Internet Debate: Box, Dropbox not a real ECM

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I was very upset to read following tweet from @Contentverse:

The tweet is basically related to this article, again published on Contentverse Blog, which claims that the Box and Dropbox are not document management system. Go ahead and click here and read the article first before proceeding further.

The views expressed in this article are very much anti cloud. Chris Walker (@chris_p_walker) wrote an excellent reply to this post. Click here to read his reply, it’s an interesting read.

ECM being shredded by cloud storage by ThinkstockECM being shredded by cloud storage Credit: Thinkstock [4]

As per a recent article on CIO.com, companies are opting for smaller, more specialized and customized solutions as opposed to bigger, more well-known brands. This is partially the result of digital disruption; business is moving faster than ever and competitors are cropping up where companies least expected them. You need to be able to move quickly and move according to the specs your organization needs, not the specs that an enterprise giant assigns to most of its customers. ECM isn’t dying at all. It’s living a renewed life of specialization and customization.

Is the future of ECM software in the cloud?

SearchContentManagement did a two part series on future of ECM in Cloud, you ca read it here (part 1 and part 2). As per this article it’s clear that despite many challenges, growing adoption suggests that ECM in the cloud has a future, many vendors have already started to offer hybrid model.

 

ECM in 2020: Entering the sixth era

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Information – an asset you can no longer afford to ignore.

“[By 2020], ECM as we know it will be gone, but content will be more important than ever,” — John Mancini (@jmancini77)

We have spent years focusing on the ‘T’ part of the IT equation. Now we are moving into an era in which we really need skills to help manage the ‘I’ part – the information that actually flows through those pipes that we have created.

The year 2020 should be on the calendars of business leaders. Why? Because everything will have changed by then.

AIIM published this report, Content Management 2020: Thinking Beyond ECM, stating that we are entering a sixth era of content management:

  • Pre-1960s: Paper content
  • 1960s-1970s: Micrographic content
  • 1980s: Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • 1990s: Document management (DM) and workflow
  • 2000s: Enterprise content management (ECM)
  • 2020 onwards: ???

Whatever the new era brings, the common business drivers we see today – managing people, processes and information – will remain the same. Preparation should be made by taking a business-wide approach to managing data.

The John Mancini’s advice is clear: “New best practices are desperately needed.” Or, for businesses tempted to ignore the warning signs in the face of a quickly changing corporate environment: “When riding a dead horse, dismount!”

Ten commandments for ECM

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writing-on-a-stoneClaudio Salvador wrote this interesting article about ECM 10 Commandments, please go ahead and read it and don’t miss the comments.

In this article he asked:

If you could make a list of the 10 commandments for ECM should be, which ones would make into your list?

Therefore as a response to his article, here are my attempt to write 10 commandments for ECM, feel free to disagree:

  1. Enterprise Content Management is a verb, not a noun.
  2. ECM is a strategy, not a product.
  3. ECM is evolving, it will live as long as there is information to be managed; probably it will be known with a different name.
  4. Managing information is at the heart of doing business. Therefore treat information as an asset.
  5. Information drives decisions, and whether these decisions are good or bad often depends upon the quality of the information at hand.
  6. Automating a mess will create an automated mess. It’s pointless take a bad process and automate it.
  7. Process without content serves no purpose; content without process goes nowhere. Process needs to be considered when changing the way content is managed and vice versa. (BobLarrivee @BobLarrivee)
  8. You cannot migrate information without migrating the people and their processes, too.(Kevin J. Parker @JKevinParker)
  9. cloud and mobile have altered everything, not least information management.
  10. [By 2020], ECM as we know it will be gone, but content will be more important than ever,” John Mancini @jmancini77)

Please note that these are not my personal views, I have read about those things from different source and wherever possible I have mentioned the source.

The NextGen Information Professional

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“Skills have become the currency of 21st Century economies.” — Andreas Schleicher, OECD Education Vice President

I remember reading this blog by David Ferriero on how to prepare the next generation of information professionals. In this blog posting, David summarizes a keynote presentation, he gave at Association of Library and Information School Education (ALISE) meeting. He also included a link to the full text of his talk.

In this talk he mentioned the skills following skills for next generation information professionals: the ability to deliver results, to communicate with impact, to influence others, project management.

Here’s my favorite part from his speech:

The ability to demonstrate business savvy. Applying business principles, methods, and processes (e.g., ROI, cost-benefit analysis) to solve problems. Driving business results by planning and prioritizing activities consistent with organizational goals, using data and evaluating the costs, benefits, and impact on others when making business decisions.

The above mentioned blog is three years old, which begs the question what skills are required to be an information professional in 2016?

Following slide share from AIIM outlines what you need to know and the skills you need to learn to become a NextGen InfoPro and remain relevant in information management:

What will it take to be a NextGen InfoPro? | Iron Mountain

 

Keep ECM Easy

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Chad Fowler (@chadfowler) the author of The Passionate Programmer recently twitted that we should stop making things complex. Just by the number of retweets (2.4K) and likes (2K) it is clear that most of us will agree that we end up making things harder than they need to be.

