Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: July 2006

The ECM and BPM Intersection: Putting the Business in BPM

We’ve been talking with users lately on what the promise of “technology for the masses” really means for the BPM suite market. And more specifically, how BPM technologies will evolve to compliment ECM strategies and implementations. The flavor of many of these discussions comes down to transitioning “x” amount of design, control and execution from IT into the hands of “process-savvy but less-technical” corporate domains.

In other words, transferring capabilities into the business — thereby creating BPM environments that eliminate throwing applications over the wall and then spending precious resource dollars to manage the inevitable boatload of change requests thrown back. According to Howard Smith and Peter Fingar, authors of Business Process Management: The Third Wave, the challenge for leading corporations is not to bridge the business-IT divide, but rather to obliterate it.

These conversations are familiar to content specialists and information architects who demanded the evolution of content technologies such as WCM from programmer-centric environments to business-driven applications that required little IT maintenance. In fact, “non-IT” buyers became more and more important on the radar screens of WCM vendors during the mid to late 90’s as content management went mainstream. Budgeting, evaluation, and approval teams were a mix of marketing, sales and IT personnel. C-level executives were primary decision-makers and had efficiency, cost reduction, and revenue generation on their checklists. The corporate desire to move from centralized control to decentralized collaboration was paramount. Desktop features, Web-based interfaces, templates, and coaches/wizards were hot.

The content technologies market learned simple but undeniable truths during this period that drive sales and deployments in the ECM suite market to this day. Usability matters. Usability drives adoption. Adoption drives the ROI, whether the desire is efficiency and cost savings or revenue generation and customer satisfaction. Vendors: know your buyers! Buyers: know your users!

As the BPM suite market evolves, it will face technology convergence, vendor consolidation, and the need to decentralize capabilities to achieve the enterprise sale — as did the ECM suite market before it. Complex, hybrid business processes, i.e. those that merge data + content + straight-through processing + human-driven interaction requirements, require collaboration and interactions that “cross the divide” between IT and the business.

How can business managers — the compliance officer, the human resources manager, the account manager, the underwriter — work with technologies for modeling and rules management, business intelligence, performance management, and analytics within familiar environments? Complex, hybrid processes increase the need for the business to create, view, interact with, and optimize the process through its execution and inevitable exceptions.

Debates on whether savvy Excel business users can “do modeling” aside, increased BPMS vendor messaging on providing common, “Visio-like” interfaces for process modeling, “zero-code” BPMS, integrations with Microsoft Office, and collaborative “business user-oriented” dashboard environments point to a market that is evolving to answer one of the more critical business buyer questions: — What does it look like and how easy is it to use?

Putting the business in BPM underscores the “usability matters” mantra. A solution that cannot demonstrate it to the savvy business buyer at the ECM/BPM intersection — who envisions an environment where ECM and BPM are seamlessly complimentary — should probably think twice before the demo.

The New Content Technology CTO Blog – FAQs

Note: The CTO blog content has been integrated into this blog. This post is only still here because we’re picky about these things, and the old permalink need a place to go.
What is the CTO Blog?
The content technology CTO Blog is hosted by the Gilbane Group as a service to the content and information technology community. The purpose of the blog is to facilitate ongoing discussion and debate on technologies, approaches and architectures relevant to enterprise content applications. (Note: Obviously the blog is live, but it won’t be officially launched until late August or Early September.)

Why have we created it?

CTOs have a wealth of critical information about technologies that is not always accessible to enterprise customers. When it is, it is often filtered through marketing or PR staff. CTOs also have demanding jobs, and have limited time available to meet with each other with customers, or with other industry influencers. Some CTOs have their own blogs, but in many cases these are not widely read. This blog is intended to encourage communication both between vendor CTOs and between enterprise customer CTOs and vendor CTOs. We have been asked by multiple CTOs to provide this channel.

Who can contribute?
Any CTO is welcome, and anyone who has an equivalent role. If you are not sure whether it makes sense for you, ask us at: We understand that small companies might have a founding CEO who acts as the CTO (me, for example), and large companies may have multiple senior technology strategists that in effect act as CTOs for divisions. We invite all vendors, enterprise customers, system integrators, and analyst and consulting firms to participate. Anyone may comment on blog postings.

What topics will be covered?
Any topics relevant to enterprise applications and content technologies are welcome. We have set up a starter list of categories at that suggests the range. Our contributors will help us expand this list. This is a business/technical blog and not intended for personal, political or other types of content.

How can you become an author?
Send an email to if you would like to contribute to the blog, or if you have questions about doing so. If you meet our CTO or equivalent criteria you will be set-up as an author and listed as such on the blog. Each author has full posting and commenting permissions, and also will have a direct link to all their own posts (of the form “ If you don’t have a blog, this might be all you need.

What if I already have a blog?
Chances are there will be content that makes sense for your own blog that might not make sense here, and possibly vice versa. In any case, relevant cross-posting is OK.

Are there minimum contribution requirements?
No. Nor are there maximum limits. You can post just once or every day.

  • What other rules are there?
    Submissions by anyone “representing” approved contributors (for example, PR folks) are not allowed. Anyone is able to comment.
  • There will be very little moderating. However no personal attacks, “flaming”, or uncivilized posting will be allowed.
  • No pure marketing or sales content is allowed, but it is fine to talk about products and their existing and planned functionality, and even to argue for a particular approach, strategy, or philosophy.
  • The CTO Blog has a creative Commons license associated with it that only restricts commercial use, so, for example, re-posting to or from your own or other blogs is fine.

