Ghosts of articles past

This was a shocker: I clicked on a link to test some search engines, typed in my own name as the search phrase, and one of the engines returned a link to articles that I wrote (or was interviewed for) back in 1991-1994. All of these were for Computing Canada, a free IT rag similar to today’s eWeek but aimed at the Canadian marketplace.

Back in 1992, I wrote about the trend of EIM (electronic image management, or what is now ECM/BPM) vendors moving from proprietary hardware and software components to open systems: Windows workstations, UNIX servers, and Oracle RDBMS, for example. This was right around the time that both FileNet and Wang were migrating off proprietary hardware, but both were still using customized or fully proprietary versions of the underlying O/S and DBMS. My predictions at that time (keep in mind that “open systems” was largely synonymous with “UNIX” in that dark period):

Future EIM systems will continue toward open platforms and other emerging industry standards. As the market evolves, expect the following trends.

  • More EIM vendors will offer systems consisting of a standard Unix server with MS Windows workstations. Some will port their software to third-party hardware and abandon the hardware market altogether.
  • EIM systems will increasingly turn to commercial products for such underlying components as databases and device drivers. Advances in these components can thus be more quickly incorporated into a system.
  • A greater emphasis will be placed on professional software integration services to customize EIM systems.

On an open platform, EIM systems will become part of a wider office technology solution, growing into an integral and seamless component of the corporate computing environment.

Okay, not so bad; I can confidently say that all that really happened in the intervening years. The prediction that some of the EIM vendors would abandon the specialized hardware market altogether still makes me giggle, since I can’t imagine Fuego or Lombardi, for example, building their own servers.

In another article that same year, I wrote about a client of mine where we had replaced the exchange of paper with the exchange of data: an early e-business application. I summarized with:

Whenever possible, exchange electronic data rather than paper with other departments or organizations. In our example, Canadian and U.S. offices will exchange database records electronically, eliminating several steps in document processing.

This was just not done on a small scale at that time: the only e-business applications were full-on, expensive EDI applications, and we had to create the whole underlying structure to support a small e-business application without using EDI. What I wouldn’t have given for BizTalk back then.

By early 1994, I’m not talking so much about documents any more, but about process. First, I propose this radical notion:

As graphical tools become more sophisticated, development of production workflow maps can be performed by business analysts who understand the business process, rather than by IT personnel.

I finish up with some advice for evaluating Workflow Management Systems (WFMS, namely, early BPM systems):

WFMS’ vary in their routing and processing capabilities, so carefully determine the complexity of the routing rules and processing methods you require. Typical minimum requirements include rules-based conditional branching, parallel routing and rendezvous, role assignments, work-in-process monitoring and re-assignment, deadline alerts, security and some level of integration with other applications.

I find this last paragraph particularly interesting, because I’m still telling this same story to clients today. The consolidation of the BPM marketplace to include all manner of systems from EAI to BPM and everything in between has led to a number of products that can’t meet one or more of these “minimum requirements”, even though they’re all called BPM.

I’m not sure whether being recognized as an expert in this field 14 years ago makes me feel proud to be one of the senior players, or makes me feel incredibly old!

One thought on “Ghosts of articles past”

  1. well at leastit shows the development, the evolution and makes us compare the things we have dine in the past and the ones we are right now. indeed all the things changed and improved and i guess your lucky that you are one of the senior pioneers in makin this happen

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