Category: Other

Enterprise Content Architecture – my take on the Metastorm acquisition

I’m particularly excited by today’s announcement acquisition of Metastorm by OpenText, but not perhaps for the same reasons as many others.What excites me is the potential of Metastorm’s strengths in Enterprise Architecture (EA) and Business Process Analysis (BPA). As noted in the release:“Metastorm is a leader in both BPA and EA as recognized by Gartner in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Process Analysis Tools, published February 22, 2010 and the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Architecture Tools, published October 28, 2010.”These capabilities play to both the ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Content’ in Enterprise Content Management (ECM).Organizations depend on a growing proportion of knowledge workers as I discussed in a previous post (Value for Knowledge Workers), but as noted in the McKinsey study I covered (Boosting the productivity of knowledge workers),  most organizations do not understand how to boost the productivity of knowledge workers or indeed the barriers to that productivity. As I noted:“What struck me in reading the article is that while an increasing proportion of staff in companies are knowledge workers, it is not clear what knowledge work is and how to best enable it to drive productivity gains. Given that, it is hardly surprising that people struggle to define the value of those software tools best able to support knowledge management.”Content is the currency of knowledge work. It supports the exchange of knowledge during business processes, and is very often the work product of such processes (e.g. a market analysis report, an engineering drawing or a website page). Too often in the past discussion of the value of content has centered on either reducing the unit cost of producing, finding or using content, or mitigating compliance risks created by poor content management.This is not a new theme for me, indeed last August I expressed my enthusiasm for why Content Matters. I noted:“It’s no surprise to people that you can understand a business by ‘following the money’ or ‘following the customer’ and that is the basis for ERP and CRM systems. On the other hand most people are only just coming to realize that ‘following the content’ is just as important, so while we’ve talked about content management for many years, that conversation is starting to be important to business.”The potential to apply Metastorm’s ProVision tool set to elucidate and illustrate the critical role of Content to the achievement of Enterprise Goals is an exciting one which offers new value to our customers.

Blocked Community Arteries

Online communities can form around many different technologies. But once they have formed, they can be very difficult to update, convert or move. The problem is not one of technology conversion, but rather user habits and preferences, which seem to become more solidified the longer the community has existed.I’ve been reminded of this as I started to get involved with some online automotive forums. Recently I purchased an old car that I am refurbishing as a hobby. There are now fantastic online resources, with detailed illustrated procedures that are far better than the factory manuals.You can also ask for help and people respond almost immediately, provided you don’t violate the many customs and expectations. The most important of which is that you must have searched first. Since the forum I use has been around for a decade and the cars it covers are from 16 to more than 30 years old, most issues have already been covered in previous posts, often many times. This also means the veterans are intolerant of people asking the same old questions. So I search really carefully first and only if I don’t find what I’m looking for make an apologetic posts along the lines of: “I have searched, but can’t seem to find out how to…”The community is very centered on classic, threaded discussions and search. Just how centered was recently illustrated by a post by a brake vendor offering to provide free brake pads to the person who posted the best explanation of why they should get free brakes, as judged by ‘like’ votes on Facebook. The resulting furor was really fascinating to watch.There were a succession of ‘Fail’ posts. The first started:

  • “I don’t have a facebook account so can’t enter. Don’t you have your own business website?”

Others chimed in with incrementing posts; very quickly 18 negative votes were posted. The comment about a business website certainly illustrated that the poster has missed out on current trends. Other anti-Facebook comments included:

  • “Rarely use the FB. Don’t Like”
  • “What’s a facebook?”
  • “I have no plans on signing up for facebook at all, ever”
  • “C’mon, without FB how am I going to check out all the girls that wouldn’t date me in 1985 and feel better now about the bullet(s) that I unknowingly dodged?”
  • “I don’t “do” facebook either, and it might be a long, long time before I find a reason to sign up for it.”
  • “I have some semblance of a life…”
  • “I am worthy of getting the brake pads for the simple fact that I don’t use facebook.”
  • “No interest in joining MyFace or any of the other ones. I’m waiting for the ‘winner’ to emerge. This one is probably just another fad like parachute pants and jackets with zippers all over them. Boy am I glad I passed on those.”
  • “News feature today mentioned employers and now banks using FB and twitter to help evaluate the qualifications of business/job/loan candidates.”

One poster was particularly incensed that the vendor had posted on more than one such site (which is a typical social marketing approach):

  • “When he posted this I went to his FB page and was pretty put out that it looked like they spammed every car forum out there with the same offer. Needless to say, I didn’t “Like” this.”

