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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With Jamie Pappas in the Blogger’s Lounge at EMC World 2010

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.

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EMC World 2010: Customizations of Centerstage

The session was presented by Andrew Goodale who is the architect behind Centerstage. I am not a developer but to me this session was very important because I believe that the level of customizations possible greatly influence the potential of a successful Centerstage deployment. A lot of the power of enterprise systems lies in the possibility to adapt to the business needs.

He started by exploring the Services SDK and outlined that the architecture is set up with a Direct Web Remoting (DWR) LIbrary do the magic between web browsers and Web Services WSDL.

Using DFS Types for Data Model where appropriate

  • ObjectIdentify
  • DataObject
  • PropertySet
  • TypeInfo

Simplification was needed to support broader language adoptions because it is hard to called them from anything else than Java and .Net

Trouble calling them from Flash

  • No use of abstract XML Types
  • Minimize the number of XML namespaces
  • Need to support invocation from un-typed languages (e.g. Javascript)

Interface Design

  • Restricted set of data types

The DFS error handling is fine for programmatic access but when you want to show a progress dialogue and had new data structures for that. If you copy 200 files some of them could invoke an error there is important that these are handled and for instance not importing anything from file number 53…instead give more extensive information to the user of what happened and what went wrong without breaking the import after the error.

Foundation Services

  • Create blogs, wikis,
  • Manage spaces
  • Templates

Application Services

Overview

  • Provide the ”guts” of Centerstage
  • Capture application logic that is UI.agnostic

Basic Content Services (Create, Checkin, Checkin, Copy, Move, Delete and Properites dialog)

  • Icon
  • Lists (Grid data sources – a declarative mechanism for creating queries, handling sorting, pagination and caching)
  • Permissions (simplified permission levels to standard dm_acl
  • Search (Knows about CS Artefacts and Integrates CIS entities with facets)

DFS Core Services

Possible to use them to modify CS artifacts

– for example ObjectsService.copy to  copy a wiki page

Copy things, add things to a page etc

Our DOF modules will enforce data constraints which for instance means that you can’t copy a page object without copying the page content

Deploying the SDK

  • A zip.file containing binaries and javadocs
  • Centerstage Services are added to core SDK
  • ”remote” jars only – a deployed centertsage server is needed

Setup

– Unzip the SD

For Java your classpath should include

– DFS runtime, JAX-WS, JAX-B

Java: centerstage-foundation-remote-jar and centerstage-application-remote.jar

.Net requures 3.0 SDK for WCF, Visual Studio Optional)

Samples in both Java and .Net

Creating a Space

Uses the Blank Template which ships with Centerstage

  • Identify qualification shows how to pick a specific template
  • Using a template guarantees that the space will be Centerstage-compatible
  • Space needs a home page

Returns and OperationStatusSet

  • The standard return type for creates, updates
  • Allows validation errors to be returned.

Creating a Wiki – child pages to the wiki can be added in the same way

An activity template can create a space and send an invitation email to everyone.

Java samples can be built with Ant 1.7 and Java 1.5 Not IDE requirement – Eclipse will work fine.

Sample: Wiki to eBook sample

Goal:

  • Given URL to a CEnterstage wiki, create and ePub book
  • Each wiki page becomes a chapter in the book
  • Blogs and Discussions can also be converted
  • High-fideliyt (the rich text in CS is XHTML in the repository)
  • Page links are preserved

What it shows

  • PageService
  • Fetch wiki home page

The used a set of Google code – Java library that builds ePub books – contributed by Adobe

http://code.google.com/p/epub-tools/

Centerstage Mini – Demo to call services from Javascript

Goal:

  • Build and HTML page that shows Centerstage data
  • Pure AJAX Technologies

What it shows

  • How to call services from JavaScript
  • How si data marshaled

Demo showed the Recent Activity in an external native ExtJS Grid

List Services

The SDK for CS is not licensed….basically need a CS license to use it…

eBook Sample is available on ECN

The SDK will be in GA in the July timeframe.

To me it seems more powerful than I thought that it is now possible to programmatically be able to setup Centerstage Space and modify existing ones. That gives us an opportunity to create ”templates” for common things that the business needs to do using E 2.0 features. Instead of relying that users are aware of all the possibilities and can execute them manually we now can have quick buttons to do that or use workflows or external systems to trigger these actions.

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Can BPM meet Enterprise 2.0 over Adaptive Case Management?

