The role of enterprise portal software and Enterprise 2.0

Jack Santos, a Burton Group analyst writing in CIO magazine picks out five Enterprise 2.0 related technology trends that CIO should be watching – I’ve listed them over on the E2EF blog – but wanted to focus a little further on his comments about Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS):

Not unlike the early years of Lotus Notes, MOSS provides a framework for quick and easy applications that integrate data and workflow in a browser-based front end. And like Notes, it can be viewed as either a challenge to manage for IT shops or an important innovation catalyst for business processes. CIOs can’t afford to miss this tidal wave, or they’ll get swept under.

In a way this echos some of my past thoughts about both what Enterprise 2.0 can learn from the Lotus Notes experience and also more recently a concern that we might end up creating a mess of things if we don’t actually practice the collaboration patterns we’ve known about for a long time now. However, its worth noting that Santos isn’t actually talking about collaboration here either.

Now, over on my E2EF blog post I comment that “out of the box MOSS is considered to be a traditional document-centric collaboration tool” and in parallel Jive Software‘s CMO, Sam Lawrence, takes this head on with his recent post:

This election year reminds me of how unbelievably different the two collaboration software “candidates” are. What does a  vote for Clearspace or Sharepoint mean? They couldn’t be more different. The bottomline is that a vote for Sharepoint is a vote for file-centric collaboration. A vote for Clearspace is a vote for people-centric collaboration. Storing vs sharing: It’s that simple.

Lawrence goes on to list the benefits of a people-centric approach, which I agree with. However I think its important to point out what he doesn’t say about portal tools like MOSS, that while its true they are document-centric its also true that they do more than just support collaboration. As Santos hints at, they are also tools for integrating data and workflow. For MOSS specifically, Microsoft propose the following functions:

So lets not throw the baby out with bath water as we rush to implement social media technologies, as there are other business needs that existing enterprise software supports. However, lets also recognise that for people-centric collaboration traditional enterprise software hasn’t been delivering the kind of functionality we needed.

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