After this tirade, there was a tentative response from a few Facebook users. I was one of the first to point out that there was a Facebook page dedicated to this particular car, but supposed they would not be using it, which was quickly answered with an, “uhhhh… no.” There were actually a couple of positive posts:

  • “I actually love facebook. It is a very useful way for me to stay in contact with many friends that I would have otherwise lost due to lack of free time. I have re-connected with old friends and use it to schedule real life get togethers. It’s actually a pretty amazing site.”
  • “Wasn’t saying anything negative about FB, I’m on there entirely tooooooo much.”

One of the final posts directed to the vendor was spot on (if sexist):

  • “Don’t worry (not that you were) about the crotchety old hags on this forum somehow connecting your company to the terror threat of FB. Its just new and different, and not many here are early adopters.” And the last one:
  • “I found this funny on a forum dedicated to owners of 16-34 year old cars.”

So they are not open to change. Which is a pity because there are newer technologies that would actually help the community:

  1. The illustrated procedures would be far better in a wiki format that could be refined over time, rather than depending on original posts with some threaded discussion additions that are hard to follow
  2. Likewise, some of the threads are really just social conversations that have little to do with the subject car. A microblogging application would be far more suitable

This well-entrenched community is very much wed to a traditional, content-centric model (threaded posts and search) and most members don’t understand the people-centered, social model of collaboration. Although comprised of technically-savvy people, their preferred technology is old, as are their cars. I don’t think this community is ready to change.

Attacking ECM complexity

In my last post I discussed the inherent complexity that develops as ECM systems are used for an increasing range of business applications, and more importantly, as they are shaped by growing numbers of users and groups with differing perspectives. Another source of complexity is technology itself.The term ‘Enterprise Content Management’ was developed to try to describe the result of the convergence of a wide range of previously distinct technologies – document scanning, records management, document management, workflow, collaboration, archiving, etc. This convergence was a result of technology and market maturation, and the fact that these technologies generally addressed common business needs and dealt with the key digital files (i.e. content) that have value to enterprises.Enterprises need to treat content in standard ways and make it available to their users irrespective of technology. Since all of the component technologies cannot realistically be re-written, they must be made to work together. This need was the genesis of the Open Text ECM Suite released today.On the face of it, adding more features increases complexity. However, sharing resources and services counters that. Making available a better tool also reduces the necessity of warping a simpler application to serve a requirement for which it is not suited.ECM Suite not only provides a wider range of capabilities, but also updates the interfaces of some core elements, especially including the new version of Open Text Content Server – version 10. This version (of a product once called Livelink) includes a modernized interface, which is simpler. When you are trying to drive user adoption, simpler interfaces are better if they enable users to learn how to use a system quicker. But simplification can remove things that veteran users have come to rely on, and you need to guide them through the changes as I discussed previously.I’m looking forward to the new things that are now enabled with the Suite. I’ll be embracing reduced technical complexity while accepting potentially greater operational complexity. Other people have other perspectives (video).Syndicated at http://conversations.opentext.com/

Content Management Systems as Cities – I feel like a Mayor!

I recently realized that large enterprise content management (ECM) systems are like a city, but most ECM practices treat them as if they were a building. There’s a big difference in complexity that impacts the operation of an ECM system.Architects can design a building to suit its intended purpose and building management can maintain it. In the same manner an ECM expert can design a system to manage digital content in support of particular business processes. Much of the ECM literature talks of the benefits of clear system architecture and good governance.As an ECM system is deployed across an organization the breadth and number of applications grows rapidly – often into the hundreds – with many different business sponsors and champions! It becomes increasingly hard for any one person to understand all of the different ways that a system is being used, and to exert any effective control. The flexibility accorded users through collaborative, social tools further increases the heterogeneity of an ECM system.Not all ECM application deployments meet with equal success or longevity. In many ways the applications in an ECM system resemble buildings in a city – different sizes, different ages, different investments and different degrees of success. Some buildings are abandoned and some never get off the drawing board!No one designs cities – they are just too complex. Sure there are examples of attempts to do this – the initial design of Brasilia or the redesign of the center of Paris by Haussmann – but over time the efforts and activities of many other people determine how a city develops. In fact cities are very much an expression of human behaviour, culture and society.Overall city management falls to the Mayor and City Council, and their most important tools are Building Regulations and Permits, Ordnances, etc. While you can’t and shouldn’t control everything in a city, you can nevertheless provide some direction and minimal standards. The architects of the many buildings need to get approval for their plans before a building is constructed, and the building operators need to comply with other standards.When ECM was a new concept, the focus was on how to best design and operate a first application for the new system – a new ‘building’ standing in a ‘green field’ if you will. As ECM matures we need to think about how to operate large, multi-application systems. For me a better role analogy for the person with overall system responsibility is Mayor, not Architect. It’s not that we don’t need ECM Architects – in fact we need many of them – but we also need a Mayor and Council to provide a framework for oversight and long-term strategy. And we have to accept at least a degree of disorder that results from the activities of many different people that are only loosely coordinated – Mayors are necessarily politicians, unlike Architects!

