The 15 most useful terms in digital collaboration

Do you know what asynchronous communication means? What do ESN, DMS, and KM stand for?

If you are interested in finding out, this post is for you. Indeed, like any field, digital collaboration uses its own set of words and acronyms, which can be somewhat obscure for a newcomer. We wanted to list some of the most useful terms in one place, providing a quick crash course for those looking for a collaborative solution.

As we are not the Oxford dictionary, we did not aim at exhaustiveness, rather at simplicity and brevity. We also provided some examples and useful contexts to ease understanding.

Intranets

Company Intranet

A company intranet is a virtual place where an employee can get information (company news, for instance) and accomplish tasks (subscribe to a company event, for example). From the technical point of view, there are endless variations for “what information” and “what tasks,” allowing for a variety of employee experiences.

Furthermore, each intranet represent its company. There really are no two intranets alike.

Intranet portal: A traditional Intranet

Intranets appeared in the 90s and were originally built on software called a portal. Usually, such intranets (or intranet portals) focus on relaying information to employees. Typically, an intranet would display for each employee company news, their department’s news, their personal information and information from some of their applications. Today, such information display intranets are called traditional intranets.  

Modern Intranet, Social Intranet, Collaboration Platform and Digital Workplace

Today, intranets have evolved from simple top-down information displays to sophisticated communication and collaboration platforms.

Social intranets use a social activity stream as the core of the employee experience and corporate communication. Typically, the activity stream would not only provide a means for employee interaction, it would also include company news and notifications from the company’s most important systems.  

Collaboration platforms focus on teamwork, providing employees with collaboration tools as part of their intranets.

Digital workplaces are employee centered and focus on individual engagement and productivity. The idea is to allow an employee to be as efficient working remotely as when they are is working in the office, in terms of their individual tasks and interactions with others.

The social, collaborative and employee-centered aspects often coexist within the same intranet.

ESN – Enterprise Social Network

First appearing in the 2000s, enterprise social networks adapted social networking concepts for enterprises. Typically, employees can find and connect with each other and exchange information via a social activity stream.

They differ from social intranets in that they are a separate part of the company software suite rather than its center and core.

Social Collaboration

This term signifies corporate virtual collaboration that mainly relies on enterprise social tools.

Asynchronous vs synchronous (real-time) communication

Asynchronous communication is used to describe communication and exchanges via an activity stream or email. When you leave a message for someone, you do not expect an instantaneous response.

Synchronous (real-time) communication happens when you call or chat with someone.<h3>

Digital Collaboration

This term applies to all forms of virtual collaboration tools, such as for social collaboration, project management and document collaboration.

Content Management

DMS – Document Management System

This is software that allows safe and convenient document storage and sharing. Typically, documents would be placed in an online file system, with controlled access depending on the user’s permission. Usually some form of version control is embedded to avoid loss of data.

DAM – Digital Asset Management

This is analogous to a DMS but it is for assets other than documents (videos, etc.).

CMS / WCM – Content Management System / Web Content Management

This is software that allows you to create, modify and publish web page content, directly updating the website. Typically, the software would allow several users to collaborate on a piece of content, supporting validation workflows and version control.

ECM – Enterprise Content Management

This term usually goes beyond pure software and it also includes processes and methods used in the company to organize, store and deliver content. From the software point of view, ECM is an umbrella term that includes DMS, DAM and WCM.  

Taxonomy and Folksonomy

These terms are used in relation to a DMS. Taxonomy means classifying documents into categories (in a file system). Folksonomy is a user-generated system, through tags.

KM – Knowledge Management

This refers to the set of processes, methods and tools a company uses to capture, store and make its knowledge accessible. Knowledge can exist in digital form (documents) but also in a dematerialized form (an oral tradition or an employee’s experience).

Community Management

Client Extranet

This is a portal where each customer has access to a private space with relevant information and support. Like intranets, extranets are typically built over a portal and they started to be used in the 90s. Today, they increasingly include some modern community management capabilities, such as social collaboration.

Community Management Software

This is software designed to engage, nurture and leverage the company’s community. The software would typically include web content management, a social activity stream and some analytics.

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I am eXo’s chief operating officer, ultimately responsible for all operations ensuring client acquisition and success. In this blog, I write about modern workplaces and their benefits to organisations and their people. Occasionally, I also blog about my personal areas of interest, such as communication, personal development, work–life balance, sustainability and gender equality.

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