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The Future for Content Management

by David Gingell, Marketing Director EMEA, Documentum


This article will examine the evolution of content management from its beginnings as a core departmental technology used to ensure the accuracy and validity of content within an organisation, to today where it is now seen as a key component of any eCommerce or eBusiness initiative.

Many of the core competencies developed in the nineties for managing large volumes of content in multiple digital forms are proving valuable as organisations begin to manage content on their Web sites and content as part of an eBusiness infrastructure. The vision that the document management
companies had ten years ago has not really changed greatly and is still valid today. In fact, it is quite a grand vision. Its scope has enlarged, but the fundamentals have remained constant. Uniting the world of enterprises with content has always been the aim. Until the last few years that had tended to be manifested internally within the organisation, optimising the processes of managing and maintaining the business critical content - effectively the lifeblood of the organisation.

With the growth of open standards, and principally the Internet, the need for organisations to communicate and share in supply chain transactions in an inter-enterprise manner has highlighted the critical need to manage content between, as well as within, partner organisations. Uniting the world through content allows organisations to use their past experiences to discover new ideas, grasp new opportunities, anticipate and respond to external threats and to act as united organisations with customers, partners and employees to mutual benefit. Organisations have had the capability to share and manage knowledge and information freely and securely and to model, connect, automate and reuse that knowledge and experience both inside and outside their firewalls for the last few years. Imagine then being able to take these capabilities and apply them to the new world of eBusiness and eCommerce.

Imagine a world where all the major organisations of the world are able to connect and share their knowledge seamlessly using the sameunderlying technology, allowing each company to work with others in order to achieve this united world. That may appear at first sight as a difficult thing to achieve, especially as it implies a level of working between competitors. However, as we start to visualise and execute on this vision, we find that some of the largest, global companies, who are traditionally competitors, are leading the way. For example, using content management technology allows them to work on joint ventures where allowing a competitor access to content inside your company would be extremely difficult, yet it is vital that competitors work together to compete with other competitors or to achieve benefit by attaining economies of scale from reduction in costs from mutual suppliers. Covisint, the emarketplace established by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, is a great example of three of the most fearsome competitors coming together to drive costs out of their supply chain and work together on furthering their industry. Non-invasive content is a significant part of the knowledge transfer.

Building Blocks for Content Management

The essential building blocks for content management and the foundation for successful eBusiness initiatives are an inter-enterprise platform for content management applications which is scalable and robust; a model for describing pieces of content as living objects which have a life and relationships with other objects; processes for content creation and approval, which enfranchise rather than disenfranchise contributors; content integration with external sources of content provision and finally, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to tie content to the business critical process which are the lifeblood of the organisation. Now this was the Documentum vision back in 1992 when the first product was shipped. Little has changed with the vision though the vehicles for achieving it have begun to take shape. The sources of content have dramatically changed with, for example, the growth of ERP systems. The contributors of content have expanded significantly within the organisation, and now we see all functions beginning to contribute content to the Web site for example, when four or five years ago content contribution might be a very departmental affair. The core competencies of Documentum have been leading us to this vision.


How have these core competencies been applied in the past? Well our customers have worked with us to identify current business problems that are content rich, process orientated and above all, business critical. They have formed cross-functional teams to investigate requirements and then prototyped various scenarios, finally implementing departmental-wide solutions aimed at controlling the content management processes that make a difference to the organisation. Some examples of these include the New Drug Application process in pharmaceutical regulatory affairs, risk management applications in investment banking, manufacturing documentation in discrete and process manufacturing plants, and more recently, project collaboration in hi-technology companies. In the last couple of years two other critical areas have emerged, the role of content management in controlling the business critical content firstly on Web sites and secondly as part of business-to-business transactions. These last two are where the content management market is right now. Content management has evolved from managing business critical content inside the firewall to making that content available on the Web or outside the firewall. So it has evolved into what might be termed Enterprise Content Management - that is the management of content both inside and outside the firewall, connecting in contributors from both inside and outside the organisation and publishing
content to employees, partners and customers.

The growth of eBusiness is well documented. Forrester Research (April 2000) believes that global international trade will hit $6.8 trillion by 2004. A number of analysts are now reporting that there is an attendant crisis in content that is only now being understood. Gartner Group reports that many organisations have already hit a 'content management' wall. Many sites have thousands of pages that can easily overwhelm the rudimentary policies and procedures that most sites rely on for content control of terabytes of information. Why is this growing so rapidly? Well, all the paper-based processes are beginning to be replaced by electronic means. Scanning will diminish considerably in its use, electronic signatures will be commonplace and even people will be replaced, as application-to-application communication will make many menial or manual tasks redundant as firms embrace the Internet. The machine-to-machine model will mean 24x7 working becomes a reality and Business-to-Business will mean Internet content replacing paper. New product specifications, agreements, contracts and brochures will all be managed on-line. This new electronic content can now become more intelligent, so that where it was once a graphic on a brochure, it is now live media which can be personalised and re-purposed dependent on the profile of the user. The number of devices will grow substantially as wireless become important in a post-PC world.


