Managed to get access to the lounge at Chicago O’Hare while waiting for our flight to Las Vegas later. Really looking forward to come back to Vegas and the Momentum conference. Last time at EMC World was 2010 in Boston where I was a speaker. I really hope they have kept the Momentum-feeling that I think we all appreciated. Our own area for the sessions, a lounge and a badge of some kind indicating that we are all about software and not huge hard drives. Will be great to listen to all the sessions around Enterprise Content Management and information management as well as interact with both EMC staff as well as customers. Those of us that like to go to conferences like EMC World have one thing in common. We have seen the issues large organizations have with digital content and want (even know how) to something about it. That understanding is sadly not something to expect in our daily lives. I really, really hope that we will see interfaces on top of Documentum that we can show colleagues with pride this year. Modern tools on top of a great platform.
EMC (IIG) the company
- A real tech company
- Responsive employees
- Easy to get access inside the company
- Willing to share information
- Sometimes hard to figure out ”who is who” in EMC Information Intelligence Group (IIG)
As a customer it is important how the company feels. My experience is that EMC is a company where you can find tech-savvy people who really like what they are doing. And they are good at it. The general experience is that employees are interested in listening to us and very responsive to our needs. It is easy to quickly get access to both key business people as well as people in engineering. On the other hand that is often required because the product is quite complicated. On the negative side the company is big and that means that things are not always coordinated and it can sometimes be difficult to figure out who is who among all the different product managers, general managers, solutions directors and architects.
EMC IIG seems open and transparent to me. Sure there are disclaimers but they are talking openly about most things and there is no NDA at the conference.
I feel a big difference this year – maybe because I have been away for over a year due to my year at the National Defense College. The big difference is that EMC Information Intelligence Group finally seems to get it. For real. Away from the idea that Case Management is something different than Enterprise Content Management. A realization that nice-looking usable user interfaces is a key thing. Understanding that the cloud is a key component of EMC IIG future. Communicating the power of configuration instead of coding is the real power of xCP but not just the interfaces – the whole application. Finally working to get decent analytics to make use of the contextual information that already exists around objects in the repository. Somehow it feels like there is a new executive team in place that wants to be a little bit more bold and wants to move IIG in a certain direction.
EMC has made numerous acquisitions after it bought Documentum but now it feels like they are finding out that they all have lots of different pieces of technology within the company that together can be a bigger whole.
Working with EMC owned VMWare to provide not only certification for all Documentum components but also leveraging the power of their virtualization infrastructure to both ease deployment but also enable efficient use of infrastructure.
Working with VMWare-owned Socialcast to include activity streams into Documentum user interfaces.
Working with RSA to enchance the security features of the platform.
Working with Greenplum to power analytics but also provide a new perspective of handling big data with smart on top of it – big information.
Towards a unified client
- Client situation is a mess today
- C6 acquisition was a good move
- A unified client is coming along
- Wonderful to see the focus on iOS apps
The user interface of Documentum is frankly a mess nowadays. A result of too many teams working in their own bubble creating user interfaces based on different customer groups. WDK-based Webtop with its DAM-cousin. Taskspace which is also WDK but gains some power from Forms Builder and xCP technologies. ExtJS-based Centerstage which look great but is a bit late and light in features. Feature-rich Media Workspace which is based on Flex in a world where Adobe Flash is obviously loosing traction and HTML5 is taking off. Steve Jobs really made a difference here it turns out. On top of that Desktop applications for OS X and Windows as well as an Outlook client. It is not that I think there is a need for different clients. There is. Especially from a training perspective where some companies require almost zero training whereas other can accept more extensive training.
The inclusion of C6 Technologies into Documentum is a welcome move and I heard lots of positive reactions to that. However, the key thing is that EMC IIG is now firmly committed to unifying all clients with one technology stack which of course will focus a lot on configurability. So in the end it could very well mean that the number of clients will be much bigger, but will be just different configurations based on very specific user needs. The unified client will most likely be based on C6 and ExtJS technologies which means that Flex is going away quickly. So is WDK and Taskspace but in a longer perspective. So think of D2 as a Webtop replacement and X3 as the new Centerstage with lots of widgets including ones for rich media management. Probably we will see the C6 iPad client replace the existing Documentum client as well. Expect an iPhone client soon as well.
Speaking about iOS. To me it almost like a new world compared to my first EMC World in 2007. Everybody at EMC were using Blackberries and Macs were hardly seen. Now the iPad app is out, Peggy talks about “everybody loves their iPads”, Macs are in booths and on stage, there are several Documentum apps and almost all contest prices consists of iPads. Macgirlsweden is both happy and astonished at this development J
Policy-based deployment with monitoring
Ok, so Documentum is not easy to deploy. It takes a while but as Jeroen put it: “You guys want to do complicated stuff!”. I think he is right and it might sometimes be a good thing since you have stop and think (not like Sharepoint which is way to easy to install in that sense). You choose Documentum because you have a complicated process to support, large amount of content and an ECM vision. Still, agility really needs to be improved and that will also simplify deployment. So improvement is important for several reasons.
