Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: November 2006 (Page 1 of 3)

Bitrix Releases Site Manager 5.1

Bitrix Inc. announces the release of new Bitrix Site Manager 5.1 – web content management system. The new version has been globally tested and optimized. There is a new AJAX-enabled user interface, and a new module to create blogs, training courses, examination tests, and manage affiliate networks. The e-Store now features a flexible system of discounts and coupons. Version 5.1 offers a new tabbed Control Panel with the three modes: “Public section” to view the site as-is; “Edit site” in which system control areas are highlighted and powered with management tools; and the common “Control Panel.” The new interface provides for fast switching between the three modes. For convenience, the tab bar can be pinned on top of the browser window. All product editions now can import and export data from/to information blocks in the CSV format (e.g. for communication with MS Excel). The Small Business edition now contains the Forum and Newsletter modules. The Professional and Enterprise editions now include the Blogs and e-Learning modules. Additionally, the Enterprise edition is empowered with the AD/LDAP module. All users of older versions of Bitrix Site Manager whose techsupport subscription is active can update their systems for free via the SiteUpdate to upgrade to Bitrix Site Manager 5.1. You can test-drive Bitrix Site Manager by downloading and installing the fully functional trial version at http://www.bitrixsoft.com/download/

Document Sciences and CM Partners

In my last post I said that composition vendors weren’t very far along with their content partnerships. Nasser Barghouti, the Chief Technology Officer at Document Sciences set the record straight before I could finish my Thanksgiving turkey. Mr. Barghouti informed me that Document Sciences has had a long and successful integration partnership with both Filenet and Documentum. In fact, the next major release of the Xpression Product Suite, will offer an embedded OEM version of Documentum. Document Sciences wants to be able to give customers the choice of a bundled solution or open integration. I expect to see a lot more partnerships of this type and more CM OEM deals with leading composition players.

XML and Office 2.0

WIth Carl’s recent post on SaaS, and John Newton’s “Content Management 2.0” discussion, I thought I’d throw this into the mix… recently there has also been a flurry of activity around a concept called “Office 2.0” – another offshoot of the term “Web 2.0” – in which all traditional office applications can be replaced by online services accessible through a generic web browser.

What’s making this possible is a set of new technologies including AJAX, RSS and web services, a set of actual applications such as Google’s gmail and ZOHO’s “online” word processor, and a great deal of unbridled enthusiasm.

Since Office 2.0 is particularly aimed at applications that affect business and larger enterprises, I’d like to take a quick look at how well it fits the needs of such enterprises, and then suggest how it might be extended to better meet these needs.

But first, I’d like to point out that it’s easy to get caught up in the details of technologies like AJAX and RSS, and miss the bigger picture. I would propose that the real excitement is in the vision enabled by the technology, as opposed to the technology itself. To not see this leads to the inevitable “religious wars” around specific tools, which we of course want to avoid…

To put this in perspective, Office 2.0 reminds me of what happened with CD-ROM twenty years ago. I still vividly recall a colleague of mine proudly announcing that he was going to the world’s first international CD-ROM conference, which he described as the “Woodstock” of the computer industry. He simply couldn’t contain his excitement about this pivotal event. But then, I remember him suddenly changing his facial expression, looking at me wryly and saying, “well of course, CD-ROM is actually only a storage medium…can you imagine me being excited about going to a floppy disk conference?”

Twenty years later, we might well ask the same thing. CD-ROM has become about as mundane as floppy disks were then. But at the time, CD-ROM represented much more than a new storage medium. Instead, it symbolized the sudden freedom to access and search information – right from your own desktop – that would otherwise be virtually inaccessible. It was in fact, the first glimpse of the kind of mass interconnectivity that the World Wide Web would later provide.

Office 2.0 is much like that – it represents freedom from the tyranny of desktop applications and proprietary data locked up on individual computers. It heralds a new age of unfettered collaboration and information sharing within enterprises.

So what are the key things that are exciting about Office 2.0, and do its maxims and rules actually fit larger enterprises? I think the answer is a tentative “yes” – at least at a conceptual level. And at least so long as the Office 2.0 folks are willing to make a few compromises and entertain some crucial extensions.

To explore this further, let’s go through the official Office 2.0 rules one by one…

#1 – No client application other than a web browser. Actually, this the holy grail of nearly all corporate IT departments, because one of the biggest headaches in IT is trying to keep all the client applications up to-date on individual computers. In practice, we’d have to accommodate situations where a high-speed Internet connection is not available, but I would grant that this is increasingly the exception.

#2 – No files on your personal computer. In principle, this is the entire thrust of enterprise content management initiatives, taking information that’s buried on people’s “C:” drives and getting into a managed and accessible central repository. So far, so good.

#3 – No dependence on any particular vendor.This is another mantra of corporate IT, expressing itself in the current fervor over Software as a Service and Service-Oriented Architectures, ideally with plug-and-play vendor apps encapsulated in generic web services interfaces.

#4 – Collaboration through document sharing and publishing. Again, this a winner with big enterprises. In fact, this is most of what my company, Flatirons Solutions, does for a living. And from the overall perspective of Web 2.0, I might add that wikis and blogs are an increasingly popular way to share ideas and knowledge within larger organizations, supplementing the sharing and publishing of documents.

#5 – Syndication in addition to peer-to-peer collaboration. This is another focus of enterprise content management, allowing people to subscribe to documents or content that has changed or is newly-published. And RSS syndication is increasingly one of the key channels to which we find ourselves publishing content.

