Suw Charman-Anderson posted a thoughtful piece with the title Businesses will live to regret their social media ignorance today.  Her main point is that organizations that do not deploy enterprise social software behind the firewall will lose control of information as it spreads through public social media.  This is an oft-heard refrain these days in the blogsphere.

Please don’t misunderstand, I agree with Suw.  If businesses want to retain some control over their information, they should provide secure, enterprise-ready versions of the specific types of collaboration and communication tools that employees want to use.  For example, if the risk of information leakage via Twitter is too high, the organization should deploy an enterprise microblogging application on its own servers (or subscribe to a SaaS offering hosted by a trusted vendor.)

What is especially valuable and somewhat novel in Suw’s post is her recognition of the content management issues surrounding the use of public social media to share corporate information.  She writes,

“…you need to make sure you know how communications using these tools are going to be logged, archived, and made searchable. Mostly, archiving (or logging) is built in, so it shouldn’t be that difficult. Cross-archive search might be a little bit more interesting, but it’s worth your while because more time is wasted in re-finding information than in finding it in the first place.”

Much of the dialog around enterprise social software has rightly been on connecting people to other people and the information and knowledge they possess.  The notion of using software to connect people to unstructured information hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention in the Enterprise 2.0 discussion.  Perhaps content management is a dull topic in comparison to connecting people, but enterprise social software is essentially a content authoring tool and it has fueled growth in the amount of content created within an organization.

Traditionally, unstructured information has been housed in what most would call a ‘document’, but it also may be contained in a message authored in a microblogging, wiki, or instant messaging application.  Those messages must be stored, indexed, and searchable so that users can find valuable information after it has initially been documented and shared by the author.  The same content management principles that we’ve applied to corporate email must also be used to ensure the findability of information generated in and shared via enterprise social software.

What is your view on this issue?  Do you have horror stories or best practices to share?  If so, please do by adding a comment below.

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