This post has been prompted by a couple of discussions with some colleagues recently, and its all about doing things the right way with SharePoint. As most people know SharePoint can be many things, it can be a Collaboration tool, a WCM platform, an Application platform, a Document Management system or many, many others. This can cause a bit of confusion around the skills required to implement SharePoint successfully.
Recently I’ve seen implementations where it has been clear that the primary skill of the team implementing has been Development or Engineering. Why do I say it was clear? Because of the focus of the implementation. There was little consideration for the Information Architecture and not enough thought paid to the primary asset in the solution, the content.
Ultimately SharePoint is a Content and Information platform, designed as a repository and an interface for people to create, manage and share their content and information. There are ways to optimise the way people perform these tasks through some development but the Information and Content is the primary asset in the implementation. A Microsoft developer will be able to help in the implementation but it is an Information or Content professional who will be best placed to shape and lead the implementation.
I would go further and suggest that increasingly we are seeing organisations who have SharePoint and AN Other Content Management System. The approach to the Information Architecture is even more important in situations like this as organisations strive to find the right tool for the right job.
Have I got any evidence to support the above? Well one anecdote is that I have seen two Document Management solutions deployed in Local Government in the UK recently. Both were led by an Information focussed agenda and in fact the people leading the implementations were interchangeable as it was the knowledge of the business and the information required to support that business which made the implementations successful. One was SharePoint and one was Alfresco.
Reading the paper on the plane last week and there was a little nugget in amongst a rather cutting article about the relationship between Civil Servants and Politicians in the UK. In it there was criticism from a former politician of the “paper-based” nature of government in the Digital Age. He quoted two examples:
- printed documents which are given to ministers purposefully have a space of 1cm for them to record comments;
- he had asked for documents to be given electronically to him so he could just carry them round on his iPad but was told no due to security reasons;
To those of us who work in the Content Management space our minds will be whirring with the thoughts of opportunity here. Clearly there can be huge benefits from putting in place tools and processes which make the sharing of information easier. Regarding the point on Security it really frustrates me when people use this to block progress instead of thinking more logically about the needs and potential solution. Paper is not, by default, any more secure than digital content, it’s just a different set of issues which need to be addressed.
There is lots of talk of Digital in the IT world right now and sometimes it feels as though its just another buzzword but for changes to be made to the degree above organisations do need to undergo a true Transformation and to embrace the possibilities which are available to them instead of the safe approach which people cling to.
Rather than report back on specific sessions I’m posting an overview of the event, for a number of reasons:
- I didn’t get to go to as many sessions as I would have liked;
- I’ve just got back and have got a few things on in the next 2-3 weeks.
The key messages I picked up from the event were:
- No change in Strategy. This is positive. EMC set a strategy 12 months ago and are now executing on it. The next 12 months will be critical to this execution as they release xCP2.0 and D7 and the D2 client matures further.
- xCP2.0. The more I see and hear of this the more impressed I am. The things I noted were:
- Improved deployment through xMS;
- 2.0 is on target for this year, 2.1 will be next year and then 2.2 in 2014;
- Uses tcServer as the App Server and for 2.1 the OS will be MS only with both Oracle and SQL Server supported as the Database;
- xCP 2.0 is now feature complete, they are bug fixing and testing;
- Performance is much better in D7 and xCP2.0, should require much less compute in order to run these products;
- It looks quick and easy to make changes to applications but I still need to understand how this will work in a true production environment;
- More to know about some of the details around deploying solutions such as impact on in-flight processes and also amendments to the data model – I suspect the latter will be something which comes when NGIS comes along;
- D2. Unfortunately I did not get anywhere near enough time to look at this produce but what I did see was impressive. I was very interested to hear the story from some colleagues in the US who were very pleased with the product and have implemented a full engineering solution in a matter of weeks including features such as Transmittals and Bulk Uploads.
- Syncplicity. This was the only big new thing of the event and it was clear that it is a deal which has been pushed through at the last minute. Its an intriguing deal and one which I am sure people will be sitting down and working out how to move it forward pretty quickly. Some of the features of Syncplicity looked neat and I believe it will be a welcome addition to the portfolio once they have a fully integrated vision of how it fits with the other products.