The project that I am running at JCDEC involves a lot of internal ”marketing” targeting both at end users and people in charge of our IT-projects. Lately I have found myself explaning the difference between Workflow processes using Documentum Process Engine and Taskspace and what EMC’s new clients Centerstage Pro and Media Workspace. My best argument so far has been that BPM/Workflow is well suited for formal repeatable process in the HQ while Enterprise 2.0 clients takes care of ad-hoc and informal processess. Keith Swensson explains the Taylorism-based Scientific Management-concept as the foundation of Business Process Management in this blogpost in a good way. He continues to provide a bridge over to ad-hoc work that nowadays is done by what is called Knowledge Worker. Documentum Centerstage is a tool that is intended for the Knowledge Worker which also can be seen as the Enterprise 2.0 way of working.

However, Keith continues to steer us over to a concept called Adaptive Case Management which is supposed to address those more agile and dynamic ways of working as a contrast to slow-changing well-defined business processess that is deployed in traditional BPM-systems. To my understanding this focuses a lot on the fact that the user itself (instead of a Process designer) needs to be able to control templates, process steps and various other things in order to be able to support more dynamic work such as criminal investigations or medical care.

However, Adaptive Case Management is also a concept (I understand) in the book called ”Mastering the Unpredictable”. The idea is to focus on the unpredictable nature of some work situations but also reflect a bit over to what degree things are unpredictable or not. In this presentation by Jacob Ulkeson the argument is that the main bulk of work is unpredictable and therefore also means that Process Modeling using traditional BPM most likely won’t work.

Some people have opinions that there is no need to redefine BPM and that all these three letter acronyms does not contribute much to the understanding of the problem and the solutions. I think I disagree and the reason for that is that there are no silver bullet products that covers everything that you need. Most organisations start somewhere and rolls out systems based on their most pressing needs. I believe that these systems have some similarities in what they are good and bad at. Having bought an ECM, BI, CRM or ERP-system usually says something about what business problems have been addressed. As SOA-architectures matures and the ambition to reduce stove-pipes increases it actually means that the complementary character of these systems matter. It also matters which of these vendors you choose because the consolidation efforts into a few larger vendors means choosing from different approaches.

To me all of this means an opportunity to leverage the strong points of different kind of platforms. Complex sure but if you have the business requirements it is probably better than building it from scratch. So I think when companies quickly rolls out Enterprise 2.0 platforms from smaller startup vendors they soon discover that they risk creating yet another stove-pipe but in this case consisting of social information. Putting E 2.0 capabilties on top of an ECM-platform than makes a lot of sense in order to be able to integrate social features with existing enterprise information. The same most likely goes for BI, CRM etc.

When it comes to BPM the potential lies in extending formal processess with social and informal aspects. However, it is likely that the E 2.0-style capabilities make new ways of working evolve and emerge. Sooner or later they need to be formalised maybe into a project or a community of interest. Being able to leverage the capabilties of the BPM-platform in terms of monitoring and some kind of best practice in form of templates is not far-fetched. To some degree I believe that Adaptive Case Management-solutions sometimes should be used instead of just a shared Centerstage Space because you need this added formal aspects but still want to retain some flexibility. Knowledge Worker-style work can then be done on top of a BPM-infrastructure while at the same time utilising the ECM-infrastructure for all content objects involved in the process. Having a system like Documentum that is good at content-centric human workflow processes makes a lot of sense.

So is the Documentum xCP a way to adress this middle-ground between Process Modeling-based processes and Knowledge Worker-style support in CenterStage? The mantra is ”configure instead of coding” which implies a much more dynamic process. I have not played around with xCP yet – we have so far only deployed processes developed from scratch instead of trying out the case management templates that comes with the download.

Not all companies want to do this but I think some will soon see the merits of integrating ECM, BI, E.2.0 and BPM/ACM-solutions using SOA. The hard part I belive is to find software and business methods support for the agile and dynamic change management of these systems. The key to achieve this is to be able to support various degrees of ad-hoc work where on one the user does everything herself and on the other way a more traditional developer coding modules. Being able to more dynamically change/model/remodel not only processess but also the data model for content types in Documentum is a vital capability to be able to respond to business needs in a way that maintains trust in the system. This is not a task by IT but something done by some kind of Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) specialist. They can get some proper means of doing their work using this SOA-based integration of different sets of products.

So employ E 2.0-style features in Task Management clients and make sure that E 2.0 style clients include tasks from BPM/ACM in their activity streams or unified inboxes. Make sure that all of this is stored in an ECM-platform with full auditing capabilities which needs to be off-loaded to a data warehouse so it can be dynamically analysed using interactive data visualisation, statistics and data mining. I hope we can show a solutions for that in our lab soon.

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EMC World 2009: Reflections from the Momentum conference

A very hectic week has passed by and EMC World 2009 is over. Just as I did last year I felt like reflecting a about the conference.

