Friday, December 5, 2008

Economic Content Management Part 2 – Eliminating Redundancies

This post is a continuation of the discussion we began before the Thanksgiving holiday where we started to explore simple, cost-saving ECM projects that could be planned for 2009 without a wholesale examination of how documents and files are managed within your organization.

Several customers suggested that implementing enterprise search technology was a good method to improve discovery and content re-use and I agree. However, the right content or metadata needs to be available in order for search requests to be most effective.

The benefits of improved content discovery can quickly add up to measurable cost savings for organizations of all sizes. For larger, distributed enterprises those benefits can often be quite significant. Just consider the following:

  • Employees can spend up to 50% of their time searching for information they need to complete assigned tasks.
  • The amount of unstructured data (documents and files) created and stored by US businesses is growing by over 100% per year.
  • The estimated labor cost to re-create a typical business document is $220.

Obviously, data like this provides a compelling argument for organizations to improve how they manage and store content in order to reduce costs and improve operating efficiencies. In tough economic times like these, improved content management might even mitigate the need for staff reductions.

A simple way to get started doing this is to begin adding extra metadata, or tags to business documents so that they can be more easily discovered and re-used. Coupled with a common content repository this can provide employees with a safe and easy way to access and share documents, helping reduce work duplication and its associated costs.

Instead of a complex document classification project, document tagging is a more free-form exercise that will probably be familiar to anyone who has uploaded photos to web services like Picassa or videos to YouTube. However, I wouldn’t recommend letting the project become a complete free for all. Consider appointing a tagging expert among your staff. Ideally, this should be someone who is already a well-organized administrator who can perform the task consistently.

Work together with your new project administrator to define a meaningful set of tags that will help other employees easily discover documents regardless of how they might normally be named or where they might be stored. Next, your administrator will need to be empowered to apply these new tags to everyone’s documents prior to them being saved. This will require a new business process, but not a very complicated one (hopefully).

video

The easiest way to direct documents to your administrator is probably the path that requires the least change for everyone else in the organization. If the team is already experienced with using network drives to store and backup data this can be relatively simple.

First, create a new storage area in your content management system (this will only be a temporary work folder). Then map a drive letter reference to the new folder on each employee’s PC. Even relatively simple content management applications like Microsoft SharePoint and Xythos EDMS support this type of process.

The only change you’ll have to ask employees to make is to save their files to the new network drive letter. Once the files have been tagged by the administrator employees can retrieve them and store them as they normally would, or the administrator can simply return them.

Alternatively, if a network folder hierarchy is already well understood at your organization, the administrator can restore files to their proper locations by themself. This will help reduce data redundancy and file inconsistency. Either way, your organization will have begun to develop a more meaningful content repository that can help reduce work duplication and the costs associated with it.

If you’re interested in demonstrating more immediate value via document tagging, consider asking your administrator to apply the process retroactively to high value documents already stored in your file system prior to announcing the project. That way, employees can quickly begin experiencing the advantages of searching tagged categories for the information they need. This may encourage them to become more active supporters of the project from the very beginning.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Economic Content Management – ECM for Tough Times

I don’t know anyone who is feeling more prosperous today than they were a year ago. That’s the bad news. The good news is that 2008 will soon be over and many of us are busy planning for what will hopefully be a better 2009. It’s probably not going to be easy though and I suspect we'll have to make some tough decisions. When we can’t be confident about the economy or our future business prospects it makes sense to focus on those factors that we can positively influence.

The feedback I’ve received at this fall’s conferences and web seminars suggests that IT leaders are still optimistic about being able to deliver improved business value through the prudent application of web technologies. Even if budgets get squeezed, some have told me that they are confident they can achieve meaningful cost savings in 2009 from the infrastructure improvements they’ve already put in place. I’ve also heard talk about better leveraging Web 2.0 services (yes – even the free ones) to enhance business responsiveness.

When it comes to saving money there are practically countless ways that content management technology can be put to work. Obvious targets include reducing the number of documents organizations actually print, distribute and store. Managing electronic documents costs money too. Especially if they are scattered across dozens of individual file servers or worse, left as attachments in email systems. Automating document workflows and migrating paper-based processes to the web are proven cost-savers as well.

What’s less obvious, yet potentially more costly for many businesses is the amount of time employees waste searching for the information they need to perform their jobs. In fact, some analysts have estimated that time spent looking for documents and files can exceed 25% of an average knowledge worker’s day. What’s worse is that when documents can’t be found, sometimes they must be reproduced. That’s like having to pay double for cost of goods - hardly a recipe for success in tough economic times.

So, if managing content more effectively has the potential to help save some serious money then why aren’t more organizations doing it? Well, just like trying to go on a diet, getting started is often the most difficult part. Staying on the plan isn’t always easy either. In addition, the fact that unstructured data (all the different types of content) continues grow at an exponential rate practically demands that businesses begin with a well-conceived plan.

This post isn’t intended to review content taxonomies or best storage practices. Instead, the goal is to provoke action and help identify realistic cost-saving opportunities that can benefit from basic applications of content management technology and know how. So with the emphasis on making getting started easy, here’s a short list of “low hanging fruit” that might be worth adding to your 2009 project list. (I’ve collected these examples from a number of different types of businesses. If you know of an obvious one that’s missing, please feel free to contribute to this list).

Simple Cost-Saving ECM Projects for 2009

The theme around these suggested projects is “start small” so that you can develop early successes that will hopefully promote the use of ECM throughout other parts of your business in the future. It’s also important to identify project’s that provide an easy opportunity for cost-saving measurement, just so there won’t be any misunderstanding the project’s results. (I’ll post the first one today, and try and get the rest of these listed before the end of the week).

1. Scan documents intended for distribution
This is an easy project to begin with because it doesn’t require significant re-architecting of how your business manages or stores documents. It also creates visibly measurable benefits. Begin by looking at those processes which require documents be exchanged with either external parties or geographically separated offices within your own organization. Consider items like contracts that require multi-party review or service and support agreements.

First develop an estimate, of the average monthly costs related to the printing and delivery of these documents. You may even want to assess a storage cost fee if office space is particularly expensive in your location. Don’t forget to include all transport costs, including express and courier service fees if documents aren’t always faxed or sent via email.

Create a client or project based folder structure in your document store. If you don't already have an ECM system, you could even use a networked file server, but a web-enabled system such as a SaaS ECM solution, like Xythos on Demand will probably be much easier for external parties to use.

Next, determine if your current scanners or multi-functions devices can scan files directly to your document store. This is an ideal method, as it requires the least amount of employee interaction. Look to scanning software vendors like eCopy, or Kofax to help connect your input devices if they are not compatible. Newer MFP’s like those from Canon, Ricoh and Sharp can generally connect directly to the repository via http and WebDAV, or FTP. That will allow documents to be scanned directly into the folders you want them stored in.

