The Missing MOSS 2007 Workflow

process Hat tip to the SharePoint Solutions Blog for writing about another SharePoint hosted workflow that is included with MOSS.

The workflow is not activated by default and to be honest, I never knew it existed until reading their post the other day.

Anyway it is called the Three-State workflow and the description of how it works is located here.

This workflow can be a powerful tool for automating the tracking of the changing state of a SharePoint list item or document. Try it out.

BetterECM Upcoming Events

The next couple of weeks are pretty busy. Tomorrow I am participating on a panel discussion called: “Point/Counterpoint: Microsoft vs. Open Source” at the Greater Baltimore Tech Council. The event will be held at the Holiday Inn Select, 2004 Greenspring Drive. Timonium, MD.

After that, I am co-presenting with Connie Moore, VP & Research Director at Forrester for an “invitation only” Executive Roundtable event at the Baltimore Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The event is entitled: “BPM: Realizing Your Microsoft Investments Through Process Automation”.

Finally, come join me for breakfast, next Thursday morning, May 10, 2007 for the National Capital Chapter – AIIM monthly event. My presentation, “What Does the Future Hold for ECM?” will look at the future of ECM by reviewing some of the clues I observed at the 2007 AIIMexpo in Boston last month. I hope to see a great turnout and look forward to a spirited discussion about the future of ECM. The event will be held at the Key Bridge Marriott, 1401 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA, Phone: (703) 524-6400.

Disillusioned With The Current Definition of ECM

I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. For over two months now, to be exact!! So here it is, finally!

I think the traditional definitions of ECM swirling around are flawed. In this post I review some of the traditional definitions of ECM from AIIM, Gartner, and Forrester, and then propose a new “BetterECM Definition of ECM”. This new definition serves to answer the broader question of “How do we effectively manage the content across the enterprise and create a culture of information sharing?” 

So let’s look at the current definitions:

From AIIM

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the technologies used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.

From Gartner’s Client Issues for Enterprise Content Management, 2005

ECM has emerged after 10 years of market consolidation. Vendors from various areas have entered other markets by developing new functions, or by acquiring companies and technology from related markets. As a result, few stand-alone vendors remain in some of these markets (for example, Web content management and record management). Today, ECM encompasses the following core components:

  • Document management for check-in/checkout, version control, security and library services for business documents
  • Web content management for automating the webmaster bottleneck, and managing dynamic content and user interaction
  • Record management for long-term archiving and the automation of retention and compliance policies, and to ensure legal or regulatory record compliance
  • Document capture and document imaging for capturing and managing paper documents
  • Document-centric collaboration for document sharing and supporting project teams
  • Workflow for supporting business processes and routing content, assigning work tasks and states, and creating audit trails

From Forrester’s Topic Overview: Enterprise Content Management

ECM must be a strategy for: 1) how to manage all unstructured information — images, Web content, rich media assets, and corporate records; 2) how to integrate the many content repositories within an enterprise; and 3) how to put content to use — by making it contextual within business processes and user experiences.

What’s wrong with these definitions?

Well, all of the above definitions primarily focus on the technologies used to manage content across the enterprise. Forrester’s definition is getting closer to my idea of the ideal definition, but does not quite get there. It’s almost like the common definitions of ECM are based on the consolidation of the technology components that now make up the ECM suites. The do not address the necessary cultural aspects, processes, policies, and procedures which would support a culture and the practical application of effectively managing information throughout the enterprise.

I really like the Gartner definition of business process management (BPM): From the Gartner research report “Business Process Management: Preparing for the Process-Managed Organization”, they define BPM as:

BPM is a management practice that provides for governance of a process environment toward the goal of improving agility and operational performance. BPM is a structured approach employing methods, policies, metrics, management practices and software tools to manage and continuously optimize an organization’s activities and processes.

The BetterECM definition of ECM:

So, based on the less than ideal definitions of ECM so far I propose the following “BetterECM Definition of ECM”

“ECM is a management practice that provides for governance of an information management environment toward the goal of improving compliance, information reuse and sharing, and operational performance. ECM is a structured approach employing methods, policies, metrics, management practices and software tools to manage the lifecycle of information and to continuously optimize an organization’s collections of information and information management processes.”

Tell me what you think. Based on your feedback this definition may evolve.

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BetterECM Goes To Gartner BPM Summit

Greetings from beautiful San Diego! I will be attending the Gartner BPM Summit this Sunday through Wednesday. I am really looking forward to being an attendee and not being one of the presenters for a change. Not that I don’t enjoy presenting at conferences, mind you. I really do enjoy getting live feedback and having the opportunity to meet new people who in many cases are as passionate about making ECM better as I am.

I plan on focusing my attendence to sessions that deal with the strategic alignment of BPM with the organization’s buisness, with the change management aspects, and with the intersection of BPM and ECM.

I also hope to meet several of my BetterECM readers in person while at the conference. Sandy Kemsley blogged about attending and I plan to meet up with her.

Once I get my agenda nailed down I will post that so you can see what I will be attending. I also will try and blog about some of the sessions and the confrence in general. 

