iPhone/iPad and mobile access to ECM

Behold the iPad in All Its Glory

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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:

iPhone Integration with Alfresco – Open Source ECM

Another is Freshdoc for the iPhone developed by Zia Consulting. The company also seem to have presented an Fresh Docs for Filenet iPad application at IBM IOD (Information on Demand) Conference in Rome, Italy May 19 – 21. It is open source and can be downloaded at Google Code.
Yet another company that provides iPad access is the open source product Saperion ECM. Open Text Social Media also provides an iPhone App for their platform. Another company that seem to be in the works for an iPhone app is Nuxeo.
Cara for iPhone is also available from Generiscorp – an application that uses CMIS to connect to repositories with CMIS-support which includes both Documentum and Alfresco.
In our application the mobile access is somewhat less importance but the iPad changes that to some degree. Even if you maybe can’t offer mobile over the air acccess enabling users to have large screen multi-touch interfaces like the iPad is of course very interesting. From a Documentum perspective the only thing we have seen in the mobile area from EMC itself is a Blackberry client for Centerstage (check p.22 in the PDF) (there is also a Blackberry client available for IRM). I understand that Blackberry is popular in the US but in terms of being visionary having a nice iPhone OS app is important I think. As I said before there are many similarities between how information is handled in the iPad and how an ECM-system like Documentum handles information. It is all about metadata.

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.

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Interesting thoughts around the Information Continuum

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.

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EMC World 2010: Chiming in with Word of Pie about the future of Documentum

We have got a written reaction to Mark Lewis’ keynote held at EMC World 2010 in Boston. I both feel and have the passion around Enterprise Content Management and it is great that Laurence Hart spent so much time and effort on talking to people to craft this post. Someone need to say things even if they are not always easy to hear. So I will try to not repeat what he said in this blog post but rather try to provide my perspective which comes from what I have learned about Information and Knowledge Management over the past years. ECM and Documentum is a very critical component to move that IKM vision from the Powerpoint stage into reality. In our case an experimentation platform that allows to put our ideas to improve the ”business” of staff work in a large military HQ into something people can try, learn and be inspired from. Also, this turned out to be a long blog post which calls for an summary on top:

The Executive Summary (or message to EMC IIG) of this blog post:

  • Good name change but make sure You live up to your name.
  • A greater degree of agility is very much needed but do not simplify the platform so much that implementing an ECM-strategy is impossible.
  • Case Management is not the umbrella term, it is just one of many solutions on top of Documentum xCP
  • The whole web has gone Social Media and Rich Media. The Enterprise is next. Develop what You have and stay relevant in the 2010-ies!
  • Be more precise when it comes to the term ”collaboration”. There is a whole spectrum to support here.
  • Be more bold and tell people that Documentum offers an unique architectural approach to informtion management – stop comparing clients.
  • Tell people that enabling Rich Media, Case Management, E 2.0 and (Team) Collaboration on one platform is both important and possible.
  • I am repeating myself here: You want to sell storage, right? Make sure Video Management is really good in Documentum!

The name change

Before I start I just need to reflect on the name change from Content Management and Archiving into Information Intelligence Group (IIG). I agree with Pie…the had to be changed to make it more relevant in 2010 and a focus on information (as in information management which is more than storage ILM) is the right way to go. The intelligence part of it is of course a bit fun because of my own profession but still it implies doing smart things with information and that should include everything from building context with Enterprise 2.0 features to advanced Content and Information Analytics. You have the repository to store all of that – now make sure you continue to invest in analytics engine to generate structure and visualisation toolkit to make use of all the metadata and audit trails. Maybe do something with TIBCO Spotfire.

Documentum xCP – lowering the threshold and creating a more agile platform

Great. Documentum needs to be easier to deploy, configure and monitored. Needed to get know customers on board easier and make existing ones be able to do smarter things with it in less time. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of simplifying things to much here. To me there is nothing simple around implementing Enterprise Content Management (ECM) as a concept and as a method in an organization. One major problem with Sharepoint and other solutions is that they are way to easy to install so people actually are fooled into skipping the THINKING part of implementing ECM and think it is just ”next-next-finish”. All ECM-systems needs to be configured and adapted to fit the business needs of the organisation. Without that they will fail. xCP can offer a way to do that vital configuration (preceeded by THINKING) a lot more easier and also more often. We often stress how it is important to have the technical configuration move as close to any changes in Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) as possible. If Generals want to change the way they work and the software does not support it they will move away from using the software. Agility is the key.