Once your contracts, etc. are scanned into the system the real fun begins. Now employees can embed links to their documents within their email correspondence. This will allow them to monitor when customers read them and track changes as contracts are being negotiated and reviewed. Of course, a complete history of each document related activity can be maintained, helping you do a better job of supporting the business process.

That’s just the beginning of the benefits that can be gained from scanning documents that need to be distributed. However, the cost saving can add up quickly. Express delivery fees can usually be reduced significantly. Even documents requiring signatures can often be submitted with a digital version and thus avoid physical exchange. If your business is required to save its contracts as records in protected facilities, electronic records storage may also become a cost-saving alternative, once the documents have migrated to electronic form, of course.

Monday, November 3, 2008

More iPhone Excitement at Educause 2008

I guess Steve Jobs already knows this, given the displays I’ve spotted in Apple retail stores recently. Enormous versions of iPhones quickly stop people who are walking by. That was certainly the case at Educause this year. While we didn’t actually have gigantic versions of my favorite phone, large on-screen replicas seemed to work almost as well, thanks to the iPhone simulator in the iPhone Developer's Toolkit.

We chose the simulator to present the customizations to Xythos created by Abilene Christian University (ACU) as a part of their campus-wide iPhone initiative. The iPhone team at ACU, lead by Dr. James Langford has really done some groundbreaking work turning the device into a true enterprise solution for a wealth of academic and administrative purposes. They truly deserve the recognition this project has received and it was no different on the Educause 2008 show floor. Crowds of onlookers literally blocked the walkways around the Xythos booth to see what they had done.

MyACU’s MyMobile Portal

(Navigating from the portal into an iPhone customized version of Xythos and opening a Quicktime video)


The interest in the “One iPhone for Every Student” project continued in packed meeting rooms off the show floor where ACU twice presented the project’s implementation and faculty use cases. For those institutions considering similar projects, I would encourage you to take a look at the resource links at the end of this post to learn more.

The most common comment I heard after these sessions (following various expressions of jealousy) was “When will this be ready for Blackberry’s?” Hopefully, some of the institutions standardized on that platform will see that anything is indeed possible when they choose open standards-based software technologies like Liferay and Xythos.

While economic and political concerns may hinder projects like this at larger, state-funded institutions, those problems may begin to correct themselves as more students arrive on campus with their own iPhones, Blackberry Storms, or Google Android equipped devices. To get a picture of what this future might look like take a look at these ACU videos on YouTube:

"Connected" Part 1: Social Uses

"Connected" Part 2: Academic Uses

Recent ACU, iPhone and Xythos Articles:

Computerworld
iPhones go to front of the class at Texas university
CIO Magazine
iPhone University: At ACU, Students Navigate College Life via Apple iPhone
Macworld
At ACU, students navigate college life via iPhone

Friday, October 31, 2008

ECM Plug-ins and Integrations Popular at Educause 2008

For once, a fall conference in Orlando didn’t include 90% humidity and matching temperatures, The unseasonably cool weather made it easy to get between hotels and the convention center, where the activity level was definitely creating some heat! Sure, there was talk of budget challenges, but most of the IT Execs I had a chance to chat with seemed eager to learn about new solutions that could help them combat rising costs and improve services across their campuses.

There seemed to be plenty of interest in the latest academic learning solutions, judging from the consistent crowds over at the Blackboard booth trying out the new Bb 9 Suite. I also listened to a growing number of conversations related to back-office automation. A couple administrators I spoke with said they almost welcomed the tough economy because it was finally forcing their institutions to take a serious look at the business processes in search of improved efficiencies. As one executive said to me “unlike banks or other commercial organizations, we haven’t experienced the same pressures to update how we manage the “business side” of education”.

This might explain the considerable interest we heard regarding ECM plug-ins and integrations this year. Scanning solutions designed to integrate physical document processing into electronic workflows captured a lot of attention. Outlook plug-ins intended to more closely tie administrative activities with content repositories were also popular. The overall interest in administrative solutions might even indicate that institutions are recognizing they can leverage their experience with academic content management across other parts of the enterprise, just like other businesses.

The excitement around integrating other business processes with a common content repository wasn’t limited to administration either. Interest in multiple learning management system integrations including Blackboard, Moodle and Sakai continued. However, the ECM integration that most attendees seemed to be talking about was a Zimlet. In both the Xythos booth and Yahoo’s Zimbra booth activity around the Zimlet demo’s was quite busy. Perhaps the potential benefits of ECM and email integration can be even greater when the process is accomplished using 100% Web 2.0 technologies instead of just thick clients.

I even learned about a real-time (synchronous) collaboration tool called Dimdim that employs the same Zimlet type of integration and would appear to be an ideal complement to asynchronous collaboration tools like ECM and email. What each of these products have in common is embedded support for open technology standards including flexible and open API’s. This might explain the enthusiastic response their integrations were receiving at Educause. I was already hearing attendees talking out loud about how they could create their own mashups using them in their portals and elsewhere.

We’ll post recording’s of more of the presentations and activities from Educause 2008 shortly on Xythos.com. In the meantime check out educause site to learn more about what happened at this year’s event.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Outlook Hassles, Zimbra and Web 2.0

I don’t really hate Microsoft Outlook. I’ve trusted it to manage my email and calendars for as long as I can remember. However, as the web has grown up and I’ve begun to rely on a growing number of other services instead of email to collaborate Outlook seems more like a stubborn old partner unwilling to adapt and change. My ultimate frustration is Outlook’s inability to easily exchange contact records with its own sibling, Entourage. What devilish plan did Microsoft have in mind by not simply creating Outlook for the Mac? (PC guy wasn’t even on TV when that decision was made).

Yes, I was able to configure my iPhone to connect to our Exchange server without corporate IT assistance (which I can’t say the same about for my Blackberry), but I think time’s running out for me and the Outlook/Entourage combo. I don’t want my most valuable personal data locked up in .pst formats anymore. I’m not sure I even want to depend on Exchange either, although that’s mostly up to my employer. I’m becoming more comfortable with Gmail each day and while it’s not ready to be my Outlook replacement yet, Web 2.0 applications like Zimbra’s Collaboration Suite (ZCS) just might be.

I want an email client solution that doesn’t care that I live in both a Mac and a Windows world. Ideally, I’d like that solution to behave about the same on my iPhone too. I also don’t want to have to use a half dozen different converters to move my contacts between my social networks, email, IM and other collaborative tools. I’m a content creator and I need my editing tools to work seamlessly together with email and the web so that I can rapidly share my work with others, solicit feedback, secure approvals, and get things published. It would be great if my email tool could help keep track of all these processes too.