Value for Knowledge Workers

Demonstrable value goes a long way to supporting the deployment of new software tools.

For structured business processes, return on investment (r.o.i.) is comparatively easy to estimate. Where unstructured or semi-structured digital content items (e.g. documents, spreadsheets, faxes, etc.) enable a given structured process (e.g. accounts receivable) their contribution to the overall value created is also typically quantifiable.

Where the process itself is unstructured the measurement of value is much harder. Perhaps the largest class of unstructured processes in a company fall in the category of knowledge work. The difficulties organizations have in understanding knowledge work is highlighted in an article just published in the McKinsey Quarterly entitled: “Boosting the productivity of knowledge workers”.

  • Aside: Unfortunately a subscription is required to read the full article – hopefully you have one.

The article starts with the proposition that few senior executives can answer the question: “Are you doing all that you can to enhance the productivity of your knowledge workers?” This is unfortunate because, “Organizations around the world struggle to crack the code for improving the effectiveness of managers, salespeople, scientists, and others whose jobs consist primarily of interactions—with other employees, customers, and suppliers—and complex decision making based on knowledge and judgment.”

The authors, Eric Matson and Laurence Prusak, describe five common barriers that hinder knowledge workers in more than half of the interactions in surveyed companies:

  1. Physical
  2. Technical
  3. Social or Cultural
  4. Contextual, and
  5. Temporal

Physical barriers include geographic and time zone separation between workers, and are typically linked to Technical challenges – where workers lack the necessary tools to overcome the physical barriers that separate them. As the article notes, there are a many software tools available that can help – these would include the various collaborative and social media tools, as well as the more classic document management applications that are encompassed in the broadest definitions of Enterprise Content Management (ECM).

Of course the availability of software tools does not guarantee that users will use them effectively; indeed, Social (e.g. organizational restrictions, opposing incentives and motivations) and Contextual barriers (e.g. not knowing who to consult or to trust) play a large part in hindering adoption.

The fifth barrier is Temporal. Time, or rather the perceived lack of it, is also a critical factor. In my experience knowledge workers do not consider time spent using social media and collaborative tools as important as other activities. Under time pressure they will stop using these tools if they need to spend more time on other activities they perceive as “real work”.

What struck me in reading the article is that while an increasing proportion of staff in companies are knowledge workers, it is clear that what knowledge work is and how to best enable it to drive productivity gains is not clear. Given that, it is hardly surprising that people struggle to define the value of those software tools best able to support knowledge management.

Job One in the upgrade of a major ECM system

“Upgrade it and they will run away!” is a risk scenario with any major upgrade of a business-critical, enterprise system, including an enterprise content management (ECM) system.

Often the people promoting an upgrade are technologists who are almost always ‘early adopters’, but many staff just want to get their job done and will often be confused by, resent or even resist changes – telling typical users that they will get a whole bunch of ‘cool, new features’ isn’t likely to make them enthusiasts.

Here’s a typical persona of such a user:

  • Doesn’t read corporate communications (newsletters, emails, etc.)
  • Doesn’t like technology
  • Couldn’t care less about the product or site provided it ‘works’
  • Just wants to ‘do their job’ without external disruption

One of the big challenges is to ensure that when such a persona comes to work on the Monday after a major upgrade that they don’t say, “What the *#% happened to the site,” especially when the interface has changed.

I’m struggling with these issues in advance of a major ECM system upgrade. The system is called Ollie and has been in production for 15 years. It now has over 5.5 million objects and 4,000 users – 93% of whom use the system every month. It’s actually the main internal Enterprise Library of Open Text and is pretty much an un-customized version of the product we sell now called Content Server.

  • Content Server version 10 is just about to be released. It is the latest iteration of a product first called Livelink, and provides the underlying shared services of the Open Text ECM Suite.

