Vega Unity 7: productizing ECM/BPM systems integration for better user experience and legacy modernization

I recently had the chance to catch up with some of my former FileNet colleagues, David Lewis and Brian Gour, who are now at Vega Solutions and walked me through their Unity 7 product release. Having founded and run a boutique ECM and BPM services firm in the past, I have a soft spot for the small companies who add value to commercial products by building integration layers and vertical solutions to do the things that those products don’t do (or don’t do very well).

Vega focuses on enterprise content and process automation, primarily for financial and government clients. They have some international offices – likely development shops, based on the locations – and about 150 consultants working on customer projects. They are partners with both IBM and Alfresco for ECM and BPM products for use in their consulting engagements. Like many boutique services firms, Vega has developed products in the course of their consulting engagements that can be used independently by customers, built on the underlying partner technology plus their own integration software:

  • Vega Interchange, which takes one of their core competencies in content migration and creates an ETL platform for moving content and processes between any of a number of systems including Documentum, Alfresco, OpenText, four flavors of IBM, and shared folders on file systems. Content migration is typically pretty complex by the time you consider metadata and permissions mappings, but they also handle case data and process instances, which is rarely tackled in migration scenarios (most just recommend that you keep the old system alive long enough for all instance to complete, or do manual migration). Having helped a lot of companies think about moving their content and process management systems to another platform, I know that this is one of those things that sounds mundane but is actually difficult to do well.
  • Vega Unity, billed as a digital transformation platform; we spent most of our time talking about Unity 7, their latest release, which I’ll cover in more detail below.
  • Vertical solutions for insurance (underwriting, claims, financial operations), government (case management, compliance) and banking (onboarding, loan origination and servicing, wealth management, card dispute resolution).

01 Vega UnityUnity 7 is an integration and application development tool that links third-party content and process systems, adding a consistent user experience layer and consolidated analytics. Vega doesn’t provide any of the back-end systems, although they partner with a couple of the vendors, but provide tools to take that heterogeneous desktop environment and turn it into a single user interface. This has a significant value in simplifying the user environment, since they only need to learn one system and some of the inter-system integration is automated behind the scenes, but it’s also of benefit for replacing one or more of the underlying technologies due to legacy modernization or technology consolidation due to corporate acquisition. This is what systems integrators have been doing for a long time, but Unity makes it into a product that also leverages the deep system knowledge that they have from their Interchange product. Vega can add Unity to simplify an existing environment, or come in on a net-new ECM/BPM implementation that uses one of their partner technologies plus their application development/integration layer. The primary use cases are federated enterprise content search (where content is indexed in Unity Intelligence engine, including semantic searches), case management applications, and creating legacy modernization by creating a new front end on legacy systems to allow these to be swapped out without changing the user environment.

Unity is all about rapid development that includes case-based applications, content management, data and analytics. As we walked through the product and sample applications, there was definitely a strong whiff of FileNet P8 in here (a system that I used to be very familiar with) since the sample was built with IBM Case Manager under the covers, but some nice additions in terms of unified interface and analytics.

Their claim is that the Unity Case Manager would look the same regardless of the underlying technology, which would definitely make it easier to swap out or federate content, case and process management systems behind the scenes. In the sample shown, since IBM Case Manager was primary, the case view was derived directly from IBM CM case data with the main document list from IBM FileNet P8, while the “Other Documents” tab showed related documents from Alfresco. Dynamic foldering can combine content from different systems into common folders to reduce this visual dichotomy. There are role-based views based on the user profile that provide access to data from multiple systems – including CRM and others in addition to ECM and BPM – and federate it into business objects than can include records, virtual folder structures and related objects such as people or claims. Individual user credentials can be passed to the underlying systems, or shared credentials can be used in connectors for retrieving unrestricted information. Search templates, system connectors and a variety of properties are set in a configuration console, making it straightforward to set up and modify standard operations; since this is an XML-based declarative environment, these configuration changes deploy immediately. 17 Vega Unity Intelligence Sankey diagramThe ability to make different types of configuration changes is role-based, meaning that some business users can be permitted to make changes to the shared user interface if desired.