The first part of that is the xCelerated Management System which in essence lets you describe and model your applications and your deployment needs. Tools then translate these policies onto your VMWare-powered infrastructure and deploys the whole Documentum platform based on your needs. Taken into account the number of users, the type of content, type of processes and what kind of high availability demands you have. Finally all of this is monitored using a combination of open-source Hyperic and their Integrien engine they got through an acquisition. Integrien now seem to have become VMWare vCenter Operations. That architecture will in my opinion set EMC Documentum way ahead of its competitors especially if it can provide some additional agility when the Next-Generation Information Server (NGIS) comes.
Analytics and Search
- xPlore is looking good
- Thesaurus-support is a good thing
- QBS is great
- Custom-pipeline support based on UIMA is great
A dear subject of mine where EMC IIG finally seem to get their act together. They have there own search server called xPlore which is based on open-source Lucene and their own powerful XML-database xDB. A really smart move now when FAST, Autonomy, and Endeca have been bought by the other IT-giants.
xPlore 1.2 provides some really cool features both in terms of baseline search capabilities like thesaurus support but also more text analytics oriented features. The content processing pipeline now supports extensions based on UIMA which opens up to having other entity extraction engines connected into explore. Another really cool feature is Query-Based subscriptions which really leverages the Documentum repository. Create a search query based on a combo of free text and metadata. Save it and set it up to run with different intervals and notify you of any new content that has been ingested. You can even use to to fire of a workflow in order to have somebody take action. Hopefully we will see some xCP integration in the xPlore 1.3 release where the search experience and indexing is linked to the characteristics of the xCP Application Model.
In his Innovation Speech the Chief Architect Jeroen van Rotterdam also showcased a modified centerstage which used a recommendation engine based on a Hidden Markow model to suggest similar content to users based on similiarity in context and similarity in content. A really powerful feature that makes EMC live up to its name: Information Intelligence Group (IIG). Jeroen also mentioned that they are working on video and audio analytics including speech-to-text which is then indexed into explore. That will most likely arrive in the iPad client first.
Another cool thing that is coming for the Content Intelligence Services (CIS) component is automated metadata extraction based on rules and taxonomy cold-start. Which means that you could start generating taxonomy based on your existing content.
Next-Generation Information Server (NGIS)
It seems that there has been a big investment in the xDB technology and therefore it is a key component in NGIS. Not any surprise there since Jeroen is one of the founders of the company that EMC bought. That could also mean that future installations of Documentum will not require a traditional SQL RDBMS which would not be such a bad thing. One less license and one less skill set to manage. NGIS is being designed with both the cloud and ”big information” in mind. The idea is to be able to use different datastores such as Atmos, Greenplum, Isilon etc together with NGIS. I really like the term ”big information” which is a way to take what we now know as ”big data” to the next level where it also covers unstructured data and documents. Since there is a wave of information coming over us now it seems smart to design this for huge datasets from the beginning. After all we need to manage it whether we like it or not. As Peter Hinssen put it at the final keynote: ”It is not information overload – it is a filter failure”. We CAN handle vast amount of data if we design the architecture right. Another interesting concept is to bring processing to data(nodes) instead of what we do today when we have a central processing node which we pipe all data through. Everybody is realising that the first releases of NGIS will not be feature-complete in comparison with Documentum Content Server but I also wonder to what the cloud focus really mean for NGIS. I hope it means cloud as a technical concept and not only public cloud meaning that NGIS only will be available for OnDemand at first. On the other hand, an early access program is now opening up and that will most likely be run on premise. NGIS will be an important aspect to make Documentum retain its position as the leader in ECM-technology. In the light of the other innovation going on it can be a bright future.
Cloud and EMC OnDemand
So now you can run a complete Documentum stack in the cloud. Great thing which I think will broadened the market a bit. Much easier to get up and running and an ability to focus on core ECM-capabilities instead of installning server OS, DBMS and managing storage. A good thing is the ability to have extra power available if needed. Provisions of a full platform is said to happen in 6-8 hours dependning on configuration. Deployment will be in a vCube where all Documentum servers will be managed as images. Each customer gets its own vCube. It will be possible to run a vCube on premise but that means that EMC still manages the configuration over the internet even though it is running on your hardware. There will be some limitations on the level of customizations that you can do in order to have EMC take responsibilty over the vCube. Remember all server OS and DBMS licenses are included in the vCube. All together the cloud initiative is driving huge configuration and deployments which all aspects of Documentum will gain from.