When my email client can’t quickly find the contacts I need, I have to engage in time-consuming mailbox searches or begin looking in other services for data it hasn’t already captured. When my email can’t interoperate with my content management system my ability to collaborate on projects slows down. Maybe I’m expecting too much of an email/contact/calendaring tool, but I still want it to be the hub that manages my interactions with others and my tasks. I think it just needs to be a lot more web-aware, and flexible. Proprietary storage formats like .pst really don’t support that kind of improvement.

I watched a Zimbra demo last week that showed how email messages and their associated file attachments could be easily captured, categorized and stored in Xythos using open Zimlet protocols and Xythos’ open API’s. That was an impressive example of the benefits of Ajax based interface design and web-enabled interoperability. What if the next step allowed Zimbra and Xythos services to share each other’s user names and permissions? Maybe all they would need to do is authenticate via a common directory service? OK, great now what about my Google and Linked In contact lists? Could those be accessed by Zimbra as well?

Even if I could just find a way to make my contacts more portable and accessible to my other apps and devices, that would be a big plus for me. How is this working for you? Does anyone have suggestions who has tried to tackle this issue? Are we going to have to wait for a cloud based OS or something like that? BTW – If you’re interested in seeing that Zimbra demo, it should be posted over www.xythos.com under “Events” shortly. Better yet, if you’re attending the annual Educause event this week in Orlando visit either the Xythos or Zimbra booths and see it live for yourself.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Online Storage vs. Document Management – What’s the Difference?

With all the talk about SaaS and cloud computing the question about whether a business needs an online storage solution or something a bit more sophisticated seems somewhat irrelevant. However, for distributed enterprises and small-medium sized businesses in particular this can be an important consideration. Both technologies can provide measurable benefits, yet while they are directly related, each addresses quite different business objectives.

One could argue that ECM (enterprise content management) and certainly online document management really can’t function successfully absent some sort of commonly shared content repository. On the other hand, if the motive for storing documents online is to better protect them and potentially provide a solution for disaster recovery, then the collaborative benefits provided by ECM may not be that important. What’s common in both cases is a need for network and more commonly these days, web-enabled access to the repository for improved data redundancy and remote access.

So, what guidelines can businesses follow to help decide which option is best suited for their needs? The first factor to consider is the relative value of business data and the cost of alternative storage methods vs. online options. For most situations (and this can even include home based businesses) there are ample arguments for storing backup data off site. Sure, you can create your own backup tapes and store them in a fireproof safe or in a safety deposit box, but is that really something you want to perform each week, or night? The cost of managed storage has declined incredibly over the last few years making do-it-yourself backup seem somewhat archaic.

Once you’ve decided that your files can benefit from online storage protection, the next thing to ask yourself is who else needs access to them. If your documents are going to be primarily archived for data protection purposes and possibly only used by applications in your own office, then it may not be necessary to employ the more advanced features of an online document management service. However, it’s important to consider this scenario carefully.

Think about the different types of documents and files your business uses today. Are they shared with other parties? For example, does your attorney review your service or supply contracts? Do your employees exchange proposals with clients? There are expenses associated with each of these activities such as travel and distribution costs. Consider if you can reduce, or possibly eliminate some of these costs by sharing documents electronically. You may even discover these savings can help justify the service subscription cost itself.

The degree to which your business relies upon the secure exchange of content, particularly with external parties and the frequency with which that information changes can have a significant impact upon your technology choice. If your business does not support remote offices or mobile employees and if the majority of the documents and files produced are only released in final format (pdf or html) then you may not need the collaborative features of a document management system. However, be sure to also consider how often employees are using email as a means to exchange files and whether your business must keep certain documents stored as records for prescribed periods, as these tasks can often be better performed by a document management application.

In summary, online file storage can often be a smart choice for organizations seeking to better protect vital business information as service based solutions are generally more focused on performing back-ups, providing redundant storage and disaster recovery solutions than most individual businesses are prepared to do themselves. The problem is that once organizations begin storing documents online expectations can quickly grow to include other, more collaborative processes.

Some online storage services have evolved to offer document sharing and even some basic document library services, like version control and document check-in/out. This is where careful service evaluation is a must. Once online storage becomes a shared resource it’s critical that you consider group authentication methods, file level access controls and features to track and report upon system usage.

Its quite possible employees will even want to scan documents into the service’s online repository and once it becomes larger, cry for search tools to help them find everything they’ve uploaded. You may want to begin automating document processing tasks in order to achieve greater business efficiencies. At this point you’ve already crossed over the line into the realm of online document management. 

So as you can see, it’s probably a good idea to ask yourself and a few thoughtful employees what they would want to do, if they could store their documents online. You might be surprised about where those responses could take you. Of course, If you'd like to learn more why not try out Xythos on Demand? It's free (for 30 days) and is an easy way to get more familiar with what online document management can do for your own business.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Where is ECM at Educause 2008?

Educause is just a few weeks away and even with all of the bad economic news it would seem that little can stop the popularity of this event. It’s been sold out for months and sponsors like Blackboard and Xythos have been busy preparing to make the most of it both on and off of the show floor. While the higher education community certainly isn’t immune to economic downturns it is somewhat comforting to know that it won’t disappear overnight as the investment banking industry seems to have done.

However, we are experiencing increased requests from institutions about how to reduce administrative costs and better streamline business operations in response to tighter operating budgets. From undergraduate admissions processing to alumni relations there are still a lot of paper documents passing through colleges and universities and, as a result there remains plenty of opportunity to automate these processes and reduce waste.

Enterprise content management (ECM) technologies would appear to be a natural fit to address these campus-wide challenges. Yet, when I look at the list of content management vendors planning to exhibit at Educause I see just a few familiar names such as Oracle, Paperthin, Perceptive Software and SunGard. While Oracle’s Stellent based applications are true ECM solutions, I suspect the primary reason that both SunGard and Oracle attend is to promote their dominant ERP and student information system applications, vs. content management. That basically leaves a couple dedicated web content management suppliers, and Xythos representing the ECM industry to higher education institutions this year.

Of course, Google and Microsoft will each have a big presence at Educause and I suspect both will feature plenty of document collaboration solutions, including Microsoft’s ubiquitous SharePoint. But what explains the absence of traditional ECM leaders like EMC/Documentum, Filenet and OpenText? Are they simply ceding the market to smaller competitors while they focus on healthcare and financial services? Perhaps the academic market is considered unable to afford enterprise quality content management solutions? Maybe the institutions themselves haven’t focused enough attention on the business side of education and the technology needed to help them become more efficient.