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Seven New SharePoint 2007 Document Management Features Series: Part 6

Here is Part 6 of my series “Seven New SharePoint 2007 Document Management Features”. The next new document management feature is:

Built-in document workflows: SharePoint now includes workflow capabilities built on Windows Workflow Foundation that are integrated with the document management repository and forms capabilities. The shipping workflow processes include:

  • Collect signatures
  • Collect feedback,
  • Disposition approval
  • Web content translation
  • Issue tracking

Workflow tasks can be created and assigned to participants along with notifications to alert them about the task. SharePoint provides a status page associated with the workflow so participants can follow the progress of a workflow. The status page also includes workflow history information that is specifically designed by the workflow author. The standard SharePoint workflows can by modified using the Office SharePoint Designer 2007, which is the successor product to FrontPage®.

 After the workflow is deployed to a site collection, it appears in the list of available workflows that administrators can add to content types or libraries. Once the workflow is added to a document library end users can then start the workflow for any document in that DM Library.

BPM & Steak: A Great Combo Part 3 – Top Five New BPM Features of MOSS 2007

Sorry this took so long to get out. Been traveling a bit.

At the end of our Executive Roundtable that I did with Connie Moore from Forrester, I shared with the attendees my top five new BPM features in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. I thought some of my reader may find this list useful. So here we go…

Number 5: Leverages ASP.Net 2.0 – Developers can leverage ASP.Net 2.0 features in SharePoint based applications. ASP.net 2.0 brings a number of enhancements including Master Pages that allows for visual inheritance, Web Parts that enable end-user customizable controls, Provider Model that allows for integrating custom data stores (as opposed to using AD), New data controls (GridView, FormView, DetailsView), New localization technique, and Personalization services.  

Number 4: Web based InfoPath capability with InfoPath Forms Server. Office Forms Server 2007 enables InfoPath2007 form templates designed in InfoPath to be published as ASP.NET Web applications that provide a similar experience to using the InfoPath 2007 client. Now forms based business applications can be shared with customers, partners, or suppliers using only a web browser. Another big benefit is that application user interface (UI) forms can quickly be designed using InfoPath 2007 and then rendered and embedded within the SharePoint application.

Number 3: Integrated workflow built on Windows Workflow Foundation. MOSS 2007 includes user-configurable workflow templates that can guide review and approval processes. Developers and IT administrators can also use Microsoft Visual Studio or SharePoint Designer 2007 to define custom workflows. MOSS 2007 supplies the following workflows:

  • Approval
  • Collect Feedback
  • Collect Signatures
  • Disposition Approval
  • Issue Tracking
  • Translation Management (for publishing with multiple languages)

Office 2007 has also made integrating workflow directly into the Office desktop clients easy for software developers and partners. Now the assigned task, actions, and any data needed to complete a work step can be displayed directly in the Office UI either as a custom ribbon tab or above the document as a task pane.

Number 2: Built-in business intelligence capabilities with Excel Services. Excel Services can be used to display business data as a Web Part where all viewers can see it in a centralized location where the original, posted Excel document is protected from unauthorized changes. Users can still download copies of the spreadsheet to experiment but they can’t modify the original, official version of the document, which is protected as the company’s official business record. This supports the notion of “one of the truth” for a company’s financial data. With Excel Services, the spreadsheet still has the look and feel of the familiar client. Key performance indicators (KPIs), out-of-the-box (OOB) features, and custom calculations are the same as with the Office Excel desktop experience completely through a web browser.

Number 1: The Business Data Catalogue (BDC) supports a declarative approach to surfacing external business data. The Business Data Catalog is a new business integration feature in MOSS 2007. It is a shared service and it enables SharePoint to surface business data from back-end server applications without any coding. The BDC bridges the gap between the portal site and business applications. Key data from various business applications can be brought into SharePoint lists, Web Parts, search, user profiles, and custom applications.

The Business Data Catalog provides built-in support for displaying data from databases and Web services. You can use Business Data Catalog to display data from SAP, Siebel, or other line-of-business (LOB) application via Web services or databases. The Business Data Catalog provides access to the underlying data sources with a declarative metadata model that provides a consistent and simplified client object model. As a bonus, the data brought in by the BDC can included in the SharePoint search index. Now users can search for both unstructured data (documents) and structured data (databases and applications) using a single search and get consolidated results.

Technorati tags: BPM, MOSS+2007, Microsoft, Office 2007, ECM
 

BPM & Steak: A Great Combo, Part 2

Sorry for the delay in getting Part 2 out. Anyway, I wanted to continue by sharing some of my slides and some key points regarding practicing Business Process Management (BPM) using a Microsoft platform.

Many of our clients have made investments in Microsoft technologies through enterprise agreements which provide for licensing of Office and SharePoint clients access licenses. In most cases they are running parts of their business on SQL Server and some have made investments in BizTalk.

This stack of .NET based technologies begins to create a rich platform for implementing business process automation solutions that support BPM initiatives for organizations. The following slide depicts the breadth of business processes.