Venue and atmosphere
- Keep working on the IIG and Documentum community feeling
Another Momentum conference has ended and it is time to reflect on our experiences from this event. This was my second European conference but I have attended four EMC World conferences. I keep hearing that they are different and also stories from the old Momentum conferences before EMC acquired Documentum. During my first EMC World events I really felt that the Documentum community was lost among a wave of storage people roaming around. However, the Momentum brand has been strengthened and I believe the difference between the US and the European conference is much smaller now. I think the main difference is the crowd and the atmosphere. The locations in Europe are a bit smaller in scale but also the event sites physically look different. In all EMC IIG made a very good job organizing this event with no visible friction from my point of view.
- More power outlets
- Dedicated wifi in the keynote area (to allow use of Social media)
- Set up a blogger’s lounge based on the EMC World concept
In general EMC created a very well organized event but there are some room for improvements anyway. One thing is the meals area. For some reason the Americans prefer round tables ”en masse” whereas this event was located in the ordinary breakfast restaurant in the hotel. Tables were straight ones with 2-8 seats each. To me that did not invite to as many spontaneous lunch encounters as I experience at EMC World. People tend to stay in their small groups and eat in those as well.
Another recurring issue is of course shortages in power outlets, which I found really strange in an IT-conference and with EMC’s strong push for social media interactions. Even though iPads are much more common now (even at EMC events) I think the conference experience would be more productive with a decent number of outlets and a capable Wifi network. My best experience so far is still a Microsoft conference around FAST Search in Vegas where all 1200 participants had tables with outlets.
The were a social media center but I felt it was way to small compared to the spacious EMC World blogger’s lounge. There are still quite few people who are using social media during the conference and a good lounge would encourage interaction IRL between us. Consider creating badges where your Twitter name and blog address is printed.
- Make them about networking
- Make it possible to talk – have areas without very loud music
- Make sure those with allergies can eat and eat safely.
First, of all I don’t drink alcohol at all. So I that sense I may not be representative for the group at large. Still, since this is a professional conference I do have some opinions based on what the utility of these social events could have. Of course, it should be a more relaxed time and a possibility to have some fun. However, I do like to see these events as very good opportunity for networking between all of us at the conference. Locating these events in nightclubs with very loud music is therefore not an ideal setting for networking. I think the EMC World Social events in the US are better that way. Spending the night in Universal Studios for instance was a very much different experience than Ewerke in Berlin. Not just because there are terrific and fun rides there but also because there were lots of places to sit down, eat good food and talk a lot. I had a great evening there last time talking a lot about the future of content analytics with EMC staff and customers. So at least provide areas where people can talk to each other. Make the events more of continuation of the conference day. Make sure that it is in theme – any entertainment should have some connection to ECM. Maybe a stand-up around our community or a show with music with dedicated lyrics about us. Also, it would be great to have more non-alcoholic alternatives than orange juice, coke and Fanta. Also, I am allergic to nuts and I had a small incident where I accidentally ate something with nuts in it. Provide good information and possibly alternatives for us with allergies.
DISCLAIMER: All opinions here are my own and does not represent any official view of my employer. Information are based on notes and conversations and may contain errors.
These are notes from the session with Jeroen van Rotterdam, Chief Architect, IIG Services. It may contain errors and all these sessions are subject to change from an EMC perspective.
The focus on the Documentum 6.7 release was improved quality and performance improvements
Gives an example from a classic HA Configuration consisting of:
4 Web Servers
2 Content Server
He sometimes gets the question: ”Why is it so hard to deploy DCTM?” He smiled and exclaimed ”You guys want to do complicated stuff”.
The current components of the Content Server Repository:
– Content Files (FS)
– Metadata (RDBMS)
– XML Store (xDB)
– xPlore Full Text (xDB)
Gives another example of a customer with 20k users
Branch Office Caching Server
– Predictive caching (push content)
– Distributed write option (async and sync). Local write and then syn cup.
The idea is to monitor users in a similar type of context.
Some users usually starts with an activity and will be in that process flow and therefore it is his/her context. Content related to that context can then be pushed to servers close to the user.
xMS is yet another acronym which in this case means xCelerated Management System
– Define requirement – Blueprints
– Describe them independent of deployment options
– Automatically deploy blueprint to a target
In the Run component there can be:
-multiple VM Clusters running on
-virtual machines are created based on the blueprints and will be assigned ESX servers
The final component is what they call the Telemetry Project
-Monitor the runtime using open-source Hyperic
They have created hyperic adaptors to the Documentum products.
Integrated with the Integrien product (which now seem to be VMWare vCenter Operations)
Policy also includes upscaling configuration so it is easy to add more power to a configuration.
Automatic remedies like firing up an additional virtual machine
Total amount of metrics
DFC Session Pooling
DFC frees session to pool if idle for 5 seconds
Expensive to switch context for users (to make sure they don’t see what the other users where doing)
Platform DFS Services/Platform Rest/Application Services
Two type of services
Core Platform and CMIS on top of that
Generate Application Services based on modeling from xCP stack (simple to use REST services will be generated for a specific part of the model)
– Application Modeling
– UI Builder
Semantic Model of the Application
Generate Optimized Runtime
– Indices etc
The Value of xCP is not just the UI but the application services and optimzed runtime is also of great value. Argues that xCP is sometimes misunderstood in that sense.
