Next week I’ll be representing TeraThink at the 3rd annual Information Governance Conference (InfoGovCon) in Providence, Rhode Island on October 12 and 13. I have attended the previous conferences, and as with the annual AIIM conference, simply sharing ideas and stories with the other attendees is worth the trip. This year I have an additional reason for attending, I am delivering the closing keynote on the first day.
I am pretty excited about this opportunity. When the Information Coalition, the organizers, contacted me about speaking. I was very excited. I spoke the first year at InfoGovCon and was interested in delivering a follow-up talk. Delivering the follow-up as a keynote is an unexpected honor.
I attended the annual AIIM Conference recently in New Orleans. As expected, it was a great event with a lot of interesting presentations. I spent a lot of time talking to people, learning what they were doing, how they were achieving success, and hearing about what wasn’t working. I may also have had a beignet or two.
My chief interest was content analytics. There has been a lot of buzz in the industry regarding this capability and I wanted to learn how real it was among practitioners. It seems like a simple concept; Take the classification technology from eDiscovery tools and apply it at the front end of the business process. Instead of reacting, become proactive in analyzing and acting upon content.
I learned that it is going to take some pioneers to make this a reality.
We’ve been talking about how to leverage open APIs to connect content-centric solutions together. The goal is to leverage the success from deploying point solutions without creating the numerous silos that typically accompany that approach.
The question that arises is what kind of platform providers are incented to create and maintain open APIs? Any vendor can claim to have an open API. Unless supporting those APIs long-term is core to their business model, those APIs may vanish or become closed in the future. While any enterprise content management (ECM) vendor may have open APIs, open source and software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors are the ones whose business depends on open APIs.
There has been talk of creating enterprise content management (ECM) platforms for years. They typically do not live up to the hype or expectations. The upfront investment typically required dooms most projects before they deploy their first business solution. It has reached the point where if an organization wants to implement ECM I typically walk away if I cannot persuade them otherwise.
That doesn’t mean that the need for ECM platforms don’t exist. Given the ever increasing creation of content today, it is even more important to be able to rapidly solve content-centric problems without creating numerous content silos. What is needed is an alternate approach to gaining the benefits of an ECM platform without forcing a big-bang approach to ECM with its large upfront investment.
The answer is to pick an ECM system the same way an organization picks a database system. Choose based upon the system’s ability to scale and meet the needs of the organization. An open API (application programming interface) allows the exposure of content services that can be used to add content capabilities to other applications and to build new solutions. Being open allows an organization to move forward without worrying information being bound to that system forever.
It starts simply enough. Your company needs a system for managing its contracts process. The finance department goes out and purchases a contracts system. Being forward thinking, they pick one that is cloud-based so they don’t have to maintain the infrastructure. Things are going well until…
- The ability to track supporting documents from within the system is identified shortly after launch
- After finance loads supporting documents, those documents are now stored in multiple locations
- Nobody knows which version is the current version any longer
- Groups outside of finance need access to the contracts but licenses are limited
- Contracts need to be linked to their CRM and ERP records but nobody can figure out how
The contracts process may be working well but information is trapped in a system that is closed-off from the rest of the organization. The only way to have information everywhere it is needed is to duplicate it which leads to complications in managing information.
Over the past decade, the majority of organizations have made investments in SharePoint, either as a content management or business collaboration platform. This trend has continued with Microsoft’s latest release, SharePoint 2013, and the steady growth in Office 365 subscriptions. The continued popularity of the SharePoint platform is somewhat perplexing, given the rate at which SharePoint implementations fail to meet user expectations.
SharePoint appears simple from the outside, and to be fair, it is pretty easy to get up and running out-of-the-box. It is in this simplicity, however, where the danger lies, ready to ruin great ideas. Given the relatively low up-front cost and effort, organizations frequently underestimate the complexity and effort it requires to deliver a successful SharePoint solution. In fact, according to a recent AIIM survey[i], only 6% of respondents consider their SharePoint projects successful, while 61% have either failed, stalled or are struggling. The most common barriers to success mentioned were lack of expertise, lack of vision, poor user adoption, and lack of governance.
If you’re reading this thinking “wow, that sounds familiar”, you’re not alone. The first step in revitalizing your SharePoint project, or avoiding these common missteps in a new implementation that you’re planning, is getting a better understanding of what went wrong and why. While there is no single secret to turning around your project, we strongly believe that asking a few key questions around the most common barriers is a good way to start addressing these challenges.