“Delivering” Integrated ECM

Often one of the hardest things to do in this industry is to explain why an enterprise needs to have one CM application talk to another.  The scapegoat answer is to say, because the customer wants it.  But most of us know why, without even knowing it.  We just don’t know how to say it.  But waiting for my holiday purchases to arrive it dawned on me, the shipping metaphor. 

Starting Small
Think of ECM in the context of a shipping company.  You start off small, as you’re not sure how things will exactly pan out.  So you buy a few panel vans.  This allows you to be nimble and change routes as necessary, maybe run several routes at the same time, with minimal investment to see what workss.  As time goes by you realize that all your routes can’t be handled by the panel vans so you buy some trailers to tow behind them.  In some case you add standard trailers for more carrying capacity but some are open trailers to carry larger objects and you may even add a few that include climate control.  But all in all you can now handle things with what you have.

If you’re new to ECM, sometimes it’s best to start small.  Even when you are familiar with the benefits, others in your organization may not be.  For this reason a small flexible CM applications often takes hold the best.  By being able to put the controls in the hands of the end user, allowing them to make changes, the ECM solutions gain adoption without the users even knowing it.  This is why CM applications tied to departmental collaboration systems get so much attention.

Growing Beyond Capabilities
As time goes on a fleet of vans and trailers is not enough.  While you could tow another trailer behind the first trailer, it just won’t do the job efficiently.  It’s difficult to drive the van, especially when you need to change directions.  Also the amount of stuff you’re carrying really starts to bog down the engine. 

So instead you decide to add a few trucks to your fleet.  You now have more capacity and improved performance.  This time you also buy a few that are flat-tops and others that are climate controlled.  But you also keep the panel vans, to test out new routes or to temporarily split up a route when demand suddenly picks up.

As ECM starts to gain adoption, some of those systems that started with a simple CM application will grow beyond their capabilities.  While you could continue to build customizations and integrate 3rd party components, you are moving away from efficiencies another application provides.  It is at this time that it’s best to consider ECM applications that support a wider integrated feature set. 

At the same time, it may not be the time to get rid of the smaller CM applications.  There may be adhoc process or other business problems that may not be ready for the ECM application. 

Everything Working Together
While many vendors would love to believe in the Highlander Principal, “There can be only One”,  this is rarely the case.  An enterprise will have multiple ECM applications, but these can still be from one vendor.  It is all of these applications working together that create an efficient ECM System. 

When you ship a package from Ft Lauderdale to New York, it probably gets picked up by a van, placed on a plane, transferred to truck, and maybe even peddled over by bicycle messenger to an office on Park Ave.  Any one of these could have done the job on their own, but it’s only together that system works efficiently.

11 thoughts on ““Delivering” Integrated ECM

  1. CMIS brings two very interesting opportunities to the mix.

    First, if customers build their solutions using CMIS, it will allow them to port these applications to other platforms with relative ease. While it may seem that this will only expose a limited set of features to the end user, in fact all traditional library services will be made available in the first release of CMIS. A majority of today’s end user solutions can be built using CMIS. As an application begins to outgrow the current CM repository, the solution can be ported to another ECM with relative ease as compared to re-writing to a new platform. Much like using ODBC allows modeling of database applications with platforms like Access or FoxPro.

    Second, it allows vendors to develop add on components to multiple platforms with relative ease. This will mean more add-on products to the ECM platforms that support CMIS. It also means that vendors looking to develop specialty tools integrated to an ECM platform do not need to bet on a single vendor. Ultimately this will bring customers more options on the types of content that can be managed by an ECM system and how that content can be used within the organization.

  2. I think it is Marko’s second point that has the most merit. I question how quickly IT shops will begin to write to CMIS specs until the vendors create a critical mass of products that use it

    To continue beating the shipping analogy. The equipment that needs to remain constant in the logistics scenario is not the vehicle but the containers and the loading equipment. You don’t necessarily change the pallet jacks, forklifts, and hand trucks because the vehicle changes. The add-on and content creation tools are better enabled to scale if the the interface to the CMS is standardized.

    But like systems, in logistics – size does matter. Great distance and extreme weight present challenges that affect more parts of the system.Airfreight shipping containers, barges, and what not require special equipment to perform the same logical function (loading cargo into transportation vehicles) as a pallet jack in a distributions center. This is made easier though if the distance between the forks on the equipment is standardized. As content volumes and requirements scale – so must the tools that move them.

  3. I see CMIS making it possible for users to finally get a Web Content Management system that can do it all.

    Right now we have ECM vendors with WCM products and WCM vendors that store content. The ECM guys can do anything with the content, but they are not known for understanding the WCM space or providing user interfaces that work for the problem. Meanwhile, the WCM guys have solved more of the core WCM problems, but sharing content and retention are beyond them now.

    CMIS will allow some of those smaller, solid, WCM vendors to keep their applications and allow people to plug it into Documentum or FileNet. This will let them handle all sizes of web presence and allow them to provide the more robust ECM features without having to pick a vendor or lose their focus and edge by developing those features.

    Damn, that was almost a post. 🙂

  4. Well I am certainly glad to see Pie is back – its been so lonely …

    I wish I could agree with you but I don’t think that CMIS is quite the panacea WCM implementations need. I agree CMIS makes for a better WCM – but many of our problems are not about content CRUD but access to content that has been released to the wild. I am not sure CMIS is how the world should fetch content.

    So much of WCM is about context that there is always a set of compromises when it comes to assembly and presentation. Content creators need, want and demand that content be managed from the context of the consumer.

    Pure play WCM products solve for this by creating a tightly coupled relationship between layout and content creation. ECM products that do WCM tend to opt for a decoupled solution with content pushes and duplication of down cycle presentation environments. Can CMIS make this better? Sure – but I’m not sure about the access to managed content from outside the firewall that may result from rewiring pure play WCMs.

    this is a post

  5. The CMIS that I speak of is not the CMIS that we have, but the one that is to come after it. It is one that I am not worthy to work with, but will be my fate to one day help develop. 🙂

    Actually, the role for CMIS for WCM is different from what you seem to state as I see it. What I see CMIS doing is relieving the WCM vendors from dealing with the repository, search, workflow, and retention. This will free them up to spend more cycles on the experience of the content creators and making that even better.

  6. Pie. It sounds like you’re saying that the site developer uses CMIS to create a pages that access a repository and not that the content is accessed from another WCM application. I agree, we will see those cases too. I think it will be interesting where we suddenly see ECM functionality by way of CMIS appearing. Falling back to the metaphor, who would have ever imagined a flatbed truck being used as a rolling billboard?

  7. “these aren’t the specs your looking for”

    So – we agree that a WCM built on CMIS would be A-OK. I still have the open question. Can or should the CMIS include at least discovery of consumption services in its scope. (publish targets/where available) Or is it better to stay in the management realm.

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