Social Business Ushering Changes in Content Management
February 28, 2011 Dan Burger
As all the latest, greatest collaboration tools–or if you prefer the term social business tools–make their way into companies, another river of data is in need of organization. Some businesses have yet to skillfully manage their transactional data and business processes, while others have those handles in place and are on an organizational mission to do the same for what is commonly called unstructured data–the emails, the instant messages, the blogs, the modern communications that are increasingly permeating business.
It’s not a safe bet that information technology can save us from what it creates, but its record is really pretty good. All we’re talking about here is sifting through a mountain of data so we can readily find the really useful stuff. It’s not rocket science. It’s only the coordination of content management and business processes. For those familiar with transforming data collection into business processes, you might see some similarity with sausage making. And rocket science may seem like child’s play.
Ken Bisconti is vice president of products and strategy for IBM‘s enterprise content management (ECM) software. That makes him a software guy, which means he thinks almost anything is possible, although he might be happier if I deleted “almost” from this sentence.
“Organizations are increasingly bringing elements of social business systems, or ‘systems of engagement,’ into traditional business applications and the way they think of content and manage it,” Bisconti told me last week on the phone.
I’m not a big fan of the terms social business or collaboration tools, but “systems of engagement” . . . that’s pretty hot. Why should the military have all the best terminology anyway? We’re talking about managing office documents and content, but that doesn’t mean the language has to be boring. Besides, according to Bisconti, content management systems and these systems of engagement are both going to play a much bigger role in the offices of the future. Some of it is happening now.
In contrast with traditional transaction-based content management, Bisconti describes the evolution of content management as “moving to interactions with buyers and sellers and communities of interest . . . a move from just documents to include conversations. Some will be text-based and some will be audio and video. These are new forms of content, not just increases in volume.”
This sounds a little closer to science fiction than the real world of midrange computing where the IBM AS/400 grew up to be the platform known as Power Systems running IBM i. There’s a lot of paper-based business being done in the midmarket.
“Organizations want to find and optimize business based on gleaning insight from content that might be in legacy systems or in today’s Lotus Notes or Microsoft Outlook environments and modern ECM systems,” Bisconti says.
“There are a lot of existing applications that people have built against legacy content management and other types of enterprise applications. Many of those stay in place as companies move forward with their strategies for new applications and new case management systems. They generally retire those systems over time, and sometimes we work with them to modernize them to new standards.”
In most of the enterprise organizations that Bisconti works with there are 5,000 employees or more. And there will likely be from six to a dozen or more third-party content management systems, including systems specific to such things as imaging, archiving, and document management.
Typically, organizations are not eager to migrate content from these systems. So IBM has a program known as content federation services that’s designed to consolidate existing content–including content in legacy document management or imaging systems–from multiple sources into a common, and more analytical, repository.
IBM has been focused on integrating popular business environments with its ECM and collaboration tools, Bisconti says.
“Few users today are connected to an environment that can provide lifecycle governance of the content, e-discovery, content assessment, controls for information growth and redundancy, and bringing content into a business process like contract management,” Bisconti claims.
He goes on to say the number of employees making use of content management systems will see dramatic growth in the near future. Content management system users traditionally have been on the order of only four out of 100 employees. These are end users taking advantage of business productivity and collaboration software that interacts with content management systems. That number is expected to increase to 80 out of 100 employees. Bisconti says these are industry analyst estimates, not his own estimations.
Most of IBM’s content management business still depends on the traditional use of the software for as a system of record, with a focus on business transactions, recording info, creating trusted business documents, facts, dates, commitments, accuracy, and completeness. Factoring in the collaborative–systems of engagement–content is “a relative small portion of our traditional ECM business,” the VP admits.
“But if you think of IBM’s Software Group, which includes collaboration services from Lotus and the ECM products, I would estimate that about a quarter of our business is in business documents with integrated collaboration. In practice, this is still very aspirational to many organizations to inject social business capabilities into their ECM.”
Bisconti says the overall ECM market is growing about eight or nine percent annually in an $8 billion to $10 billion market for the software.
For more insights into on the topic of information management, control, and governance and the impact of social technologies, check out a white paper produced by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) titled Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT, written by Geoffrey Moore and available on the AIIM Web site.
Another document of interest is an IBM brief titled, An optimized combination: IBM Enterprise Content Management for Power7. It can be downloaded in PDF format here.