As Frank noted in our main blog and in the related press release, this blog is part of our launch this week of a new practice focused on the technologies, strategies, and best practices associated with using XML in content management. With this focus on XML, the new practice is broad–XML is fundamental to so many aspects of content management. Yet the focus on XML also compels us to look at content management through a certain lens. This begins with the vendor offerings, where nearly every platform, product, and tool has to meet anywhere from a few to myriad XML-related requirements. As XML and its related standards have evolved and matured, evaluating this support has become a more complex and considered task. The more complex and feature-rich the offering, the more difficult the task of evaluating its support.

And indeed, the offerings are becoming more complex, especially among platform vendors like Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle. Looking at SharePoint means evaluating it as a content management platform, but also looking specifically at how it supports technologies like XML forms interfaces, XML data and content feeds, and integration with the XML schemas underlying Microsoft Word and Excel. It also means looking at SOA interfaces and XML integration of Web Parts,and considering how developers and data analysts might want to utilize XML schema and XSLT in SharePoint application development. Depending on your requirements and applications, there could be a great deal more functionality for you to evaluate and explore. And that is just one platform.

But understanding the vendor–and open source–offerings is only one piece of the XML content management puzzle. Just as important as choosing the right tools are the strategic issues in planning for and later deploying these offerings. Organizations often don’t spend enough time asking and answering the biggest and most important questions. What goals do they have for the technology? Cost savings? Revenue growth? Accelerated time to market? The ability to work globally? These general business requirements need to then be translated into more specific requirements, and only then do these requirements begin to point to specific technologies. If XML is part of the potential solution, organizations need to look at what standards might be a fit. If you produce product support content, perhaps DITA is a fit for you. If you are a publisher, you might look at XML-based metadata standards like XMP or PRISM.

Finally, XML doesn’t exist in a content management vacuum, removed from the larger technology infrastructure that organizations have put in place. The platforms and tools must integrate well with technologies inside and outside the firewall; this is especially true as more software development is happening in the cloud and organizations are more readily embracing Software as a Service. One thing we have learned over the years is that XML is fundamental to two critical aspects of content management—for the encoding and management of the content itself (including the related metadata) and for the integration of the many component and related technologies that comprise and are related to content management. Lauren Wood wrote about this in 2002, David Guenette and I revisited it a year later, and the theme recurs in numerous Gilbane writings. The ubiquitous nature of XML makes the need for strategies and best practices more acute, and also points to the need to bring together the various stakeholders–notably the business people who have the content management requirements and the technologists who can help make the technology adoptions successful. Projects have the best chance of succeeding when these stakeholders are brought together to reach consensus first on business and technical requirements, and, later, to reach consensus on technology and approach.

As Frank noted, this is “New/Old” news for all of us involved with the new practice. I first discussed SGML with Frank in 1987 when I was at Mitre and responsible for a project to bring new technology to bear on creating specifications for government projects. Frank had recently launched his technology practice, Publishing Technology Management. Leonor was a client at Factory Mutual when I worked for Xyvision (now XyEnterprise) in the early 1990s. And I probably first met Mary at a GCA (now IDEAlliance) event during my Xyvision days and when she worked for a competitor, Datalogics. We are, in the polite vernacular of the day, seasoned professionals.

So welcome to the new blog. Watch this space for more details as we announce some of the offerings and initiatives. I plan to blog actively here, so please add the RSS feed if you prefer to digest your material that way. If you have ideas or suggestions, don’t hesitate to post here or contact me or any of the other analysts directly. We look forward to the interaction!