ECM, Content Services, or Just Doing It?


"It's deja-vu all, all over again." - Yogi BerraRecently, Gartner issued a note announcing The Death of ECM and Birth of Content Services. This has been met with several, mixed responses. Many pointed out to Gartner that many of us have been talking about this for years. I wrote a post on Content Services, Not ECM back in 2013. Going even further back, the concept of Content Services is core to Content Management Interoperability Services. In 2009 I outlined the three fundamental use cases for CMIS, or any content service.

I could spend all day linking to old posts but I want to take some time to bring something new to the discussion. A lot has changed over the years and perspectives have been refined. The last few days have seen my mind wandering and debating this whole topic in my spare, and not so spare, time.

Let me sum it up for you, it is a false dichotomy. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is not a thing you buy. It should not be taken into isolation. Content Services is useless as a replacement as it is completely different.

Let me break this down.

ECM is a Strategy

I have spent a LOT of time on this blog talking about ECM. After some work and collaboration with others, I wrote a pretty simple definition.

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is a strategy for the coordinated management of all content throughout an organization, allowing for people and systems to find and use content from within any business context.

It is not software. It is a plan. If your plan means leaving the video content on a separate file server with regular back-ups until you manage to get a better handle on your financial documents, that is okay. You know where the digital assets are and you’ve assessed the risk. Rather than dividing your efforts, you decided to focus on getting your financial documents under control to facilitate Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.

That is successful ECM. There is nothing about platforms or technology. You know that you want to apply technology but that comes later. The technology is a means for achieving your ECM strategy. It is not a something you buy, though we spent years buying it.

And Content Services?

Content Services is a tool in the practitioners toolbox. It is an approach to leveraging an ECM platform. It is a great approach to tackling using cloud-based platforms to store and manage your information. CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) is one way to leverage the architecture. CMIS works great when vendors test it thoroughly and commit.

CMIS is an Open API (application programming interface) but not the only one. Modern vendors have their own Open API as an approach to implementing Content Services. It is an approach embraced by the cloud vendors. It is quite simple and results in a flexible Open ECM Platform. All the vendor has to do is fully expose, support, and document their API. Many vendors, like Box, are not only treating their API like a product that organizations can consume, they are building their own apps using that same API.

Content Services has its limits. Like private clouds, creating enterprise-class Content Services internally works best at scale. Like ECM, having a single scalable and flexible platform to provide those services for the entire enterprise is a challenge. Leveraging the services provide by cloud vendors is a better approach. All of the focus can be spent building the application and perfecting the user experience.

When you get down to it, that is the key piece. All my most successful content solutions over the past 2 decades have had custom interfaces focused on the user’s experience. It was often a challenge but when I go back and they are still happy with a solution a decade later, it is worth it.

That is what Content Services delivers. A means to more readily integrate content into solutions focused on solving the problem.

Which brings us back to the question, what do we call this industry?

Why Change?

"The future ain't what it used to be." - Yogi BerraWhat is wrong with ECM?

Let’s face it, people know the term. They know what it means. Sure, people think it is a failure but that’s when we talk to them about it being a strategy, not software. They aren’t buying a giant platform. We dive in, assess what information they have, and map the plan for having everything under control.

In the end, I don’t actually care what it is called. Neither should you. Find the problem, define it, and work towards a solution that works best for the business. You can likely leverage what is already in place. Just don’t try and force it. Down that road lies frustration and failure.

Look at your information flow. Follow it and find new ways to make it flow faster. If you can do that and know where your information is at anytime, you are done.

Isn’t that what we really care about?

Revisiting the Content Management Frontier


Scene from the movie Alive, dead bodies in the snowTwo years ago, a journal was discovered while excavating in the Trough of Disillusionment of Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technologies. The journal told a story of fear, distrust, and desperation.

Today another tome was discovered. Written hastily in the margins of an IDOL manual was the following text. It is estimated that this was written two days after the conclusion of the previously discovered journal (which you should read 1st). The author is unknown.

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Saying Goodbye to Documentum


One year ago, when Dell announced it was buying EMC, I wrote,

If you see Open Text or CA buy the ECD, start lighting the funeral pyres because Documentum would be officially brain dead and waiting for the machines to be turned off.

Well, it happened. OpenText acquired Documentum. This brings to end the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) wars that began almost 20 years ago. Back then, the leaders were FileNet, Documentum, Oracle, and OpenText. FileNet is buried at IBM who is flirting with Box. Oracle is struggling to reestablish itself after bringing on former Documentum leaders but they are fading away.

This morning, OpenText announced their acquisition of Documentum. I was hesitant to predict that OpenText was going to buy Documentum. It was the obvious prediction and I knew that it would be a chunk of change. $1.62 billion was the final price which covers the $600 million OpenText raised in May and another billion of debt commitment provided by Barclays for this transaction.

I suspect that nobody else was willing to pay EMC that much.

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What is an Information Professional?


Beaker from the MuppetsOne thing I heard from MANY people at the AIIM conference was that the concept of an information professional as we understand it was flawed. The claim was that usage patterns of AIIM resources showed that members would join and engage to tackle a single project. Once that project was completed, they would leave AIIM and presumably go do something else that wasn’t information related. John Mancini, the outgoing CEO of AIIM, shared his thoughts on the current information professional in a four post series covering the history, evolution, environment, and future of the information professional.

Experience tells me that the conclusion is incorrect. There are a large number of people who spend careers in the space and dip into AIIM resources only periodically. It is also a conclusion is hard to confirm or deny because once they disengage from AIIM, it is tough to measure what people do next.

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FOIA, Email, Clinton, and the State Department


Clinton speaking at the Brown & Black Presidential Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, January 11, 2016.A recent piece of FOIA news was brought to my attention by Ann Snyder over at the Information Governance Initiative. The legacy of Hilary Clinton running her own email server is growing. It seems that the U.S. Department of State has stated that it will take 75 years to release the emails of Hilary Clinton’s aides from her time as Secretary of State.

Let that sink in. 75 years. Not days, YEARS!!!

They then go on to give some outrageous estimates based upon processing only 500 pages per month. I’ve been working with the Federal government for years and have worked on many FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) systems. To understand how ridiculous this is, let’s examine an agency where I’ve been looking at FOIA closely this year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

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Content Management, Platforms or Solutions?


Pendulum about to cut a man in half in the movie "Pit and the Pendulum"The Content Management industry is rife with contradictions. The biggest of which is that the business just wants solutions to their problems while IT wants a common platform from an established player to make integrations and upgrades less risky.

I’m not sure how we solve this problem and I am tired of watching the pendulum swing back and forth.

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