- Mobile. This cuts across all three of the above but this is an area where EMC are pushing hard. I’m particularly intrigued as to how xCP will perform on a mobile device, in 2.0 it will be available via Safari on iPads.
It was an interesting experience for me as it my first EMC World, having only attended Momentum’s in Europe before. It is a strange feeling being the small group in such a large conference and I’m sorry but the chance to look at racks of servers is not something which rocks my boat. Nevertheless the IIG people really go out of their way to create a sense of community within the Momentum conference and once I found the calm of the Momentum lounge then things looked up.
Overall then these are exciting times for EMC. 12 months ago everything was paper talk, now we’re seeing things happen. This time next year we will know if the transformation has been successful.I predict the efforts of EMC will lead to a period of growth. What will be interesting is to consider who EMC’s competitors are. Alongside OpenText and Oracle on the ECM play I predict they will start to see themselves come up against SAP and more focussed solutions more.
I was asked this question in a meeting the other day and to be honest it caught me on the back foot a little, I’ve probably been too close to detail over the past few months to really take a step back and think. The question was ‘What do you see are the current trends or hot topics in the Information Management world?’. Whilst I gave an answer which I believe was acceptable I decided it was time to take a few moments to reflect on what I am seeing in the market. I’m sure there are other things going on out there but I thought I would share some of my views:
SharePoint 2010 – there is no doubt that this continues to be the product with the biggest influence over the market. More and more customers are starting to explore the features which SP2010 delivers and it is starting to find its home within the overall market. It won’t, in fact can’t, do everything that everyone wants but there is a strong discussion to be had on why not SharePoint!
SharePoint 2010 – this time I am considering the impact the product has had on the other vendors in this space. Whilst I think it is too far to suggest that the likes of OpenText, EMC, Oracle and IBM have given up on their core Document Management solutions they have realised that this is a difficult fight for them if they go toe-to-toe on the basic content services when compared to SharePoint. As a result they are all trying their utmost to find their space in the market. IBM and EMC appear to be placing their bets on the Case Management style solutions and OpenText appear to be focussing on the Social Media and Web 2.0 space.
Convergence of Data and Content – this is happening in so many different ways. Top of the tree is Big Data as more and more people are seeing that Big Data is not just about Big Databases but about the amount of information, structured and unstructured, which is generated. Furthermore we’re seeing an increase in the world of Content Analytics and the desire to look into the unstructured world to get more intelligence from this information. This also leads to a desire to act on this information – moving us to the area of BPM which is embedded into the IM world.
Cloud – well everyone talks about it! Its still early days but we’re starting to see more and more moves towards consuming IT as a service and Content is an obvious choice to play in this space. The big vendors are still getting their heads around this area but as this progresses and the customers start to demand this more and more then we will see a change. Whilst the change will be interesting in itself I also think there will be a future challenge in how customers govern this information.
The New User – As per a recent post from Pie I don’t think this is Mobile but I also don’t think it is BYOD as we’re not seeing that happen widely enough…just yet! But there is an increased expectation from users on the IT service they receive, the way they interact with IT and the devices on which they can do this.
Demise of Portals – Strong and I don’t mean all Portals but the traditional JSR Portals are on the way out. They’re either being replace by SharePoint, see above, or more flexible architecture models. I’ve delivered a couple of programmes using the JSR Portals and they can work but its just too hard.
BPM/ACM/DCM – I don’t care what you call it but its out there. I’m of the opinion that the process is not so important but the information is the key. The need to use information to make decisions, the creation of information during the life of a ‘Case’ and the dissemination or retention of information once the process or case has been completed (I’m sure Max would say this is when the Goal(s) has been reached). The way people access, create or process this information will change but the information itself will typically remain the constant. Their is a bit of tension between the pure BPM camps and the ECM camps but we’re also seeing convergence, e.g. Kofax purchasing Singularity.
