Leveraging CMIS to Create Strong Business Applications


One of the things that I missed during my tour at AIIM was working with partners. I’m not talking about consultants, though I missed them as well. I missed the technology vendors. When I was at the Alfresco Summits last month, I was able to see a lot of vendors creating some cool technology to enhance a wide variety of Content solutions.

It was particularly fun to see several vendors that I had worked with in the past. IGC’s Brava product was one of those. Their viewer and annotation tool is pretty much the standard in large swathes of the pharmaceutical industry as they are vendor agnostic.

Another one that was good to reconnect with was Generis. One reason is because their CEO still has to pay up from a bet we made during the last World Cup. The other is because of what they are doing with Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS). While most of the industry has been coasting on the standard, Generis has been working hard to show its potential.

Focus on the Business

When I first talked about Generis almost four years ago, the focus was on the separation of the business application from the Content Management System. Generis and WeWebU, since bought by Alfresco, were building generic interfaces for different systems using the CMIS.

I was pretty impressed by these applications back then. WeWebU’s Workdesk has since become Alfresco’s default Case Management interface as it allows people to focus on the task at hand. Generis’ CARA has evolved to become a consumer of a wide variety of application services, sufacing them in a highly configurable front-end application. The ability to have a single application for people to access Content and relevant information from other business applications is what the average knowledge worker needs.

Generis’ focus seems to be paying off as well. CARA has several vertical applications (remember Content Enabled Vertical Applications?) that are gaining traction in Life Services. By building on CMIS, Generis can be agnostic with the CMS under the hood, allowing the organization to use the CMS that best meets their needs while CARA focuses on delivering business value on top of that CMS platform. This ability to interact with Content seamlessly with information from systems such as Clinical Trial Management Systems for eTMF, labeling, and other systems within a single interface is a huge boon for productivity.

After all, nobody likes to hit Alt-Tab to get work done.

Not a New Market Strategy

The approach taken by Generis to grow their business is not new. It is the same approach most successful software vendors take. They have built applications in several verticals and have found one that stuck. Now they can develop and then tackle the challenge of crossing the “chasm” into the mainstream.

All thanks to CMIS.

Generis hasn’t had to limit their market by using the API of any single vendor. They can focus on the ENTIRE vertical.

The focus on peoples’ experience in getting their job done without worrying about the underlying platform has allowed them to solve the business problem at hand. Each innovation by a CMS vendor becomes their innovation. When a CMS vendor stumbles, no problem. Not being tied to one vendor gives them ability to ignore CMS vendor turmoil

My only regret is that I don’t know about more stories like this. There have to be some out there and I would love to hear about them. After all, any application that leverages CMIS can only help everyone in the industry solve the business problems people are facing daily.

Do you have a CMIS success story? Let’s hear it.

3 thoughts on “Leveraging CMIS to Create Strong Business Applications

  1. Hi Lawrence, while I am with you the reality looks still quite different. We became a Foundational OASIS Sponsor just to be able to focus on CMIS and similar interfaces. It shows how committed we are to the principle as this is not cheap. For us it is important as we are on both ends. Papyrus is both a CMIS client and a server.

    First it is disappointing how poorly CMIS is supported once you get down to the nitty-gritty. We have had only a few vendors being willing to do interoperability tests. Alfresco being one of them, IBM being another. Microsoft works so-so. Others were fairly uninterested but then we had a few projects and they were more or less forced by the customer. SAP is a prime example of not being interested to open their archive functionality.

    The reality is however that CMIS is still extremely limited to just storing and retrieving content blobs. While CMIS is a huge step forward most applications (BPM, ACM, CRM and coded ones) these need a lot more content functionality for both the capture and creation of content. We have built a full library of REST interfaces just for that purpose. Eventually we might offer them to OASIS for standardization.

    So CMIS is kind of a success, but like most standards it is too little too late.

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    • Vendor support aside, what are the missing features in CMIS? What were you trying to do that you could not do in CMIS? I am not saying that it can do EVERYTHING, but knowing what people are trying to do is a way to determine how the standard needs to grow.

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      • As I said: managing a content template library, creating business content and requesting capture services. All content functionality and equally needed by applications and BPM, CRM, ACM solutions, or not?

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