Dormant State Feature D7
Needed to support cloud deployment
Bring the server to a dedicate state for changes (read-only, stopped audit trail, stopped indexing).
Partial availability for users in this state.
The idea is to spread update load on different content servers
Rolling upgrade – continues operation – apply patches on by one
Snapshot of the vApp is possible because it is in a safe state
NGIS – Public Cloud
Goal is full-blown multi-tenent architecture
Tremendous investment in xDB over the past years.
Argues that xPlore now beat search vendors FAST, Autonomy, Endeca and since all of them are bought by a big player EMC now has access to solid search technology.
Tenant level backup in xDb 10
– XACML Security
– Tree compression (previous version is stored as a change)
– Search over history (storing complex graph that allow you to query all the versions)
– Distributed Query Execution
Big Data becomes Big Information when you Put Smart on top of the data
Bring processing to the data rather than data to the processing
Impossible with the huge amounts of data of tomorrow to bring data to (central) processing nodes.
Plain Hadoop will not work in this case…plain MapReduce is optimzied for back-end.
We need real-time MapReduce processing a lot of research ongoing right now.
Stream-based (looking at Yahoo).
SmartContainers (next year)
Kazeon is integrated into NGIS
Offering a builder to model your metadata to generate the run-time
Early access program is available.
Inspired by my recent discovery of a Documentum client for iPhone and iPad by Flatiron solutions I wanted to do some research what is going on when it comes to mobile access using iPhone OS for Enterprise Content Management systems. It turned out that there are a few solutions out there but first I would like to dwell a little bit about the rationale for all of this.
First of all we are of course going more and more mobile. Sales of laptop computers are increasing on the expense on stationary ones. Wireless high-speed internet is no longer just available as Airport/WiFi but also as 3G/4G connections using phones and dongles for laptops. Nothing new here. Another recent change is Web 2.0 and it’s workrelated counterpart Enterprise 2.0 which is now gaining a lot of traction among companies and organisations. It is all about capitalized on the Web 2.0 effects but in an Enterprise context. Lower threshold to produce information and even more to particpate with comments and rating based on relationships to people. All this drives consumption of information even more as the distance between producer and consumers is shorter than ever before.
Here comes the new smartphone (basically following the introduction of the iPhone) where it actually makes sense to use that for a number of different tasks which previously was possible but not very pleasant to do. The bigger form factor of the iPad to me opens even more possibilities where mobile access meets E 2.0 based on ECM. Not only does the appliance makes sense to use on the move but it also has really good support for collaboration and sharing on the move.
It seems the open-source community is doing good here. Alfresco is an open-source ECM-system created by the founders of Documentum and Interwoven and there are actually a few solutions for accessing Alfresco on the iPhone. This slide share presentation outlines one solution:
In the light of the fact that Flatiron’s iPhone app iECM so far is not said to be a product for purchase but rather a proof-of-concept I wonder if EMC or some partner would be the best way to provide access to a long-term iPhone OS app for Documentum.
Presented by Aamir Farooq
Verity: Largest ingex 1 M Docs
FAST: Largest Index 200 M Docs
Challenging requirements today that all requires tradeoffs. Instead of trying to plugin third party search engines chose to build and integrated search engine for content and case management.
Flexible Scalability being promoted.
Tens to Hundreds of Millions of objects per host
Routing of indexing streams to different collections can be made.
Two instances can be up and running in less than 20 min!
Online backup restore is possible using DSS instead of just offline for FAST
FAST only supported Active/Active HA. In DSS more options:
Native security. Replicates ACL and Groups to DSS
All fulltext queries leverage native security
Efficient deep facet computation within DSS with security enforcement. Security in facets is vital.
Enables effective searches on large result sets (underpriveleged users not allowed to see most hits in result set)
Without DSS, facets computed over only first 150 results pulled into client apps
100x more with DSS
All metrics for all queries is saved and can be used in analytics. Run reports in the admin UI.
DSS Feature Comparison
DSS supports 150 formats (500 versions)
The only thing lacking now is Thesaurus (coming in v 1.2)
Native 64-bit support for Linux and Windows, Core DSS is 64-bit)
Virtutalisation support on VMWare
DSS 1.0 GA compatible with D 6.5 SP2 or later. Integration with CS 1.1 for facets, native security and XQuery)
Documentum FAST is in maintenance mode.
D6.5 SP3, 6.6 and 6.7 will be the last release that support FAST
From 2011 DSS will be the search solution for Documentum.
Index Agent Improvements
Guides you through reindexing or simply processing new indexing events.
Failure thresholds. Configure how many error message you allow.
One Box Search: As you add more terms it is doing OR instead of AND between each terms
Wildcards are not allowed OOTB. It can be changed.
