ECM transition from Islands to Mainland
Being aware of the contents that an organization needs to manage for its smooth functioning, (like Documents, Records, Web Content and Digital Assets) we can certainly confront the fact, that today's organizations have all these in varying ratios. Also, depending upon the domain the organization serves, it more often, needs to deal with a certain type of content than others, for eg. Media organizations and Gaming Industry, have more of Digital Information as compared to other forms of content, similarly the Manufacturing Industries have to concentrate more on paper documents (like contracts, invoices, and other hard copy information), but still we can't deny the fact that these organizations still need to manage other contents too like Web, Records or for that matter Documents.
According to a survey by Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), more than 50% of the respondents have more than ten Enterprise Content Management (ECM) repositories in use. This can be conceived as the outcome of, Content Management System (CMS) market flourishing with vendors providing services to manage the different types of content, with each having an edge over the other, but concentrating only on a particular type content hence requiring enterprises to get themselves equipped with various CMSs (repositories) for different types of content present in its various departments.
So the imperative question arises here is, how can an enterprise manage these varied repositories or for that matter ECMs? An answer can be drawn by identifying the reason why organizations, adopts more than one ECM (Enterprise Content Management) to cater the different content. Following points may highlight these reasons to a considerable extent:-
· Organizations have invested time and money in historical point solutions (eg. Record Management systems) that they are reluctant to throw out.
· Some vendors claim to offer "ECM", but it is unclear as to whether they do (or indeed can) offer full spectrum solutions for everything (all types of content).
· Also new functionalities (eg social media, mobile) are emerging. The Market is far from being fully mature.
· The case where an organization needs to merge with another one that has made different choices for ECM.
Having various ECM in organization makes clients to deal with various vendors and in turn strive for consolidation. It is due to this strive that many clients are looking at consolidating their various Content Management System Platforms into one which would help them to build the platform, expose the services to core business functions and reduce their TCO(Total Cost of Ownership).
In the upcoming organizations today, the classical Content Management has become obsolete and enterprise needs fast access to all their crucial information, no matter where it is actually stored. But they do possess a rampant psychology of; getting their needs addressed by a single vendor for services of their product stack, like everything under one umbrella. This too suggests customers' urge to consolidate, receding away from having multiple vendors and wasteful expenditure.
Though the aspect of "consolidation" can be taken care of by obtaining point-to-point connectors between different platforms within the organization, with some of them to be built from scratch, some are supplied by one or other vendors and others are created by third party. But these can be expensive and will often require upgrading, when one of the underlying products is upgraded. Also the Point-to-point connectors are, neither recognized by vendors nor by the users, as a sustainable way to operate. This aligns us to ponder, why a common standard for content management is so important, and hence look into the prospects of what is called as CMIS Technology!
CMIS stands for Content Management Interoperability Services. CMIS does not cover each and every aspect of all ECM products. It focuses on the core functionality, these systems tend to have. In a sense, it describes the baseline functionality a content management system should have, and then provides a framework for such systems to interact. It is independent of particular platform (e.g. Documentum), a specific programming language (eg Java), or a set of protocols (e.g. REST, SOAP). CMIS will help proprietary systems to grow together, by combining the data and processes from a wide range of ECM platforms in one unified, process-oriented work environment. Hence making processes like file management, business process management as well as search and retrieval a mere child's play even for untrained users.
CMIS interoperability feature makes it usable in a variety of cross-repository scenarios, and allows clients to access their complete information infrastructure from segregated sources. It is this interoperability that has made CMIS superior to the databases, which could not be easily accessed in a standardized way by various applications. Also a single work environment concept for the entire enterprise, not only provides a high level operating comfort and data consistency, but also provides a competitive advantage of having all information at hand. This enables fast and insightful decisions, thereby providing an edge over others.
A promising tool which can be considered as a juvenile endeavor to explore the reins of CMIS is "Generis CARA". Generis CARA, being a browser based document management interface, works with both CMIS and repository. Though it specifically concentrates on Document Management, is an excellent step towards throwing light on, capabilities the CMIS technology has for the ECM world.
CARA was originally designed for ECM tool like Documentum but now works with other tools too, like Alfresco, Share Point and Oracle's WebCenter. We can view all these repositories within one web Desktop. It is common to see an organization, use more than one ECM system, so a solution like CARA can bring them all together, by providing an abstraction of one layer above, making it possible to upgrade the underlying Documentum or for that matter any other ECM product, without needing simultaneous upgrade for CARA. Hence addressing what the world is striving for -"consolidation".
With CMIS in its initial phase (v1.0), it has a long way to go nevertheless it remains the only standard of its kind. In my opinion there will be enough pressure from both customers and analysts to push the larger vendors further towards CMIS v2.0. Because as the market matures, the information environments will get more complicated and not less, so we need tools that will help in making this complexity manageable. Tools having compliance with CMIS (like CARA), may prove to be one such option, and at present, it is certainly one such option worth exploring.
Amit Upadhyay, Systems Engineer, MFG ADT - Digital Transformation, Infosys