I suspect a combination of the above factors contributed to this situation. Coincidentally, most institutions have already become familiar with managing electronic content through their adoption of learning management systems (LMS) such as Blackboard, and WebCT. According to ECAR (EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research), over 82% of higher education institutions have already adopted an enterprise standard LMS. Once content management technology has succeeded improving the core mission of these institutions, it would seem reasonable to expect that it be considered for related business processes. So, perhaps we’re close to a tipping point in the adoption of ECM for managing the business side of higher education.

While success selling to academic computing departments doesn’t guaranty the same in administrative computing, I suspect leading LMS vendors like Blackboard could have an advantage. If solutions from Xythos can appeal to IT administrators in medical research institutions or government agencies, what’s to stop campus admissions or athletics departments from being next? After all, ECM can deliver a wide range of cost saving benefits across distributed campus environments. In tough economic times it would seem to make sense to take advantage of technologies like these to reduce operating costs and keep constituents satisfied

Friday, October 3, 2008

Evaluating ECM Options – Where to Begin?

Even with SharePoint popping up in businesses all over, we still get plenty of questions from prospective customers about how to assess their ECM alternatives. Perhaps because Xythos has been an open standards technology champion they think we might be more neutral offering advice? I’m not sure, but it might suggest that while organizations will have to support SharePoint at some level, they understand they’ll need more help to meet their complete ECM needs.

My recommendation to best understand current ECM options would be to look at the guides published by the folks over at CMS Watch. While Forrester, IDC and Gartner also do a good job of analyzing the ECM market few provide the deep level of up to date product comparisons that CMS Watch offers in its 2009 edition of their ECM Suites Report. It’s not cheap at about $1,000 - $4,500 depending on your subscription size, but it’s worth it. Besides, you probably couldn’t pull all this data together from other suppliers for twice the price.

Yes, Xythos is included in this report too. However, I’m not promoting the report because we received a perfect rating. The report really doesn’t do that kind of stuff. I think Xythos did get a fair and balanced review and that’s really the outcome that we should hope for in these publications. Ideally, well-researched and balanced assessments result in better matching customers with the right ECM solutions. That can save everyone from a lot of hassles in the long run.

Like most ECM vendors, we’re looking at how our technologies can work together with SharePoint. It does a good job of helping MS Office users collaborate among themselves, but its also kind of Microsoft-centric in its approach. We know of organizations whose need to safely manage and share other types of files is equally as important. We’re also hearing requests for more flexible content storage models and easy integration with other web services. Oh, and what about Mac users? I guess these are things Microsoft is still working on?

How are you dealing with SharePoint in your organization? Will it replace older ECM systems or, do you expect it will eventually compliment them? I’d be interested to know.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Scanning to the Cloud – ECM Helps Clean up Our Physical World

I’ve written about this subject as it relates to my own desktop and possibly yours too, but the response to the web seminar we hosted about the potential organizational benefits of cloud computing and ECM convinced me that there’s more for us to discuss. Over eighty organizations registered for yesterday’s seminar, titled “Can you scan to a cloud? The benefits of scanning documents to electronic storage repositories” and we received a lot good questions from the attendees as well. The whole seminar is recorded for your viewing pleasure at the above link.

I think the interest in the combination of ECM and the cloud is driven by the increased benefits that can be realized by organizations vs. individuals engaged in using these technologies. While it’s great to get documents and files off of my desk and stored more securely, organizations gain the advantage of being able to multiply the value of content stored in the cloud amongst their employees and trading partners. It’s kind of like a network effect scale of improvement resulting from improved content discovery, re-use and an overall enhanced ability to respond to the business environment as a whole.



Organizations will still need help migrating content to the cloud. It’s not as simple as pointing all the MFP’s to some new web-enabled repository. New policies will need to be created. Not all documents may be permitted in the cloud, as legal restrictions often trail technology advancements. Cloud service providers will need to be carefully investigated and able to prove their ability to support various service level agreements. Additional integration work will probably also have to be performed between cloud services and the software and scanners, or MFPs that will become the on-ramp to the cloud.

Fortunately, this process has already begun. A growing number of hardware vendors including Canon and Ricoh are supporting open standards for document transfer over the web, like SSL and WebDAV. ECM connectors from vendors like Captiva or Xythos also help automate the classification of documents during or after scanning helping improve discovery and aiding business process automation. Bar code support and zonal OCR can also help distribute large scanning jobs across an organization or to third parties who can perform the tasks of migrating content to the cloud more cost effectively.


While public data clouds may not be suited for sensitive institutional content, organizations can look to cloud services providers or host their own “internal” clouds to achieve the same network benefits. Most will probably want to take a step-by-step approach beginning with public oriented content first, such as marketing or sales collateral. As they gain experience, they can begin adding native electronic content together with scanned documents, creating complete workspaces of reference and work in process documents in their clouds.

For those of you that would prefer to migrate to the cloud from the comfort of your own office vs. visiting that MFP down the hall there are plenty of options. Check out Fujitsu or Kodak desktop scanners or a new one that’s caught my attention, Neat (neatco.com). There are even client applications like our own Xythos Drive and Xythos Filer that can help make uploading and classifying documents a snap. Once those files are off your desk, you’ll feel better. More importantly, once they are safely stored in the cloud your organization will perform better. Have fun!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Portals, Content and Collaboration – The Future of ECM?

I attended Gartner’s Fall Portals Content and Collaboration Summit in LA earlier this month. Unfortunately, the Hollywood sizzle seemed to be missing from this event, even though it took place just across the street from Creative Artists Agency’s impressive new headquarters. Perhaps it was because the event was located in the basement levels of the Hyatt Century Plaza that caused us all to feel a little squeezed? Although, I must say the rest of the hotel has been wonderfully updated.

Maybe the issue is that the whole PCC concept might be getting old. I got the sense that many of the leading edge businesses, which have aggressively adopted PCC technologies, were busy doing just that – building and using them, instead of attending the event. Those organizations that did attend seemed more like the late adopters, still gathering information and waiting to see what the general consensus about ECM was going to be.

It’s also possible that Gartner’s somewhat artificial separation of the Web Innovation Summit from the PCC Summit had forced web developers to choose one venue vs. the other for budget reasons. I personally don’t know how it’s possible to separate Web 2.0 technology discussions from those about content management, collaboration or portals. In fact, it appeared that Web 2.0 applications, practices and case studies were getting the most attention at PCC this fall anyway.

The ECM market is evolving rapidly, and I know the folks at Gartner recognize this. However, its not just because of Microsoft and SharePoint. While SharePoint IS the tidal wave driving change in the ECM market, the market itself is quickly moving in new directions. Collaboration in particular is migrating to many new places on the web. (Are you having trouble keeping track of all your communications services?). My iPhone is rapidly gathering content sharing applications which connect to new web services – probably causing me to become an ECM rogue.

