iPhone/iPad and mobile access to ECM

Behold the iPad in All Its Glory

Image via Wikipedia

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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EMC World 2010: There is an App for Documentum now (iPhone OS)

Flatiron Solutions delivers an iPhone OS App for Documentum

So, finally I got to see it. Documentum on iPhone OS, running on both the iPhone and the iPad. I had said it before and say it again: from a information management perspective it makes so much sense to combine the intuitive interface of the iPhone OS with power that lies in a Documentum repository. Make use of all the metadata around content objects and exploring information becomes a breeze on a multi-touch device.

It is the company called Flatiron Solutions that brought this to market. You can download a version of it from the iTunes App Store. In order to connect your own repository you will need a server component that sits between the iPhone OS App and the Documentum repository.

Download the App from iTunes

I had a chance to try it out on both the iPhone and the iPad in their booth at the Solutions Pavillion last night and it was so fun. I really want this in our Battle Lab. A very sexy interface for Documentum!

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Why iPhone OS (iPad) is ECM…

I like Twitter. It exposes me for a lot of interesting thoughts from interesting and smart people that I follow. Today I read a post called  Why the iPad Matters – Its the Beginning of the End by Carl Frappaolo. It talkes a lot of why the iPad brings a new promise for content delivery – a complete digital chain. It made me think about one of the things which is unique with the iPod/iPhone/iPad – it is the lack of a folder-based file system exposed to users. Surprisingly (maybe) it is the lack of it that makes the whole user experience much better.

So how does this relate to ECM then? Well, I guess many of us ECM-evangelists (or ”Ninjas” I heard today) have been in endless meetings and briefings explaining the value of metadata and the whole ”context-infrastructure” around each object in an ECM-system that can hold fine-grained permissions, lifecycles, processess, renditions and so forth. I have even found myself explaining the ECM concept using the iTunes as an analogue. You tag the songs with metadata and access them through playlists which is in essence virtual folders where each song can be viewable in many playlists. That is the same concept as the ”Show in folder” flag in Documentum. Metadata can even power Smart Playlists which in essence is just a saved search query – something we have added as a customization in Documentum Digital Asset Manager (DAM). So in essence the iTunes Library (should be call it a repository 🙂 is a lightversion of an ECM-system. Before continuing I really wonder why I have to customize Documentum to get the GUI-features that iTunes provide…?

So iTunes abstracts away the folder-based file system on a Mac or Windows PC but as long as you are using Mac OS X or Windows the file system is still there right. Some people even get really frustrated by iTunes and just can’t get around their head that there is no need to move files around manually when synching them to iPhone OS-powered devices. And here comes the beauty, in these devices there are no folder-based file system to access. Just the iPod App for music, the Photos App for photos and so forth. All your content is suddenly displayed in context and filtered out based on metadata and that App’s specific usage.

To some degree that means that the whole concept of iPhone OS-based devices not only can make content delivery digital but it can provide a much better user interface that is powered by all these ECM-features that we love (and have a hard time explaining). Suddenly we have an information flow entirely based on metadata instead of folder names and file names. Maybe that will make ECM not only fun but also able to much more quickly explain the dreaded ”What’s in it for me question?”.

Now, can someone quickly write an iPad App for Documentum so I can make my point 🙂 It will be a killer app, believe me!

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