IBM ECM Product Strategy

I finished the first day of IOD in the ECM product strategy session with Ken Bisconti and John Murphy. I was supposed to have a 1:1 interview with Bisconti at this same time, so now I know why that cancelled – the room is literally standing room only, and the same session (or, at least, a session with the identical name) is scheduled for tomorrow morning so there’s obviously a great deal of interest in what’s coming up in ECM.

They started with a summary of their 2011-2012 priorities:

  • Intelligent, distributed capture based on the DataCap acquisition
  • Customer self-service and web presentment of reports and statements
  • Rich user experiences and mobile device support
  • Whole solutions through better product integration and packaging as well as vertical applications and templates

The key deliverables in this time frame:

  • IBM Production Imaging Edition
  • DataCap Taskmaster expansion
  • CM8, FileNet CM updates
  • Project “Nexus”, due in 2012, which is the next generation of web-based user experience across the IBM software portfolio

They stressed that customers’ investments in their repositories is maintained, so the focus is on new ways to capture, integrate and access that data, such as bidirectional replication (including annotations and metadata) between older Image Services repositories and P8 Content Manager, and content repository federation.

Nexus is intended to address the classic problems with FileNet UI components: either they were easy to maintain or easy to customize, but never both. As someone who spent a lot of time in the 90s customizing UIs with the early versions of those components, I’d have to agree wholeheartedly with that statement. We saw a demo of the under-development version of Nexus, which shows three panes: a filterable activity stream for content and related processes, a favorites list, and a list of repositories. Searching in this environment can be restricted to a subset of the repositories, or across repositories: including non-IBM repositories such as SharePoint. Navigating to a repository provides a fairly standard folder-based view of the repository – cool for demos but often useless for very large repositories – with drag-and-drop capabilities for adding documents to the repository. The property dialog that appears for a new document can access external data sources in order to restrict the input to specific metadata fields.

This also provides access to teamspaces, which are sort of like a restricted version of an object store/library, where a user can create a teamspace (optionally based on a template), specify the folder structure, metadata and predefined searches, then add other users who can collaborate within this space. When a teamspace is opened, it looks pretty much like a regular library, except that it’s a user-created space rather than something that a system admin needs to set up.

Because of the underlying technology, Nexus can be surfaced in a number of different ways, including different types of widgets as well as on mobile devices. This style of user experience is a bit behind the curve of some other vendors, but is at least moving in the right direction. I look forward to seeing how this rolls out next year.

They moved on to discuss social content management, which covers a variety of social use cases:

  • Accessing and sharing content in the context of communities
  • Finding and navigating social content and social networks
  • Managing and governing social business information
  • Delivering social content business solutions

This obviously covers a lot of ground, and they’re really going to have to leverage the skills and lessons learned over in the Lotus group to jumpstart some of the social areas.

Next was Case Manager; I’m looking forward to a more in-depth product briefing on this alone, rather than just five minutes as part of the entire ECM strategy, but their content-centric view of case management seems to be resonating with their customers. That’s not to say that this is the only way to do case management, as we see from a number of other ACM vendors, but rather than IBM customers with big FileNet content repositories can really see additional value in the functionality that Case Manager provides on top of these repositories.

The newly announced Case Manager v5.1 aims to make it simpler to create and deliver case-based solutions, and includes a number of new integration capabilities including BPM (as we saw this morning) and data integration. They are also focusing on vertical industry case-based accelerators, and we saw a demo of a healthcare claims case management application that brings together case management, content and analytics to help a case worker to detect fraud. Like most case management scenarios, this is not focused on the actual automated detection of fraud, but on surfacing information to the user that will allow them to make that determination. Doing this in the context of content repositories and content analytics provides an rich view of the situation, allowing the case worker to make better decisions in much less time.

The case worker can create and assign tasks to others, including field workers who use a native iPad app to perform their field review (in the demo, this was a fraud investigator visiting a healthcare practitioner) including capturing new content using the iPad’s camera. Although the version that they demonstrated requires a live connection, they do expect to be delivering apps for disconnected remote devices as well, which is truly critical for supporting remote workers who may wander far beyond the range of their data network.

Moving on to information lifecycle management and governance, some of which is based on last year’s acquisition of PSS Systems, the portfolio includes smart archive (e.g., archiving SAP and other structured data), legal eDiscovery, records management and retention, and disposal and governance management. They’re now providing smart archive as a cloud offering, as well as on premise. The buzz-phrase of this entire area is “defensible disposition”, which sounds a bit like something that happens on The Sopranos, but is really about having an overall information governance plan for how data of all types area maintained, retained and destroyed.

They finished with a bit about IBM Watson for integrating search with predictive analytics, and the industry solutions emerging from this such as IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare which is being shown here at IOD this week. We heard a bit about what this combination of technologies can do in the Seton Healthcare presentation earlier this afternoon, and we’ll see a demo of the actual packaged solution in the Wednesday morning keynote.

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