Winning Manufacturing Strategies

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July 23, 2013

A Million Dollar Question

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) in today's world has shaped up into a vast technology domain, which many market players are targeting from different domain and yes, with different platforms too. With these many product offerings in both content and process management, the customer is confused as they all look very "similar". But that's a bird's eye view. Imagine a matrix of challenges posed by domains and the technical offerings provided by these products, you'll see they all have a reason to co-exist.

So that million dollar question is "What and Why" should be procured and implemented by a customer so the end system helps the organization.

It won't be possible to compare each and every product as this discussion will then go on indefinitely, but let's limit ourselves to create that matrix of domain-technology and compare two of the best players, Documentum 6.5 (an EMC product) and FileNet P8 4.0(an IBM product). The domains which I am going to compare are Financial Services and Insurance (FSI) and Manufacturing (MFG).

The Business Problems

Let's compare the two domains to get an understanding of pain points:

Architectural Roadmap: It is very important that the product should fit in the technology roadmap of the organization. A manufacturing company will mostly look for the product that gives out-of-box functionality to integrate with ERP systems or it should provide a connector to work on engineering drawings. FSI companies would like to have integration with legacy systems with minimal effort and capability to design complex business processes.

Content or Process: MFG is more content centric and FSI is more inclined towards process. FSI's process scope expands from Retail Banking, Mortgage, Credit Risk etc. and MFG has an enormous pile of digital data in the form of technical documentation, manuals, engineering drawings etc. The process involved is very linear but the data size and the taxonomy involved are much complex than FSI.

Security: This parameter is more or less of equal importance for both. FSI data needs a highly secured data model with a larger role/group base. MFG on the other hand, has the main segregation as users and suppliers. Users can be categorized mainly as Editors, Reviewers, and Approvers for publishing of digital contents. After publishing, the access to external suppliers is taken care of by transmittal module.

Reporting: Reports are a common requirement across all domains in general. MFG reports mostly comprise inventory status report, labor utilization, productivity etc. Kaizen reports are useful for measuring the improvement by breaking down the process in small chunks. In FSI, reports are required to accumulate process data like number of active applications in a bank, number of applications processed by an employee in a specific duration of time, SLA violations, etc.

The offerings

So let's take the business scenarios sequentially and see what the two products - FileNet (FN) and Documentum (DCTM) - have to offer.

Architectural Roadmap: DCTM provides services/connectors to connect with SAP ERP system. There are third-party tools available to integrate engineering drawings like Oracle AutoVue. It also provides a range of connectors for seamless integration with systems like Adobe LiveCycle, SharePoint and FAST search. FN comes with a powerful tool called Process Designer which is a drag-drop tool to visually represent complex workflows. Apart from similar connectors as provided by DCTM, it also allows to integrate web services to integrate and share the data with workflows. It provides a solid backbone for organization already having SOA platform.

Content or Process: As DCTM emphasis on Content Management features, FN leverages heavily on BPM capabilities. Most of the content administrative sort of capabilities can be achieved in Documentum through Composer or DQL. DQL is a very powerful feature which allows admin to perform CRUD operations on Content Server. On the other hand, FN provides powerful BPM features like subscription, web services integration and import of business modeling files like XPDL. A workflow can incorporate a web service to exchange the data and can even publish itself as a web service.

Security: The security architecture for both FN and DCTM are quite similar. FN leverages on security templates which associate lifecycle and sets of Access Control Entrees (ACEs). There's Association Property where an object can be set as a property value of another object. DCTM uses ACL to provide permissions, whereas FN uses to restrict on the same. FN also provides Marking Sets, which are associated with a property template. Once this template is associated to any class, the security of the class can change based of any particular value of that property. This results in a powerful security mask, much anticipated in a high security application.

Reporting: DCTM comes with a set of services for reporting called Documentum Reporting Services (DRS). It is Crystal Reports Developer based tool to run reports based on size or type of content, or the attributes of the content. It also comes with a set of built-in reports for workflow status and user performances. So if the system is more content-centric, DRS fit the requirement very well. FN offers a tool called Process Analyzer(now Case Analyzer), which fetches the in-process or historical information from its workflow engine and provides some out-of-box reports on workflows, users, queues and workflow steps. Analyzer uses MS Excel pivot chart feature to display information and the information is fetched by using Online Transaction Analysis Processing (OLAP) concept (multi-dimensional reports).

Epilogue

DCTM is a complete ECM system with rich set of content services. With DRS and other components like Media Transformation Services (MTS), Web Content Management (WCM), and re-usable transmittal solutions it is an obviously one of the market leaders. With some enhancements in its workflow capabilities, DCTM can tap the BPM market in more depth than it has today. FN on the other hand, is at par with DCTM with respect to content services, but got some advantages in designing complex business processes and is much recommended for financial applications.