At one side of the spectrum, you have very ad-hoc and collaborative activities, which tend to be highly unstructured in nature. On the other end, you have activities that are highly structured and transactional in nature – a good example of this is traditional IT business applications and integration middleware. Realistically, business processes tend to blur the lines and span across each category depending on the complexity and scope of the process.

The following slide depicts the Microsoft platform components that address process automation.

With the addition of Windows Workflow Foundation and the work that was done to support surfacing interaction with processes (workflow) within the Office 2007 desktop clients through the business pane uses can interact with their work without leaving the client application. Additional extensions and “hooks” have been provided within SharePoint to bring structured processes into the collaborative user interface. Another noteworthy capability is the InfoPath server which provides the capability to host InfoPath electronic forms and render them (for viewing and complete interaction) purely in a web browser.

This new capability allows designers and developers to expose forms based interfaces within the SharePoint environment or through a web browser easily and quickly. Now these forms can be connected to automated business processes for both data input and the display of process related data and information.

Using these modular and interconnected building blocks along with other .NET based solutions from Microsoft partners, organizations can support BPM using this Microsoft platform.

In Part 3, I will give you my Top Five New BPM Features of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007.

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BPM & Steak: A Great Combo, Part 1

I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Connie Moore, VP & Research Director at Forrester last week for an invitation only Executive Roundtable on leveraging Microsoft investments in support of business process management (BPM). The food was great and the discussions even better. I wanted to share some interesting ideas and observations from our event. I will start with some of the key points from Connie’s presentation: 

Connie discussed how BPM suites (BPMS) have evolved from two technologies; those that are human centric coming from traditional document centric workflow and integration centric BPMS evolving from enterprise application integration (EAI)  technologies. She sees continued consolidation in the BPMS market and these two technologies along with their respective strengths coming together and converging.

Connie provided another interesting peak into the future of BPM where she envisions BPMS technologies moving toward self correcting processes. This is an exciting possibility where exception handling and realtime feedback on business process performance can be brought together automatically to make corrections or adjustments to the process on the fly.

Her view of the future based on the continued maturing of technologies that support services oriented architectures (SOA) and the platform software vendors (IBM Microsoft, Oracle) continuing to more tightly integrate BPM and collaborative technologies includes originations enabled to focus on the “whole” process. By using technologies that span the three types of business processes; people, decision, and document intensive processes which in many cases will span across all three can be effectively managed as a continuous process.

In Part 2 of BPM & Steak: A Great Combo, I will share some of my slides and key points I made regarding supporting BPM by leveraging an investment in Microsoft and Partner technologies. And finally, as a bonus in Part 3 of BPM & Steak: A Great Combo, I will share my Top 5 New BPM Features of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.

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On The Road Again…

In approximately two weeks I am hitting the road for a four day, four city tour, where I and some of our partners will be presenting our seminar entitled “Building SharePoint Business Solutions With Workflow”.

This seminar has been presented several times in the Washington, DC metro area and been well received. My presentation is called “Three Keys to Successfully Building Business Solutions With SharePoint”.

I will be posting my presentation in the next couple of weeks and we will be making an accompanying eBook available.

Here is the itinerary:

Austin
Monday, November 6, 2006
Microsoft Corporation Offices
9606 N Mo Pac Expy, Austin, TX 78759
(512) 795-5300
Register Online:
http://www.clicktoattend.com/?id=112350

San Antonio
Tuesday, November 7. 2006
Team Momentum Offices
8000 W IH 10, Suite 240, San Antonio, TX 78230
phone: (210) 268.1149
Register Online:
http://www.clicktoattend.com/?id=112353

Houston
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Microsoft Corp
2000 W Sam Houston Pkwy S #350, Houston, TX 77042
(832) 252-4300
Register Online:
http://www.clicktoattend.com/?id=112352

Baton Rouge
Thursday, November 9, 2006
Team Momentum Offices
450 Laurel St. Ste. #1501, Baton Rouge, LA 70801
phone: (225) 295.4130
Register Online:
http://www.clicktoattend.com/?id=112354

I hope to see some of my loyal readers at one of these events.

Oh yeah, you can catch my “Top Ten New Features of MOSS 2007″ which I added at the end of the “Three Keys…” presentation.

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Spreading My Blogging Wings A Bit…

bpmenterprise blogosphere logo

I will also be Blogging about the intersection of Business Process Management (BPM) and ECM over at BPM Enterprise.com. There are some great resources about BPM and the roster of contributing Bloggers as well as the BPM Enterprise Staff offer some useful information and perspectives.

The fact that many ECM suites include workflow and in some cases include many of the capabilities of BPM suites makes this intersection and interesting phenomenon to discuss.

So, is the ECM suite an enhanced BPM suite which has broader content management capabilities? Or, are ECM suites just content management platforms which in some cases include workflow which ranges from simple to more BPM-like? Not sure what the answer today is and definitely not sure where everyone is headed but with your participation and discussion I look forward to exploring this interesting set of question.

So, if you find BetterECM useful and informative stop on over at the BPM Enterprise Blogosphere 😉

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