Without doubt the newer version provides a better, more modern interface that will be preferred by most users – once they learn what’s different and how to use it. I know most users will prefer it as it has undergone extensive usability testing – but I also know that you can’t please all of the people all of the time and most people don’t like surprises at work.

So ‘job one’ is to create a short, effective video that overcomes the shock of the unexpected, since no matter how good our communications strategy is, many people will be surprised. The video also has to smooth the way for further change, because while some of the benefits of the new version will be available on Day One, others depend on subsequent work by knowledge managers using new capabilities that become available after the upgrade.

Content Matters

I was chatting with a colleague yesterday and he related how he interviews people to join our company. We quickly dropped into role playing – with me as the job candidate. He had a compelling proposition, but as I told him, he was missing the thing that excited me = Content Matters!

As I started to tell him why content matters I found myself getting excited. I realized I’m actually quite passionate about it! Not content itself, but what it enables and how it’s used.

Content matters to companies in a way that changes how they work, how they create value and whether they succeed. It matters whether they recognize that fact or not.

If you want to understand what drives a company look at their value chain – how they create value – and how they are organized to execute each stage in the value chain. Within each stage there are typically many processes, each with many steps. At almost every step there is some content that is created, reviewed, followed or otherwise used; how well this is done makes a difference to effectiveness.

It’s no surprise to people that you can understand a business by ‘following the money’ or ‘following the customer’ and that is the basis for ERP and CRM systems.

On the other hand most people are only just coming to realize that ‘following the content’ is just as important, so while we’ve talked about content management for many years, that conversation is starting to be important to business.

The Myth of Real-time Collaborative Authoring

In the document management field there has been a succession of products designed to support users working on a document at the same time, even if they are in different locations. These products have failed. They have failed because people don’t work on documents together very often.

I wonder where the belief in concurrent creation of documents came from. In the physical world you seldom see people saying, “Come to my office and we’ll write a document together,” so why expect users to want to do it virtually?

Documents may well be created to summarize a brainstorming session or record the minutes of a general meeting, but the designated author usually ‘goes away’ to somewhere quiet to write the first draft.

Even in the review phase, reviewers independently make comments, suggestions and edits at different times. The author then pulls these together to make a revised version. Email is no different, especially since emails of any length are essentially documents.

Sure the stepwise, asynchronous approach to content authoring and review takes place over a longer period, but it actually makes best use of each participant’s time, and is therefore more efficient overall.

I started to think about this again with yesterday’s announcement that Google Wave will not be further developed (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/update-on-google-wave.html). As the blog post says, Google Wave was, “…a web app for real time communication and collaboration”. For the purposes of this discussion let’s consider both collaboration and communication independently.

Collaboration in Authoring

A technical tour-de-force, Wave enabled users to see others changing content as they themselves changed it. Very cool, but actually disconcerting. I wouldn’t have wanted you to have watched me author this blog post, for several reasons:

  • I’m easily distracted and need to concentrate to develop some cohesive thoughts
  • While writing I jump around adding sections, changing others, moving text blocks – it would be hard to follow and I’d have to explain what I was doing which would further slow me down and distract me
  • I’m the World’s worst typist

I’m probably no different than most people, at least regarding the first two points. And perhaps more lethal to the concept of concurrent authoring:

  • You’d get bored – it takes far longer to author a document than read it, and you’d probably want to be doing something else while I work, preferring to comment on my finished work

And that’s the crux of the matter – most people are busy, with many demands on their time, and collaborative authoring is just too inefficient.

Communication Delays are Good

While Wave was designed for collaboration, it was also intended for communication (see quotation above). Essentially email and instant messaging rolled into one. But I think there is a problem there too – most people actually don’t want to use real-time communication!!

Many commentators have remarked on the tendency for young people to use their mobile phones for text messaging far more than as telephones. You’d think it would be easier to engage in a conversation by talk rather than typing, so why is texting preferred?

I think people prefer texting because it allows them to be engaged in many, independent conversations with different people. For this to work they need to be able to send and receive messages in real time, but also need an agreed expectation that replies may take several minutes. Awkward silences of several minutes on a phone aren’t agreeable, and since voice isn’t cached locally like a text message you have to listen to each voice channel concurrently – which isn’t practical.

Interestingly while they are short, both mobile text messages and instant messages (IM) are generally only sent when they are completed. It is usually enough to see that the recipient is typing (i.e. with Instant Messaging) or to just assume that they are (i.e. with texting). All stumbles, pauses, and corrections are not sent – but they were with Google Wave.