In our vision the datamodel needs to be much more agile. Value lists need to updated often – sometimes based on ad hoc folksonomy tagging. Monitoring of the use of metadata and tags will drive that. Attributes or even object types need to be updated more often. Content need to be ingested quickly while providing structure later on (think XML Store with new schemas here). xCP is therefore a welcome thing but make sure it does not compromise the core of what makes Documentum unique today.

The whole Case Management thing

Probably the thing that most of us reacted against in the Mark Lewis Keynote was the notion that ECM-people in reality just have done Case Management all the time. I recently spend some time reflecting on that in another blog post here called ”Can BPM meet Enterprise 2.0 over Adaptive Case Management?”. There is clearly a continuum here between supporting very formal process flows and very ad-hoc Knowledge Worker-style work. They clearly seem different and while they likely meet over Adaptive Case Management but to me it makes no sense to have that term cover the whole spectrum – even for EMC Marketing 🙂

I immediately saw that Public Sector Investigative work is often used as an example of Case Management. Case Management in especially done by law enforcement agencies is fundamentally different from work done by Intelligence Agencies because in Case-based Police investigations there is usually some legal requirement to NOT share information between cases unless authorised by managers. This is of not the case (!) for all Case Management applications but from a cultural perspective it is important that Case Management-work by the Police is not a line of business that should be used as an example of information sharing. It is even so that the underlying concept actually is at ends with any concept of unified enterprise content management strategy where information should be shared. That is why workgroup-oriented tools such as i2 Analyst’s Workstation have become so popular there.

The point here is that it is important to not disable sharing in the architectural level because again it is what constitutes a good ECM-system that content can be managed in a unified way. Don’t be fooled by requirements for that – use the powerful security model to make it possible. Then Law Enforcement Agencies can use it as well. However, there must be more to ECM than Case Management – as Word of Pie suggests it is just ONE of many solutions on top of the Documentum xCP platform. A platform which is agile enough to quickly build advanced solutions for ECM on top.

Collaboration vs Sharing and E.20

So, Collaboration is used everywhere now but the real meaning with it actually varies a bit. First there are two kind of collaboration modes:

  • Synchronous (real-time)
  • Asynchronous (non-real time – ”leave info and pick up later)

Obviously neither Documentum nor Sharepoint is in real-time part of the business. For that you will need Lotus Sametime, Office Communications Server, Adobe Connect Pro or similar products. However, Google Wave provides a bit of confusion here since it integrates instant messaging and collaborative document editing/writing.

However, I am bit bothered by the casual notion of anything as a collaboration tool like Sharepoint and for that sake eRoom is getting. To further break this down I believe there is a directness factor in collaboration. Team collaboration has a lot of directness where you collaborate along a given task with collegues. That is not the same as many of the Social Media/Enterprise 2.0 features which does not have a clear recipient of the thing you are sharing. And sharing is the key since you basically are providing a piece of information in case anyone wants/needs it. That is fundamentally different from sending an email to project members or uploading the latest revision to the project’s space. Andrew McAffe has written about this concept and uses the concept of a bullseye representing strong and weak ties to illustrate this effect.

My point is that it is important that tools for team collaborations from an information architecture standpoint can become part of the more weaker indirect sharing concept. That is the vehicle to utilze the Enterprise 2.0 effect in a large enterprise. Otherwise we have just created another set of stove-pipes or bubbles of information that is restricted to team members. I am not saying that all information should be this transparent but I will argue that based on a ”responsibility to provide”-concept (see US Intel Community Information Sharing Policy) restricting that sharing of information should be exception – not the norm.

Sure as Word of Pie points out in his article ”CenterStage, the Latest ex-Collaboration Tool from EMC” there are definitely things missing from the current Centerstage release compared to both Sharepoint and EMC’s old tool eRoom. However, as Andrew Goodale points out in the comments I also think it is a bit unfair because both eRoom and at least previous versions of Sharepoint (which many are using) actually lacks all these important social media features that serves to lower the threshold and increase participation by users. They also provide critical new context around the information objects that was not available before in DAM, WebTop or Taskspace. Centerstage also provides a way to consume them in terms of activity streams, RSS-feeds and faceted search. Remember that Centerstage is the only way to surface those facets from Documentum Search Server today.

So, I am also a bit disappointed that things are missing in Centerstage that should be there and I also really want to stress the importance of putting resources into that development. Those features in there are critical for implementing all serious implementations of an ECM-strategy and the power of Documentum is that they all sits in the same repository architecture with a service layer to access them. Maybe partner with Socialcast to provide a best practice implementation to support a more extensive profile page and microblogging. Choose a partner for Instant Messaging in order to connect the real-time part of collaboration into the platform. Again, use your experience from records management and retention policies to make those real-time collaboration activities saved and managed in the repository.

