Archive for May 10th, 2006

Keeping My Promise…Making ECM Easier Part 1

In my post "CIO Survey Shows ECM Security, Compliance As Top Concerns" I promised to talk about some requirements that I think need to be met by vendors to address making ECM easier.

Here goes…Part 1:

First, the ECM vendors must provide a solution that is easy to use. It must work the way users work…from within their productivity tools (word processing, spreadsheets, email, etc.) and be easy to find content they want to use and be easy to save or store content in the repository.

There are four primary ways users naturally interact with content today. They need their ECM solution to provide that same user interaction experience they are already familiar with. These four primary ways include file browsing, portal style information aggregation, email interaction, and internet-style search.

  • The file browser (explorer for Windows users) is oldest and simplest way users feel comfortable finding and saving content. They are accustomed to the "my Documents" and "Shared Drive" paradigm. Many ECM vendors provide Windows Explorer-like client applications that try and behave like the file browser but generally fall short or are difficult to use. Other vendors have tapped into the WebDAV protocol to provide access and interaction with some of the document management versioning and locking functionality. One thing this scenario does not address is offline access.
  • Portal style information aggregation like MyYahoo! or AOL must be provided. Users want to stitch together the information they use the most in a usable way along with non-work information like stock quotes, news items, weather and other information. Some ECM vendors are providing enterprise Portals that consolidate the heterogeneous array of applications and much of the information that end-users want is content from content repositories. These portals can simplify the use and management of the enterprise content and provide the primary interface for using some of the more complex services such as workflow, collaboration, lifecycle, security and administration. The portal becomes the launch pad.
  • Information workers live and die with email. The email client like Outlook becomes a hub in the information wheel where they receive and send information all day long. They are most comfortable in this environment and most users would like to be able to find the information they need without having to leave email. They also would like to easily send information or content to others (a link or pointer to the content) using their email also. If users are involved in automated workflow processes users would prefer to see tasks, appointments, deadlines, and other personal organization information displayed in one place – the email/calendar.
  • Internet-style search is something most end users are very comfortable with. They use Google or Yahoo every day to find content, articles, or documents. They now have the expectation for ease of use and rapid response time. Users want to search their ECM repositories at least as fast as the internet and not have to worry about "where" to search. ECM vendors must incorporate search engines that mimic Google’s capability and enhanced this search experience with auditing, access control, change histories, process information and the ability to invoke workflows.

For ECM to be easily and broadly adopted ECM vendors will have to address these scenarios for users to naturally interact with content. Other emerging ways of consuming information is through Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds using RSS readers and with instant messages. The RSS protocol provides XML tags of information that has changed and many tools, including web browsers and email clients can process RSS streams. Instant messaging is growing in popularity and the convergence of the ECM repository with Instant messages will become more and more important.

Next: What the next generation ECM solution looks like…

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Russ Stalters is Director, Information & Data Management at a global oil and gas company. Everything in this Blog is his personal opinion and does not represent the views of his employer. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.


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