to thrive despite the current economic downturn.

  1. A recent Economist Intelligent Unit global survey of 349 executives, sponsored by EMC, examined the "benefits, challenges and risks associated with creating a more agile organization."1 The resulting briefing paper, entitled Organizational Agility: How Business Can Survive and Thrive in Turbulent Times, presents several findings:
  • 90% of the surveyed executives stated that organizational agility is critical for business success;2
  • 27% said their organization is not agile enough to anticipate fundamental marketplace shifts, presenting a competitive disadvantage;3
  • A large majority (80%) had taken steps to improve agility over the past three years, but 34% have not produced the intended results due to internal barriers; and 4
  • Technology has an important role to play in enabling organizations to become more agile.5

The survey also found that companies are not pulling back on initiatives, but see strategic investments in technology as a way to drive down costs and improve agility. Specifically, the survey asked, "In light of the economic downturn, what do you believe are your organization’s priorities in terms of improving agility?" The top three responses were:

  • Improving process efficiency (38%);
  • Improving knowledge management and information sharing processes (33%); and
  • Encouraging (and extending) collaboration across the business and beyond (30%).6

Next-generation enterprise content management (ECM) systems—specifically those that incorporate social computing tools, collaboration and advanced search—provide the ability to accomplish these three priorities.

Improving Process Efficiency
For better or worse, many knowledge workers spend a significant amount of each day collaborating in email, where they send and receive all types and sizes of files. While soliciting and sharing feedback via email has become quite common, relying on an email system for project or team collaboration efforts is not secure, cost-efficient or effective. Version tracking quickly becomes impossible, and visibility is limited to those on the "To" and "CC" lines.

Hoping to discover and repurpose that email-based content at some future date? Forget it—especially if the recipient has left the company or moved to a new role. In short, using file shares, email or similar tools is not secure, cost-efficient or practical—especially where there are governance, risk and compliance concerns.

Next-generation ECM systems with social computing functionality drive down the costs and risk of collaboration across functional, geographic and organizational barriers. Today’s leading ECM systems provide not only modern collaboration capabilities like wikis, blogs, RSS publishing and user-driven tagging, but also intuitive search and discovery, document management, centralized retention management capabilities and more. With a powerful ECM system combined with the latest in social computing tools, knowledge workers—whether in the office, or on the road—can collaborate across the extended enterprise in a secure and cost-efficient manner. And IT can centrally manage throughout the lifecycle the content objects and their surrounding context according to policy. Security, scalability, cost efficiency and ease of use—these are all essential elements of a modern collaborative experience.

KM and Information Sharing
Most knowledge workers typically search for information on an application-by-application basis, wasting precious time. Enabling them to find information easily wherever it resides is essential to improving knowledge management. Advanced search and discovery capabilities that allow single-query search of an unlimited number of information sources—such as SharePoint, Google, file shares, email archives, ERP systems and other ECM systems—can be a significant help. 

But just as important as finding the information is the ability to filter search results so that users can navigate quickly to the most relevant result—whether it’s a Word file or information about a subject-matter expert. Today’s leading next-generation ECM systems feature an intuitive navigational experience of search results that ensures the right information or the right person can be found across a variety of repositories and locations.

Extending Enterprise Collaboration
The ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions is always important, but it’s especially critical in the current economic environment. Companies don't work in a vacuum, but rather need to collaborate seamlessly and securely with their partners, suppliers, and customers. Today’s ECM provides for quick, easy internal and external collaboration without IT involvement, facilitating idea sharing and relationship development among knowledge workers, customers and partners. Internally and externally facing community workspaces let contributors share and exchange ideas and activities—breaking down formal and informal information barriers and fostering cross-project visibility and awareness for easy program management of simultaneous projects.

Social computing and collaboration tools provide the ability to improve agility, but are they secure? Do they introduce risk? Blogs, for instance, often include a company’s hard-won intellectual property. The same can be said about wikis. Regardless of how content is created, it must be archived and managed by a lifecycle in order to mitigate risk.

Next-generation ECM platforms deliver security, retention and governance behind the scenes—pervasively, but not intrusively. They enable anytime/anywhere access to content while securing content outside the enterprise via information rights management. And they feature a scalable infrastructure that makes them enterprise ready.

EMC® CenterStage, a new set of Web-based clients for EMC Documentum®, is a new standard for extended enterprise collaboration. With modern social collaboration capabilities like blogs, wikis, RSS feeds and discussion forums, CenterStage lets users and companies connect, share ideas and collaborate more efficiently, cost-effectively and securely than ever before. To learn more, visit

1 Marie Glenn. March 2009. Organizational Agility: How Business Can Survive and Thrive in Turbulent Times. Economist Intelligence Unit.

2 - 6 Ibid.

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