Changes in WCM – This has been coming for a while and I think the change has happened. Not so long ago the traditional ECM vendors tried to do WCM as well, the best example being EMC. Their product was suitable for only a small number of WCM Use Cases. We’re now seeing the specialist products take a firm hold in the market such as SDL, CQ5 and Fatwire. Interestingly two of those have been acquired in the past 2 years. Adobe have made a big bet on CQ5, it will be interesting to see what Oracle do with Fatwire, I would recommend keeping it separate from their UCM products.
I’m sure there are more, these are just my personal views but it just shows what happens when you take that step back to look at what is going on. There’s lots going on and the pace of change is quick.
The bits I did not get first time round:
3 Reasons to Move
- Brain Drain. Yes there has been a big change in the leadership of EMC IIG, as it is now known, since EMC bought Documentum and I do think they are still to really make a mark so this is a fair point.
- Slow Product Releases. Yes, Centerstage was delayed a long time and there is a long wait for D7 and xCP 2.0.
- Rising Maintenance Fees. I’ve not seen this myself.
This evening I attended a webinar on the subject of the recent offer from Oracle to existing Documentum customers to trade in their Documentum licenses for Oracle Webcenter licenses. Apart from the shock factor of such an offer I am genuinely interested as Oracle has been something of a sleeping giant when it comes to Content Management. They have bought a vast number of companies but the message has, for some reason, failed to really take off.
Before I go into my observations I must say that I was late for the start of the webinar and my internet connection was very intermittent so whilst I saw the majority of the slides it was clear that a lot of the value came from the voice overs. I’m hoping there will be a recording to watch later on and if there is I will add an updated post if there is something I have missed. I must also say that I have knowledge of the Oracle solutions but I have experience of the Documentum solutions; I don’t favour one or the other by default but my greater experience of the Documentum products enable me to have a better appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve put down what I understood to be the reasons for moving from Documentum to Oracle below:
- Lower labour costs. Oracle are claiming that labour costs will reduce by 93% by moving from Documentum to Oracle. If this is true then it gets my attention immediately. However I do have big reservations on this number, both in its specifics (who can really give evidence of a 93% reduction) and also in its magnitude (just consider that 93% is slightly more than reducing a 10 man team to a 1 man ‘team’).
- Better Web Experience Management. Yes, I get this. With the purchase of Fatwire Oracle have definitely stolen a march on Documentum. Remember EMC originally looked to Fatwire as a partner and potential acquisition target. Documentum does not do WEM or WCM well, end of. If all you are using Documentum for is WEM or WCM then I’d suggest a move.
- Savings on costs relating to Search. It was discussed on the webinar the new Documentum search tool xPlore and the costs involved in upgrading to this. Yes this will be something which Documentum customers will need to face in the near future but its not a compelling reason to move in my view. Interestingly it was also discussed that the Oracle solution enables search of other repositories…well the same goes for Documentum so not an advantage there.
- Better integration points. This homed in on integration with the core Oracle Apps such as E-Business suite. This is definitely an area which I would expect Oracle to have an advantage over Documentum on but its not an area where they have an exclusive advantage. There are third party products available to enable this integration and with the advent of CMIS I would expect this advantage to be marginalised to a degree. Having said that there was no mention of SAP customers, maybe they should just go for OpenText .
- Better Social and Innovation Capabilities. I’d probably agree here. Documentum’s attempts here, Centerstage, have missed the mark for one reason or another and if you’re using Documentum purely for this then you’re probably not on the right platform, although there are other alternatives to Oracle if you do look around.
- Documentum has limited Use Cases. Took me back a little this one, there is being bold and then there is being bold. With any ECM product you can do just about anything, whether you should do just about everything is a different matter but my experience with Documentum is that it is a very flexible platform, in fact I would say at times its disadvantage is its flexibility as it can become an issue as people try to create a silver bullet with it. I’d be surprised if Oracle is any different, from my knowledge it may have integrations with other Oracle products but it lacks some of the flexibility of an xCP style implementation.
