Finding documents is one of the biggest challenges for most organizations. This is supposed to become easier after implementing an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution, but when an organization has multiple platforms it becomes exponentially harder. The documents are under control but they have different ways they’re organized, they have different keywords, and are locked behind different security systems. In 2000, there had been an answer to this challenge. I had always intended to write about it.
I like writing these stories of lost knowledge. A lot of cool solutions have been around in the ECM space in the past and just get lost. Pie, Laurence Hart, mentioned once that one of his biggest frustrations is that cool technology startups gets gobbled up by a platform vendor and are never seen again. In this case, that cool solution was content integration and that startup was Venetica.
Venetica made a product called the Venice Bridge. It allowed access to several content repositories through a common API. It supported not only the retrieval of content but also the library services, like check-in and check-out. Its growth came from the vast number of portal frameworks of the day. It worked with Documentum, SharePoint, FileNet, Content Manager, and OpenText. From the Venetica API you could call for content from any of these systems from the Venetica UI or in your own custom application. This meant that you could perform a federated search across not only repositories but separate vendor repositories. In 2004, Venetica was acquired by IBM and was lost inside the acquiring company.
Today what remains of the Venice Bridge platform is sold as IBM Content Integrator. You need to know it exists to be able to find it. The platform is designed to move content into a FileNet or Content Manager repository. It has basically become an ETL (Extract Transfer Load) tool. OpenText also offers a similar product, Content Integration Platform, to move content to the OpenText Content Server. For years I’ve kept my eyes open for a new content integration platform. I couldn’t find an agnostic content integration platform until the ARMA 2016 Conference.
At ARMA, I was asked by another attendee to take a quick look at look at a particular vendor. He liked their story but wasn’t sure if technology would match. So I went over and took a look and did some research. *
Simflofy has started down the path of a solid content integration platform. Its product is mostly used for records management. It allows for the system of record, or chosen records repository, to manage documents inside other repositories, specifically to ensure they are not deleted. It locks down the document’s security model. Once those records are no longer needed or on demand, the documents can be automatically moved into the system of record. All of this sounds rather simple, as one off integrations, but Simflofy decided to take the path of creating an integration framework. The Simflofy platform has its own APIs that internally converts the calls to native platform APIs. It works not only with CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) but directly with the APIs of many vendors. The Simflofy platform includes connections to SharePoint, FileNet, Documentum, and a bunch of others. The demonstration at ARMA used Alfresco as the system of record. This allowed the user to access files from other sources from within Alfresco. Pretty cool.
So while this story started as one of lost technology, we may actually have one cool solution that is making a comeback.
* Full disclosure – Since conducting my initial research on Simflofy, it has become a client of BMO Consulting. I am currently focused on channel development for them. If you’re interested in learning more about Simflofy, don’t hesitate to contact me.