#6 – Seamless data import/export across services. This is a fundamental objective of all enterprise content management initiatives, but now comes the rub. The current Office 2.0 vision thinks of sharing in terms of “interchangeable” formats like .DOC, HTML and PDF. But .DOC is a common but still proprietary vendor format, and HTML and PDF are really only sharable at the visible level. In other words, HTML and PDF let you display and print each other’s information, but not actually interchange the underlying source data and information in a way a computer can process and transform.

Proprietary word processing seems less proprietary when it’s on the Web, but if you really want interchangeability between services, you need to be using a vendor, format and media-neutral standard like XML. XML does not assume a particular vendor, nor does it assume web or print as the output medium. Instead, it encodes the information itself in a completely neutral form, from which media-specific formats like HTML and PDF can be derived.

In the work we do with large enterprises, XML also provides the key to sharing information at a much deeper level than “documents.” When we look at the set of documents that people need to share and publish, we see that there is often a tremendous amount of redundancy. If this overlapping information is authored and maintained independently, there are huge problems with inconsistency, and a lot of unnecessary time and cost maintaining and reconciling the multiple versions.

XML allows source information to be “chunked up” into the underlying building blocks, and from there flexibly mixed-and-matched to create the full array of print and Web-based documents. Individuals can collaborate on the source building blocks – without needing to assume a particular assembled document or output medium – and then combine the building blocks of interest into the documents they produce. Furthermore, if these reusable building blocks are structured as standalone “topics”, they can be directly published and syndicated outside the context of a higher-level document or web page. We call this “single source” publishing – because underlying content is maintained once, and then reused many times.

So, is Office 2.0 the right idea for larger enterprises? Perhaps, in principle…but to make it really work we need to merge its vision with the significant work already going on in single-source XML-based publishing. Then we’d have the potential for a real winner.

What is the future of software as a service

I’m not at the conference this week (we do have several people from our shop there), but to answer a question posed by Frank Gilbane:

What is the future of software as a service, and is it appropriate for enterprise content applications like content management, authoring, etc.?

The SaaS model seems to have been proven to the point where it’s hard to imagine that it won’t keep growing. We recently posted a whitepaper on SaaS myths, which debunks most of the common arguments against SaaS. In addition to that discussion, I’d offer the following four points:

1) SaaS is a proven technology. It arguably extends to the early days of the web with software ASPs. I guess you could even argue the lineage goes all the way back to mainframe apps! 🙂 Certainly, though, the existing SaaS companies have been working successfully with this business model for more than six years now.

2) Web technologies have reached a point where SaaS is an out of the box solution. You can now count on fast network connections for users both in the office and home. Security systems are complete from SSL with web browsers up through terminal services like Citrix which allow even HIPAA compliance. For web apps, browser technologies like IFRAMES and AJAX allow apps to be easily integrated on a page (mashups).

3) SaaS provides much more robust server management and security, especially for small and medium sized businesses. As web applications grow more complex, SaaS allows much more convenient, rigorous and cost-effective control over hosting. By centralizing and focusing, the best resources can be brought to bear on fewer hosting environments.

4) This one is a bit of a prediction, and is specific to web sites. Currently, you have a couple options when adding components like blogs, rss, ecommerce, polls, surveys, and search to web sites. You can install apps for those services, which allows you to control ad placement and design. The alternative is to use free hosted apps where the ad revenue goes to the SaaS company. So, the logical next step is for high quality hosted apps where the ad revenue is shared with the web site. This is already appearing with sites like MetaCafe. For an advanced CMS, though, I am not sure this will happen since the CMS tends to be the hub for all the other web apps, but it is certainly possible for a basic CMS.

Webinar: How Sun Takes Brands and Solutions to the Global Marketplace

Are present processes slowing down your global product launches and campaigns? Do you have trouble ensuring global brand consistency across many markets and communication channels? Do you deliver a global customer experience that induces people to come back and encourages customer loyalty?

Join The Gilbane Group, SDL International and Interwoven to learn how Sun Microsystems used a global information management solution to deliver product information, support services, and java.com information in many languages to deliver an enhanced customer experience.

Date: 13th December, 2006
Time: 8:30 Pacific, 11:30 Eastern, 16:30 GMT, 17:30 Central Europe
Duration: 1 hour
Register here.

Globalization Survey

There’s still time to add your voice to our survey on Content Globalization.

Thursday’s Content Globalization Workflows panel includes speakers from Idiom Technologies, LISA (Localization Industry Standards Association), LinguaLinx, and General Electric.

Topics to be covered include: globalization business drivers, the impact of market consolidation, achieving process management and project management, defining “unified globalization management,” and best practices. Hope to see you there!

Gilbane Boston Keynote Survey Results

The survey on the list of questions for our keynote panel on Wednesday is still open, but we have published the results so far at: https://gilbane.com/gilbaneboston_keynote_survey.html.

There are a couple of different ways to calculate the most popular questions based on a combination of the “important”, “interesting” and “not interesting” ratings. You can look at the results and come to your own conclusions, but no matter how you do it the popular questions so far are:

  • What are the top 3 technologies that must be considered in any content management strategies in the next 12-24 months?
  • Are search ‘platforms’ going to replace CMSs as the primary user entrance to content repositories?
  • How will Blog and Wiki tools be used in enterprise content applications? How are they being used today?
  • What is the number one advantage, and the number one disadvantage of each of the approaches represented on the panel (ECM suite, CM application, infrastructure CM, hosted CM, open source CM)?
  • Are there any breakthrough classification or metadata tagging technologies on the horizon that will significantly impact content management strategies?
  • How is widespread adoption of RSS/Atom going to affect content delivery? And what does this mean to enterprise content management or publishing strategies?
  • How will the new SharePoint Server’s CM capability affect the CM market?

You still have 2 days to cast your vote, and to get to Boston to hear the keynote panel (which is open to all) debate these and other questions.

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