Is this a Gilbane Group platform?
Only physically, in that we host it and moderate it. Our own opinions may be found in comments or on our analyst blog at

Gilbane Boston Conference Schedule Available

The conference schedule for our Fall Content Management Technologies event, November 28-30 at the Westin Copley in Boston, is available at: . Topics to be covered in-depth include:
* Web Content Management (WCM)
* Enterprise Content Management (ECM)
* Collaboration, Enterprise Wikis & Blogs
* Enterprise Search & Search-based Applications
* Enterprise Digital Rights Management (eDRM)
* Automated Publishing
* Enterprise User Case Studies
Conference track descriptions are available at:
Speakers and complete session descriptions coming soon.

OpenText Bolts Through the Hummingbird Door

Update 7/24: Let the talks begin… With the review of the Symphony bid now officially postponed, the door widens for what could be an interesting bidding war in the ECM market. Asking for at least 10 cents more per share than OpenText has offered, Hummingbird has rescheduled the Symphony bid review for August 18th while negotiations take place. Considering both suitors are shareholders, (OpenText’s 22.3% versus Symphony’s 18%) it is unlikely that either will back out without some amount of drama.
Update 7/13: According to a press release, the Hummingbird Board of Directors will not issue a recommendation on the OpenText bid before July 25. Until that time, it is advising Hummingbird shareholders to “take no action,” and support the Symphony acquisition. Interestingly, the review of the Symphony deal will take place July 21. We’ll keep you posted.
Clearly the door was open. Altough I called myself “stunned” that the bid for Hummingbird was not a technology to technology play, I remain so given that OpenText was not the player I thought “most likely to acquire.” In fact, it was no secret that OpenText was one of the players “most likely to be acquired!” I’m thinking the final yearbook for the class of 2006 may have more surprises.
The OpenText bid is a “lock-up” agreement, which according to Information World Review, means that Hummingbird shareholders agree to a deposit from OpenText and not to withdraw from the deal. (Subject to timing and regulatory compliance issues.)
Aside from the many debates to be had on the consolidation effect of this deal, Hummingbird shareholders and financial analysts must certainly be gratified at the 20% increase in the OpenText versus Symphony bids. More at Image and Data Manager Online, CMS Watch, and Bloomberg.
Whether this deal happens is still up for grabs. OpenText’s bid is due by the end of the week. We’ll keep you posted.

Microsoft Announces Support for ODF Translation tools

I could have sworn they already announced this, but in any case it was inevitable. The whole controversy is now simply not all that interesting. IT organizations need to understand the translation issues, but choosing one format over another is just not that big a deal. Many organizations have more complex issues to deal with, like integrating XML content from custom applications or other enterprise apps that don’t map to either ODF or Open XML directly. We have lots more background on this.

The ECM and BPM Intersection: Defining “More Than Simple” Workflow

As a former glue person, I spent numerous hours trading acronyms and definitions with IT analysts on the subject of data and process modeling in the content versus data worlds. Circa 1999, my friend Bob Boeri and I even went so far as to relate logical data models and data dictionaries to DTD structures, using Near and Far Designer as analogous to the more entrenched data modeling tools.

Our goal was to create “common ground” between IT’s deep but solely data-centric view of business applications and the needs of various business units whose focus was decidedly document-centric. Once our “data is content and content is data” analogy was mantra, we had an easier time with subsequent process modeling discussions; i.e. “what we want our content to do with your data” and vica versa. (Reminiscent of those “how did your chocolate get into my peanut butter commercials”)

In the ECM and BPM intersection, those discussions are once again becoming commonplace as more and more complex business processes require hybrid combinations of unstructured content, structured XML content and traditional data from back-end systems. Hence, information analysts that work with IT and business units must define a common knowledge base of process modeling requirements, flows, and techniques.

More than simple workflow (a.k.a “create, edit, approve, publish”), process models for functions such as compliance, claims processing, and contract management need to combine data-centric techniques with the content-centric, human-driven interactions these functions require. In fact, just as data sources are now hybrids, so too are the processes that require, manipulate, and share them. The BPM suite market is increasingly adding simple document management functionality at the business monitoring level to account for content-centric requirements.

More interesting is the market’s approach to workflow, which still appears either data-centric or document/content-centric in terms of standards modeling languages. In fact, a BPM suite vendor’s architecture choice for process modeling and execution is also a clue to their data versus content strengths via support for XPDL (XML Process Definition Language) versus BPEL (Business Process Execution Language). Highlights:

  • XPDL – initiated and managed by the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC), XPDL is decidedly human workflow-centric and more oriented for document-driven processes. No surprise that workflow, document management pure-plays, and some ECM players with BPM modules have strong XPDL modeling and processing engines. More info at
  • BPEL – originally submitted to OASIS from IBM, Microsoft and BEA, BPEL is decidedly data-centric and more oriented for straight-through processing. No surprise that platform and middleware vendors entering the BPM suite market have strong BPEL modeling and processing engines. More info at BPELSource and
  • OASIS One of the more significant questions at the ECM and BPM intersection is, “Where is the best of both worlds in terms of process modeling for complex workflow that is a human and data-driven hybrid?”

Forrester on Blogging Platforms

Forrester has published one of their “Wave Evaluations” on blogging platforms. Charlene Li has a summary of the report along with the associated Wave graphic on her blog. The full report is available for sale at Forrester. Note that this report does not cover Wikis, although some of the platforms covered also have Wiki functionality. As we have suggested before, in the enterprise space, the line between blog and wiki platforms blurs in many cases. This is of course truer for collaboration and intranet-oriented deployments than for outward facing, e.g., PR-oriented communication.

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