Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: August 2006 (Page 1 of 3)

The ECM/BPM Intersection: Infrastructure versus Solutions

The summer of ’06 gave credence to the notion that multiple ECM and BPM suite vendors are preparing for the business buyer at the ECM/BPM intersection. Examples include:

June’s announcements included EMC/Documentum’s acquisition of ProActivity, Metastorm’s integration with Documentum, Hummingbird, Interwoven and Meridio — quickly followed by a major upgrade of its BPMS suite, which includes a strong focus on strengthening its Sharepoint integration. Not to be outdone, Ultimus announced its iBAM Suite, targeting non-technical business users who need visibility into BPM-enabled business processes. The tagline? “Go from Zero to BAM in less than 10 minutes.”

July’s announcements included one from the open source community, a hot arena across all content technology categories. Describing its offering as the first Zero-Code BPMS, Intalio describes its BPMS 4.2 product as ideal for “complex business processes that include Web Services orchestration and web-based human workflow.”

August’s IBM-FileNet merger got lots of press and continues to focus on “synergistic BPM technologies.” Although this news seemed to overshadow the Oracle-IDS Scheer partnership, this announcement also deserves attention for those following the chase between Oracle, IBM and Tibco Software (who seems to have finally made significant progress in 2006 on maximizing its 2004 Staffware acquisition.

These “catch up” summer activities are strong signals to competing vendors already traveling the path toward meeting the requirements of complex business processes that must combine data-centric BPM integrations (including SOA) with content-centric, human-driven interactions. Players with earlier investments or partnerships supporting this roadmap include BEA’s Fuego acquisition in March, the Vignette-Lombardi alliance in April, Interwoven’s strategy to bolster visibility for its Fujitsu partnership, and Global 360’s steady progress toward “bridging the islands of process automation across BPM, transaction management, ERP and content management systems” by integrating its G360 EX and G360 BOS products.

Now comes the fall and expectations for 2007 products that are not simply infrastructure-ready, but rather solution-specific ready. It is our belief that applying integrated ECM/BPM solutions to real-world issues requires the ability to handle hybrid, complex, and high-volume processes in a manner that enables rapid deployment through ease of use and pre-packaging of vertical or horizontally-specific capabilities including workflow, modeling objects, business rules, and end-user dashboards for monitoring and analytics. This will be critical to vertical uptake in industries such as Banking, Insurance and Telecommunications as well as horizontal arenas such as compliance, claims processing, accounts payable, and human resources.

Some vendors can already point to these capabilities, which ultimately cross the unstructured content and structured data worlds; Others are well on their way to demonstrating them. The fall of 2006 should be an interesting quarter.

Movin’ on up? or was it down?

The Content Management market today seems to be moving in two contradictory directions at once. On the one hand, we see ever larger software players, such as IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft building or acquiring content management, driving it “down” into infrastructure. To IBM and Oracle, content is just an extension of their dominance in the data center. ECM to them is thus an extension of the database. Microsoft’s push, with both Windows SharePoint Services, and eventually WinFS (no longer part of Vista) is similar, but treats content more as the extension of the file system – the “back end of Office” as it were. While based on Microsoft’s very different perspective of working from the desktop inward to IT, it is still fundamentally an infrastructure play. Content management in this world is still fundamentally way down in the IT technology “stack.”

Yet on the other hand, we see customers increasingly funding content management from line-of-business budgets, and purchasing content management based on its ability to solve line-of-business problems. Performance, scalability, reliability are not to be ignored, but other questions dominate selection, such as: “Will we get more returns from our internet marketing efforts with this system?” or “Will our department be able to move up deadlines with this system?” In short, these buyers are positioning the content management system far “up the stack” as one or more different content-driven applications used to produce measurable line-of-business returns.

How can buyers be moving up the stack while the major vendors move down? The answer is part semantics, and part market shift. The term “content management,” including all of its current acronyms ECM, WCM or just CMS, is too generic. This is largely due to the fact that managing content itself is so new to both applications and infrastructure, that there it belongs in both places. Secondly, there is a real bifurcation going on in the market. The true infrastructure aspects of content management, such as optimal storage and retrieval, indexing, and library services are increasingly becoming commoditized and absorbed into the infrastructure software stack. But as these content services precipitate downward, they become too generic to solve any particular line of business problem on their own. This means that another layer of content-driven applications must emerge at the top of the stack, to provide the horizontal and vertical applications, such as internet and multi-channel marketing, something I blog about quite a bit. All of these very different offerings are today called “content management” with vendors for each moving down and up the stack respectively.

While technologists love the simplicity of block diagrams showing “the content management goes here,” the reality is that content management goes in a lot of places. For the foreseeable future, we’re going to have many systems, all of which do very different things, and yet all called Content Management of one kind or another. If you can better understand the specific initiative driving each new system or solution, you can better understand how your current systems do or do not apply, and whether you need to add more “content management” to achieve your goals.