I’m not sure what’s going to stop this? Corporate policy? Probably depends on where we work. It’s also possible that the whole concept of ECM will need to get updated. (Just when everyone was beginning to understand it). Maybe the common content repository is more of an illusion than we expected? OpenText has some new ideas about using federated policy management against multiple content repositories that might help… Hopefully, Gartner will inject more web innovation into PCC next year before the event starts feeling more like a Lotus Notes conference.

Monday, September 22, 2008

ECM and the iPhone – Enterprise Solutions on the Way?

There still seems to be generous discussion regarding whether the iPhone can become a trusted enterprise tool and not just the latest consumer fad. I have to admit there are lots of really fun things I like to do with my iPhone, but I also think we’re soon going to see plenty of business oriented solutions designed to take advantage of its unique capabilities. I had an opportunity to get a peak at what these solutions might look like while meeting with members of the press and analyst community last week in Boston, MA.

MyACU is a web portal intended to serve the various needs of faculty, students and other members of the Abilene Christian University community. Its kind of superstore of information about everything you need to know on campus, including general services and data unique to each visitor, like class lists and account balances. What makes MyACU exciting and unique (at least for now) is how easy it is to use with an iPhone.

The IT team at ACU has taken considerable advantage of Apple’s iPhone developer toolkit and open standards based applications to deliver many of MyACU’s services in an easy to navigate format on the iPhone. Google Apps provide some of the basics like email, while Xythos is used to manage and share more sensitive content. As a result, faculty researchers can now review and update study results from practically anywhere, knowing their data is safe. ACU is also providing this fall’s incoming class with their choice of iPhone or iTouch devices, so I expect the MyACU mobile service will catch on quickly.

What’s also remarkable about MyACU mobile is how quickly their IT team developed it. They didn’t even have to spend anything extra to customize their ECM solution (Xythos) in order to deliver it as a web service for iPhone users. That’s a strong argument for open standards-based technology and robust API’s.

It will be interesting to check back with ACU in a semester or two and discover how their user community is putting this technology to work. In the meantime, take a look at www.my.acu.edu if you want see the public-facing part of their service and please let me know if you’ve got plans to manage content using iPhones.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Applications in the Cloud Part 2 – The ECM Bridge

A fair amount has been written about ECM and SaaS (Software as a Service) recently, particularly focusing upon whether ECM is well suited to the on demand environment and if businesses can depend upon on-demand ECM providers. I think the second part of this discussion is curious. If customers are confident their client data is safe with a SaaS CRM vendor like Salesforce.com then, all things being equal what makes other types of data, like documents more or less at risk? Obviously the management at Salesforce.com didn’t think there was a much different model when they decided to acquire online document management vendor, Koral last year.

In fairness, Salesforce has succeeded in CRM where customers historically had not been provided with adequate solutions or were so dissatisfied with their existing CRM software they were willing to overlook the switching costs. The Salesforce service’s ease of use and generally superior performance was enough to get many businesses to overcome their fears of SaaS as well. So, is ECM different? Possibly. While this is just a hypothesis, I would guess that the methods organizations use to manage their documents differ more significantly than how they manage their respective sales processes.

While larger organizations may employ common taxonomies to govern how they store documents, this is often in response to industry standard practices or government regulations, such as those designed to help monitor the drug discovery process like the FDA’s CFR 21 Part 11. Small and medium sized organizations not directly engaged with government organizations are less likely to follow standard document storage and archiving methods. Instead, these companies develop their own best practices specifically suited to their environment and often management’s general familiarity and comfort with technology as a whole.

While these document storage practices may not be ideal, many have probably lasted for years, some becoming more automated than others, with each process becoming more different from the next. Unlike the largest organizations which embraced ECM a decade ago or more, smaller companies could not afford the legions of consultants and technicians required to update and migrate their document management processes to a networked model, much less the Web. As a result, their document-centric business processes remain an odd mixture of paper-based and electronic exchanges with the later mostly relying upon email as a notifications and document transport method.

So, what does all this have to do with cloud computing and ECM today? A lot or a little, depending upon how you want to look at it of course. As I stated in my last post, the more warmware built into a business process, the less likely it will easily migrate to another environment, including the web. Obviously, the more unique the process is the less likely a common cloud or SaaS solution will be able to address it. Remember, one of the defining advantages of cloud computing is the aggregation and sharing of resources like computing, delivery and storage across a large and diverse customer population. It’s difficult for cloud applications to be common if they also must address multiple unique requirements while remaining universally accessible and easy to use.

Time and experience will undoubtedly help to overcome these issues. I imagine a future someday where automated widgets (or applets?) will help to transform and migrate even obscure business processes to the cloud with little intervention or planning. Ok, maybe my glasses are a little too rosy. In the meantime, its probably more realistic to expect that the most common elements of cloud computing, such as storage and collaboration can be leveraged to benefit existing business processes back on the ground.

What could this look like? Just imagine all of your business’ client solicitation, upgrade and service notices that you created in your favorite desktop programs are now stored in the cloud. Basic ECM functions ensure that complete version histories are maintained and backed up to keep your IT and legal staff happy. Clients are automatically notified of payment schedules using the cloud’s calendaring service and can instantly review their account status via a secure log-in through the cloud portal.

What’s new about that, you say? Just consider that none of this process required migrating your data from one application environment to another. There is no new software to learn, no consultants to pay, nothing. In fact, you can easily trick existing desktop applications into storing data in the cloud and begin developing scenarios like I just described using technologies that are available today.

If you’re interested to learn how, check back in a few days and I will share the details.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Applications in the Cloud – Is Your Business Ready?

Talk about cloud computing seems to be growing by the minute and I can understand why. If you believe what some industry pundits are suggesting you should soon be able to have your whole desktop PC delivered as a web service to whatever device you choose wherever you are. Work performed in one place will instantly be synched up with the next place, just when you need it. Sounds kind of appealing, doesn’t it?

Well maybe, but the whole concept also has me wondering if I’m missing something. I think there may be more work involved migrating some parts of my digital life to the cloud than others. Storing photos online makes lots of sense to me. They are much easier to share and the services I’ve tried can organize my photos better than I can alone. Backing up my documents online makes a lot of sense too. So, where do I see darkness looming in these web clouds?

I suspect it will be more difficult for businesses to transition to a cloud computing model than for individual consumers like me. Most businesses have been managing their applications and data a lot longer than I’ve been taking digital photos. That probably means they’ve developed a variety of software customizations and methods to help automate business processes with their software as well.