Keep-ECM-easy

Source: https://twitter.com/chadfowler/status/646624348028190720

This me to think that about my own area of enterprise content management, and realize that how we end up making things harder, following are some examples:

  • Folders are highly misused form of content organization, we tend to create deep folder hierarchies, we should always ask the question that do we really need that 10-15 level deep folder structure.
  • People love metadata and they understand the benefits of 1 or 2 metadata fields. But when we start asking for 5 or more, they start wondering how that will make their job any easier.
  • Workflow on addition of documents inside a container, I don’t understand why people need a workflow to be initiated for every document being added inside the container. Just think how would users feels when suddenly few hundred workflows are initiated and assigned to users because someone did a bulk upload inside the same folders.
  • Notifications are one of the best way to keep users aware about their pending tasks. Therefore be careful while enabling the notifications for add document or add versions kind of actions, you don’t want to spam users with 300 emails, if someone bulk uploads the documents. These kind of notifications can be the new type of spam messages.
  • Be careful while enabling auditing events for different actions. One example is auditing the document open event, this could be a good for a regulated event but bad for a generic documents and will create millions of rows in database tables. In such cases it become a huge task for system to clean these audit entries, I worked on a project where audit cleanup job used to take 8-10 hrs. Therefore don’t audit if it is not required.
  • Integrating ECM systems integrated into their everyday work environment is an important tool for adoption. But integrating everything without the clear understanding of problem being solved can lead to an expensive money pit which leaves everyone angry. (Read more: Don’t Waste Money on Pointless Integrations By Laurence Hart)

There are many such examples where we end up making things harder for users and systems both. The need for a simple solution that people can use to take advantage of ECM systems remains unfulfilled. The EFSS market isn’t providing enough of a solution because organizations still need the advanced features under the covers to meet their requirements.

The Dyson vacuum cleaner, the Burj Khalifa, Grameen Bank, OOP and SOA and Dropbox are some examples of  simple design with a perfect combination of form and functionality. Jack Dorsey, creator of Twitter and founder of Square, once said:

It’s really complex to make something simple.

You’d think that it’s simple to build a simple product, right? After all — a simple product does not have much features, therefore there is not much to design or build. Right? No, unfortunately that’s not the case.

Dorsey is not the only one with this reasoning. John Lilly, former Mozilla CEO and partner at Greylock , had dealt with this same issue (like many others). Here is how he explains the problem:

The thing is, getting to simple is not simple. It’s hard. Knowing how to simplify ‘ and, actually, crucially, what to simplify is a hard, hard problem. Simple actions that nobody does don’t matter. Hard actions that everyone wants to do are good, but vulnerable to simple solutions.

Simple is incredibly powerful, and super, super sticky because it can quickly get woven into the lives of many people.

 

 

ECM and Fitness Trackers

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“My new fitness tracker counted 5,000, unfortunately 4,900 of them were to the fridge and back!”

From a fitness perspective wearable products are great at quantifying your activity, but they don’t make you more active, unless you change your habits; you’ll just have an expensive device that tells you how much you don’t do.

On the other hand if you started a regular fitness routine and replace junk food with healthy foods, you would get healthier — with or without the FitBit tracking you.

I can relate this scenario to content management also, need not to say how many times companies will buy the technologies, thinking that it will resolve all of their content management problems. Later realizing that the new fancy toy (technology or tool) has not fixed their content management problems.

This is like blaming the FitBit for not going on my five mile run today.

“Wearable devices have gotten a lot of interest in their potential impact to improve individuals’ health, but there’s been little evidence that these alone can help people sustain changes in behavior,” says author Mitesh S. Patel, MD, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “The more important part is building effective strategies to engage individuals around these devices.”

Technology can give us huge advances, but if enterprises haven’t built a mature content management strategy, pumping money and time into technology is not going to change anything.

Need for MobileUI in ECM Systems

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Recently I faced an interesting problem therefore thought to share it here, our ECM system is the single source of truth for standards and policy related documents. Also it’s easy to share the link of the document rather than attaching the whole document while sharing information.

Since most of the users check their emails using mobile devices, therefore now they are facing a new issue. Whenever they try to opens a document link shared using email, it tries to open the document in mobile browser using the same layout as if it was being opened on a desktop. This makes it very hard to open and edit the documents.

This issue has created a demand for a mobile compatible interface for our ECM system so that they can at least browse and read content using mobile devices.

It’s interesting to see, how just moving one application (emails) to mobiles, has created a demand for mobile compatible version of another system (ECM).

Most of the ECM technologies needs add on modules (with extra licensing cost) to support mobile devices. Or a mobile app needs to be developed using SOAP or RESTfull APIs.

We are using one of the product from Leaders Quadrant of Gartner Magic Quadrant for ECM and we have two options 1) either pay to buy a new product for mobile compatibility or 2) develop our own app using APIs.

This is one of the areas where new vendors like Box.net have an advantage over established players, as it is built for cloud and mobile. It works smoothly on all kind of devices (desktop, tablet and mobiles) without any need of customization or add-on software.

A piece of advice to ECM vendors, don’t just design a system which works on desktops only, design a adoptive UI so that default it can be accessed from any kind of devices.