What came out in the Q&A session is that the offer is purely for the Content Server licenses. I don’t know of many customers who just use Content Server and do not extend it with something like xCP or Records Manager so there is an interesting challenge to be addressed there.
So where does this leave me?
To be honest I was disappointed. I expected a compelling reason to come out which would help me understand why I can approach Documentum customers and tell them they should move to Oracle. That didn’t come out. There are some situations when a move would make sense and some when it would not and for anyone out there who either has Documentum or is looking at buying it you need to do the right research for your situation. Nothing new there, you don’t invest in a new ECM, either in a greenfield situation or as a replacement, without a high level of due-diligence.
Oracle remains a strong product in this space and to be honest I think they will continue to strengthen in this space, especially with the acquisitions of Fatwire and Endeca. If you’re looking for a new ECM product then it should be one of the ones you look at but make sure you know the capabilities you want from your ECM and map these against the product capabilities.
Just a final point on the timing of this offer. Next week is the EMC Documentum conference Momentum. At last year’s conference EMC started to talk about their Next Generation Information Server (NGIS). This will be a big change in the product platform and one of the big advantages is that customers will no longer need a 3rd Party database to support their Documentum implementation as they will bundle everything together with their XML Database xDB. What is the relevance of this? The vast majority of Documentum implementations I have seen use Oracle as the back end database. In the future these will not be required. Food for thought.
There is no doubt that Twitter has taken the world by storm. A huge number of people use it from people in the IT industry like myself through to Political Activists and Celebrities. I was starting to consider the impact this has had on the world of ECM and two things struck me.
Most people who have implemented ECM solutions will know that one of the challenges in an implementation is the level of Metadata which is used to describe the content and the challenge in getting users to complete it. I’ve lost count of the number of times when discussions have gone to the nth level of detail on whether metadata should be Optional or Mandatory and even when the discussion is closed and the solution is implemented you can do some Analysis of Metadata and you’ll find a high percentage of it is of little use.
Now Twitter has introduced the # (hashtag). Nearly all users of Twitter will tag their Tweets with one or two hashtags to help describe their Tweets. Just looking at my Twitter feed now and I can see people like Robbie Savage, Rio Ferdinand and Stephen Fry using hashtags to describe their Tweets.
Hashtags are Metadata, just in a slightly more informal manner. But still they are a way for people to describe their content. People are starting to learn how to use Metadata as they use a Social Media tool. This discipline will soon find a way into the workplace, my company use Yammer internally and hashtags are used here as well. This understanding of the benefits will soon feed its way into the ECM solutions we deploy as more of the users of ECM tools are users of Twitter. This should reduce the challenge we have traditionally faced in the design of the Metadata in these solutions. However it will also introduce a new challenge as the informal manner of hashtags will increase the appetite for similar solutions in ECM deployments and we will need to find a way to harness this appetite.
2. Ease of Use
One of the things behind the success of Twitter is it so easy to use and there are so many different clients which can be used to post this content. People contribute because it is quick and easy and the feedback is immediate. Again this usage will start to feed its way into the working environment, Yammer being one of the most obvious ways in which this is happening. Whilst there will always be a place for documents to be written we will increasingly see that solutions need to be implemented which are in tune with this new way of working. We’ve talked about Mash Ups for a long time as a way of deploying solutions, I predict we will start see Content being produced as Mash Ups more and more as the content is taken from a mix of sources and, typically, in smaller chunks. This content will still need to be managed for a variety of reasons including Compliance and the ECM solutions will need to cater for this.
So whilst Twitter has had some pretty big impacts in recent years on major World events such as the Arab Spring and riots in London I also expect it to have an impact on the way in which ECM solutions are used and the way in which we, as ECM professionals, need to approach the way we deploy them.
I’ve been prompted to post this by some very kind and positive comments on a statement I made on a LinkedIn discussion on the difference between Adaptive Case Management (ACM) and Dynamic Case Management (DCM).
Given the positive comments I thought I would repost my comment on this blog:
DCM sets out a sequence of steps to achieve a goal, the dynamic nature is met through business rules which are understood at the time of modelling the process. ACM is much less prescriptive on the sequence of activities but is much more focussed on achieving the end goal, it understands that there are unknowns in the business process which will change and allows for these changes.