Commerce Critical Content

So what type of commerce critical content is being managed now? It is the content involved in marketing - that is, product and information data, marketing and advertising content and catalog management. That is primarily what you find on Web sites today. The emphasis has been on sales and marketing. However, in the medium and long term the sort of content that will be managed on the web sites of the global 2000 will be more business critical than that. As we start to get into real commerce we will see an increasing volume of content concerned with trade documentation, quality
certification, support and maintenance materials, all going on line. Proposals, requests for information, specifications and proposals will prevail as collaborative eBusiness takes off between partners, suppliers and customers. We will also see an increasing volume of issue-related correspondence as disputes occur with the on-line transacting of business. The important point to understand is that these content types are applicable to eCommerce, mCommerce or even old Commerce processes. The
characteristics need to be recognised. This type of content is critical not only to the supplier, but also to the buyer who needs to collect information, manage it, store it and re-purpose it. This is true whether
they are taking part in one-to-one marketing, auctions, eMarketpalces or eHubs. This content is no longer paper or a representation of paper, but is living and rich content. It gets integrated into the eCommerce infrastructure, and in essence you cannot have the eCommerce processes
functioning correctly without this critical content. It must hook into the business processes and the applications that drive those processes. It is re-used through the commerce flow, so that what appears in our marketing literature, for instance, is consistent with what appears in our responses-to-tender and is consistent with our contracts and specifications. Cross-referencing is key and pervasive. As we are involved in on-line trading, we need to be consistent with how we represent content
so that it can facilitate easy interchange. Standardised terminology and data models therefore become an important characteristic of critical commerce content. Trust and accuracy should be inherent in the content, such that we can be confident that what is received is indeed what was ordered.

There are four key facets that content management will have to have as we move further into the world of eBusiness. All content management systems will have to meet these challenges if they are to provide value to organisations taking their businesses online. Firstly, eBusiness requires enterprise contribution and intra-enterprise use. As content moves from marketing-type content to content concerned with sales and logistics, inter and intra enterprise integration with other eCommerce applications will become important. The number of Web sites will expand exponentially. The one thousand Web sites of Hewlett Packard and the several thousand Web sites of AT&T will become the rule rather than the exception. The knock-on effect will be the need to make Web site content scalable and supportable across multiple operating systems and platforms. Most importantly, Web site
contribution will move from its present IT department centric focus to a line of business involvement with content being provided by non-technicians with desktop applications with which they are familiar, rather than XML or HTML. Secondly, eBusiness content will be cross-referencing, reusable and
relevant in its publication. For example, a contract must cross reference the specification of the products involved. As the process moves from one step to another, content created or updated at a previous step must be available to the next step. Support and structuring content for re-use is
therefore critical. Delivery of content needs to be contextualised, so that not only is content delivered in a personalised manner, but it is also delivered in relation to the role of the individual, not only in the
organisation, but also in the relevant business process. Thirdly, eBusiness will demand trust, accuracy and security. Taking the processes on line has consistently been hampered by the need to ensure that content is trustworthy; is accurate and secure from outside interference.

Organisations need to feel confident that if they take their content outside their firewalls they are protected against calamity. A review and guarantee of the content involved in a transaction needs to be in place to ensure the business partnerships remain highly valued. Finally, eBusiness must address the issue of inter-enterprise systems. Since eCommerce does not run on a single application alone, Web sites must integrate with other systems to provide value. These include the ERP systems, the supply chain management systems, eProcurement and customer relationship management systems, both inside the organisation and those of business partners, and customers. Those then become a major source of content and a major of user of content.

If these goals are not met, then the crisis of content that is surely around the corner will become a reality. Those organisations that do take their businesses on line and address these points will take market share.

Documentum has been delivering on these goals for the last few years. We have defined a scalable object platform in order to build and deliver a consistent embracing content object model; provided the ability to tie the content to the eBusiness processes that matter within the organisation; tied content to the key applications which form part of the eBusiness chain both inside, and more recently outside, the organisation; and have applied content to solve business problems. Embracing the de facto standards, such as XML, delivery of content is not limited to PCs and Mobile Phones. Increasingly, iDTV, Kiosks, PDA's and in-car and in-home white goods will provide interfaces to the Internet. Content will play a significant role in the usefulness of these devices as a ramp-on to the Internet. However, fundamentally whatever the vehicle for content dissemination, the four key facets described above will become increasingly relevant.

 

In this month's edition of Document Management Update:

Lotus unveils Raven Discovery Server. more>>
Deutsche Bank chooses IBM WebSphere Translation Server. more>>
Zurich deploys Autonomy in worldwide risk engineering extranet. more>>
Feature: The need for content management. more>>
eRooms launches eRooms 5.0 - Richard Croasdale finds out how the company plans to differentiate collaboration tool from Microsoft rival. more>>
Documentum launches 4i Portal content edition. more>>

 

 

 

 

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