How Enterprise Information Portals and Social Networking Are Converging

The convergence of enterprise information portals and social networking is imminent. Enterprise adaptation rates will increase within the next few years as the new Web-savvy generation joins the work force. A number of organizations have already started to enhance their enterprise information portals to take advantage of these converging tools. Knowledge Center contributor Majid Abai details how the convergence of enterprise information portals and social networking will change business in the near future.

/images/stories/70x50/bug_knowledgecenter_70x70_%282%29.jpgAn enterprise portal, also known as an enterprise information portal (EIP) or corporate portal, is a framework for integrating information, people and processes across organizational boundaries. It provides a secure unified access point, often in the form of a Web-based user interface, and is designed to aggregate and personalize information through application-specific portlets, according to Wikipedia.

EIPs usually fall under one of two categories: internal portals accessible by employees and contractors, and external portals accessible by customers, vendors, partners, dealers, etc. Portals are either mono-directional, where interaction is one-sided from the organization to the user, or they are bi-directional, where interaction includes limited feedback from user to organization.

Although EIPs deliver a great amount of information to their users, collaboration is often performed via e-mail. In addition, most EIPs have yet to implement a mobile component to keep their users engaged when offline. Most of them also do not provide any tools for inter-user communication.

In 2009, the first generation of Web-savvy youth (those who were born after the popularity of the Internet) graduate from high school. This group will join the work force over the next six years. This is a generation that constantly utilizes social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, as well as instant messaging (IM), text messaging and Twitter (micro-blogging) more often than e-mail. These youth have a shorter attention span and are very mobile device-savvy.

Members of this generation will be employees, customers, vendors and partners of all organizations. In order to embrace this new work force, organizations will have no choice but to adjust to such behavior. I often use the analogy of companies adapting to e-mail because their work force would consider postal mail a step backwards.

Tomorrow's EIPs more like online communities

Tomorrow's EIPs will embrace social networking components that facilitate their metamorphosis into online communities. They will still fit the definition of an EIP, but will enhance the status of their "users" to "members" because members will be able to steer the direction of the site. Internal and external communities alike will enable easy collaboration and communication amongst members, and will also expand to allow omni-directional communications by providing typical social networking components such as groups, blogs and bulletin boards. In addition, a mobile component and interaction will be an essential part of tomorrow's EIP. Members want to be engaged while away from their computers and need to have access to latest information.

The use of e-mail will be reduced accordingly to a mode of notification and not collaboration. In tomorrow's EIP, members will join workgroups to collaborate on specific sets of documents. Rather than repeatedly e-mailing a document after review by each member, it will reside on the EIP and members will post comments directly and collaborate on its enhancement.

Online training will also be improved utilizing tomorrow's EIP, allowing for snippets of lessons to be delivered to members at their convenience. Participants will be allowed to complete a lesson, potentially in a game format, within an agreed-upon timeframe.

In a couple of years, widgets will also be utilized more prevalently within EIPs. By utilizing the organization's service-oriented architecture model, widgets will deliver and perform a variety of tasks, from providing the latest weather forecast to performing analytics for a specific question, instantly.

Social networking tools, in the meantime, should evolve to become enterprise-ready. In order to be embraced by EIP and corporate IT departments, such tools should be scalable and expandable, provide compatibility with enterprise security products and processes, integrate with other applications and data sources, be easily maintainable by internal and external IT teams, and provide detailed reporting.

/images/stories/heads/knowledge_center/abai_majid70x70.jpg Majid Abai is Chief Executive Officer of Pringo. For the past 26 years, Majid has founded, led and merged several companies in various industries. During the same period, Majid has provided consulting services to corporate executives in the areas of technology, governance, turn-around and strategy. Majid's clients have included Fortune 2000 organizations, small and medium-sized enterprises, startups and government offices.

In 2005, Majid co-authored "Data Strategy," a book designed to help streamline the management of information within organizations. Majid has been an instructor in UCLA Extension for nine years. Majid is a member of Tech Coast Angels, an angel investment network located in Southern California. He can be reached at [email protected].