This unique “warmware” found in businesses often represents considerable investment and may become a speed bump, or worse on the way to the cloud. For example, small businesses have counted on Quickbooks to manage their accounting for years and many have developed valuable business procedures around this software. Migrating these individualized accounting solutions to other vendor’s web services could prove challenging and costly.  It might be better to wait until Intuit provides a suitable web service of its own.

What about all of the other software applications whose developers don’t offer a near-term cloud strategy or outright custom applications whose authors are long gone? How can the business processes supported by these technologies migrate to the cloud? I doubt very easily or quickly. Even cloud computing’s poster child, Google Apps doesn’t claim to be a Microsoft Office replacement yet (although it may some day). The thousands of lesser known desktop applications and their warmware will need a migration path of their own if businesses are to fully benefit from the aggregate synergies of cloud computing.

A potential near term solution may still include key cloud components, such as persistent and pervasive data storage and fundamental collaboration tools. These functions represent some of the most compelling elements of cloud computing, but don’t necessarily have to be embedded within process specific applications. SaaS (Software as a Service) and now cloud based service providers are compelled to integrate these functional layers because it can improve the customer experience and create a “sticky” business model. 

However, for business customers seeking a transition to a cloud based model an intermediate option may be worth exploring. Ideally, such a model would allow these organizations to preserve their investments in the customization, training, etc. related to their existing software while helping to move their data to a safer and ultimately more functional location in the cloud…

We’ll look into the specifics of what that model might include in the next few days. I suspect we may be able to get a few pointers from the online data storage and yes, online document management vendors as well. Until then, cheers! Jim

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Get off the Email Treadmill and Loose Weight Too!

Do you go to work to read email? Hopefully not, but how much time do you spend at the office reading mail - 20%, 30%, more? How much time do you spend looking for things other people sent you in your email? Is it possible that half your days are consumed this way? I’m trying to change these statistics for myself, particularly when I’m at the office. After all, what’s the point of commuting to work if we’re not going to interact with others in the real world?

I’m not against email or electronic collaboration. These tools are invaluable to my mobile work style, but I’ve been abusing email for too long and the consequences have become significant. I yell nasty things at my email client because I waste so much time looking for file attachments that seem to have disappeared altogether. I get even more frustrated just waiting for email searches to complete – usually without the results I’m seeking. Oh, and please don’t talk to me about “inbox full” messages. Grrrr!

Technology analysts earn lots of money advising big companies about how to manage these kinds of email problems. Some recommend trying to better understanding email usage behavior, categorizing identified patterns and then considering alternative methods, or technologies depending upon collaborative needs. Others suggest evaluating inbox contents and performing radical content hygiene – kind of like a deep dental roots cleansing. Ouch!

I’m sure there’s practical benefit to many of these approaches, but I’ve got a couple simple suggestions of my own you might want to try. Yes, one requires document management, or ECM software, but it’s not difficult to do. Here’s how it works. Stop sending email attachments and replace them with Web URL’s (links) instead. Some studies suggest that over 50% of all email storage is consumed by email attachments. Of course, you’ll want to get your co-workers, partners, etc. to do the same to get the full network benefit of this change. (OK – that’s the harder part).

How does this work? Most all ECM products offer support for WebDAV (Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning) which is an extension of HTTP. Basically, this means that any document or file stored within the application has its own unique address – one that you can share with others as a link. Better yet, WebDAV provides a host of collaboration tools, like version control that make it easy to work together with others on the same documents so that you can see each other’s changes, etc.

Some of the more sophisticated ECM solutions have developed email plug-ins that allow you to easily reference a stored document without even leaving your preferred email client. Xythos offers a good example of this type of integration whether you use a web or desktop mail package, or even shuttle back and forth between desktop’s and operating systems like I do.

The best of these email/ECM integrations will turn your old email attachment behaviors into automatic content publishing even if you select the paperclip or insert a photograph from iPhoto. That can be powerful. Not only is a big burden eliminated from email servers, but those files also become easier to categorize, search, re-use and even protect according to compliance policies. Oh, and did I mention that you can always change access rights to linked files that you've shared? Try doing that with an email attachment.

So, what was my other recommendation? Try limiting your use of email while at the office. I know there’s plenty of stuff we do that benefits from having an email record, but how many other times could we simply get up and walk across the office to discuss issues or ideas? How about an old-fashioned in-person meeting or lunch with clients where you can watch reactions that don’t always transmit through email? (OK – Light on the lunch or the title theme of this post won’t work).

Seriously, I still like email, but I refuse to use it to share files anymore. So please don’t try and send me any more email attachments. If you don’t have access to an ECM system of your own try www.xythosondemand.com. It’s free for 30 days and doesn’t cost much after that. I bet if you do co-workers will thank you for not filling up their in-boxes and maybe they’ll even walk over to your desk and say so!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Almost Paperless Office: My Desktop 2.0

I know, this subject seems as old as the hills, but look at your desk right now. What do you see? I’ve got a pile of reports in one corner; a bunch of receipts and an invoice opposite those, plus two folders, a magazine and some software boxes. There’s not much room for anything else with my new iPhone charging (again!), laptop, monitor and lamp occupying the remaining real estate.

The problem is that I just described my home office desktop. My other office desktop doesn’t look much different, mostly more of all the same items, just in different location. So, what’s the problem? Paper mostly… and me. Let’s address the easier part first - paper. While I’ve gotten a lot better making sure that the things I interact with in the electronic world are stored online, I’m not so good with physical stuff, particularly documents. I need to do a much better job of remembering which items I need and bring them with me when I switch offices

Wait a minute, you say. You’re in the ECM business. Why aren’t you using some of your industries’ own tools to address this problem? Doctor jokes aside, I confess I seem to treat my desktops just like my garage – almost as if storage (for everything) is limitless. Worse, when it no longer seems like there’s any more space I simply purge, disposing of almost everything with rapid abandon. Talk about an easy way to loose important documents or files.

So, what can I do about this? Get a small desktop scanner? Yes! Use the MFP in the hallway connected to the company network? Yes! Lose the folders on my desktop that give me the false sense of organization and safety? Definitely! If I can store every document I write and photo I take on the web why should I allow myself to be a victim of the antiquated delivery choices of others? Sure, it seems like an extra step to scan, but if I send those files right to my ECM system, then I’ve tackled some immediate and potentially significant issues.

OK, so let’s talk about problem #2 – me. Sure, everything I’ve just prescribed to address my cluttered desktop is technically possible, but that hasn’t stopped it from persisting. I need more motivation. How about a convenient place for my coffee cup? A lighter weight briefcase? Better yet, the absence of fear that I’m here and the documents I need are…. “Oh !&@%&^@! still over there! Yup, I think that alone justifies the cost of my inexpensive desktop scanner.

