XWiki vs Enterprise Social Network

What is an Enterprise Social Network (ESN)

Definition and features

An Enterprise Social Network (ESN) is a platform that aims to create or develop social interactions between the individuals within a company by providing them with sharing, linking, searching and following services.

It enables its users to access information, work together and share documents, share thoughts, discover colleagues know-how and highlight their own skills and expertise.

Unlike public social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn, an ESN is internal. Most of the data exchanged is private and specific to the operation and life of the company.

From the user perspective, he sees his status in the company change. He switches from a status of relative anonymity to a virtual presence on the intranet through his profile on the company's social network (the birth of a digital identity in the company).

This kind of tools bring new working methods in the company.

In terms of features, most of the Enterprise Social Networks include the following:

  • User profile
  • Activity Stream
  • Dashboard
  • Messages
  • Content sharing
  • Search
  • Collaborative spaces
  • Blogs and microblogging
  • Administration tools
  • Statistics

Some ESN offer complementary modules, such as collaboration tools to work around the document, edition modules or integration with other types of software etc.

Yammer, Jive, Bluekiwi and Knowledge Plaza are amongst the most popular Enterprise Social Networks.

Open Source ESN also exist, ie: Elgg, BuddyPress and Exo Social.

Use cases

For business, ESN are used to:

  • Reinforce links/interactions between the collaborators
  • Improve communication
  • Enhance internal expertise
  • Share feedback
  • Facilitate dialogue
  • Lead Change
  • Work together

They are often installed to complement existing tools within the intranet.

What is XWiki?

What is a wiki?

A wiki is classically presented as a set of alterable web pages by all users with permissions. It allows the collaborative creation of content (including text, images, videos...), as well as the creation of links between different sets of content.

Wikis have been made popular by the famous multilingual Wikipedia encyclopedia (created in 2001) that became one of the most visited websites in the world, with more than 17 million articles (beginning of 2011).

Basic wiki features are:

  • Page creation
  • Page modification: it simply consists in the adding/modification or suppression of content
  • Creation of links between information
  • Discussion: the creation of a page can generate a lot of exchanges between all the contributors
  • Modifications history: it is possible to follow the modifications made on a wiki page (What was modified? By whom? When?)
  • Rollback: it is always possible to rollback and choose the previous version of the wiki page
  • Rights management: each user registered on a wiki has rights that allow to create, modify, consult or delete wiki pages.

But some wikis, such as XWiki, go further by proposing additional features addressing professional needs.

XWiki, a second generation wiki

XWiki distinguishes itself from the other wikis by offering enterprise-oriented features such as:

  • Office documents import (i.e a Word document is transformed to a wiki page; XWiki retains the layout, images contained in the document and also the documents attached to the page)
  • The management of unstructured data (like Wikipedia), but also structured data (forms, spreadsheets...)
  • Export of the data in many formats (PDF, HTML, XAR...)
  • An activity stream allowing an overview of all the wiki activities
  • The customization of the wiki (logo, colors, look and feel of menus)
  • Connection to the Enterprise Directory (data retrieval, SSO...)
  • Fine rights management (by space, page, user groups...)

Other strengths include flexibility and scalability. XWiki is also a web application development platform. For example it allows the creation of dedicated/specific applications (Meeting management application, Customer Relationship Management...). Extensions, applications and macros are available for free.

XWiki is an Open Source software developed under the LGPL license.

The XWiki SAS company provides a full range of services including consulting, development, support, training and hosting.

In the Enterprise, a wiki such as XWiki is used most of the time in a private manner for the following needs:

  • Knowledge base
  • Collaborative intranet
  • Documentation
  • Support

Comparison between XWiki and ESN

Both, Enterprise Social Networks and XWiki, are collaborative platforms providing Enterprise 2.0 functionalities.

Transparency is a very strong element in the two tools.

At first glance, the two tools are similar, however, differences are notable.

The ESN have as a starting point users and their activities. The user is the key datum: she shares, follows, comments on documents. She interacts with the other social network users. ESN highlight individuals at the expense of computing resources.

Also, their basic characteristics are:

  • The management and reporting of personal data/personal views: on the user profile/dashboard and activity stream
  • Better knowledge of the collaborators skills
  • Communication between members
  • Collaborative work and capitalization of the know-how, project management: groups, collaborative spaces, wiki, blog.

This type of tool is centered on the user and her activity stream (the human dimension is important).

However in XWiki, the focus is on the document. The goal is to create and to collaborate on the document in order to enrich it. The social network features are there to reinforce the work on the document, allowing the users to follow the activity on a specific task or document. The document is key and is the first to benefit from the platform's collaborative features.

In summary, we can say that an ESN is useful for discussion and exchange, while XWiki is more oriented towards collaboration, construction, creation.

 RSE: the user is the key value XWiki: the information/document is the key value

Strengths and weaknesses

ESN are currently a trendy solution surfing on the phenomenon of public social networks. It is therefore one of the solutions for which CIOs, HR and Communication departments opt when implement their social intranets or collaborative platforms.

  • Information structuration
  • Collaboration around the document
  • Allows you to capture knowledge / develop ideas
  • True collaborative platform extensible and scalable
  • Application Development Platform
  • End of silos
  • Development of ideas
  • Synergies
  • Proximity between employees
  • Strengthening the sense of belonging
  • Captures the flow of informal exchange
  • Need to animate the wiki
  • Change of work methods (vs hard drives in network and emails)
  • Low information structuration
  • Loss of information: pretty fast obsolescence of information
  • Cultural change to handle (people-centered approach, new forms of communication/access to info)
  • Needs to have the support of the Top Management
  • Many efforts to animate the network

Can we make ESN with XWiki?

It is possible to make ESN with XWiki, which has native social features:

  • Activity stream
  • User profile and LDAP directory
  • Status update
  • Message
  • Space/page watching feature
  • Email notifications
  • Threads: comments and annotations
  • Groups and workspace on demand (with XWiki Workspaces)

While benefiting from XWiki's ability to structure information.

Activity streamComments and annotationsUser profile
ActivityStream.png AddAnnotation.png RegisteredUserProfile.png

Why use XWiki rather than and ESN?

When you need an ESN, but not only that. A social intranet is not just a social network. The XWiki collaborative platform has much more to offer especially since it can overcome the ESN weaknesses.

We will recommend the use of XWiki when:

  • The collaborative creation of documents is required
  • Structuring information and documents is a key criterion

XWiki overcomes most of ESN weaknesses:

  • Loss and obsolescence of information
  • The lack of information structuration
  • Lack of application development
  • Need for extensibility and scalability