Don't use your Enterprise Social Network for Digital Asset Management or Document Management requirements

A lot of heartburn and frustration among enterprise employees stems from a surprisingly simple reason: using software tools for purposes they were never meant to serve.

As Business Units (within large enterprises) or small-to-medium businesses procure SaaS tools with limited IT involvement, this is not an uncommon occurrence. One example is Enterprise Social Network (ESN) tools being employed for digital asset management (DAM) and/or document management (DM) purposes.

The slippery slope of good intentions

It all begins with good intentions: you have an existing ESN tool (or recently procured one) for team / departmental networking and maybe even light collaboration.  They're easy to use and typically have a people-friendly user experience.

But of course they offer more.  These days many ESN tools come bundled with a file management module and they check-off support for file-upload, creating folders, previews, and support for commonly used file formats (e.g. documents, images and videos). The functionality may be simplistic but you reason that your requirements are simple enough -- perhaps just a central place for your creative assets or marketing documents with an ability to add comments. Your team is already familiar with the ESN tool and it seems like a quick-and-dirty solution. So,  you go ahead and start using your ESN as a DAM/DM repository. 

Status Update: SNAFU

But very soon you are likely to encounter the "dirty" part of "quick-and-dirty." You realize the limitations of the ESN search functionality and agonize over files/assets you know are there for sure but cannot easily retrieve. Have you ever tried the search function in Yammer?

Lack of versioning and version control invites chaos and hampers productivity. You can still hope to keep it all under control if the team is small and is working from a single location, but it gets worse as the number of employees, locations, and files increases. Employees have to work around the tool limitations rather than the tool supporting business processes. And I haven't even started talking about any information governance or compliance requirements. 

It's not about features; it's all about use cases

Note that this is not failure of the ESN tool but just that it is not intended to do the heavy lifting for DAM/DM use cases. Sure, an ESN comes with some file services and there may be an overlap with DAM / DM file management functionality. But it's a different picture when you think about it at the use case level. Consider some representative use cases for ESN, DAM and DM tools.

Example use cases
Figure: Illustrative list of selected use cases for ESN, DAM, and DM tools.

ESN tools are meant for enterprise conversations, DAM for creative asset libraries, DM for document lifecycle management, and so on. There are several other and advanced use cases (we describe fully in the respective Collaboration, DAM and ECM research streams), but you can see that there is minimal overlap among the use cases. You'll be better off using the right set of tools that are meant for the respective use cases.  

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