David was the first to comment on this on his blog and then I received a positive note back from a former colleague on Twitter. Niall made an interesting point that my comment demonstrated the difference between the order of DCM and the entropy of ACM.
It is a shame that the original LinkedIn discussion degenerated into a personal conflict and the comments I made above were somewhat lost in the discussion. I would though point you at a follow up discussion which attempts to bring clarity to the discussion. However I feel this later discussion just adds further fud to the matter and is likely to drive potential consumers to distraction. Take for example the description of ACM as an UN-solution!
Why do I think this? Customers don’t care whether they buy ACM or DCM, they care about how the solution will meet their needs. From the typically prescriptive process of Claims Management in Insurance to the more ad-hoc and unpredictable nature of Criminal Investigations (admittedly with specific business goals within the life of the Case).
My advice, don’t implement based on the label. Understand what you’re trying to achieve and assess the solutions and options which are available to you. Its not rocket science!
Well I started writing a post on Dynamic Case Management about a week ago and I have to admit after a bit of research I found some of the ideas were not strong enough for it to be published. However the research I did opened a few other avenues of interest. Not least prompted by an excellent series of articles written by Joe Shepley on his research into Adaptive Case Management.
The first question I had is around the definition of Adaptive Case Management, and specifically in relation to the Forrester Wave which has been published on Dynamic Case Management. There is quite a lot of interest and information on the web about ACM, most notably led by the likes of Sandy Kemsley and Max J. Pucher, so it is interesting that one of the leading Analyst firms have chosen a different term for their recent Wave report. Having said that one of the authors is quoted in the this article on ACM. Now I am not saying one term is more correct than the other but the differences highlight the immaturity in this space, something which I will come back to. We can also throw into the pot the term Advanced Case Management, but this is more of a product name for the IBM products. Interestingly I think there is an important difference to be made in the term Advanced compared to Adaptive and Dynamic, both of these suggest a strong element of change. Max also wrote an excellent article about the difference between ACM and DCM, however I wonder if the statement below from the Forrester report blurs the differences which Max identifies?
It was the Forrester Wave which prompted the interest in the first place, and more specifically the products which they had chosen to appear in the report. When you read through Joe’s posts, and I would recommend them as an excellent way to get an understanding of this space from an abstract perspective, you get a picture of a paradigm which does indeed allow for the user driven change in activities which achieve the business goal. Reading the Forrester report I got the same ideas, in fact one of the four tenets of DCM as suggested by Forrester is:
Accessible mechanisms that allow end users to handle variation
One of the reasons for my initial interest was my scepticism of the ability of products to handle this level of variation; how many of us have been part of a project that seeks to define the business process to the nth degree as part of the implementation of a solution only to find some time later that the process has changed and that change requires a technical change to the solution?
My scepticism remains and I know some of the products in the Forrester report would either require this change to be implemented as a technical solution or would require the level of flexibility to be built into the solution from the start (of course the main problem is no-one knew this flexibility would be required when the solution was built!). However there are products in the report who claim to contain the ability to handle variation. When I say claim I am not saying they do not, all I am saying is that I like to see how this feature has been implemented as I have seen it promised before and it has meant the end users having to use the process definition tools of the product which in turn requires a technical deployment.
I really need to dig deeper into these products to see how they would allow for this, and in fact I think it would be a natural extension for the posts from Joe. I am sure many of us who have implemented ECM/BPM/ACM/DCM solutions have set out to achieve this flexibility but when the crunch has come we have been disappointed with the detail in which this flexibility is achieved. Going back to Max’s post there is a very clear difference between Goal orientation and Process centric solutions, it seems a shame that the Forrester Report does not really help with this distinction.
Such an exercise may take some time and is, in all honesty, probably not something I am going to actually get done so if you have experience in delivering ACM solutions then I would love to hear your thoughts on how the products get going when the going gets tough. Any time I do get to spend looking at how products provide these features will be discussed.