New Years 2008: Looking Back & Looking Forward

leader in fieldHappy New Year to my loyal readers. I’ll bet many of you were wondering if I would ever write a post again. Well here we go…

Looking Back at 2007

Last year was a year of amazing change for me personally and for the ECM industry. A year ago today I would have never guessed that I would be making a significant career change in 2007 by accepting a new position with a Global 50 energy company with global scope and broad operational responsibility. All directly related to making ECM better for my company. Also this change would impact my family by moving us to Houston and involving travel globally on a regular (1-2 weeks per month) basis. Whew!

At the beginning of 2007 the big news was the launch of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 and the potential impact on the ECM marketplace. Also Web 2.0 was gaining ground and becoming part of the everyday lexicon. I even spoke about this at the Gilbane Conference in San Francisco last April; Is It Possible To Successfully Manage Content In The New Wild West: ECM In A Web 2.0 World. By the end of 2007 Web 2.0 has become somewhat passe’ and everyone is now talking about Enterprise 2.0 and some companies are actually doing something about it. Taking the Web 2.0 social technologies and capabilities and making them part of enterprise content management solutions.

Last month while in London for a couple of weeks I had the opportunity to meet with founders John Newton and Ian Howells at the Alfresco world headquarters. Alfresco is making ECM in a Web 2.0 world a reality by integrating the Alfresco content management platform with leading open source Web 2.0 social computing technologies and services such as Facebook for collaboration, iGoogle, Adobe Flex, MediaWiki for wikis, TypePad and WordPress for blogging. The idea is very interesting and I think they are on to something by providing corporate users with tools that are intuitive, easy to use and in some cases, ones that they already have experience with.

One thing I think is missing is a governance model for this type of extremely flexible and user controlled content management environment. What may be needed is what I am calling a Governance 2.0 model. I think if Alfresco proposes a governance model that addresses some of the security and compliance concerns that corporate users may have with this “Web 2.0” style ECM solution then they will really have something. I really want to thank both of them for sharing their ideas and thoughts with me last month.

Looking Forward

Looking forward toward 2008, I am excited at the possibilities the responsibilities of my new position offers. I am also responsible for the personal data privacy program for the company and will be expanding my horizons and knowledge in that direction. The biggest change I see looking forward is that I now have a chance to actually prove that I can make ECM better for a large multinational corporation. It has to be workable and I cannot do this for the organization or “to” the organization. My job will be to take the tools (both technical and procedural) and help the organization grow the capability to better manage information through people, process, and technology capabilities that my team helps to grow organically over time.

This is a huge challenge but I am eager to make a difference and continue to share what we learn. What works and what does not work. I am also committed to helping lead the effort to create a new professional discipline for information management professionals. I wrote about this before but my thinking and approach has evolved over the last four months. In my next post I will share my new manifesto that makes the case for this new professional discipline.

I am not one for New Years resolutions but I am committing to the goal of trying to write at least one post per week here at BetterECM. Now that I have drank from the fire hose over the last four months and have pieced together a plan going forward I think that this goal is achievable.

I look forward to your comments and suggestions and will continue to share what I learn and continue to learn from other’s outstanding blogs also. Thanks and Happy New Year!

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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.

Alfresco: Evolving ECM At Warp Speed

Alfresco made another big announcement this week but it was mostly unnoticed by the typical technology focused blogs and traditional media. The announced their First Embedded Enterprise Content Management System.

From the press release:

This offers application vendors a low-cost, scalable platform, which is standards based, to OEM as part of their application. Traditionally application vendors have had to manage the high cost, of either developing their own repository, or using an expensive, proprietary offering from an ECM vendor.

What is significant about this announcement and the others that Alfresco has been regularly making over the last year is that they are significantly increasing the velocity of developing improvements and enhancements to the Alfresco ECM platform. Most traditional ECM vendors take months and up to  year or more for delivering a new release or version. Since the beginning of 2006 they have released three four versions of Alfresco ECM along with other major enhancements like web content management, DoD 5015.2 records management, and now embedded ECM.

What do you think? Is Alfresco going to force the big guys to become more nimble? Or is it just impossible for them to move any faster?

Update: After reading John Newton’s post Looking Forward to Alfresco in 2007, I noted that Alfresco had four releases in 2006!

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Alfresco Launches Enterprise Class Open Source Web Content Management

Alfresco announce the availability of the Alfresco Web Content Management Preview release. Hat tip to MarketWire. Here is the PRESS RELEASE Alfresco Launches Enterprise Class Open Source Web Content Management.

Some highlights:

The Alfresco Web Content Management Preview release is an advanced WCM platform that includes features such as:

  • Virtualization Server
  • Multi-Site Transactional Publishing
  • Web Content Compliance Server
  • 100% Standards Based
  • High-Availability
  • Highly Scalable Platform   

End user features include:

  • Standards-Based Forms to Create Pages – Chiba XForms
  • Simple Multi-Channel XML Publishing
  • Email-Based Production Workflow
  • In-Context Review
  • Integrated Support for Content Managers, Contributors, Reviewers, Web Designers and Application Developers in one repository
  • Parallel Branching and Merging
  • Dependency Management
  • Pre-Built Templates and Website Components

The Alfresco folks have been really busy over the last few months. The fact that they are releasing this many products, this fast, is very impressive. I will try to carve out some time over the next two weeks to take a look at both the WCM and 1.4 preview releases.