Summary

With small pieces of content: true real-time communication is often undesirable, with near real-time being better.

With larger pieces of content: collaborative authoring is best done asynchronously.

Collaborative authoring seems to be something that IT professionals believe will lead to greater efficiencies, while end users don’t have the time for it!

Considering the Cost & Value of Digital Content for an Enterprise

The way that the value of digital content changes over time, and how an enterprise content management (ECM) system might help to realize and/or retain greater value was the subject of my last post (http://martin-fulcrum.blogspot.com/2010/06/calculating-value-of-content-in-ecm.html). Lee Dallas retweeted that post, but also referenced a very interesting earlier blog post (2008) by fellow member of ‘Big Men on Content‘ Marko Sillanpääon the cost of content (link). Sillanpää considered content lifecycle costs as follows:Cost of Content = (Annual Authoring Costs + Annual Review Costs) / New Objects per AuthorContent authoring and review are not the only activities that incur cost – there are costs associated with each step in its lifecycle, notably including the costs of distribution, storage and ultimate destruction. Effective content distribution is becoming increasingly important to the realization of value.Cost and value are of course different concepts. The cost of an item does not necessarily reflect its value, as anyone who has watched the TV show “Antiques Roadshow” knows!In business, where there is an emphasis on the bottom line, the value of content ought on average to exceed its cost, or it should not have been created. But for a given piece of content, its cost is generally related to size and complexity, not what it enables. On the other hand, value is tied to enablement and varies over time – often declining gradually or precipitously, but sometimes increasing!It can be hard to explain to people how managing content benefits a business. However, I have found that identifying its ‘enterprise value’ is powerful. A good top-down approach is to reference the value chain of a business, using Michael Porter’s original simple model.People understand that enterprises take input from suppliers and partners and, through a series of steps, add value that can be realized in a final sale to customers. Clearly the effective execution of those steps adds to efficiency. When challenged, most people can identify content that contributes or is even essential to the completion of each of those value steps and their constituent processes. For example, an Engineering Department must create, review and approve engineering drawings, and then pass them on to the Manufacturing Department (see E, C & O value chain).In my experience, taking a value perspective is generally more attractive, especially in growth industries, than a cost and cost avoidance perspective – which has classically been the basis for return-on-investment (R.O.I.) approaches to software justification.  Syndicated at http://conversations.opentext.com/

Calculating the Value of Content in ECM

It’s only worth expending effort to manage something if it has value – usually positive, but sometimes negative. So the concept of content value is implicit in enterprise content management (ECM).On the other hand, the value of a given content object (i.e. digital file) such as an email or document generally declines over time – or at least this is the common wisdom. I have seen graphs drawn mapping ‘value’ over ‘time’, with a smooth decline of value tending to zero. However, such a representation is clearly an average of value across many types of enterprise content.If you look at individual pieces of content, then you’ll find different profiles:

  • In compliance, a piece of content may retain 100% of its value for a defined period of years and then abruptly drop to having no value, or even having negative value (liability) that should trigger its destruction
  • In knowledge management, a piece of content may have declining value over time, but then because of some new event may suddenly have increased value

But this perspective is of the Inherent or Independent Value of a piece of content – the value is assessed entirely based on the information contained in the object. But it seems to me that there are at least two other factors that impact value:

  • Context – when correctly combined with other prices of content a given piece of content may have greater value. For example a specifications document is more valuable together with the associated requirements document. Value can often be realized by the way in which context is presented between content items – how they are grouped, ordered or ranked.
  • Impairment – Ironically, the value of a piece of content may be impaired by efforts to manage content. If you mix valuable pieces of content with large amounts of irrelevant materials, that should have been destroyed, you reduce the chances that the valuable content can be found and its value realized. Keeping everything is usually a bad idea. And often users impair value when they misclassify content.

So the available value of a piece of content to an organization may be expressed as follows:Available Value = Inherent Value x Context / Impairment What this says is that content management efforts can be beneficial, but if not done well can actually be destructive.