Is anything missing? I need to make sure it’s easy to scan to the web – like one button easy. Oh, and it would be really cool when I did scan my documents if they could be stored with the same attributes as other files in the folders I send them to so that I can stay better organized. That would certainly help minimize my security fears and maybe even help automate things a bit more.

Does this technology provide enough improvement to really make me change behavior? If its really one button easy, then I get the benefit of being able to access all of those “old” paper documents wherever and whenever I want. Nice. I can also stop worrying about where they are because my web storage is pretty inexpensive and I really don’t have to think about getting rid of them anytime soon. As and added benefit, it’s a whole lot easier to share these documents with my co-workers at a moments notice. I don’t even have to walk over to the fax machine or MFP anymore to do that.

Want to try out my clean and modern desktop for yourself? It’s simple. Find an MFP in your office or buy a desktop scanner for your home office. Many cost less than $100. Then choose a web service to scan your documents to. Of course, make sure the service provider is reputable, can meet your security requirements and offers an easy way for you to get your documents back – just in case.

Ready to start now? Try Xythos on Demand www.xythosondemand.com if you’d like to experience an easy to use Web 2.0 service (SaaS) solution for managing your documents. It's free for the first 30 days and if you like it, you can continue using the service for as little as $29.95/month for up to five users, including all of the document storage you’ll probably ever need. You might even clear enough space for a modern new desk lamp like I did!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Have it Your Way ECM

We’ve begun to see an interesting change among visitors to our web sites seeking to learn more about ECM and Xythos technology. While we have offered evaluation versions of our software products and free trials for our SaaS solutions for years, visitors have usually selected just one option to begin testing our solutions. However, recently that behavior has begun to change. Prospective Xythos on Demand customers as well as individuals employed by enterprise customers (I’ll come back to that item in a minute) have begun requesting access to both our on premise and our on demand ECM solutions.

We couldn’t understand why, so we decided that we should talk to several of them and try and find out what was going on. Were they uncertain which technology delivery method would work best for them? Maybe they were still considering the relative merits of leasing vs. buying software? Perhaps they didn’t believe it was possible for an on demand ECM solution to perform as well as a traditional on premise application?

After several phone calls and email exchanges with these evaluators a common trend began to emerge. I guess the best way to describe it would be a focus on business continuity. What we learned was that the evaluators wanted to confirm that investments they might make in Xythos technology today could be preserved in the future regardless of how they chose to consume the technology. This focus on preserving investment value included options beyond Xythos, so content and metadata portability was a key selection criterion among this group.

The other key factor we discovered was service vs. application feature parity. Evaluators said they were not satisfied being offered “watered down” versions of on premise software. One argued that the practice was common among vendors not really committed to SaaS who hosted limited function services mostly to coax customers into their enterprise applications where they could better control them. What a history of trust we’ve built!

Participants in this ad hoc study were mostly from smaller to medium-sized businesses primarily investigating their first ECM solution, so most were considering beginning with SaaS and possibly migrating to an on premise application in the future. Yes, they wanted to make sure that both solutions worked similarly and offered the same core features. They also appeared to care equally about data portability and skill portability. As one reviewer replied, “I only want to have to learn how to use this stuff once!”

What have we learned from this experience? Customers want choice and the ability to decide what’s right for their business on their own. Having a proven service to safely manage and store documents certainly appeals to smaller-sized organizations who don’t have staff to do this, but they don’t want to get locked into anything either. They appear willing to try SaaS solutions that can meet their security requirements, but they must be convinced they can get their data back whenever they want it.

So, what about those enterprise evaluators I mentioned? The couple that we contacted simply didn’t want to wait for IT help to get their hands on a potential ECM solution. These rogue departments were willing to look at both SaaS and on premise options because they were readily available to test and, as one said “at least we can tell the IT guys they can run it themselves if they want to”. For ECM vendors seeking a way to compete with SharePoint this is a pretty strong argument for SaaS!

In the end it would seem that offering easy web access to on demand and on premise options makes sense for both vendors and their customers, which has me wondering why don’t more business software vendors provide this option? Of course, if you're curious about how we actually do this at Xythos check out our "Test Drive" campaign for yourself at:

http://www.xythos.com/testdrive/index.html

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First Black, then Green

Last week Xythos hosted a web seminar titled “Is Green the New Black”. The event featured IT executives from academic institutions, technology analysts and editors brought together to examine whether ECM technologies can help green initiatives. It was a lively discussion and I'd say that the recorded version of the seminar might be well worth a listen, even if you’re just generally interested in this topic.

“Is Green the New Black” recorded web seminar

http://www.xythos.com/promotions/greenisnewblack_reg.html

One of the key lessons I learned from the seminar was that both enterprise guests justified the acquisition and deployment of their ECM solutions based upon cold ROI analysis of the benefits which could be gained, not some warm and fuzzy “let’s save the planet a document at a time” kind of initiative. Certainly, the green benefits of their ECM projects were considered, but in the end each based their initiative upon a defensible business plan.

Perhaps this is more good news for the green movement in the enterprise. If technologies such as content management make sense on their own business merit and can also help reduce energy consumption and waste, then what’s not to like? According to our guest presenters, the investment break-even time frame wasn’t overly long either, so it certainly sounds like profitability and sustainability can be friends.

Please let us know about your own green ECM initiatives. No, we’re not going to put them in an ad campaign, but we will offer to post them on www.xythos.com so that your peers can benefit from learning about your challenges and successes in this area.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Working Together Remotely

Are you getting tired of out of the office reminders from co-workers when they’re not on vacation? I can understand not wanting to read email or other correspondence while we’re away at the beach, but I’m not sure that business travel, off-site meetings or even being in different countries should mean that we’re unavailable anymore.

The mobile enterprise isn’t just about not being in the office. It also demands that we adopt new behaviors. I think this represents an impass that many organizations find themselves at when it comes to supporting mobile and remote employees. Employers are still not always comfortable believing that work is being performed as expected when they can’t see the process taking place with their own eyes. Employees can contribute to the potential misconception by not using today’s common workplace tools designed to address presence-related issues.

When I’m out of the office I make an extra effort to be responsive because I don’t want my co-workers to consider that distance or even time zones (generally) should inhibit our ability to collaborate, even in an ad hoc fashion. The new behaviors that I’m trying to learn need to go further though. While I’m never far from my email I know that I should be using IM more, especially for rapid-fire discussions around content that I’m working together with others on. Using basic workflows might also help reduce the time I waste searching through email and RSS would be a much better way for notifying me about web site updates.

