Michael Idinopolus has a good post exploring the differences and complements of wikis and document management systems.
...The two activities get confused because document management, like collaboration, involves creation of content by multiple people. For many companies, the DMS is the first tool they implemented that enabled more than one person to touch a single, centrally stored piece of content. And the document management vendors began to capitalize on the opportunity by introducing document-centric team rooms (like Documentum's eRooms, for example.) As a result, many companies began to use the DMS as a collaboration tool. The DMS wasn't very good at it. It required every piece of collaborative content to be saved as a document. Search was cludgy or non-existent, and everything had to be filed in a nested folder structure. But it was better than nothing, or email.
Last week I saw first-hand a good example of this phenomenon recently at a major executive search firm. They wanted a way to collaboratively publish questions, comments, slides, bios, etc., and engineered an entire intranet around eRooms. It was cludgy, and adopted primarily by power users who took the time to create a Byzantine taxonomy of folders and sub-folders.
All of which brings me back to my meeting with the retail bank. When asked about the relationship between DMS and collaboration tools, what I said was that some of the content in a typical DMS really belongs there. These are the documents associated with highly regulated processes. But most of the content in a typical DMS--to-do lists, meeting notes, press clippings, conversations, working papers, personal observations--doesn't really belong there. It's in the DMS because there was no good place to put it. That's where a collaboration suite can do a much better job. A good collaboration suite can liberate that content from the tyranny of documents and nested folders, and will encourage people to use it for actual working materials...
He goes on to discuss integration and conclude by saying "Use your document management system to manage documents, and use your collaboration suite to collaborate." Which is obvious unless you are stuck between systems as most people are these days.
But something else occurred to me when reading this passage:
Collaboration, by contrast, is all about people working together to share ideas, notes, questions, comments, etc. Collaboration does not typically follow a standard process; it is much more free-form and free-flowing. Documents are not typically the format of choice. Asking a question or creating a meeting agenda or to-do list doesn't require a document; it just requires typing some words and putting them where other people can see and edit them. That's why so many people simply fire off an email when they collaborate; it spares them the unnecessary step of creating a document.
I've written a lot about how we bend email into everything, and Michael says things need less bending with emails than documents. But I don't think I've emphasized enough the transition from document-centric to message-centric to people-centric.
Enterprise 2.0 lets us shift things from documents and emails because not only in many cases its easier, but better. We connect and remember messages in context. And the most important context includes people to make it social. The atomization of the web has largely happened and the enterprise is next.
As it does, practices change. We find that reporting as side activities in documents is not only inefficient, but less effective. Models of building stocks turn into flows of context.
Something better left for someone else to explore is how major shifts in modalities shift how we think. The constraints and formality of the business memo vs. the conversations and decreasing formality of email vs. transparency and memory of social software. The act of writing in mediums of messages must change us.