Taking the Pulse of your Business Content with microblogging

When many users first encounter microblogging they don’t ‘get it’. Twitter is of course the classic and most widely known microblogging site, and its style has been taken up by many others such as Facebook in a broader set of social media approaches. A common initial reaction is something to the effect: “I don’t care if your cat just threw up – in fact, I’d rather NOT know!!”Once people start to microblog, they find many different ways that it can provide value, beyond answering the question: What’s happening? that twitter poses. Commentators have described endless ways of using twitter such as: 5 marketing approaches, 10 diverse applications, 50 different topics, etc.But how does microblogging add value within an organization? Most of the discussions about business value have been on better ways to reach outside an organization to customers and partners by breaking down barriers, increasing transparency and the like.At first blush making the case for microblogging in the workplace might seem to be hard. People often comment that they are too busy to engage in ‘chit-chat’ while at work. But over the last couple of years the use cases that have real business value have become clearer.For me there are two general styles of internal business microblogging:

  1. User status updates – close to the twitter model, but with a distinctly different topic set
  2. Content status updates – fairly unique to business and keyed to the fact that many work processes produce and manage content (i.e. documents and other business files as understood in content management)

At Open Text we recently released the Pulse module for Livelink 9.7.1 that adds microblogging capabilities to support both styles (available for free to customers from the Knowledge Center).Status updates are pretty much what you’d expect – you can make a post about anything, although some of the most useful ones are:

  • “I’m looking for…”
  • “Anyone interested in…”
  • “Have we…”

These have value because they help people to be more effective through better networking in an organization.You can select specific users to follow and you can follow the stream from all users. We have a very similar Pulse capability in Open Text Social Workplace.BUT, I think the real advance in Livelink/Content Server Pulse is to follow the status of content irrespective of location in a range of very powerful and comprehensive ways.Sure you can post a link to content in twitter, and many microblogging services allow you to attach documents or other kinds of files to your posts. But the advance here is to have the act of adding or changing a piece of content anywhere in an ECM system create a status post. The feed is reporting a content action by another person. If I’m following Joe and he adds a new sales presentation anywhere I can see it in the status stream – provided of course I have permission in the repository to see the added content. All of the important support for compliance is maintained.There are many ways to slice-and-dice: by following specific people or all people, and following changes in user status, content or both.You can also ‘pulse’ specific content objects, so all changes and all comments about a piece of content are seen in the unique Pulse stream of that object. It’s like a filtered window into the stream looking at just one object, even if the ECM system contains millions of documents.And Pulsing is not just limited to files/documents, but is applied to containers like folders and places such as project workspaces and communities. You can imagine the power of an accumulated stream of all content and status activity related to a project!Livelink has had a notification capability for many years, but it requires users to first identify existing documents and containers that they would like to follow. Pulse adds the human dimension – you can be notified of changes based on the people you follow and what they do with the content.To honest I’m still ‘figuring out’ all of the ramifications and power of Livelink/Content Server Pulse but I’m very excited!  If you’d like to learn more:

  • Initial description in the May 2010 issue of NewsLink
  • Free Webinar Thursday 3 June 2010
  • Software and documentation in the Knowledge Center
  • And if you are an Open Text Online Communities member you’ll be able to use Pulse very shortly (announcement)

Syndicated at http://conversations.opentext.com/

Social collaboration for productivity and problem solving

Check out this SlideShare Presentation from my colleague Deb Lavoy, covering the Open Text Social Workplace (OTSW) offering. Just this week we put an OTSW system dubbed ‘Hub’ into full production use for Open Text staff (now over 4,000 users). Social collaboration for productivity and problem solving View more presentations from dllavoy.

What’s in a name? Or do you mean what I think you do? Implications for enterprise content culture