Recommendations for upgrade/migration
- Commit to Migrate
- No additional license costs – included in Content Server
- Identity and Mitigate Risks
- 6.5 SP2 or later supported
- No change to DQL – Xquery available.
- Points out that both xDb and Lucene are very mature projects
- Plan and analyze your HA and DR requirements
Straight migration. Build indices while FAST is running. Switch from FAST to DSS when indexing is done. Does not require multiple Content Servers.
- Over 30 M documents spread over 6 nodes
- Single node with 17 million documents (over 300 Gb index size)
- Performance: 6 M Documents in FAST took two weeks. 30 M with DSS also took 2 weeks but with a lot of stops.
- Around 42% faster for ingest for a single node compared to FAST
The idea is to use xProc to do extra processing of the content as it comes into DSS.
This is a very welcome improvement for one of the few weak points in the Documentum platform. We were selected to be part of the beta program so I would now have loved to tell you how great of an improvement it really is. However, we were forced to focus on other things in our SOA-project first. Hopefully I will come back in a few weeks or so and tell you how great the beta is. We have an external Enterprise Search solution powered by Apache Solr and I often get the question if DSS will make that unnecessary. For the near future I think it will not and that is because the search experience is also about the GUI. We believe in multiple interfaces targeted at different business needs and roles and our own Solr GUI has been configured to meet our needs based from a browse and search perspective. From a Documentum perspective the only client today that will leverage the faceted navigation is Centerstage and that is focused on asynchronous collaboration and is a key component in our thinking as well, but for different purposes. Also even though DSS is based on two mature products (as I experienced at Lucene Eurocon this week) I think the capabilities to tweak and monitor the search experience at least initially will be much better in our external Solr than using the new DSS Admin Tool although it seems like a great improvement form what the FAST solution offers today.
Another interesting development will be how the xDB inside DSS will related to the ”internal” XML Store in terms of integration. Initially they will be two servers but maybe in the future you can start doing things with them together. Especially if next-gen Documentum will replace the RDBMS as Victor Spivak mentioned as a way forward.
At the end having a fast search experience in Documentum from now is so important!
In a recent article called ”We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint” by Elisabeth Bumiller there is a big outcry to stop using Powerpoint because it supposed to make us more stupid in decision-making. I agree and can just reiterate a quote from the top US Intelligence Official in Afghanistan, Maj Gen Michael Flynn in the report ”FIXING INTEL: A BLUEPRINT FOR MAKING INTELLIGENCE RELEVANT IN AFGHANISTAN”:
“The format of intelligence products matters. Commanders who think PowerPoint storyboards and color-coded spreadsheets are adequate for describing the Afghan conflict and its complexities have some soul searching to do.”
These are quite hard words directed towards his commanders in ISAF and the US Component in Afghanistan but I think he is right. However, the underlying issue is a desire to simplify things which should not be simplified. Combine that with a lack of vision when it comes to tools support for higher level of military command. Basically the tools supposed to support that kind of planning are either general purpose tools like Microsoft Office or highly specialised military application which exists in their own stove-pipe.
With Powerpoint comes a method and that method mainly consists of boiling information down to single bullets. Perfect for fine tuned marketing messages that want to leave just a few critical words or terms in the heads of the recipient. Not that good for complex reasoning around complex issues like modern conflicts. Powerpoint sets out to convey a message when we instead should focus on creating situation focused on improving our understanding.
Most Powerpoint presentations are very static in nature. They usually represent a manually crafted snapshot of a given situation which means that it can become outdated very quickly. As time goes on there are more and more static presentations that should be regularly updated but usually never are. Either they disappear in the file sharing if the organisation lacks an Enterprise Content Management system or there is no process on monitoring which presentations that need to be updated. Usually because all the traceability is lost from when they were being created. Some companies have implemented some dynamic areas in their presentations were for instance weekly sales figures are updated when the presentation opens but that is far from keeping track of where the orgins for each bullet, diagram and images are.
As described in the article there are quite a few junior officers that spend time collating information and transforming into presentations. To start with there is much to be done to support this kind of ”research work” where users are navigation and searching for relevant pieces of information. However, after the information has been collated the next part of the work starts which is to transform that presentations using a template of some kind. Decision-makers usually have an opinion of how they want their presentations set up so they recognize the structure of the information from time to time. Add to that the fact that most organisations have a graphical profile to adhere which suggests a common styling and formatting of the content. To me all this really calls for a more semi-automated way of compiling this information. I am not saying that all content can be templated, far from it, but where it is possible it would save lots of time. Hopefully time that could be spent thinking instead of searching and formatting in Powerpoint.
