Alfresco Pushes Content Services for Digital Transformation

[Originally published on the TeraThink blog]

Welcome to the 2017 Alfresco Government Summit at Nats ParkThis week I attended the 2017 Alfresco Government Summit here in DC. It is part of Alfresco’s rotating 1-day summits that they hold around the world during the year. Alfresco held this year’s DC event at Nats Park, a great location for the great weather. When attendance is good, it is a solid event full of productive discussions about information governance.

This year was a good year.

As a former Alfresco employee, it was enjoyable to chat with old friends to learn what has changed, and not changed, since my departure. More importantly for TeraThink, it was great to hear directly from Alfresco executives what their priorities are and their vision for tackling them. Enterprise content management (ECM) is constantly evolving so as a leading vendor in the space, their opinion matters.

Based upon what I saw at the event, Alfresco’s priority is enabling digital transformation for organizations.

Three Pillars

Alfresco founder, John Newton, talking about Digital Transformation at the 2017 Alfresco Government Summit

John Newton, a founder of Alfresco, was the main attraction in the early morning. He presented key aspects of successful digital transformation efforts and correlated how organizations that followed three key pillars were also fast growers. The three pillars of digital transformation were:

  • Design Thinking
  • Open Thinking
  • Platform Thinking

In the research John shared, the fast growing organizations focused on all three in their digital transformation efforts. This does not surprise me. All three are key components of the most successful information management solutions TeraThink has delivered. As such, it is worthwhile to break them down a little further.

Design Thinking

John shared the definition from IDEO CEO, Tim Brown, defines Design Thinking as:

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

I’m a big believer in design thinking and work with the OpenIDEO DC chapter to improve my skills. The inclusion of design thinking by Alfresco is a good step forward for the information governance industry. This was a trend at the Information Governance Conference back in October and it is refreshing to see vendors embracing the concept.

Open Thinking

Open thinking is something TeraThink has been pushing for a while with our clients. When you make systems open, you can leverage them for multiple purposes, helping to increase the value of both the information and the systems within which information resides. The four “open” components laid out by John were:

  • Open Source Software (OSS)
  • Open Standards
  • Open Data
  • Open API

John noted that in the study, among fast-growing organizations 85-90% of them used each of these principles. Less than 70% of the other organizations leveraged these open principles. That makes sense as being able to readily connect systems allows for an organization to quickly respond to a changing environment. This rapid, agile, response allows organizations to take full advantage of opportunities as they arise.

I want to point out that Alfresco is an OSS vendor who has made significant investments in open standards. While this is clearly no coincidence, it is important to note that TeraThink has seen the same correlation on projects with OSS components.

Platform Thinking

Platforms is a trickier concept. The goal isn’t one platform to rule them all. The industry tried that with ECM and failed. The goal is to create open platforms that work together to establish foundations for solutions. John cited author Sangeet Paul Choudary to define properly executed platform thinking:

A platform is a plug-and-play business model that allows multiple participants (producers and consumers) to connect in a shared environment, interact with one another, and create and exchange value.

The definition is dead-on. In the information governance industry, the platform has too often meant an entire ECM stack and not what it really is, Something on which to build solutions. By shifting to content services for delivery, ECM can deliver value as a platform and allow real progress to be made.

Racing President Teddy Roosevelt having fun during a break at the 2017 Alfresco Government SummitBringing it All Together

After John finished, there were some good panels, especially one focused upon Modernizing Records Management and the 2019 NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) Mandate. Lisa Haralampus, NARA’s Director of Records Management Policy and Outreach, was excellent, as were her fellow panelists. I will likely write a post later devoted to the future of records management in the Federal government based upon her comments.

I had to depart after lunch in order to visit a client. It was a tough decision considering the quality of the afternoon speakers but our clients come first. Still, it was a good day. I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the conversations play out when applied in the real world.

If you’d like to talk about the different pillars of digital transformation and how Design Thinking may be the key that makes open and platform thinking work, drop us a note or leave a comment below.

[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the blog of Dominion Consulting. On November 1, 2017, Dominion Consulting merged with TeraThink and are now operating jointly as TeraThink. All blog posts migrated from the Dominion Consulting website have been updated to refer to ourselves as TeraThink.]