Monday, December 25, 2006

Wikis and Blogs in a Regulated Environment

www.I saw a blog item the other day, discussing John Shackleton's (Open Text CEO) interview on Red Herring. The blog discusses Open Text's claim of being nearly done with the integration of Hummingbird, and also some of Shackleton's comments about wikis and blogs. To be fair, Shackleton's comments were not an in-depth analysis of what Open Text thinks of this new trend. However, I do think this is emblematic of what is the view of any established software vendor. They are not the quickest to embrace the new ways and technology trends.

I think that a lot of ECM solutions tend to miss the vital final piece of the puzzle - the people interfacing with the systems. Although the constant mantra of regulatory compliance driving the ECM market is good for selling software, it misses the whole idea of knowledge management/collaboration that is such a obvious off-shoot here, thereby under-selling the capabilities of the platform. The ECM solution might be initially deployed to address regulatory compliance, but most end-users use such systems extensively to collaborate with their colleagues (and in our experience adoption of an ECM platform is greater if it offers such ancillary benefits), and to share knowledge within an organization. The ability to access information and reuse some of the relevant pieces bring enormous value to users in all industry vertical.

We also believe that people want to collaborate, or at least they should collaborate, in their work. An ECM platform with workflow capabilities, document management and collaboration functionality integrated together provides the best system for collaboration amongst teams in the same building, across the country or across the world.

That brings me to wikis and blogs. I think a solution where blogs and wikis are integrated into the ECM platform are key to efficient collaboration. These are proving to be a great asset the world over, and I see no reason to claim that they cannot be deployed in a regulatory environment.

Livelink solutions that address compliance can easily stand side-by-side with Livelink based collaborative spaces, and there are multiple instances of this in the industry. Further, with some work blogs/wikis can be integrated with the regulated side of the solution. Even Records Management principles can be applied, and we at Indigo Arc are building solutions that do just this. In fact, my premise is that given the wide use of blogs and wikis - especially blogs, a company that operates in a regulated industry cannot afford to NOT have the blogs integrated into the ECM platform. Having these integrated into the platform allows clients to monitor and manage the information in the blogs to a greater extent, thereby both encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing as well as protecting the intellectual property of the company. And they can better protect themselves against legal and other regulatory non-compliance issues as well.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) - any of the strategies and technologies employed in the information technology industry for managing the capture, storage, security, revision control, retrieval, distribution, preservation and destruction of documents and content. ECM especially concerns content imported into or generated from within an organization in the course of its operation, and includes the control of access to this content from outside of the organization's processes. ECM page in Wikipedia.In my experience working in the ECM arena, I have seen numerous deployments where the client is focussed on a particular business problem, or maybe is trying to address a particular set of regulatory guidelines/requirements. What seems to be lacking is a true understanding of how a content management solution fits into the Enterprise Architecture.My personal view is that most ECM deployments, and this is on the vendors and systems integration/consultants who deploy these solutions, are not really architected to fit into a corporations 'Enterprise Architecture'. Furthermore, the discipline and rigour of EA is not really followed as ECM solutions are developed.At Indigo Arc, we are working with clients to help frame ECM architectures better and in terms of the corporate Enterprise Architecture. I am interested in learning of other folks engaged in similar efforts.

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Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007

Is this just hype, or is this really going to have an impact on the ECM arena? That is a question that I have not been able to get my arms around. I have seen postings from folks around the Sharepoint server, and to be honest, most of them just seem to be more of a repetition of the Microsoft sales pitch.

I am interested in hearing from independent sources, folks who have looked at this technology in depth and have an opinion on the capabilities of this technology. How does it handle basic document management function, how well it is integrated with Office and how easy is it to make the user experience seamless, while still providing the robustness that a document management system needs to provide.

How does Microsoft handle workflows - simple and complex workflows that encompass 1 or more business processes. Does the workflow work if human points in the workflow want to get creative about how they handle their workflow tasks, etc.

What is the Records Management aspect of this look like? Is it relying on some 3rd party software to provide that functionality, or are we looking at something built into the system.

How hard is integration with this server, integrating other ECM platforms, as well as integrating structured data platforms and legacy systems.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head about this new Microsoft 'offering'.

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