The Twitter Effect on ECM

There is no doubt that Twitter has taken the world by storm. A huge number of people use it from people in the IT industry like myself through to Political Activists and Celebrities. I was starting to consider the impact this has had on the world of ECM and two things struck me.

1. Metadata

Most people who have implemented ECM solutions will know that one of the challenges in an implementation is the level of Metadata which is used to describe the content and the challenge in getting users to complete it. I’ve lost count of the number of times when discussions have gone to the nth level of detail on whether metadata should be Optional or Mandatory and even when the discussion is closed and the solution is implemented you can do some Analysis of Metadata and you’ll find a high percentage of it is of little use.

Now Twitter has introduced the # (hashtag). Nearly all users of Twitter will tag their Tweets with one or two hashtags to help describe their Tweets. Just looking at my Twitter feed now and I can see people like Robbie Savage, Rio Ferdinand and Stephen Fry using hashtags to describe their Tweets.

Hashtags are Metadata, just in a slightly more informal manner. But still they are a way for people to describe their content. People are starting to learn how to use Metadata as they use a Social Media tool. This discipline will soon find a way into the workplace, my company use Yammer internally and hashtags are used here as well. This understanding of the benefits will soon feed its way into the ECM solutions we deploy as more of the users of ECM tools are users of Twitter. This should reduce the challenge we have traditionally faced in the design of the Metadata in these solutions. However it will also introduce a new challenge as the informal manner of hashtags will increase the appetite for similar solutions in ECM deployments and we will need to find a way to harness this appetite.

2. Ease of Use

One of the things behind the success of Twitter is it so easy to use and there are so many different clients which can be used to post this content. People contribute because it is quick and easy and the feedback is immediate. Again this usage will start to feed its way into the working environment, Yammer being one of the most obvious ways in which this is happening. Whilst there will always be a place for documents to be written we will increasingly see that solutions need to be implemented which are in tune with this new way of working. We’ve talked about Mash Ups for a long time as a way of deploying solutions, I predict we will start see Content being produced as Mash Ups more and more as the content is taken from a mix of sources and, typically, in smaller chunks. This content will still need to be managed for a variety of reasons including Compliance and the ECM solutions will need to cater for this.

So whilst Twitter has had some pretty big impacts in recent years on major World events such as the Arab Spring and riots in London I also expect it to have an impact on the way in which ECM solutions are used and the way in which we, as ECM professionals, need to approach the way we deploy them.

Missing in Action

Its been some time since I posted an entry, this is down to a combination of work and family pressures, plus I’ve been spending more time on Twitter and Yammer. You can follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/leecsmith. Its been good fun using Twitter, I use it for mainly social purposes but there are people within my organisation, and also external, who use it and it is a useful tool to see what they are up to and prompt them for more information. Within our organisation we have also started to use Yammer, http://www.yammer.com, and this has proven an excellent social networking tool. It has really broken down some of the traditional barriers we have had within the organisation and opened up the amount of expertise and knowledge we have at our disposal.

On the work front I’ve been working on a large Documentum project. A number of things have come up which I will post on in the coming weeks once the work dies down a little. We’ve learned a lot about Composer and the team can be really proud of the way they have set up a development environment which I think can be used as a reference for future projects as it brings together Composer, Subversion, Trac wiki, WDK Automated Test Framework and other tools and tricks to really aid in the dev lifecycle. We’re also using elements of Agile techniques, I say elements as I could not hand on heart say it is a fully agile project but we are following 2 week sprints with a sprint backlog and a Product Owner. The requirements are prioritised within the Sprint but ultimately every requirement is mandatory. This is working really well and a product like Documentum lends itself well to such an approach as it does give such a strong start to the process which means that the early iterations can really start to produce something useful.