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.
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.
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.
We are pleased to announce that TeraThink Director Laurence Hart has been named the first Information Coalition Honors Fellow by the Information Coalition. The fellows program recognizes the work of individuals that span multiple functionalities in the information industry. These domains include Records Management, Information Management, Enterprise Content Management, and Information Privacy. Laurence received this notable distinction at The Information Governance Conference 2017, one of the leading conferences for experts in the field of information governance.
“Laurence has been a leader in the Information Governance and Content Management realm for over 20 years. We are proud of his accomplishments, as well as the knowledge and experience that he brings to our clients at TeraThink. I couldn’t think of a better person to be named ‘First Fellow’ than Laurence Hart”, said TEraThink CEO, Dan Maguire.
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.
Another year and another AIIM Conference in the bag. It was a good year as the industry seems to be slowly coming to the realization that while content is a problem, the solution is to solve the business problem, not necessarily the content problem.
The industry entered AIIM17 with a debate over whether Content Services or Enterprise Content Management (ECM) should be the default name for the industry. The speakers, and attendees, basically uttered a massive, “Who cares?” We are solving problems and learning how to make sure that not just information can be found. Valuable information can be found.
A common refrain that I hear is the statement, “I need a new content management system.” I often nod in understanding because most organizations have challenges with their current systems. Understanding that you have a problem is a great first step in determining a solution. It is during the second step of the procurement process when organizations introduce problems.
Skipping the Why
Most organizations skip over the why phase. They may automatically define “the why” as their system is broken. This overlooks many possibilities. Was the software implemented correctly? Were people trained? Has the system been maintained? Are there processes in place to modify the system as the organization evolves?
One of our core solutions at TeraThink is Information Management. It is a term that we, and the industry, use to encompass a large collection of skills and expertise centered around content and information. Information Management is also a critical part of everything organizations do every day.
How do we define that collection of skills? Stated from a high level:
Information Management (IM) is a strategy for the coordinated management of all information throughout an organization, allowing for people and systems to find and use information from within any business context.
The goal is to provide people the right information at the right time and be confident that nothing is being overlooked. We make sure that information flows as needed between every system and process. Whether we are talking about governance, content, or digital transformation, IM is at the heart of every project and sets up long-term success for our clients.
This year’s Information Governance Conference (InfoGovCon) in Providence, RI last week was a great experience and I was excited to represent TeraThink at it. During what is quickly becoming the premier event in the industry, a milestone was marked in the evolution of the information governance industry. Loaded with some amazing speakers, the conference had a feeling of an industry who is trying new ideas and advocating for a complete change to how we approach the management, and subsequent governance, of information.
The key focal point was on the people working with information in our organizations. How can we remove the friction between people and the content management systems (CMS) that we implement? Specifically, how can we use design thinking to improve the user experience? This new focus on design and people was present in keynotes, individual talks, and in the hallway conversations. While there were still a lot of war stories shared, there was an underpinning of hope that we can make real progress.