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?

The Cloud’s True Advantage is Bringing Focus to Solving Problems


Looking at the Loudoun Heights from the Maryland Heights near Harper's FerryI’ve been talking cloud for years. Most of it was focused on simply removing unnecessary complexity from the world of IT and content management. Why setup servers, create networks, manage databases, or any other tedious, redundant, and valueless tasks?

When I say valueless, I am referring to the fact that managing a database does not bring any differentiating value to your organization. The value comes from the analysis of that data or through the leveraging the data to deliver better, more efficient, products and services to your client-base.

That still isn’t the greatest benefit or the cloud. Too many project spend a lot of time focused on sizing, performance, system compatibilities, and other technical details. That time would be better spent on designing and delivering the ideal solution to the client.

By moving to the cloud, those discussions are taken off of the table. Those conversations don’t exist. The higher up the cloud stack you move (IaaS => PaaS => SaaS), the more conversations focus upon how to better meet the needs of the organization.

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The Cost of Risk


Sunken ShipI’ve written before on the zero-sum game that we play when we are evaluating most Content Management projects. We can choose the solution that will readily meet 80% of your requirements but has only a 20% of achieving all its goals. Our other choice is the solution that will only meet 30% of our goals but has a 90% chance of meeting the expected goals.

There is already reason to lean to the latter solution. The odds are good that at the end of the day you will have a working, though less capable, solution. When the alternative is nothing, that is pretty good.

Let’s see why it is even better than that.

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Why Choosing Content Management is Becoming More Critical


Waiting for GodotI have recently been talking in my presentations about organizations opting to do nothing about their Content problem. When looking at the prospect of rolling out a new Content Management System (CMS), it is a valid option. There is only one issue with that choice.

Each year, choosing to do nothing becomes a worse option.

Let’s take a moment to discuss why doing nothing is riskier now than it was in the past.

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Predicting 2014


I know I am a tad late on my prediction post for 2014, but I have had a hard time coming to terms with what will happen this year. At this point, it is easy to predict where things are going overall, but specific events over the next 12 months? Much more challenging.

I learned this by evaluating my 2013 predictions. The ones that didn’t come to fruition are still trending in the right direction. Those predictions just failed to hit that magic event before the end of 2013.

Well, I am going to try again this year. I am going to lean more towards trends and less on specific events. I could predict Open Text is going to make a large acquisition and that SharePoint will be declared dead by {insert large number here} prognosticators this year, but those things happen EVERY year which makes it feel like cheating.

What can we expect in 2013?

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Have you Hired Snowden?


I have had a LOT of discussions with people over the past year about Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the impact on cloud adoption. My general response is that it would likely slow US adoption of the cloud by a few months and outside the US by a couple of years.

Well, it has be six months since this all started and I was starting to wonder about how this was panning out. Then Computerworld kindly published a piece stating that Chief Information Officers (CIOs) were sticking with the cloud despite the NSA.

While 20 CIOs are in no way a fair sample size, even if they are geographically dispersed, they did raise several excellent points.

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What Constitutes a Cloud Product?


Yesterday, there was a pretty heated twitter debate between Ron Miller, Irina Guseva, Tony Byrne, and myself over what constitutes a Cloud Product. This was triggered by an article that Irina had published on the Real Story Group blog about what people should take away from the Adobe security breach (besides passwords).

I am not a big fan of how Irina portrayed cloud security as cloud systems are often more secure than many internal systems. Ron had more fundamental issues with the article.

Adobe calls this product Creative Cloud when it’s not a cloud product.

and

This had nothing to do with them being cloud. Adobe ID goes back years.

I tend to ignore most contradictions in a Twitter debate given the limits of the medium. I do want to counter both of Ron’s statements.

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