Alfresco is bringing their Alfresco Days series of events back to D.C. again on May 23. The 2019 Alfresco Government Summit focuses on generating discussions around leveraging Alfresco as a platform in the cloud. Specifically, as an open source content services platform living in AWS.
TeraThink will be there again this year to talk about how we make content services work using Alfresco in AWS. We have been leveraging the content services platform (CSP) approach to deploying enterprise content management (ECM) for a few years. During that time, we’ve learned a lot of lessons. We will be bringing that expertise to the Application Platform Revolution Panel moderated by Alfresco founder John Newton.
Before the 23rd, I want to take a few minutes to giving you a preview of some of the thoughts we will be sharing.
Content Services Platform Background
In 2017, Gartner rebranded the ECM market into content services. This wasn’t a dramatic change as large portions of the industry had already begun to change mindsets. Many were already using a services approach when the CMIS (content management interoperability services) standard was introduced in 2008. In many ways, Gartner’s change was a recognition of how successful implementations where leveraging ECM platforms.
Since then, we’ve learned a lot.
- Start with the API and content model. You have to fully understand what business entities with which you are interacting and how they relate to each other before you can begin to build anything.
- APIs need to represent the business. You are not working on documents. You are working on correspondence, reports, and other specific business content.
- Deliver value by delivering non-functional capabilities. When you successfully build security, reporting, scalability, other non-functional requirements into the platform, it becomes easier to support new business functionality.
That underlying theme is that you are not building a cloud-based file store. You are building a representation of your business where you store business content organized by the business entities to which they apply.
March Towards Shared Services
What we are starting to see is that when you build a successful CSP in your organization, other parts of the business want to leverage the platform. When you’ve taken all the proper non-functional requirements into account, your CSP provides a fast way for those business teams to meet their goals.
Part of the preparation is the building a universal content model. We are not talking about modeling everything in the business. Taking that approach has doomed more projects than I care to remember. We are talking about modeling the distinct business entities and how they interact and relate to each other. At a minimum, you have to define all the entities that are adjacent to the business domain where you are building your first application. You only need to model in detail those entities that are part of the current effort.
To support that model, you need to define and implement a robust set of non-functional features such as strong security, comprehensive auditing, and useful reporting. While not every application needs those non-functional feature to use your CSP, you will experience problems and delays in leveraging a single CSP when you do not have them.
Come Learn More
The Application Platform Revolution Panel will be touching on these themes from multiple perspectives. We invite you to join us and our host, Alfresco, at the downtown Renaissance Hotel to learn more about this and other topics. You can register for free. After the panel, the TeraThink team and I will happily share our experiences making content services a reality.
One of the great things about using content services in your digital transformation efforts is the automation a lot of information governance processes. You can link business entities, automate the application of policies, and reduce duplicate content. All of which increases reliability of information and reduces redundancy. The newly digitized processes streamline the work that you do daily, increasing your ability to innovate across your business.
Sounds great, right?
But what about those policies you are applying? Have you thought about what they are doing? Do they reflect the realities of your day-to-day? Now that you are no longer dealing with paper and information silos, you can revisit your records policies that were written years ago.
I’ve been speaking a lot about content services of late. At TeraThink, we are a big believer that good content services are a solid foundation for excellent user experience. This is why I’ve been focused on dispelling some of the hype around content services. One of the reasons I, and TeraThink, have been trying to push past the hype is because we are actively using content services to deliver solutions at scale.
Along the way, we’ve been trying to share some of our lessons. James Fintel shared what we’ve learned about building content services agilely using Kanban. What I wanted to share was some of our lessons on the delivery of content services to a government agency.
Here at Terathink, we are working with a large government agency constructing a content services platform. This platform allows content generated by benefit applications to be shared and reused across the organization’s disparate IT applications. We are doing this through the use of application programming interfaces, or APIs.
Our agile development team manages our work using a Kanban approach, from requirements gathering to the deployment of the API to a production environment. We have honed our use of Kanban to most effectively manage the work required to take a user request to functional reality.