References

P8 Infocenter

http://pic.dhe.ibm.com/infocenter/p8docs/v5r1m0/index.jsp?topic=%2Fcom.ibm.p8toc.doc%2Fic-homepage.html

Documentum Developer Community

https://community.emc.com/community/edn/documentum

July 12, 2013

Honey, they "shrunk" the hardware, and have put that in a "connected box"

I recently bought one of those miniature personal fitness monitors (wearable device) and it inspired me to write this blog (the original purpose has still not been served i.e. no impact yet on fitness). The title captures three key trends that are happening in the hi-tech industry - miniaturization, commoditization and connectedness that is having a cross industry impact. These three trends are having a significant impact on consumer expectations, behavior and experience as well.  Let's talk a bit about each of these trends:

  1. Hardware miniaturization: Moore's law, "more with less" has pushed this trend over the last few decades. The technology advances have made hardware platforms really small and there's more computing power and memory capabilities that are available in the platform. What does this mean to the consumer - you can wear them, use them as glasses, carry them around wherever you go
  2. Hardware commoditization: In addition to miniaturization, there's commoditization that is happening quite rapidly. Technology companies and industries are leveraging this commoditization to innovate in other areas for instance on software differentiation. This has kicked off the trend of buying "white box" inexpensive hardware and building own gear. This is a great article on how some companies are adopting this trend - http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/03/big-switch-indigo-switch_light/
  3. Connectedness: The whole M2M segment is exploding; every device or piece of hardware is "connected" and is either generating or consuming data. This trend is influencing innovative services being offered to end consumers through software differentiation (what I would like to call as "App"ification)
So, what do these trends mean? These trends play a significant role in influencing customer expectations and have wide reaching applications from an industry perspective.

  1. Customer expectations
The explosion of information availability, through an anytime, anywhere access has n-tupled the customer expectations. Online is now taken for granted and netizens have graduated and increased their expectations for the other channels. There are three broad areas which I believe are being significantly impacted:

  • One click consistent, personalized and contextual information availability: The one click here is a metaphor for instant access. Consumers now want information anytime, anywhere and real time visibility into the supply chain. A couple of instances to elaborate this further - start, execute and finish a transaction in different form factors at different points in time but expect continuity in context. Furthermore, the customer service support has to be able to leverage information about this journey and provide contextual and pertinent support
  • Get involved in product development: A decade ago, the fad was to let customers choose product attributes and configure it themselves i.e. Made to Order. This has now taken the next leap with P&G and other companies involving consumers in the product conceptualization journey. It helps in getting early adopters part of the development life cycle itself
  • Immersive experience expectation: With a manifold increase in complexity, information availability - one thing that still dictates the application of technology is the whole experience factor. There is lot of literature that tries to dissect this domain and provide recommendations on the "why", "what", "how" and "when". In my opinion, it boils down to simplicity, intuitiveness and a natural extension of the context in which the operation is being performed. For instance - can a app detect that I am in a public space and enforce stringent security requirements different from when I am working from home.

2.    Industry perspective
Most industries be it healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, life sciences are adapting their business processes to embrace these technology trends. There is tremendous value addition on the revenue side and similarly decreasing costs. Let us now take a look at how these technology trends have an impact on the industry
  • Agility in product development: The ability for customers to be intimately involved in product conceptualization and rapid technology evolution mandates enterprise to innovate and speed up their product development methodologies and processes. Traditional long drawn processes are being challenged and nimbleness is a competitive differentiator 
  • Autonomous processes, systems: The miniaturization and connectedness of devices/sensors can help in redefining processes and systems to leverage real time data. This also means that industries have to redesign their systems and the boundaries between physical data, systems and information will become blurred.
  • Enhanced decision making: Data about the supply chain, support process and operations is exploding along with increased frequency, accuracy, volume and structure. Big data as it is popularly referred to and the analytics will improve the process and decision quality. Decisions can be more predictable, accurate and strategic in nature.
  • Services powered by software: A corollary to the appification trend is the services driven economy driven by software differentiation. Over the last decade and a half, there's a clear shift-right of the value that's being witnessed. App stores, social media, mobile are the digital touch points that have become the focus of innovation and channel to stay connected with the consumer. Many industries are embracing the software differentiation route and collaborating to extend value to their consumers
I really think we are going to witness the continued explosion of "Internet Of Things" as a trend and when coupled with SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) technologies the combined effect is going to be exponential. These are exciting times for consumer to continue expecting the technology to mature and provide them benefits.