Content Management 2.0

If you haven’t heard of Web 2.0, where have you been? If you actually know what Web 2.0 is, then congratulations. I believe the best definition of Web 2.0 is given by Tim O’Reilly who arguably created the term. Web 2.0 has generally referred to the new breed of start-up who provides a new level of user service, but it also applies to a new wave in technology supporting that user service.

Web 2.0 is radically changing the experience in which end users interact with enterprises and types of user experiences that we now expect from on-line systems. Going hand in hand with Web 2.0 are the raised expectations users have of the interactivity of content, how content is managed and how personal that content is. Providing a self-service experience and to automatically deliver necessary content to new and interactive contexts has put a burden on the existing infrastructure of current generation content management systems. A new generation of enterprise content management is needed to meet the challenges of Web 2.0.

Content Management 2.0 is my term for this new generation of content management. Given everyone is starting to talk about Security 2.0, Virtualization 2.0, etc., I thought I would stake out the term after a brief search on Google seemed to indicate no one has talked about it before. (If you are aware of someone using it, please let me know. I’ll give them credit.) IBM has talked about next generation content management, but the term Content Management 2.0 seems to go along with the phenomenon that is finally injecting innovation back into the content management market. These new technologies provide greater interactivity through AJAX, new collaborative styles of classification and tagging, and user driven configuration are being led more by open source than the traditional engines of enterprise content management expansion.

I recently gave a presentation at the University of Oxford where I discussed the concept to the people concerned with the various web sites and content services in the university. The concept originated after an internal discussion about where content management is going. It became clear to us that many new things were happening to content management with blogs, wikis, syndication and new styles of user interface affecting how people build web sites, content, and new web frameworks.

The presentation explained the challenges that existing enterprise content management has in addressing Web 2.0, what needs are not currently being met for end users, what technology changes are required, and how do these technologies “mash-up” to be able to glue systems together through web services and other web-oriented protocols. It also discussed the role that open source will play in this next generation of enterprise content management.

It will be interesting to see how the ECM vendors and specialist WCM vendors react to Web 2.0 and whether they aim for a new Content Management 2.0.

A Marriage between CMS and CRM?

I try keep up with the latest trends in IT strategy. (Some of my favorite sites are Darwin and IT Business Edge.) You know, the topics that are of interest to CIOs and other top-level business and technology minds. And I have to say that content management comes up sometimes in the trades, but when it comes to major headlines, all the rage these days is CRM—Customer Relationship Management.

It is interesting to me that CMS and CRM seem to have followed similar paths in terms of starting out as not-well-understood concepts and growing into fairly well defined systems with a prescribed set of functionality.

What I haven’t seen a lot of, though, to my surprise, is many people making a connection between CM and CRM—what to me would seem like a perfect marriage.

If you look at the many facets of CRM, you’ll find that it’s often very intricately interwoven (no product plug intended) with content. Take, for example, these aspects of CRM:

  • Sales & Marketing Automation. A key task in the sales and marketing side of CRM is educating the customer (the well-targeted customer) about your products. How do you do that? You arm your sales staff, your Web site, e-mails, you call center teams, and your advertising channels with great content.
  • Customer Care. The support piece of CRM relies heavily upon the discipline that we refer to as knowledge management. Especially in the area of post-sales support or tech support, where organizations are pushing for more self-service. This is a no-brainer. If you’re going to empower the customer to help themselves, how do you do it? With content.
  • Personalization. I’ve long touted the fact that personalized communications with customers is a fabulous idea, but don’t even think about personalization until you have a solid content management foundation. I mean, seriously, it’s one thing to say, hey we’ve been able to divide our customers into these tiny demographic groups so we can send them messages that are right on target. But, guess what? Those targeted messages are content. Where should they live if not in a CMS?.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that there’s a potential new wave on the technology horizon. Maybe not tsunami size, but definitely good for surfing. It’s the vendors who start to recognize the powerful link between CMS and CRM.

In my crystal ball, the lines between knowledge management, content management, and customer relationship management will start to blur. As some already have, more CRM vendors will include document management (for things like managing contracts) in their suites. The Web plays a huge role in CRM. Will we see mergers of WCM and CRM companies?

Ironically, it almost seems that we’ve come full-circle back to the birthplace of CM (circa 1996) when Broadvision and Vignette dominated the CM marketplace and it was all about one-to-one customer communications. That (broad) vision was apparently too hard to realize back then! Maybe it’s possible now.

P.S. I’d love to hear your comments if you’ve been involved with any CMS/CRM integrations! Please add a comment or e-mail me at rita@ziacontent.com.

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