So what’s all of this got to do with enterprise content management? That all depends on how you choose to manage it I guess. From my own experience I’ve learned that it’s all got to work together without much hassle or “mobile me” isn’t going to succeed. My workflows must send messages to my blackberry or iPhone. My documents need to all be stored in a web-enabled repository so that I can share secure links to them with co-workers. Managing and sharing content must become seamlessly integrated with my own mobile work style or I’ll have to put that “out of the office” notice on my door again the next time I leave.

How’s mobile content management working for you?

Friday, August 1, 2008

It's a Blackboard World - Sort of

I joined over two thousand Blackboard administrators and course developers in Las Vegas recently and was quite impressed with their thoughts and discussions about content management. While Blackboard may be best known for its learning management software the addition of content management, outcomes assessments and other applications to their product suite appears be prompting customers to think about content management and storage in a broader context these days. 

Like most organizations these institutions have focused on leveraging the web to improve the core value proposition of their business. In higher education that means the effective delivery and management of the learning experience itself. However, after almost ten years of learning management system innovation it was interesting to learn that many academic institutions were still just beginning to apply a similar focus to managing content in other parts of their business, such as administrative and research functions.

The concept of a common content repository, sometimes considered a holy grail of the enterprise content management industry would seem particularly appropriate to institutions of higher learning where ad hoc collaboration and the free exchange of information are a hallmark. However, the practical reality appears to be about as distant in academia as in other large organizations.

Speaking with BB World attendees I listened to various plans to improve content management but, to continue doing it independently from learning management systems. This may simply be a reaction to the more structured content management methods systems like Blackboard and WebCT have historically required, yet I also heard about varying institutional policies and disparate organizational structures also guiding the selection and use of content management technology beyond the classroom.

Ultimately, I think this is all good news as the attendees appeared more aware than ever about the advantages which ECM can provide – just that it can’t easily be delivered in a common or universal fashion. As a result, it would appear that there’s still plenty of opportunity for new content management solutions in administrative, research and other non-learning related parts of the institution. It’s probably just not realistic to try and address these different sets of needs comprehensively, even if it might be technically possible. Is anyone hearing the words “federated search”? Until next time…

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Offline Access in an Online World

I have to admit, I’m excited about getting my new iPhone. I guess it’s mostly about the anticipation of what I might do with all of the new apps and the integrated GPS more than the shiny new device. Thinking about the iPhone also makes me wonder how much more connected I really need to be? My laptop goes with me almost everywhere, yet I still seem to be disconnected from the data I need fairly often. Will the iPhone cure my problems, or will I still need some way to store data on my own devices for those times I can’t get on the net?

My recent experience in the SaaS (software as a service) world reminds me that data access remains a top-level concern for many customers. Sure, most service providers (like Xythos) tout their 24x7x365 service uptime capabilities, but that’s not what  customers are worried the most about. They expect service providers to fulfill their end of the bargain. Instead, they’re concerned about their own ability to get online and access their data whenever they need to.

I suspect the iPhone is going to improve my access to all kinds of content and services, but I’m not sure it’s going to let me go too far from my laptop.  I still need it (and a decent-sized keyboard) to create and edit all kinds of documents and files – whether I’m connected, or not. Since I do store all of this data in “the cloud” I guess that means I’m still going to need offline data synchronization or “access”.  There’s no way I can remember what files to copy to my laptop every time I unplug.

When we last surveyed our Xythos on Demand customers about their service preferences more than half of them identified the Xythos Drive as their primary method for accessing the service. This seems to echo my own experience. These customers appear to enjoy the benefits of the SaaS model, but aren’t ready to bet the house on the cloud. Knowing they have a local copy of their files is almost like a SaaS backup in a strange sort of way. I think this also explains the interest in Google Gears (I just got mine) and Microsoft Groove to a lesser extent.

It seems like offline access will continue to be important for some time, although I’m not sure if data access is the only issue. What if the application and the files both reside in the cloud? What’s the offline editing tool then? Maybe that’s why Microsoft is promoting a software and service theme together…but then what about non-Microsoft applications? What are your thoughts and experiences in this matter? Let’s explore this some more next time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Is Green the New Black?

I don’t know that the green topic needs much extra help to appear fashionable, but we’re certainly beginning to learn about good examples of how ECM is being put to work to reduce paper consumption, travel costs and other factors unfavorable to the environment. We’ve invited Xythos customers and a couple industry analysts to join us on a webcast next month to look into this topic in more detail. Please feel free to join us and share the below invitation link with your friends.

http://www.xythos.com/promotions/greenisnewblack_reg.html

What I like about using ECM to address environmental concerns is that it can produce immediate and direct results. There’s no need for offsets or carbon credits to justify ECM green projects. However, these projects usually require behavioral change in order to succeed. Sometimes that may be difficult for a user community. Other times, the initiative might appear obvious and help employees feel that they’re “doing their part to help” while at work.

One example we’ll be looking into is quite simple, but could yield impressive results – print output reduction. Several Xythos customers have targeted print output as a quick way to reduce paper use and the consumption of energy associated with printing and distributing documents. With target goals of 25% or greater the savings from these initiatives can add up rather quickly, particularly for some of our larger, distributed institutional clients.

Organizations have lots of different reasons these days for participating in green initiatives, and saving money certainly can’t hurt the appeal. Is your organization also finding ways to make green turn to black? Please let me know.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Web 2.0, SaaS and ECM – Is there a connection?

We hosted a web conference about these topics earlier this month and about 100 participants registered for the event. Attendees were asked to respond to a short poll regarding their current use of collaborative technologies and while this may not be a surprise to readers, almost half reported that email remained the primary collaborative tool used to work with others both outside and within their office. This reminded me once again that while terms like Web 2.0 and SaaS appear over-used in our industry there are still many organizations that haven’t yet tried today’s new collaborative tools and may not even be aware of the simpler ways to begin doing this, such as using software as a service. 

While businesses scramble to keep track of email in this age of increased compliance requirements enterprise content management, or ECM solutions can appear daunting given their history of lengthy deployments and costly integrations. The introduction of consumer-friendly Web 2.0 interfaces that facilitate collaboration beyond email and capture vital content in the process might just be the solution that will please employees and the organizations they work for. Software as a service represents a radical new way to deliver ECM to departments or smaller businesses that haven’t had easy access to the technology before. Taken together, Web 2.0 and SaaS could create a tipping point which finally gives ECM its chance to succeed.

We invited business managers from Volm corporation to explore this topic and discuss how they’re using Web 2.0 and SaaS to tackle their email and content management challenges during the seminar. Listen to the podcast to learn more about how Volm is improving how it collaborates and better serves the needs of customers like Dole Food Company, General Mills and others.

http://www.xythos.com/promotions/web20andecmreplay.html