Getting your data in and out of the enterprise: Jive joins Data Portability Project

Jive SoftwareMuch has been said about you as a user being able to use your data more intelligently—making your data portable—among Web 2.0 properties and social networks. But what about all of that data you’re creating—and own—on the corporate side of the firewall? How do we make that type of data portable?

Well, Portland-based Jive Software may be well on the path to answering that question with today’s announcement that Jive has joined the Data Portability Project.

“The benefits of data portability are not confined to consumer social networks,” said Matt Tucker, CTO, Jive. “Corporate users maintain profiles behind the firewall as well as in external communities and third party platforms, and the ability to simply and securely migrate that information as necessary will be a boon to the IT organizations of tomorrow.”

I hear you. “Data port-uh-what?” Let’s step back.

What is Data Portability?

According to the Data Portability Project, “Data Portability is the option to use your personal data between trusted applications and vendors.”

Heretofore, those “applications and vendors” have dealt with data that resided in the public space with companies like Digg, Drupal, Facebook, Flickr (and by association Yahoo!), Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Netvibes, Plaxo, Six Apart, Corvallis-based Strands, and Twitter.

Porting the data relies on standardized and publicly accessible means of transferring that data from service to service, which enables one service to “listen” to another service or “scrape” the data from an existing profile.

To accomplish this, a number of open standards, formats, microformats, and protocols have been established. These include APML, FOAF, hCard, OAuth, OpenID, OPML, RDF, RSS, SIOC, the XHTML Friends Network (XFN), XRI, and XDI.

Okay, I can feel your eyes rolling back in your head. Enough alphabet soup.

What’s the big deal about Jive, a corporate-side technology, joining a group of the cool kids on the social networking scene?

So what?

In my opinion, Jive’s decision to become the first corporate-side technology company to adopt this standard is momentous and game changing.

Why? Because it shakes the very foundation of what businesses think they own.

Today, most any of you on the corporate side of the firewall have signed some form of agreement. It could be a “noncompete” or simply a contract for employment. If you’re an exempt employee, it’s generally pretty strict in terms of what the company owns.

And generally, most companies will take the opportunity to cast a wide net over your work—claiming the company owns the intellectual property for anything you create while you’re employed by the company.


That means your IM, your email, your time on Facebook, your tweets, your voice mail, your iTunes playlist… All corporate property.

Seems a bit at odds with the way things are going, doesn’t it?

And as more and more of the “Web 2.0-esque” technologies find their way behind the corporate firewall, it’s going to seem even more and more wrong.

Even today, we’re beginning to see glimmers of the data we’re generating in public beginning to mesh with the type of data we’re generating at work. (LinkedIn anyone?)

The burgeoning workforce who lives and breathes in this brave new world will expect that the data they create is data they own and can move. And this is at direct odds with what the old school corporation thinks that the business should own.

It’s not going to be a pretty battle. But with this announcement, Jive is taking a step in the right direction—siding with the future instead of the past.

So what will enterprise data portability entail?

Honestly, it’s going to take a little while to figure that out. But Jive has started the ball rolling.

Jive’s latest high-profile hire, Gia Lyons, a former IBMer, understands the depth of this undertaking:

Think about all the bits and pieces of your worklife, strewn about all those different systems: HR systems, skills databases, LDAP directories, employee whitepages, LinkedIn, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if you could manage all that personal data from a single spot? It can live where it lives – I would call it data transparency, though, not data portability. This can already be accomplished by using data mapping tools in market today, but it takes some serious customization muscles to pull off, not to mention many lunches and cocktails to woo the czars in charge of all of those internal systems so they play nice.

And Jive CMO Sam Lawrence has grand plans for where this enterprise data portability might have the chance to go:

In the meantime, we’re interested in working with the Data Portability group to help contribute to these standards as well as new ones as well. Hopefully, the organization is now at a point in its evolution to proceed with formal and elected leadership, a standards body, voting process and the rest of the stuff that makes organizations successful.

Again, a vast project with which to grapple, but one whose time has potentially come.

It will be interesting to see where this one goes, and to see watch Portland’s role blossom—as the de facto hub of open source and as a growing proponent of open standards—in this new way of thinking about who owns what.

  1. […] as he responded, in part, to the announcement that Portland-based Jive Software had decided to join the Data Portability project: The Open Web is the key to the centralized me or citizen-centric web we hear so many people […]

  2. Josh: on the contrary — my pitch to enterprises is that Data Portability represents open standards for sharing data, user information, etc. Open Standards always play well in the enterprise and it’s not just fluff — I think there’s real potential there.

    My prediction: watch for enterprise vendors to start enabling their apps/services with a DP layer. I think OpenID will be one of the first. For example, Sun Microsystems uses OpenID internally for SSO.

  3. […] I’m still niot sure what it means to “join” the dataportability project?  And why… I mean WTF!  This is pure hype! […]

  4. what’s APML and why do I care?

    please top using buzzwords that mean nothing

  5. @Josh: You’re really hitting the crux of the problem there, I think. Technically is it possible to make this leap? Absolutely. BUT will businesses allow this leap to occur? Questionable.

    @Sam: Glad to see you guys continuing to lead the charge, but I remain less than enamored with “big business” and its capability of absorbing these types of changes with any due speed. Looking forward to seeing what you’re able to accomplish with your more progressive customers.

  6. Hope this doesn’t hurt Jive with their enterprise customers, who are notably paranoid (I know – I work inside of one!). I can just imagine the IT managers who use Jive tools reading this, and jumping to conclusions. “ZOMG! They’re going to leak all of our data outside the firewall!!1!”

    You and I know that Jive wouldn’t do any such thing, but I hope that irrational paranoids don’t freak out over the news…

  7. You’re right, it sounds like a lot of alphabet soup but ultimately, it’s about giving users a lot more control and respect. The more respect we can give people online, the better experience it will be for all of us.

    We’re committed to working with the other leaders in the Data Portability group to solve a lot of sticky problems so that we connect the dots in meaningful way for people. The best part is they want to solve it, too.

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