Be bold enough to say you are an Sharepoint alternative – but for the right reasons

I’m not an IT-person, I come into this business with a vision change the way a military HQ handles information so I see Enterprise Content Management more as a concept than a technology platform. However, when I have tried to execute our vision it becomes very clear that there is a difference between technology vendors and I like to think that difference comes from internal culture, experience, and vision of the company. It is the ”why” behind why the platform looks like it does and has the features it has. So as long you are not building everything from scratch for yourself it actually matters a lot which company you chose to deliver the platform to make your ECM vision happen. That means that there IS a difference between Documentum and Sharepoint in the way the platform works and we need to be able to talk about that. However, what I see now is that most people focus on the client side of it and try to embrace it is a popular collaboration tool. Note that I say tool – not platform. All those focuses on the client side of it where the simplified requirement is basically a need for a digital space to share some documents in. However, the differentiator is not whether Centerstage or Sharepoint meets that requirement – both do. The differentiator is whether you have a conceptual vision on how to manage the sum of all information that an organization have and to what degree those concepts can be implemented in technology. That is where the Documentum platform is different from other vendors and why it is different from Sharepoint. Sharepoint is sometimes a little bit to easy to get started with which unfortunately means there is no ECM-strategy behind the implementation and when the organisation have thousands of Sharepoint sites (silos) after a year or so that is when that choice of platform really starts to differ.

This week at EMC World has been a great one as usual and there is no shortage of brilliant technical skills and development of features in the platform. What I guess bothers me and some other passionate ECM/Documentum-people is the message coming out from the executive level at IIG. In the end, that is where the strategic resource decision are made and where the marketing message being constructed. I think now there is a lot more to do on the vision and marketing level than actually needs to be done on the platform itself. The hard part seem to be proud of what the platform is today, realize it’s potential to remain the most capable and advanced on the market and use that to stay relevant in many applications of ECM – not just Case Management.

Rich Media – A lot of content to manage and storage to sell

One of the strong points of Documentum is that it can manage ALL kind of content in a good way and that includes of course rich media assets such as photos, videos and audio files. Don’t look upon this as some kind of specialised market only needed by traditional ”creative” markets. This is something everybody needs now. All companiens (and military units for that sake) have an abundance of digital still and video cameras where a massive amount of content needs to be managed just as all the rest of the content. There is a need for platform technologies that actually ”understands” that content and can extract metadata from it so that this content can be navigated and found easily. It is also important to assist users in repurposing this content so it can be displayed easily without consuming all bandwith and also easily be included in presentations and other documents. This is also very much relevant from a training and learning perspective where screencams and recorded presentations has so much potential. It does not have to be a full Learning Management System but at least an easy way to provide it. Maybe have a look at your dear friend Cisco and their Show and Share application. Oh, it is marketed as a Social Video System – the connections to Centerstage (and not just MediaWorkspace) is a bit too obvious. Make sure you can provide Flickr and Youtube for the Enterprise real soon. People will love it. Again, on one very capable platform.

Media Workspace is a really cool application now. Even if it does not have all the features of DAM yet (either) it is such a sexy interface on Documentum. The new capabilites of handling presentations and video are just great. Be sure to look more at Apple iPhoto and learn how to leverage (and create) metadata to support management of content based on locations, people and events. A piece of cake on top of a Documentum repository. Now it is a bit stuck in the Cabinet/Folder hierarchy as the main browsing interface.

Summary

I agree with Word of Pie that there is a lack of vision – an engaging one that we all can buy into and sell back home to our management. In my project we seem to have such a vision and for us Documentum is a key part of that. I just hoped that EMC IIG would share that to a greater degree. From our responses back home in Sweden and here at EMC World people seem to both want and like it (have a look at my EMC World presentation and see what you think). We can do seriously cool and fun stuff that will make management of content so much more efficient which should be of critical importance for every organisation today. At least in the military one thing is for sure and that is that we won’t get more people. We really have to work smarter and that is what a vision like this will provide a roadmap towards.

So be proud of what you do best EMC IIG and make sure to deliver INTEGRATED solutions on top of that. For those who care that will mean a world of difference in the long run and will gather looks of envy for those who did not get it.

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Is Etiquette and Netiquett different? Should it be?

Lately I have started think about how social rules IRL(in real life) and using digital media really works. As everything else in society all these rules vary to some degree between situations and are affected by who you are interacting with. The question is what is considered being good tone and what is considered to be rude nowadays. Humans are really good at sending signals ”between the lines” using diplomatic language with hints and insinuations and using body language to signal different emotions which then other humans are differently skilled at interpreting or even caring about at all.

