IBM Announcements: Case Manager, CMIS and More

I had a pre-IOD analyst briefing last week from IBM with updates to their ECM portfolio, given by Ken Bisconti, Dave Caldera and Craig Rhinehart. IOD – Information on Demand – is IBM’s conference covering business analytics and information management, the latter of which includes data management and content management. The former FileNet products fall into their content management portfolio (including FileNet BPM, which was repositioned as document-centric BPM following the acquisition so as to not compete with the WebSphere BPM products), and includes case management capabilities in their Business Process Framework (BPF). I also had a one-to-one session with Bisconti while at IOD to get into a bit more detail.

The big announcement, at least to me, was the new Case Manager product, to ship in Q4 (probably November, although IBM won’t commit to that). IBM has been talking about an advanced case management strategy for several months now, and priming the pump about what “should” be in a case management product, but this is the first that we’ve seen a real product as part of that strategy; I’m sure that the other ACM vendors with products already released are ROFL over IBM’s statement in the press release that this is the “industry’s first advanced case management product”. With FileNet Content Manager at the core for managing the case file and the associated content, they’ve drawn on a variety of offerings across different software groups and brands to create this product: ILOG rules, Cognos realtime monitoring, Lotus collaboration and social networking, and WebSphere Process Server to facilitate integration to multiple systems. This is one of their “industry solutions” that spans multiple software groups, and I can just imagine the internal political wrangling that went on to make this happen. As excited as they sounded about bringing all these assets together in a new product, they’ll need to demonstrate a seamless integration and common user experience so that this doesn’t end up looking like some weird FrankenECM. Judging from the comments at the previous session that I attended, it sounds like the ILOG integration, at the very least, is a bit shaky in the first release.

They’re providing analytics – both via the updated Content Analytics offering (discussed below) and Cognos – to allow views of individual case progression as well as analysis of persistent case information to detect patterns in case workload. It sounds like they’re using Cognos for analyzing the case metadata, and Content Analytics for analyzing the unstructured information, e.g., documents and emails, associated with the case.

A key capability of any case management system, and this is no exception, is the ability to handle unstructured work, allowing a case worker to use their own experience to determine the next steps to progress the case towards outcome. Workers can create tasks and activities that use the infrastructure of queues and inboxes; this infrastructure is apparently new as part of this offering, and not based on FileNet BPM. Once a case is complete, it remains in the underlying Content Manager repository, where it is subject to retention policies like any other content. They’ve made the case object and its tasks native content types, so like any other content class in FileNet Content Manager, you can trigger workflows (in BPM) based on the native event types of the content class, such as when the object is created or updated. The old Business Process Framework (BPF), which was the only prior IBM offering in the case management arena, isn’t being discontinued, but customers will definitely be encouraged to create any new case management applications on Case Manager rather than BPF, and eventually to rewrite their BPF applications to take advantage of new features.

As we’re seeing in many other BPM and case management products, they’ve created the ability to deploy reusable templates for vertical solutions in order to reduce the time required to deploy a solution from months down to days. IBM’s focus will initially be on the horizontal platform, and they’re relying on partners and customers to build the industry-specific templates. Partners in the early adoption program are already providing templates for claims, wealth management and other solutions. The templates are designed for use by business analysts, so that a BA can use a pre-defined template to create and deploy a case management solution with minimal IT involvement.

For user experience, they’re providing three distinct interfaces:

  • A workbench for BAs to create case solutions, based on the afore-mentioned templates, using a wizard-based interface. This includes building the end user portal environment with the IBM iWidget component (mashup) environment.
  • A role-based portal for end users, created by the BAs in the workbench, with personalization options for the case worker.
  • Analytics/reporting dashboards reporting on case infrastructure for managers and case workers, leveraging Cognos and Content Analytics.

They did have some other news aside from the Case Manager announcement; another major content-related announcement is support for the CMIS standard, allowing IBM content repositories (FileNet CM, IBM CM8 and CMOD) to integrate more easily with non-IBM systems. This is in a technology preview only at this point, but since IBM co-authored the standard, you can expect full support for it in the future. I had a recent discussion with Pega indicating that they were supporting CMIS in their case management/BPM environment, and we’re seeing the same from other vendors, meaning that you’ll be able to integrate an industrial strength repository like FileNet CM into the BPM or ACM platform of your choice.

They had a few other announcements and points to discuss on the call:

  • IBM recently acquired Datacap, a document capture (scanning) product company, which refreshes their high-performance document scanning and automated recognition capabilities. This integrates with FileNet CM, but also with the older IBM CM8 Content Manager and (soon) CMOD, plus other non-IBM content repositories. Datacap uses a rules-based capability for better content capture, recognition and classification.
  • There are improvements to Office Document Services; this is one of the areas where CMIS will help as well, allowing IBM to hold its nose and improve their integration with SharePoint and Exchange. There’s a big focus on content governance, such as managing retention lifecycles, including content federation across multiple heterogeneous repositories.
  • There are updates to the information lifecycle governance (ILG) portfolio, including Content Collector and eDiscovery. Content Collector has better content collection, analysis and management capabilities for office documents, email and SAP data. eDiscovery now provides better support for legal discovery cases, with enhanced security roles for granular content access, redaction APIs and better keyword identification. This ties back into governance, content lifecycle management and retention management: disposal of information at the appropriate times is key to reducing legal discovery costs, since you’re not having to retrieve, distribution and review a lot of content that is no longer legally required.
  • IBM’s recent acquisition of PSS Systems complements the existing records management and eDiscovery capabilities with retention-related analytics and policy solutions.
  • The relatively new IBM Content Analytics (ICA) product has been updated, providing analytics on content retention management (i.e., find what you need to decommission) as well as more general “BI for content” for advanced analytics on what’s in your content repositories and related contextual data from other sources. This integrates out of the box with Cognos (which begs the question, why isn’t this actually just Cognos) as well as the new Case Manager product to provide analytics for the manager dashboard views. The interesting thing is that “content” in this situation is more than just IBM content repositories, it’s also competitive content repositories and even things like Twitter feeds via IBM’s new BigInsights offering. They have a number of ICA technology demos here at IOD, including the BigInsights/Twitter analysis, and ICA running on Hadoop infrastructure for scalability.
  • The only announcement for FileNet BPM seemed to be expanding to some new Linux platforms, and I’ve heard that they’re refactoring the process engine to improve performance and maintenance but no whiff of new functionality aside from the Case Manager announcement. I plan to attend the BPM technical briefing this afternoon, and should have some more updates after that.

I still find the IBM ECM portfolio – much like their BPM and other portfolios – to contain too many products: clearly, some of these should be consolidated, although IBM’s strategy seems to be to never sunset a product if they have a couple of others that do almost the same thing and there’s a chance that they can sell you all of them.

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