Archive for December, 2006

Happy New Year From BetterECM

As the new year approaches I wanted to thank all the loyal readers of BetterECM. 2006 has been an interesting birth year for this BetterECM.

BetterECM was born on April 16, 2006 and the number of readers has grown up rather quickly. I made over a 100 posts and you have made over 100 comments. The other very interesting statistic is the number of spam comments are now over 2,200! Who knew that we could measure Blog success by the number of spam comments.

Starting and writing BetterECM has been very interesting and rewarding. I discovered many other useful Blogs as a result and had the benefit of some interesting perspectives presented by YOU!

I think 2007 will be a year of more big changes. Big changes for the ECM market and for me. I plan to challenge the traditional definitions of ECM and present some alternative ways of viewing ECM. I am working on that new post now and hope to get it out this first week of the new year. I encourage you to comment any suggested new topics, challenge my ideas and otherwise join in the conversation about ECM and how to make it better.

I wish everyone a happy, prosperous, and Better New Year!

AIIM: The ECM Association Releases Electronic Management Survey

Hat tip to John Mancini. He sent me the link to the recent study; Electronic Records Management: For Most, It’s Still “Waiting for Godot” this evening. Normally the full survey is only made available to AIIM Professional Members but John is making the complete study available to everyone. You can download the survey from his post here.

Some of the key findings from the study include:

  • Managing Electronic Information Still #2 Priority in Most Organizations (vs. Paper)
  • Many Records Management Programs Just Cover the Tip of the Iceberg
  • Organizations—Especially Medium Sized Ones—Are Vulnerable to New e-Discovery Rules
  • In Searching for an Electronic Records Solution, Organizations Stress the Basics
  • RM Outsource Opportunities Exist, Especially as RM Requirements Grow More Complex

Thanks John!

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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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Christmas Came Early: BetterECM Joins The 9rules Network!

I just got home and sat down to catch up on the over 200 feeds I watch…What a surprise to check my 9rules feed and see that BetterECM was selected to be added to the 9rules Network. I have been watching the daily lists of new addees and wondering if BetterECM would make it since my Blog is relatively young. From the 9rules About page:

 9rules is a community of the best weblogs in the world on a variety of topics.

What’s really cool is that I get to join a group of Blogs that I read everyday and respect highly like Guy Kawasaki’s and Lorelle on WordPress.

Anyway, it’s official, BetterECM joins the 9rules Network. Oh yeah. I already said that. 🙂

BPM & Steak: A Great Combo Part 3 – Top Five New BPM Features of MOSS 2007

Sorry this took so long to get out. Been traveling a bit.

At the end of our Executive Roundtable that I did with Connie Moore from Forrester, I shared with the attendees my top five new BPM features in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. I thought some of my reader may find this list useful. So here we go…

Number 5: Leverages ASP.Net 2.0 – Developers can leverage ASP.Net 2.0 features in SharePoint based applications. 2.0 brings a number of enhancements including Master Pages that allows for visual inheritance, Web Parts that enable end-user customizable controls, Provider Model that allows for integrating custom data stores (as opposed to using AD), New data controls (GridView, FormView, DetailsView), New localization technique, and Personalization services.  

Number 4: Web based InfoPath capability with InfoPath Forms Server. Office Forms Server 2007 enables InfoPath2007 form templates designed in InfoPath to be published as ASP.NET Web applications that provide a similar experience to using the InfoPath 2007 client. Now forms based business applications can be shared with customers, partners, or suppliers using only a web browser. Another big benefit is that application user interface (UI) forms can quickly be designed using InfoPath 2007 and then rendered and embedded within the SharePoint application.

Number 3: Integrated workflow built on Windows Workflow Foundation. MOSS 2007 includes user-configurable workflow templates that can guide review and approval processes. Developers and IT administrators can also use Microsoft Visual Studio or SharePoint Designer 2007 to define custom workflows. MOSS 2007 supplies the following workflows:

  • Approval
  • Collect Feedback
  • Collect Signatures
  • Disposition Approval
  • Issue Tracking
  • Translation Management (for publishing with multiple languages)

Office 2007 has also made integrating workflow directly into the Office desktop clients easy for software developers and partners. Now the assigned task, actions, and any data needed to complete a work step can be displayed directly in the Office UI either as a custom ribbon tab or above the document as a task pane.