First of all many thanks to EMC for listening us and improving a lot of things from the last year. I have been to EMC World 07 and 08 and during both these occasions I felt a little lost as a Documentum customer among all these storage and virtualisation people. Back then I heard people referring with love to past Momentum conferences where the sense of community was there. In November 08 I had the chance to go to Momemtum in Prague as a speaker and it was actually a bit different from EMC World. Suddenly all the focus was on Documentum.

Things well done

So the establishment of a Content Management & Archiving (CMA) Community was just what we all needed. We all got yellow ribbons with text ”Momentum” to attach to our badges which made us all much more visible to each other. We got all the sessions in the same area which meant no more running around and the chance to bump into people with those ribbons. Intead of having a very thick catalogue with all sessions merged together into a giant schedule we got our own CMA Show Guide which was really easy to use and made life much easier to me. Next to all the sessions we had a beautiful  Momentum Lounge which was manned all day around. You could even meet CMA executives for drinks after sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. It had nice sofas and chairs togeter with soft red lighting which made it quite cosy. In the solutions exhibitions all CMA Booths were gathered in the same area with a separate graphic profile then the rest of the EMC booths. Around the CMA booth you found all the CMA partners co-located. Finally we had our own CMA Party on Monday evening which was well attended as far I saw. In addition to that we finally seem to have a working online community both for Documentum and XML Technologies.

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There was also a great thing to create a Blogger’s lounge where all people who blogged and Twittered could register. Outside the lounge there was a large screen displaying what we all were saying more or less live. And the Vanilla Latte served there was a life saver! On Tuesday their Barista started making mine as soon as I passed the entrance 🙂 What a service! I think EMC actually made social media into a working business tool here. Really something to build on. If you have not done it search for #emcworld on Twitter to see what it was all about.

I attened one Product Advisory Forum (PAF) around the new Enterprise Search Server (ESS) and that was a great experience. Ed Bueche and Aamir Farooq did a great job to inspire great discussions between us customers and the engineering team. I attended PAFs in Prague as well and those were also a great part of the conference.

We had access to wireless internet all around the conference area and that is vital for a conference like this. Especially for us who Blog and Tweet!

Things to improve

First of all EMC is a company which has a payoff saying ”Where Information Lives” and touts itself as an information infrastructure company. I assume that all means digital information and is it something we Documentum people care about then it is information management. Then it does make a lot of sense taking notes and searching the web on a laptop computer during sessions. After all we are IT-nerds 🙂 Please get us some rooms with sufficient number of power outlets!

Why not even extend it further and use your own technology to integrate Tweets, Blog posts with the conference schedule so we more or less can interact live around sessions. It would even make sense for me at least to being able to register that I am attending a conference (voluntary of course) using the online profile community that alre which would make it even easier

There seem to be fewer sessions in general and especially I believe the number of developer oriented ones have become significantly fewer. I am not a coder myself so I actually think it makes sense to have sessions focused on people writing code and other with different advancement levels for us focusing on architectures, features and business cases. Another thing I noted is that there are no call for papers to EMC World the same way it works for Momentum (Europe). I think use cases from customers are an important part of the conference and it would be great to find a way to get them back in.

Please also have a look at what Word of Pie had to say about this year’s conference.

See you next year in Boston!

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An interesting meeting in Gothenburg

The possibilities of the Internet never stops to amaze me. There is a real shift in the way we people interact and get together nowadays. As many of you know I am an avid internet user and I follow around 50 blogs or so using the RSS feature in Safari. Mainly I read blogs in three categories: personal/LGBT-blogs, Mac-related blogs and finally enterprise technology blogs. For a year or so I have been following the CTO Blog. One of the people who reguarly writes there is their Global CTO Andy Mulholland and I have read his posts with great interest and commented on a few of them. One of the posts I commented: Debunking the Myths of Long Tail and so much more!

One day I got an email from him where he asked if I would like to meet him when he was visiting Sweden later on. Well, yesterday we met and had a rather intense session for two and half hours straight. It was really interesting to listen to the experience of a CTO of a major corporation both from their internal experiences but also from some of their customers. The main focus of the discussion was around people and how we can support our very human desire to collaborate and communicate. As a self-confessed IT-visionary I of course want utilize the most of the possibilities out there and create the truly integrated enterprise platform. On the other hand we are more and more challenged by easy-to-use tools that people find on the internet in the Web 2.0 era. Tools like Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Slideshare and many others. That means that a lot of people find the functionalities that the enterprise IT-departments offer rather cumbersome, limited and old-fashioned.

Anyway, I left the meeting completely exhausted and had a lot to think about.

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