This is the last of my “drafty” posts that I’m shoving out. This one was a lot more evolved. I do want to say that this post was inspired by a chat I had with Andrew Chapman at a conference a few months ago. This is the first of at least two posts. No promises if/when the next one will surface.
Once more into the abyss…
There is a lot of attention being paid to the up-and-coming cloud-based Content Management providers. The reason why is obvious, Content Management offered as a SaaS offering has the potential to solve many of the problems faced by the system integrators of today. There is the problem is that they don’t have the features required today and their ability to add all of those features is limited by their SaaS nature.
More Than a Feature List
If you take time to look at all the rising vendors in this space, you will find various gaps in each product. Most of them will actually acknowledge every gap and then either tell you when it is going to be addressed or talk to you to learn more about why it is important.
Here’s a big feature that I have in most of my on-premise Content Management Systems, back-end customizations. There are some business rules that you absolutely have to enforce. This is often done in code.
Here are some very simple examples.
- Depending on various conditions on a piece of content, it may need to be assigned a retention policy. This would need to be re-checked every time the object is altered.
- Relationships are important between pieces of content. If something happens to one piece of content in the relationship, things may need to change on the related content.
- If I change an approved piece of content, maybe I need it to trigger a workflow process to get it approved and to initiate a review of related content.
You can see the need for lots of these rules. Some could be dealt with through advanced configuration, but others may require code. The problem is that code crashes.
I know, shocking. I myself once wrote a piece of code that not only sent my workstation into a bottomless pit, but I took down the entire university VAX system. The cloud is home to much larger and robust systems, but I can create much larger errors than I could back when I was in school.
This is going to lead to a dilemma for the SaaS providers. Do they offer the ability to embed business rules where they can’t be bypassed or to they stick with simple and limit their market reach.
Not an Obvious Choice
One would obviously argue that anything that could impact simplicity and stability in the SaaS world should be put aside and not implemented. Before we close this book there is a twist.
Larger and older companies are more likely to have complex business rules. In fact, I have found that the more content/iterations in a given process, the odds of some sort of complex business rule, and the importance of the rule, increases.
This leads to the dilemma. There is a lot of content out there that requires these business rules. If the system won’t support the rules, that limits the content that can be stored there. If content for an organization has to be stored in multiple places, headaches are bound to follow. These headaches are very much like the ones that necessitate the need for CMIS.
Through all the years, one thing has been constant. Users hate switching between applications. They do it when they have to do so, but they don’t like it. If SaaS vendors want to break into the Enterprise space, they are going to need to do more than offer basic Content and Collaboration Services. They are going to have to find a way to accommodate the rules without sacrificing stability or reliability.
I have some thoughts, but that is for another day.