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IT execs look for help in Web 2.0 efforts

An electronic revolution is taking place at George Washington University, as its CIO issues a call to IT arms to find ways to satisfy increasing user demands for support of Web 2.0 technologies like blogs and wikis.

Ronald Bonig, interim vice-president and CIO of Washington, DC-based GW, said this week that the effort would get a huge boost if EMC Corp. soon makes good on its promise to support the Web 2.0 universe in future versions of its Documentum content management software.

At a press briefing at the EMC World user conference here this week, Mark Lewis, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at EMC, said the company is working to add Web 2.0 support into the Documentum software -- but did not provide a timeline for shipping such capabilities.

“We need to start to decouple information from applications,” said Lewis.“If we can do that then we make the applications capable of leveraging information from different data sources.

However, he added, “This is the high order construct that we’re moving to. In the Web 2.0 world, everything is sideways. It’s peer-to-peer.”

Bonig said the university’s IT unit is in the process of building support for Web 2.0 technologies, as many students and faculty are already posting and sharing online content on vehicles like the MySpace social networking site, blogs and wikis.

“E-mail is passé for students; they all use text messaging, wireless, all the new [social networking] tools, wikis and blogs,” said Bonig. “The kids are already leading us there, which presents us with some challenges to keep track of them.”

Those challenges include finding “the best way to get information from them and to get information directly to them,” he added.

Bonig said GW is also working with various university departments, such as the Registrar’s Office, to enable them to update and push out their own data -- an effort that would prove far easier with Web 2.0 support.

During the press conference, EMC also launched Documentum TaskSpace, the new transactional content user interface for its next generation Documentum 6 (D6) enterprise content management (ECM) platform. TaskSpace will ship in the third quarter of this year, Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC said.

EMC is also expected to roll out Web services and search features for D6 during the third quarter. The new version promises to provide deeper integration with various applications, which will allow for greater customization capabilities and access to information, according to EMC officials.

The D6 Knowledge Management and Archiving components will ship over the next 18 months, they added.

Linda Toale, systems engineer/architect for Finance Systems for Delta Technology, a subsidiary of Altanta, Ga.-based Delta Air Lines, Inc., said she ‘very excited’ to see the release of D6 and plans to upgrade to the impending platform sometime in 2008.

Toale said she is interested in the enhanced Web publishing capabilities promised in the new version.

In the long run, Toale said she is looking for Documentum to provide tools to help users manage content without significant help from IT -- a goal that would be helped by adding Web 2.0 support.

If end-users assume greater responsibility to manage and control their content, Toale said the IT staff could concentrate on other critical duties. “Anything they can do on their own makes life much easier for us,” said Toale. “We don’t want to say no, but we are always busy.”

Still, some EMC World attendees such as Heath Bair, questioned if concerns about control and security issues or trade secret exposure would deter corporations from ever embracing Web 2.0 tools.

“The whole idea of open source really scares management,” said Bair, a software specialist at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Services Co.. “I doubt I’ll ever see management embrace it. They want to keep [too stringent] control.”