Most people love a good rant, especially when it is well-founded, and I’m no different.And so it was that I really enjoyed Laurence Hart’s recent, self-admitted rant (http://wordofpie.com/2010/03/04/a-rant-against-cms/). In his Word-of-Pie blog, Laurence railed against his perceived miss-use of the term ‘Content Management Systems’ or CMS. It was topical, well-informed, and most importantly to me, resonated on several fronts.In brief, Laurence’s position is that:“…All you Web CMS people need to give the term CMS back! It doesn’t belong to you. A long time ago you took it while the broader content community was trying to futz with the term ECM [Enterprise Content Management]. By the time we realized what was happening, you had taken the term…”His issue is that while web content management (WCM) is a valid description, it is too often abbreviated to content management (CMS), even though there are a wide range of content types beyond web pages. The common use of CMS is much narrower than is implied. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) was coined in part to describe all content that an enterprise might have.I’m not interested in the semantic debate about what each term means and what is the correct term to use.I am interested in what this discussion says about culture and the difficulty getting people in an enterprise to take a broad view of content.There seem to be at least ‘two solitudes’ in content management – ECM and CMS.It is interesting how specific technology applications shape and restrict expectations.Last year my employer, Open Text, acquired Vignette (history), one of the oldest and most established CMS vendors. Most of Open Text heritage is from document and record management (Livelink and Hummingbird eDOCS for example), process management (IXOS) and collaboration; in other words ECM. We published a trilogy of books on ECM in 2003-2005. While some staff came from acquisitions prior to Vignette that had expertise in WCM (notably RedDot), they represented a comparatively small portion of the Company. The Vignette acquisition brought a much larger group of CMS-oriented staff to Open Text.I think Open Text is richer for the breadth of perspectives, but we have had to work through the challenge to merge the different cultures. Note I’m not talking corporate cultures, as indeed the companies were quite similar, but rather the application culture of how best to manage content to meet all the needs of our enterprise customers. Each of us has tended to think mostly of some content types, some approaches to content management, and some business needs.Take Open Text’s own Intranet as an example. Open Text has been running an Intranet called ‘Ollie’ on Livelink technology since 1996. Fundamentally the Livelink model is one of web folders containing ‘documents’ of any type. This model works really well when individual and team work products to be shared are typically documents – so it’s great in supporting teams and managing records. However, linked webpages are a much better vehicle to support the dissemination of centrally managed content, especially information from an organization to its staff. So last year we broadened our Intranet Systems to include a true WCM capability in parallel.For some in Open Text, the internal use of WCM came none too soon, while for others it was a surprise! I had to make a video to ‘educate’ staff on why we had both approaches and how to choose the best system for their specific needs. It turned out to be easiest to provide context by talking about the parallel evolution of ECM and WCM technologies over the course of the last 15 to 20 years.The application of social media in an enterprise has also challenged cultural expectations.Those with a WCM background have generally talked about the advantages of working closely with customers through external websites. Most of their value propositions of breaking down barriers and being more transparent are absolute anathemas to those ECM practitioners who have focussed on internal process and records management for compliance.Traditional document management approaches provide another example of cultural expectations nurtured by specific technology experiences.As I mentioned above, Livelink used a web folder paradigm to organize content. It also had rich metadata capabilities, but users tend to think of these as supplementary or optional ways of organizing content. It is fair to say that most users tend to think first and foremost of folders – so it can be a challenge to collect metadata from them. In contrast, with our eDOCS content management system (from Hummingbird) there are no folders – everything is organized through metadata. eDOCS users find browsing folders can be frustrating. Going forward these alternate approaches are merged in our Open Text Content Server 2010 under our ECM Suite.Defining effective taxonomies to organize content can be one of the biggest challenges for an enterprise.Generally people in specific departments, and using specific systems, tend to define taxonomies that meet their immediate needs, but the taxonomies they create are generally too limited for wider use. Similarly, other groups create incompatible taxonomies often to address similar needs. These limitations ultimately contribute to failure. Creating new taxonomies seems to be a recurring theme in many enterprises as most are never broad enough, scalable or robust.Ironically then, what a person means by ‘content’, the ‘content taxonomy’ they think is required for their organization, and their perception of the critical features of a ‘content management system’ are all highly subjective!

Predicting Sentiment in Advance

There are now a number of tools that monitor social networks looking at:

  • Sentiment analysis – General sentiments related organizations and their brands
  • Topic trend analysis – the relative frequency that topics are mentioned over time

Therefore, if I make blog post or tweet, my topic and sentiments will be captured by automated systems, analyzed and reported. There are some pretty sophisticated tools being used by Marketers, and while some are free, others are quite expensive. However, as a recent blog post noted: “marketing measurement technology really is.’ href=’http://trenchwars.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/a-technology-glitch-demonstrates-how-fragile-marketing-measurement-technology-really-is/’>A technology glitch demonstrates how fragile marketing measurement technology really is.” That said, let’s assume they’ll get better or this Technorati glitch was atypical.

I can also manually get some trend information using Google trends for example looking at ‘ECM’ over time: http://trends.google.com/trends?q=%22ecm%22&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0. However, the information on ECM is too sparse, and there is too much ‘contamination’ with other definitions of ECM, such as Engine Control Management.

But I have to admit I don’t use these tools. So I need a tool like all great advances that caters to laziness – or increased efficiency as I might prefer to characterize it! I need help. I need push rather than pull technology. It occurs to me that I wouldn’t mind knowing how my proposed post relates to other posts already made. I’d get a report something like:

“Your post on ‘ECM’ would be the 47th post on this topic so far this year. This topic is declining in frequency.”

“Your ‘negative’ post on ‘content system metadata’ would align with 19% negative, 25% neutral and 63% positive posts on this topic.”