Number 2: Built-in business intelligence capabilities with Excel Services. Excel Services can be used to display business data as a Web Part where all viewers can see it in a centralized location where the original, posted Excel document is protected from unauthorized changes. Users can still download copies of the spreadsheet to experiment but they can’t modify the original, official version of the document, which is protected as the company’s official business record. This supports the notion of “one of the truth” for a company’s financial data. With Excel Services, the spreadsheet still has the look and feel of the familiar client. Key performance indicators (KPIs), out-of-the-box (OOB) features, and custom calculations are the same as with the Office Excel desktop experience completely through a web browser.

Number 1: The Business Data Catalogue (BDC) supports a declarative approach to surfacing external business data. The Business Data Catalog is a new business integration feature in MOSS 2007. It is a shared service and it enables SharePoint to surface business data from back-end server applications without any coding. The BDC bridges the gap between the portal site and business applications. Key data from various business applications can be brought into SharePoint lists, Web Parts, search, user profiles, and custom applications.

The Business Data Catalog provides built-in support for displaying data from databases and Web services. You can use Business Data Catalog to display data from SAP, Siebel, or other line-of-business (LOB) application via Web services or databases. The Business Data Catalog provides access to the underlying data sources with a declarative metadata model that provides a consistent and simplified client object model. As a bonus, the data brought in by the BDC can included in the SharePoint search index. Now users can search for both unstructured data (documents) and structured data (databases and applications) using a single search and get consolidated results.

Technorati tags: BPM, MOSS+2007, Microsoft, Office 2007, ECM

ECMA International Approves Office Open XML As Worldwide Industry Standard

Yesterday ECMA International approved Office Open XML Formats as an Ecma standard and voted to submit the new standard to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for consideration as an ISO standard. I talked about Microsoft supporting interoperability with the ISO approved Open Document Format earlier this year.

Brian Jones at Microsoft has some behind the scenes information about this recent development and his post yesterday is a worthy read.

Earlier this week there were cries from the MAC community that Microsoft Office for MAC would not support the new Open XML format and now the interoperability between MAC and PC users was eliminated 😦

Well, Microsoft is going to release Office 2007 for MAC next year and shortly they will provide free file converters for MAC Office users to be able to read the new file formats until the next version of Office for MAC is released.

Anyway, I think the approval by ECMA is a good thing. As long as vendors like IBM and Microsoft have a vested interest (read $$$$) in promoting their specific format or standards embraced, we will have to live with more than one format or standard. I don’t see the big deal as long as these are interoperable and approved by bodies like ECMA and ISO.

What do you think?

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BPM & Steak: A Great Combo, Part 2

Sorry for the delay in getting Part 2 out. Anyway, I wanted to continue by sharing some of my slides and some key points regarding practicing Business Process Management (BPM) using a Microsoft platform.

Many of our clients have made investments in Microsoft technologies through enterprise agreements which provide for licensing of Office and SharePoint clients access licenses. In most cases they are running parts of their business on SQL Server and some have made investments in BizTalk.

This stack of .NET based technologies begins to create a rich platform for implementing business process automation solutions that support BPM initiatives for organizations. The following slide depicts the breadth of business processes.

At one side of the spectrum, you have very ad-hoc and collaborative activities, which tend to be highly unstructured in nature. On the other end, you have activities that are highly structured and transactional in nature – a good example of this is traditional IT business applications and integration middleware. Realistically, business processes tend to blur the lines and span across each category depending on the complexity and scope of the process.

The following slide depicts the Microsoft platform components that address process automation.

With the addition of Windows Workflow Foundation and the work that was done to support surfacing interaction with processes (workflow) within the Office 2007 desktop clients through the business pane uses can interact with their work without leaving the client application. Additional extensions and “hooks” have been provided within SharePoint to bring structured processes into the collaborative user interface. Another noteworthy capability is the InfoPath server which provides the capability to host InfoPath electronic forms and render them (for viewing and complete interaction) purely in a web browser.

This new capability allows designers and developers to expose forms based interfaces within the SharePoint environment or through a web browser easily and quickly. Now these forms can be connected to automated business processes for both data input and the display of process related data and information.

Using these modular and interconnected building blocks along with other .NET based solutions from Microsoft partners, organizations can support BPM using this Microsoft platform.

In Part 3, I will give you my Top Five New BPM Features of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007.

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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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