Information Governance, Moving on from Content


Has Content build holding us prisoner, making us miss the bigger picture?When I dove into the debate on Content Services and ECM, my conclusion was fairly straightforward.

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.

There is a lot of detail buried under that relatively straightforward statement. Content Services is part of a broader trend in the content management space and is here to stay. It has been here since CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) entered the picture almost a decade ago but now people are seeing it as more than a way to integrate systems.

The problem is that ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is still just part of the picture. Even if we use the latest tools without regard to the latest buzz words that define them. If we just focus on the content we are failing to solve what needs to be solved.

Information First

Here’s the deal. Content never stands alone. Yes it has metadata but there are entities that need to be managed that may not have content. Consider:

  • Process Documents: Think of an invoice. It comes into the organization and follows a very defined process. This is the foundation for the entire industry. The process may start before any content is created.
  • Case Documents: While the fervor has died down, case management still matters. Many things are a collection of documents and the information about the collection, and the ad-hoc nature of the work, still matters.
  • Collaborative Content: Most of this content could be shoe-horned into case management but nobody doing the work thinks of it that way. Projects and teams use content in multiple ways to achieve an evolving goal. Having a place to go and work towards that goal, along with all the related information, is important.
  • Digital Assets: Digital assets can be part of any of the previous three instances. The difference is that digital assets have a lot of special requirements around licensing, source, and usage (to name a few) that adds a layer of complexity.

A lot of this content crosses streams. A contract is part of a sale, collaboratively worked on by multiple parties, subject to process review, and needed in a workspace for the team delivering what was promised in the contract. Building one system to serve all of those needs is complex. Have a Contract Management System is useful to address the legal requirements but then the content needs to be served to the other locations.

You aren’t going to have only one solution to this unless you ignore the problems and force the technology. That will leave you with strong systems that serves the IT department, not the people who need a solution.

In each context, there is more information related to the piece of content. Sometimes it is a collection of documents. The result is that when it is time to manage the content, we need to manage the entire context. We need to manage the information.

We need Information Governance

ECM is one aspect of Information Governance. If you can’t manage content, you can’t manage the context that it lives within. You can’t apply different rules to the same information just because it lives in a database instead of a declared record.

When we manage items, we need to manage the entire context. We need to be able to reach into the database and the CMS (Content Management System) in order to manage things as a coherent whole.

Of course this is tricky. Databases aren’t designed to be managed like formal records. Data sets are managed. Content and data have evolved along parallel, yet different, paths to handling governance.

Sometimes you need to destroy in order to do what is rightConclusion

Of course, you can’t buy Information Governance anymore than we’ve been able to buy ECM. It is a strategy and an approach, just on a more comprehensive scale. You are still setting priorities. You are still making sure you know where everything lives.

And you are still creating an ECM strategy to handle content. ECM should just live within the larger context of Information Governance.

Giving the different paradigms behind how the underlying CMSs and databases tackle governance, there is going to be some assessing and planning required. Taking a bigger picture view, and implementing it, is going to take a lot of work.

Perhaps a transformation…

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.

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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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Use CMIS or Die?


When discussing the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard with organizations, progress is measurable when the developers start asking me if they have to use CMIS.

The answer is of course no. In the recent Forrester report from Cheryl McKinnon on how CMIS is being used in the “real world”, this excerpt explains the balance to be struck.

a large insurance company evaluated CMIS but chose not to use it due to developer comfort with a vendor’s existing application programming interfaces (APIs). However, the technology management team is actively monitoring CMIS for future projects, such as integration between their customer relationship management (CRM) system and ECM repository.

They clearly value CMIS but had a very common decision to make. Use the API we know over the standard we do not know. When do you make the transition?

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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.

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Content Services, Not ECM


Recently I’ve been trying to walk a narrow path. I have all but pronounced Enterprise Content Management (ECM) dead, and yet I have expressed a belief that Content Services need to be embedded into business applications.

The question is two-fold. How can you serve Content Services without a platform? Isn’t that ECM with a different name?

Yes and no.

Let’s dissect this apparent contradiction.

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Why CMIS 1.1 Is Pretty Awesome


Before I get to the meat of this post, I want to start with a confession. I have been a slacker. If you look at my word cloud to the right, you’ll see CMIS as a big piece of the proverbial Pie. Even before it was a public term, I railed for the need for a standard in the Content Management space.

Now that the first update to the Content Management Interoperability Standard (CMIS) has been out for nearly three months, why am I just now blogging about it? Now that  browser binding, retention, holds, and type mutability have been added to CMIS, why am I not proclaiming the wonders of CMIS 1.1 from every rooftop.

I…uh…got busy.

What I want to do today is talk about why this update means everyone should be looking deeper into CMIS and reconsider it for every Content application created. In fact, as much as the need for standards in Content Management existed when I started writing about them, it is even more urgent today.

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