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Is Social Media Right for the Enterprise? Talking with Liferay

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What follows is my discussion with Bryan Cheung, CEO and Co-Founder of Liferay, Inc. In this podcast we discuss social collaboration tools for the enterprise: why they are needed, what they have picked up from Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as Liferay's Open Source collaboration tool. Give it a listen below.

Listen to or download the 11:51 podcast below:

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PS: What are some of the major advantages of social collaboration tools for companies today?

BC: Well, it's hard to imagine a world where we didn't have blogs, and forums, and instant messaging. If we recall how work used to get done, it involved a lot of offline communication. When e-mail came around, e-mail was definitely transformed the way we work. But now, there's definitely an immediacy to the way that we communicate with each other when we're working together. I think the other thing that it opens up a couple of things. One, is the informal communication and knowledge sharing that social collaboration tools enables.

Prior to having some of these tools, it was very difficult to find knowledge that was in an enterprise. But these collaboration tools are really opening up that knowledge allowing it to be shared among different groups of people that may not always interact with each other in the course of a day. And then the other part is just that rather than just a two-way communication, you're really opening up the conversation to the among a group of people or a larger team.

Obviously, social collaboration tools have now been around for a little while, so what are some of the problems that have come out of this?

Well, certainly some enterprises are going to be concerned with governance or maintaining certain corporate policies around this communications that has more to do with whether the culture of the enterprise is able and willing to evolve, to embrace these informal technologies.

Beyond that though, and this is more of a technical problem that Liferay tries to address. There's a certain feeling that some of these collaboration tools can really remain surface level but it's great to talk to each other and share knowledge but sometimes you have enterprise applications on the back end that don't get exposed and don't get as much face time as they ought to. So you might have a customer relationship management tool and there's a lot of knowledge in there but it's hard to access with. Some social collaboration tools that don't really have the infrastructure and the framework in place to integrate those applications.

Why don't we drill down a little bit on Liferay then.

Yeah, so Liferay, we are the leading open source enterprise portal on the market today. We've been around for about ten years as a product and about five years as a business. We offer an enterprise portal that unlike portals of yesterday gives immediate value of when you install it so everything from portal management, to web content management, collaboration and social tools. And I think like I mentioned, the great thing is that you do get these social collaboration tools out-of-the-box but you also have runway for integrating your enterprise apps, legacy systems, CRM, ERP and so forth.

So everybody's obviously heard of Facebook and LinkedIn, what are some of the lessons Liferay has learned from these big social media sites?

Facebook and LinkedIn have really, I think, have been popular and successful because of two things. One is the user experience. Anyone who logs into Facebook can get a handle for how it works. You can tell just from the level of attention to detail that Facebook really, really tries to make the user experience as little of a barrier as possible to adoption.

And that's something that we've definitely learned at Liferay and we're investing a lot in the last two, three years in user experience as well. But the other thing is I feel like LinkedIn and Facebook have been very targeted as far as their audience. I think MySpace, for example, their audience is more sort of teenage audience or maybe musicians but Facebook and LinkedIn have really targeted professionals and college graduates and so there's a different flavor or character to both of those sites.

So what do you see for the future of social media in the enterprise?

I think we're going to continue to see people wrestling with how informal they're willing to be. I think no one has really gotten social media right for the enterprise because there's a fine line that you have to draw between the openness and getting knowledge and information out there but also keeping in mind sensitivities around security and confidentiality.

The problem with most systems right now I think is that they're coming into social media from a traditional enterprise approach. So right now, what you're seeing is a lot of just slapping on social media-like capability that gives the appearance of social enablement but really stops, I think, more deeper interaction between people content and applications. And so I think we need to evolve toward a specific enterprise model for social media but one that's much more effective than what we have today.

1 Comment

A good thought-provoking piece, Peter. I believe you are right: what is happening on the Internet today is slowly seeping into the enterprise behind the firewall. In fact, I just did a study on Intranet 2.0 (561 participant organizations). You might be interested in the findings (let me know if you'd like the full report):

Organizations without a 2.0 strategy risk outright failure


ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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