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?

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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Content, Security, and Standards


imageI am about to do what I stopped doing several years ago, start paying attention to James McGovern. Why? Because he is talking about several important issues that need to be dealt with in the industry.

Years ago, James and I discussed Security standards around Identity Management, primarily SAML. While my focus on the time was on Documentum, the issues were universal. Since we last interacted online, James has moved on to HP in an advisory role for clients.

Sadly, the issues we discussed are still prevalent in the industry. In fact, these issues are becoming more important with the advent of new players in the cloud space.

Sure, the new vendors support integrations and work with existing Active Directory installations. That’s nice. So did the established vendors. The problem remains, there is no standard way to pass both Authentication and Authorization.

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