With the increasing need in most businesses to collaborate on content production and the need to access, use and share content in basically all business activities, we are now seeing a shift from communication-centric collaboration towards content-centric collaboration (see definition at the end of the post). Making this shift so that content-centric collaboration becomes efficient will require a much closer integration between content management technologies and collaboration technologies. It will also require integration of collaboration technologies into virtually any kind of application that supports tasks that require some sort of collaboration. In other words, enterprises need to create complete environments where it is easy to collaborate on content production, as well as accessing and sharing content that is needed as input for business activities. Here is how I envision such an environment for efficient content-centric collaboration:
- All content – regardless of type – is stored and managed in content repositories (personal, group and/or enterprise scope) that can be made accessible to trusted users inside as well as outside of corporate firewalls.
- On top of the content repositories, basic content services such as library services, metadata management services, security services and search services are provided to any application that interacts with the content in these repositories.
- An application that is using a content repository can, if necessary, extend these basic content services with richer functionality or other content services that the application requires (or actually, the business process that the application is to support).
- Hosted Web 2.0 applications and applications deployed within corporate firewalls are seamlessly integrated. As a user, I don’t have to bother if it is hosted or deployed. It is simply one application among others that support me in my activities.
- The same user identity is used for automatically logging on to all applications that I am authorized to access and use. If the application is hosted or deployed makes no difference.
- Presence awareness is a natural component of all applications. I can set my current status from any device and it is immediately reflected in all applications.
- In addition to e-mail, a rich variety of collaboration tools such as instant messaging, audio conferencing, video conferencing and web conferencing (with the possibility to remotely control a participant’s computer or application) are integrated with the applications so that I can choose to use the tool(s) that each collaboration situation requires. Conversations can be stored and associated with the content we are collaborating on.
- My contacts, calendars, notes and task lists are integrated and accessible from any application. It is possible for me to partially or fully share them with anyone I need to collaborate with, regardless of content or application.
- Mobile devices such as mobile phones use the Internet as application platform, thereby giving me access to the same web based apps (hosted or deployed does not matter) as I access from my computer. I do not have to install device-dependant applications that require synchronization of content between my mobile device and desktop just because I need to leave the office. Such a thing as redundant contact books or calendars do not exit.
Of course, there is much more to add to this list. But I guess it is enough of a challenge to any organization to set up an environment like this with these requirements.
Definition of Content-centric collaboration
Content-centric collaboration is a process when people collaborate to either use or produce content. The content might be used as input to a certain activity, or it might be the actual product of the activity. Content management and project management are examples of content-centric business processes that are highly dependent on efficient and consistent content-centric collaboration. But the need to collaborate on content production stretches far beyond just content and project management - today, almost any activity in an enterprise involves creation or use of digital content.