Lack of interactivity
Another problem of these static representations are that since they usually take hours to compile and the flexilbilty in the actual briefing situations is usually low. If the decision-maker suddenly asks to filter the information from another perspective in say a graph the unfortunate answer will be: ”We will get back to you in half-an-hour or so”. Not exactly the best conditions to inspire reflections that puts complex problems in a new light. Spotfire has even written a paper around that which is called ”Minority Reports – How a new form of data visualization promises to do away with the meetings we all know and loathe”. The ability to introduce dynamic data which is interactive can bring us a new enviroment for meetings, especially if we also have access to large multi-touch walls that invite more than one person to easily manipulate and interact with the data.
The General is right, format matters. There is a need for several different formats of the same information. Maj Gen Flynn calls out for more products based on writing which allows people to follow a more complex reasoning. That tackles the simplification aspect of the problem. However, there is still a need to do things together in a room and handing out written reports in Times New Roman 12 points is not the answer. In fact we really need a revolution in terms of visualisation of all that information we have decided to store digitally. Especially since we are increasingly able to provide structure to unstructured information with metadata but also able to collect data with XML-based data structures. We really need more presentation and visualisation support to be able to work productively with our information. However, we need less Powerpoint because it is a very time-consuming way to do stuff which can be done much better with another set of tools. Multi-channel publishing is an establish concept in marketing areas which means that the same content can be repurposed for print, web, mobile phones and large digital signage screens. We need to think in a similar way when it comes to what we use Powerpoint for today. There is even a complete toolsets such as EMC Document Sciences which, surprise, is based on templates in order to do customized market communications where static content meets dynamic content from databases. In this case based around common design tools such as Adobe InDesign.
The Space Shuttle Columbia experience
One tragic example of when the use of Powerpoint was a contributing factor was the tragic loss of Space Shuttle Columbia. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) took the help of Professor Edward Tufte from Yale University to analyse the communication failure that in the end made NASA to not be aware of the seriousness of the foam strike. The board makes the following finding which is all in line with General Flynn’s observations:
At many points during its investigation, the Board was surprised to receive similar presentation slides from NASA officials in place of technical reports. The Board views the endemic use of PowerPoint briefing slides instead of technical papers as an illustration of the problematic methods of technical communication at NASA.
Tufte continues to make the argument that the low resolution of the Powerpoint slides used forces technical terms to be abbreviated and thus adding ambiguity and that the usual large font size in headline also forces shortening. He also notes that the typography and hiearchies provided by the bullet organisation also added confusion and that in the case of NASA some more advanced typographic feature to handle math and other technical formatting is needed.
During the Return to Flight work later on this was further emphasized with the following statement:
”Several members of the Task Group noted, as had CAIB before them, that many of the engineering packages brought before formal control boards were documented only in PowerPoint presentations,”
Unfortunately, this is something I can relate to in my line of business. The main form of documentation are a slide shows being emailed around. Since you know that they will be emailed around without You being there to talk to them I believe many add a lot more extra text in them which makes them into some kind of in-between creatures. Neither slides shows nor reports. At least these added words hopefully reduced ambiguity some degree. I have now started to record my presentations with my own voice to help mitigate that to some degree.
The Physical Resolution is usually to low
To further add to the Columbia findings I have serious issue with how briefing rooms are usually setup to today. They usually have only one projector with resolution between 1024×728 or 1280×1024. Many laptops today have widescreen formats on the screen which when used on ”clone mode” makes the image of a 4:3 format projector looked really skewed. When projector handles widescreen formats especially with a higher resolution they are never used because:
- Users are given computers with sub-performance graphic cards that really don’t handle full HD (1920×1080) resolution.
- Users don’t know anything else but to ”clone” their screen. What you see on the laptop is what you see on the projector. Thus in essence limiting the resolution on the projector to what ever the laptop handles. Again because users have been given cheap computers.
- The resolution has to be turned down from the highest one ”because everything became too small to see”. The reason for this is that the physical screen size is too small which makes the projector sit too close and the actual pixels too small to see from most of the room.
Combine that with Powerpoint templates with big font sizes we have a situation which means that not a lot information can be displayed for us which I also think adds to the oversimplification issue of this issue.
Why the Afghan ”Spaghetti image” is actually rather good
The NYT article contains an images from the Afghanistan conflict with hundreds of nodes being connected by arrows in different colors and this is given as an example of the problems of using Powerpoint. To start with I am not even sure that the image is made in Powerpoint, at least not from the beginning. I think a likely candidate instead is Consideo which is a MODELING tool not a PRESENTATION tool. The problems with that image is that when it enters the Powerpoint world it is static with no connections to underlying data. Imagine instead that that images was a dynamic and interactive visualizations of objects with relationships objects powering the lines. Metadata allows for filtering based on object and relationship attributes. Suddenly that images is just one of almost endless perspectives of the conflict. Imaging if all these nodes also are connected to underlying data such as reports and written analysis. Then it becomes easier even for an outsider to start understanding the image. We also need to understand that some visualizations are not intended for the decision-maker. Sometimes in order to understand them you need to have been there in the room most of the time so you understand how the discussions were. So this images is potentially rather good because it does not contain oversimplified bullets but instead is something you probably could stare at for hours while reflecting. However, it MUST NOT be an image that is manually updated in Powerpoint – it has to be a generated visualisation on top of databases.