Besides putting my proposed post in context, I wouldn’t mind getting a sample of the most relevant posts so that I could potentially revise my post, add links, references, rebuttals, etc.

At some level this would be a form of assisted authoring. It wouldn’t have to be limited to blog posts. I’d like to do the same for content authored in an enterprise context. The reality that many reports, white papers and similar work products of knowledge workers duplicate things already available, but people generally don’t look. It’s easier to start typing, imagining your work to be original, than to look first if it’s already been done or if there is something close than you can build on.

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Google’s impact on enterprise content management

Without a doubt Google has had a huge impact on the enterprise perspective on content management (ECM).

The pluses and negatives were highlighted by two blog posts yesterday:

On the plus side, John Mancini of AIIM listed three, “fundamental assumptions about information management that affect the ECM industry,” in his “Googlization of Content” post:

  1. Ease of use. The simple search box has become the central metaphor for how difficult we think it ought to be to find information, regardless of whether we are in the consumer world or behind the firewall. This has changed the expectations of how we expect ECM solutions to work and how difficult they are to learn.
  2. Most everything they do is free…
  3. They have changed how we think about the “cloud.” Google has changed the nature of how we think about applications and how we think about where we store the information created by those applications. Sure, there are all sorts of security and retention and reliability issues to consider…”

On the negative side, Alan Pelz-Sharpe made a post today in CMS Watch titled, “Google – unsuitable for the enterprise”. Alan introduced his piece by saying:

For years now Google has played fast and loose with information confidentiality and privacy issues. As if further proof were needed, the PR disaster that is Buzz should be enough to firmly conclude that Google is not suitable for enterprise use-cases.” He went on to say, “It is inconceivable that enterprise-focused vendors… would ever contemplate the reckless move that Google undertook in deliberately exposing customers’ private information to all and sundry with Buzz.”

Google is a hugely successful company, and they are extremely profitable. However, they are not a software company. Fundamentally they are an advertising placement company and everything they do is motivated by maximizing advertising revenue, whether directly or indirectly. 99% of their revenue comes from advertising that pays for every cool project they do and every service they offer.

While Google services to consumers have no monetary charge, they are not free:

  • You agree to accept the presentation of advertisements when you use Google products and services; most people believe these to be easily ignored despite the evidence of their effectiveness.
  • More importantly, you agree to offer provide information about your interests, friends, browsing and search habits as payment-in-kind. Mostly people sort of know this, but don’t think about it. If you ask them whether they are concerned that Google has a record of every search they have ever performed, they start to get uncomfortable. I expect most of us have searched on terms, which taken out of context, would take a lot to ‘explain.’

While most consumers in democracies are currently cavalier about issues of their own privacy, enterprises most certainly are not. Indeed, the need for careful management of intellectual property, agreements, revenue analyses and a host of other enterprise activities captured in content is precisely why they buy ECM systems.

The furor over Buzz points out that Google did things first and foremost to further its own corporate goals, which clash with those of other enterprises.

In contrast, Google’s goals require it to align with user needs, especially for good interfaces. An easy-to-use interface encourages and sustains use. That ought to be obvious to everyone, but when the effects of the interface on usage are easily measureable and directly tied to revenue (as in the case of Google Search), it becomes blatantly and immediately evident. In contrast, the development of an interface for an enterprise software product may take place months or even years before the product is released. Even if detailed usability research is done with test users, and in-depth beta programs are employed, the quality and immediacy of the feedback is less.

Besides easy interfaces, enterprise content management users expect ‘Google-like’ search, and are disappointed. There are generally two reasons for this:

  • Search results have to be further processed to determine if a user can be presented with each ‘hit’ based on their permissions
    • Typically 70-90% of the total computational time for enterprise search is taken up by permission checking
  • Enterprises don’t invest as much in search infrastructure as they should if the rapid delivery of search results was seen as critical

The second point is probably more important than people admit. In my experience significant computational resources are not allocated to Search by IT departments. I suspect that they look at average resource utilization, not peak performance and the time to deliver results to users. To deliver the typical half second or less response that Google considers to be essential, hundreds of servers may be involved. I am not aware of any Enterprise that allocates even the same order of magnitude of resources to content searching, so inevitably users experience dramatically slower response times.

In summary, the alignment of optimal user experiences with Google’s need to place advertisements has advanced the standards of user interfaces and provided many ‘free’ services, but the clash of Google’s corporate goals with the goals of other corporations has shown that the enterprise content has value that is not likely to be traded.

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