I think Alfresco will become viewed as a credible alternative to the traditional ECM solutions like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and the few remaining players.

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Alfresco’s ECM Just Got Better

Alfresco released Alfresco Preview Release 1.4 last week. This is a monumental event since now there is a credible open source records management solution now available.

As I mentioned back in May after meeting and talking with John Newton, he promised to deliver a DoD 5015.2 capable ECM solution by the end of 2006.

Well John, congratulations for delivering on you promise. I am anxious to install the preview and take a spin through the records management capabilities. The following is a list of some of the newly added features.

Functionality offered in the Alfresco Records Manager preview release includes:

  • Fileplans – Automatically classify and schedule records based upon pre- existing plans and standardized structures
  • Drag And Drop Entry – Providing a file system view, records can be dragged and dropped using the standard Windows Explorer interface with metadata and disposition assigned according to fileplans and workflow handling
  • Automated Lifecycle Change – Enables schedule, content and metadata change activation based upon simple scripting rules. An important feature for managing retention dates and managing document disposition
  • Retention and Archival Policies – Manage archival of obsolete records, recovery of archived records or complete destruction of records based upon retention policies
  • Disposition – Provides controlled and scheduled handling of archiving, holds, transfers, accessions and destruction using rules and automated processing
  • Pre-Population Of Metadata – Using predefined templates and definitions, automatically file and handle records entry
  • Screening Records – Pre-defined reports and metadata type definitions to search and screen records due for handling and exceptional cases
  • DOD 5015.2 Requirements – Templates designed to support US Department of Defense records and filing requirement for metadata definitions, fileplans and functionality
  • Metadata Validation And Workflow Handling – Ensures the integrity of records using model-driven validation and handling of newly entered records
  • Automatic Conversion -Converts from proprietary office formats to long- term vendor neutral formats such as Open Document Format (ODF) and Portable Document Format (PDF).

The Alfresco Preview Release 1.4 Fact Sheet can be downloaded here

Time For The Big Guys To Go On A Diet!

bigbelly After reading Open source makes development faster, I started thinking about some of John Newton’s comments about how fast Alfresco has been able to develop their ECM solution compared to normal proprietary software development.

Now that IBM is buying FileNET, they are going to have a monumental job ahead of them to begin integrating/absorbing/digesting the FileNET pieces into something that looks like an improved ECM suite. What will make this even more challenging is that FileNET has not really been known for their agility. It took them years to migrate from all the acquisitions to the P8 platform. Also IBM tends be be a bit rotund also…Don’t they call it Big Blue?

And how about Microsoft! When they finally release Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 later this year it will be a full three years since the last version of SharePoint. The folks in Redmond better look around at the Open Source guys and figure out how to deliver incremental new features and improvements in a period less than a year.

Another bloated example is EMC Software. I was talking with my former CTO the other day who had a chance to get a close up look at the new and improved version of Documentum which now manages records in the same repository. They finally consolidated these multiple repositories after over 3 1/2 years since Documentum acquired TrueArc back in November 2002. Wow, that’s a long time!

If the big guys, and for that matter, other traditional ECM software vendors, don’t become more agile we might see the open source alternatives continue to accelerate their growth and acceptance by enterprise customers. The market will not continue to have the patience to wait around 3 or more years for major improvements in functionality and new capabilities when there are more agile alternatives.

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Breaking News! Microsoft Announces Office 2007 Open XML Translator

Yesterday Micorsoft announced the creation of the Open XML Translator project .

The project will provide translation between Micrsoft’s Office 2007 Open XML format and the recentley apporved Open Document Format (ODF).

This is significant becasue now Office 2007 users will be able to open and use ODF formated documents and save Office 2007 documents as ODF formated documents. The other significant development here is that Microsoft is treating this project as open source and will located the downloads and sourcecode at SourceForge.

The new project is already off and running and a prototype of the converter for Word 2007 is available for download here.

This is good news and will promote better interoperability for ECM customers.

Here is the Microsoft Press Release: Microsoft Expands Document Interoperability

InfoWorld Review of Alfresco

Alfresco 1.2.1 was reviewed in the June 19, 2006 issue of InfoWorld

The review by Mike Heck concludes that Alfresco is a "ready-to-run" content management system (CMS) that supports JSR-170 (Content Repository for JavaTM technology API) Level two and can integrate with J2EE portals via support for JSR-168 (Portlet Specification). Mike gave Alfresco a "very Good" 8.3 rating.

I guess I should download the latest version again and do some comparison with the other CMS solutions I am currently researching and testing.

Congratulations to John Newton and the Alfresco team!

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