Still valid for marketing
The almighty Master of presentations, Steve Jobs, who actually is using Apple Keynote instead of Powerpoint will most likely continue using that format. He delivers a very precise markeing message with slides that does not contain very much text at all. The rest of us who are not selling iPads need to start figuring out a smarter way to do business. Newer versions of ever more complex MS Powerpoint applications are simply not the answer. It is so general purpose that it doesn’t fit anyone any longer. At least if you care about your own time and data quality. It helps to some degree that both Keynote and Powerpoint use XML today – that means that the technical ability to use them as just a front-end is possible. The real issue has to do with information architecture and usage.
Oh, so how to do this, then? Use Enterprise Content Management systems to manage your content and move to an concept where content is handled in XML so it can be reused and repurposed while preserving tracability. Have a look at my other blog post around ”The Information Continuum” to get an idea of how. Since we do store all of our information digitally there is a need for much more in terms of visualisation and presentation support tools – not less. However, we need to find a way to be able to present lines of reasoning with a capability to do drill-down to utilize the tracability aspect. Maybe presentations to some degree will be more in the form of a rendition with links back to text, data, graphs, images or whatever. We need to accept that in many cases it isn’t realistic to try to boil it down to summarized and instead be able to explore that data ourselves. Now, let us setup our mindset, software and meeting rooms to do just that!
In a blog post called ”The Information Continuum and the Three Types of Subtly Semi-Structured Information” Mark Kellogg discusses what we really mean with unstructured, semi-structured and structured information. In my project we have constant discussions around this and how to look upon the whole aspect of chunking down content into reusable pieces that in itself needs some structured in order to be just that – reusable. At first we were ecstatic over the metadata capabilities in our Documentum platform because we have made our unstructured content semi-structured which in itself is a huge improvement. However, it is important to see this as some kind of continuum instead of three fixed positions.
One example is of course the PowerPoint/Keynote/Impress-presentation which actually is not one piece. Mark Kellogg reminded me of the discussions we have had around those slides being bits of content in a composite document structure. It is easy to focus on the more traditional text-based editing that you see in Technical Publications and forget that presentations have that aspect in them already. To be honest when we first got Documentum Digital Asset Manager (DAM) in 2006 and saw the Powerpoint Assembly tool we became very enthusiastic about content reuse. However, we found that feature a little bit too hard to use and it never really took off. What we see in Documentum MediaWorkSpace now is a very much remamped version of that which I look forward to play around with. I guess the whole thing comes back to the semi-structured aspect of those slides because in order to facilitate reuse they somehow need to get some additional metadata and tags. Otherwise it is easy the sheer number of slides available will be too much if you can’t filter it down based on how it categories but who has created them.
Last year we decided to take another stab at composite document management to be able to construct templates referring to both static and dynamic (queries) pieces of content. We have made ourselves a rather cool dynamic document compsotion tool on top of our SOA-platform with Documentum in it. It is based on DITA and we use XMetaL Author Enterprise as the authoring tool to construct the templates, the service bus will resolve the dynamic queries and Documentum will store and transform the large DITA-file into a PDF. What we quickly saw was yet another aspect of semi-structured information since we need a large team to be able to work in parallell to ”connect” information into the finished product. Again, there is a need for context in terms of metadata around these pieces of reusable content that will end up in the finished product based on the template. Since we depend of using a lot of information coming in from outside the organisation we can’t have strict enforcement of the structure of the content. It will arrive in Word, PDF, Text, HTML, PPT etc. So there is a need to transform content into XML, chunk it up in reusable pieces and tag it so we can refer to it in the template or use queries to include content with a particular set of tags.
This of course bring up the whole problem with the editing/authoring client. The whole concept of a document is be questioned as it in itself is part of this Continuum. Collaborative writing in the same document has been offered by CoWord, TextFlow and the recently open source Google tool Etherpad and will now be part of the next version of Microsoft Office. Google Wave is a little bit of a disrupting force here since it merges the concept of instant messaging, asynchronous messaging (email) and collaborative document editing. Based on the Google Wave Federation protocol it is also being implemented in Enterprise Applications such as Novell Pulse.
So why don’t just use a wiki then? Well, the layout tools is nowhere as rich as what you will find in Word processors and presentation software and since we are dependent on being able to handle real documents in these common format it becomes a hassle to convert them into wiki format or even worse try to attach them to a wiki page. More importantly a wiki is asynchronous in nature and that is probably not that user friendly compared to live updates. The XML Vendors have also went into this market with tools like XMetaL Reviewer which leverages the XML infrastructure in a web-based tool that almost in real-time allow users to see changes made and review them collaboratively.