In normal day-to-day conversations around a table it is generally considered rude to ignore what someone is saying or even refrain from answering direct questions. Over the phone or a voice chat it is similar but body language isn’t communicated (unless using video chats) and you can therefore afford to look bored, do faces or whatever while somebody is talking in the other end. As long as we are doing synchronous (real-time) voice communication a lot of the social rules for IRL seem to apply.

When the mobile phone rings you either answer or don’t but most people choose to call back at a later time to see what that person had on their mind. To me that is a good example of a social rule in modern society. Can one expect someone to call back if we have bothered to call them? Or is the social rule that if it important (enough) you expect someone to try again? Is therefore a repeated set of calls in a short matter of time a sign of urgency?

Getting an text message (SMS) notifying me that I have a voice message usually also signfies a sense or urgency or importance which I usually find results in a call back to me. However, I believe here is another area where we see a change in social interactions because the mobile phone is always with us and always on. Many people today bring their phone everywhere which includes meetings,vistit at friend’s and dinners. That means that is has been regarded ok to not answer because you are not able to talk at that specific time. Reasonable that has also meant that people choose not to answer when someone is calling and you don’t feel like talking to them.

Text chats seem nowadays to bridge synchronous and asynchronous communication. In one sense it is real-time because you can interact very rapidly and if both are typing really fast it can become a fast paced discussion. In general I also think that in the early days of Instant Messaging (IM) the siginificance of a text chat was higher than it is today. If you got that pop-up window with a bleep I usually switched my focus on that and bothered to answered directly. Today, we see IM going really mainstream and becoming a part of corporate infrastructures often with the argument of replacing some emails. That means that IM text chats are to some respects a replacement of asynchronous messaging (often email) where you type something up which does not really require an immediate response but something you want your co-worker to be aware of. You know that people are in meetings, talk to people around them and therefore can’t be expected to pay attention to all incoming IM-messages right away. That IM-message has then became an asynchronous message that gets read minutes or even hours later. Socially that must mean that there is an acceptance of IM-messages not being answered to directly and therefore not considered a rude behaviour. However, I do believe that it is a little but rude to ignore replying to an IM at all or at least mentioning that in an email or the next IM-chat.

I personally think it is really cool to be online at all times but the question is if that also means a committment(personal domain) or responsibility (corporate domain) to also answer and interact as soon as you can? In my personal domain I think the way IM is used has changed a bit over the years. In the early days of iChat we were intensely chatting often but nowadays it has almost shifted that an IM is done only when you have something important to say and therefore almost ”worthy” of a phone call but just almost. The way IM works is that it usually doesn’t require your full attention the way a phone call does. Nowadays you do IM while doing something else.

I wonder if this means that all means of communcation changes in the way we see them as requiring our attention or how important they are to us. We I got my first Internet connection back in 1995 I think I considered an email being somewhat the same as an old-fashion letter. It was carefully drafted and sent with some sense of importance and thus requiring an answer. Over time email also became a way to share information ”for-your-information” rather than something requiring a direct reponse. Email became a way to share information more casually. Compared to writing a letter it is so much easier to copy a text or just send a link to a web page. More of anything can often mean that the sense exclusiveness goes away somewhat, unless you are in love of course when I guess many love messages only make things better in most cases.

Social media (such as FaceBook) brings the sharing aspect of information to a whole new level. Nowadays you can share your current situation where you express what you are doing, how feel and what you are about to do. Thing that differes social media networks from web pages with information is that it usually assumes you have some sort of relationship to people who you are sharing your information with. The information is personalised and therefore to a higher degree targeted by you. Just as you expect a reaction to something you say over dinner about what is happening in your life I guess many people who post their ”status” on FaceBook hope or desire some kind of reaction to it. Congratulations to good things that happen and expressions of compassion when bad things happen in their life. So as we are getting more and more information about people around us the questions how we do handle the social rules about all this social information. Is it rude to not read or try to keep up-to-date about someone you know? Do you expect comments from these people around events in your life? Is a FaceBook message something that require an answer just as we might think of an email or an IM-chat?

No matter if how reactions or response will arrive the increase of information streams (should we call personal ones life streams?) coming from sources you have chosen will most likely affect people who consume them to some degree. In an era of mass information and need for affirmation it can be confusing when different people apply different social rules to all these communication possibilities. Some people apply the social rules of IRL strictly and get offended when people don’t follow them. Others are very relaxed about the whole thing and don’t feel obliged to do anything at all. The thing that confuses me is when the level of obligation is determined out of someones particular view of a specific tool rather than their relation to the person they have a relationship with.

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