I’ve been seeing an uptick in interest in digital preservation recently. We are a few decades into the digital age and even without the push to digitally transform everything, people are realizing that they have a lot of digital information. I am surrounded by people who are using a digital records system I put in place over a decade ago. This puts that system into the realm of digital preservation. As per AIIM in their 2017 Digital Preservation Market Research:
The capabilities to ensure the readability and usability of digital information that must be retained for longer than 10 years.
I used to think ten years was a long time. It isn’t. People are also realizing that while storing large volumes of electronic documents is easier than paper, you have to take greater care. I have books that are older than 100 years in my house. The only accessible, viable, digital content I have over 25 years old are some music compact discs.
As we create more and more digital information, we need to start thinking more about long-term preservation.
In 2014, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century. It called for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DoS) to streamline and improve the legal immigration system. Specifically, it spells out the need to :
Modernize the information technology infrastructure underlying the visa processing system with the goal to reduce redundant systems, improve the experience of applicants, and enable better oversight.
As part of our ongoing support of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), TeraThink was engaged to implement a digital solution to automate USCIS’ implementation. The solution required integration not only with USCIS’ own internal modernization program, but also that of other Federal agencies. We took an API first approach, using MuleSoft to orchestrate all the interactions between the different players. The end result was a successful launch and the creation of a new content services foundation for USCIS.
Last month I had the pleasure of going to San Antonio for the 2018 AIIM Conference. As always, AIIM hosted some great conversations and informative presentations. Some of the discussions focused around emerging technologies in the information space, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.
Lots of new technology were discussed in a panel run by Alan Pelz-Sharpe. He and his panelists; Andrea Chiappe, Kashyap Kompella, and Dan Abdul; broke the technologies down and how they impact the world of information management. Alan noted that during his preconference session, a surprising number of people were already very familiar with these new technologies. That is a refreshing realization. Broad understanding in the industry is critical towards creating practical applications with any new technology.
A few weeks back, I spoke on an Information Coalition webinar with Nick Inglis about getting Beyond the Hype of Content Services. We discussed content services and tried to separate the reality from the hype. If you been following, there is a lot of hype out there and has been since Gartner stopped tracking ECM (enterprise content management) and switched to content services. This has fed people’s instinct to equate content services with ECM. Many vendors and consultants are now taking their marketing messaging and simply substituting one term for the other. Even more distracting are people that reflexively reject content services because they assume the person using the term is just doing a term swap.
The truth is that content services is not ECM. It is an approach to implementing solutions that support an ECM strategy and providing sound information governance. Content services doesn’t eliminate the need for an ECM strategy or information governance. In fact, if you don’t have a strategy or proper governance, you might end up addressing the wrong things.
You still need a plan. To determine how to implement it, you need to know what content services is and how it can make a difference.
Recently, I was at the local NCC-AIIM Chapter meeting. Russ Stalters was visiting from Texas and shared the story about how he created a new, 200+ person, data management team for the BP Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. A separate organizational entity from BP, the organization was stood up in 90 days from vision to operation. It was an impressive tale involving massive amounts of information being absorbed and managed in a highly visible environment.
As Russ spoke, it became clear that two of the key lessons were around agile processes and content analytics. It generated some great discussion that took us well past the scheduled time. I wanted to take some time to share some of the highlights.
This week I attended the 2017 Alfresco Government Summit here in DC. It is part of Alfresco’s rotating 1-day summits that they hold around the world during the year. Alfresco held this year’s DC event at Nats Park, a great location for the great weather. When attendance is good, it is a solid event full of productive discussions about information governance.
This year was a good year.
As a former Alfresco employee, it was enjoyable to chat with old friends to learn what has changed, and not changed, since my departure. More importantly for TeraThink, it was great to hear directly from Alfresco executives what their priorities are and their vision for tackling them. Enterprise content management (ECM) is constantly evolving so as a leading vendor in the space, their opinion matters.
Based upon what I saw at the event, Alfresco’s priority is enabling digital transformation for organizations.