This lead us into the importance of the format we choose as the baseline for both collaborative writing and the chunk-based reusable content handling that we like to leverage. Everybody I talk to are please with the new Office XML-formats but say in their next breath that the format is complex and a bit nasty. So do we choose OpenOffice, DITA or what? What we choose as some real impact on the tool-end of our solutions because You probably get most out of a tool when it is handling its native format or at least the one it is certified to support. Since it is all XML when can always transform back and forth using XSLT or XProc.
Ok, we have the toolset and some infrastructure in place for that. Now comes my desire to not stove-pipe this information in some close system only used to store ”collaborative content”. Somehow we need to be able to ”commit” those ”snapshots” of XML-content that to some degree consitutes a document. Maybe we want to ”lock it” down so we know what version of all of that has been sent externally or just to know what we knew at a specific time. Very important in military business. That means that it must be integrated into our Enterprise Content Management-infrastructure where it in fact can move on the continuum into being more unstructured since it could even be stored as a single binary document file. Some we need to be able to keep the tracability so you know what versions of specific chunks was used and who connected them into the ”document”. Again, just choosing something like Textflow or Etherpad will not provide that integration. MS Office will of course be integrated with Sharepoint but I am afraid that implementation will not support all the capabilities in terms of tracability and visualisation that I think you need to make the solution complete. Also XML-content actually like to live in XML-databases such as Mark Logic Server and Documentum XML Store so that integration is very much need more or less out of the box in order to make it possible to craft a solution.
We will definitely look into Documentum XML Technologies more deeply to see if we can design an integrated solutions on top of that. It looks promising especially since a XProc Pipeline for DITA is around the corner.
At one of the meetings we had with EMC Managers I was asked to participate in their little video project called ”A moment at Momentum” and of course I accepted. It is great to do stuff to strengthen the Momentum (Documentum) community at EMC World.
The Blogger’s lounge is a great water hole to stop by to get a really good latte but of course also sit down in nice chairs and sofas with power outlets on the floor to blog and tweet about experiences at EMC World 2010 in Boston. Today I stopped by in the morning to have my photo taken with Jamie Pappas who is Enterprise 2.0 & Social Media Strategist, Evangelist & Community Manager at EMC. Be sure to visit her blog and follow her on Twitter. My dear Canon EOS 5D camera managed to capture the nice lighting in the lounge I think.
This session was presented by John McCormick on Tuesday morning.
The three pillars are:
- Information Governance
- Information Access
EMC wants to help customers to get maximum leverage from their information and Deliver the leading application composition platform for information management and case processing.
Intelligence Case Management:
Data, People, Content, Collaboration, Reporting, Policies, Events, Communication, Process
Case Management: Argues that it is a discipline of information management which is:
- Driven by Human Decsionmaking
- Driven by Content status
xCP Product Priniciples
- Enable Intelligent business decisions (content and business process analytics)
- Composition and configuration over coding
- Enable performance through responsiveness and usability
- Delight application builders and systems integrations
- Beyond Documents: People, process and information in context
- Leverage the private cloud
- Build a future-proof product (move to declarative composition model)
The goal is collapse all the existing products that makes up xCP into fewer ones.
It is about reusable components, compositions tools, xCelerators
- Activities (templates)
- Process Builder
- Forms Builder
- Taskspace for the UI
What is coming next…
There are different version numbering for xCP and the Documentum platform and this is how they relate:
- xCP 1.5 – D 6.6 (June 2010?)
- xCP 1-6 – D 6.7
- xCP 2-0 – D7 (next-gen Case Management)
Focus for Documentum 6.6
- Real-world performance testing
- Composer 6.6 (dependency checking, simplfifcation
- Taskspace is getting better in 6.6
- Improved manageability (workflow agents behaves more gracefully)
- Forms Enhancement (conditional required fields, better relationship management)
- ATMOS Integration
- Final release of D6 family (Q1 2011)
- Licence Management improvements
- Improved Search ( integration of DSS)
- Public Sector Readiness (Section 508 improvements for Taskspace)
- Composer Improvements (xCP application (and no manual installs and version ingestions)
6.5 SP2/SP3 and 6.6 ready for Documentum Search Server (DSS)
Integration of cloud storage ATMOS D 6.6
As soon as DSS is out the whole platform is supported on a virtualized environment.
vSphere integration & Certification (D 6.7)
Documentum 7 (xCP 2.0) Sneak peak – Increased Business Agility
- Composition is simpler
- Deployment is faster
- Case workers are more productive
Improving the tooling
- Single Composition Tool – xCP Composition Tool probably based on Eclipse
- Modeling view
- Compose a page/screen
Deployments is Faster
- Leverage the private cloud
- Everything is virtualized
- Deploy to an already installed environment directly from xCP composition tool to a VMWare instance
- Better insights into cases
- Better viewing experience
- Integrated capture
- There will be a new Web Services based UI
- Easy to search and add content to a case
- Easier inline viewing