Novell will use its BrainShare conference in Utah next week to show off a web-based collaborative and workflow package that taps into social networking capabilities.
Based on a package licensed from web collaboration specialist SiteScape called Forum, the product is expected to have hooks into Novell’s GroupWise and other workgroup software systems. When the SiteScape deal was announced in February, the firms said the release would include online meetings, workspaces, blogs and wikis, and would be available in mid-2007.
Also in February, Novell and SiteScape said more details and demonstrations would be available at BrainShare, which begins on 18 March in Salt Lake City.
Novell’s plans fall into a broader trend that is seeing enterprise software firms adopt tricks from consumer software. In January, IBM announced plans for Lotus Connections, a software package that lets users flag areas of expertise, bookmarks and other capabilities to colleagues and peers. At the time, IBM said it would publish open APIs to let third-parties plug into Connections, which is also due for availability in the middle of this year.
Also, SuccessFactors offers web-based tools that are intended to put a more consumer-like front-end on processes such as performance reviews and compensation assessments.
Social media is increasingly being promoted as a way to open up communications, especially in knowledge management. However, cultural barriers may limit adoption in some areas.
“The new technology out there is allowing people to connect far more easily and the best way to do this is through social media tools,” said Stephen Dale of Semantix, a consulting firm that promotes the use of social media in the public sector.
“But the public sector is some years behind the private sector as to what social networking means and it’s almost as if employees are conditioned to work in silos. Today, if you’re a social worker in Middlesbrough with specialist knowledge, then another social worker in Somerset might not even know you exist.”
However, Dale warned that vendors need to go further than merely including social-networking tools.
“I’d like to see a lot more effort in training people to know what to do with these tools. A lot of people get frightened by terms like ‘blogs’ and ‘wikis’. You shouldn’t just assume everybody will jump on and use these tools. You also need a cultural change.”