Unity Intelligence adds a layer of visual analytics that aggregates data from the underlying systems and other sources; however, this isn’t just visualization, but can be used to filter work and take action on cases directly via action popup menus or opening cases directly from the analytics interface. They’re using open source tools such as SOLR (search), Lucene (information retrieval) and D3 visualization with good effect: I saw a demo of a Sankey diagram representing the workflow through cases based on realtime data that provided a sort of process mining view of work in progress, and allowed selecting dates for past views of work including completed cases. For case management, in which processes are semi-structured (at best), this won’t necessarily show process anomalies, but can show service interruptions and opportunities for process improvement and standardization.

They’ve published a video showing more about Unity 7 Intelligence, as well as one showing Unity Semantics for creating pivot tables for faceted search on content repositories.

Vega Unity 7 - December 2017

ABBYY partnerships in ECM, BPM, RPA and ERP

It’s the first session of the last morning of the ABBYY Technology Summit 2017, and the crowd is a bit sparse — a lot of people must have had fun at the evening event last night — and I’m in a presentation by another ex-FileNet colleague of mine, Carl Hillier.

He discussed how capture isn’t just a discrete operation any more, where you just capture, index and store in a content management repository, but is now the front end to business processes that have the potential for digital transformation. To that end, since ABBYY has no plans to expand their side of the business, they have made strategic partnerships with a number of vendors that push into downstream processes: M-Files and Laserfiche for content management, Appian and Pega (still in the works) for BPM, and Acumatica for ERP. As with many technology partnerships, there can be overlap in capabilities but that usually sorts out in favor of the specialist vendor: for example, with Laserfiche, ABBYY is being used to replace Laserfiche’s simpler OCR capabilities for customers with more complex capture capabilities. Both BPM vendors have RPA capabilities — Appian through a partnership with Blue Prism, Pega through their OpenSpan acquisition — and there’s a session following by RPA vendor UiPath on using ABBYY for RPA that likely has broader implications for working with these other partners.

For the solution builders who use ABBYY’s FlexiCapture, the connectors to these other products gives them fast path to implementation, although they can also use the ABBYY SDK directly to create solutions that include competing products. We saw a bit about each of the ABBYY connectors to the five strategic partners, and how they take advantage of those platforms’ capabilities: with Appian, for example, a capture operator uses FlexiCapture to scan/import and verify documents, then the connector maps the structured data directly into Appian’s data objects (records), whereas for one of the content management platforms, they may transfer a smaller subset of document indexing data. The Acumatica integration is a bit different, in that FlexiCapture isn’t seen as a separate application for the capture front end, but it’s embedded within the Acumatica interface as an invoice capture service.

ABBYY’s plan is to create more of these connectors, making it easier for their VARs and solution partners (who are the primary attendees at this conference) to quickly build solutions with ABBYY and a variety of platforms.

The collision of capture, content and analytics

Martyn Christian of UNDRSTND Group, who I worked with back in FileNet in 2000-1, gave a keynote at ABBYY Technology Summit 2017 on the evolution and ultimate collision of capture, content and analytics. He started by highlighting some key acquisitions in the industry, including the entry of private capital, as well as a move to artificial intelligence in the capture space, as harbingers of the changes in the capture market. Since Gartner declared enterprise content management dead — long live content services platforms! — and introduced new players in the magic quadrant alongside the traditional ECM players, while shifting IBM from the leaders quadrant back to the challengers quadrant.

Intelligent capture is gaining visibility and importance, particularly as a driver for digital transformation. Interestingly, capture was traditionally about converting analog (paper) to digital (data); now, however, many forms of information are natively digital, and capture is not only about performing OCR on scanned paper documents but about extracting and analyzing actionable data from both analog and digital content. High-volume in-house production scanning operations are being augmented — or replaced — with customers doing their own capture, such as we now see with depositing a check using a mobile banking application. Information about customer actions and sentiment is being automatically gleaned from their social media actions. Advanced machine learning is being used to classify content, reducing the need for manual intervention further downstream, and enabling straight-through processing or the use of autonomous agents.

As a marketing guy, he had a lot of advice on how this can be positioned and sold into customers; UNDRSTND apparently ran a workshop yesterday for some of the channel partner companies on bringing this message to their customers who are seeking to move beyond simple capture solutions to digital transformation.

OpenText Enterprise World 2017 day 2 keynote with @muhismajzoub

We had a brief analyst Q&A yesterday at OpenText Enterprise World 2017 with Mark Barrenechea (CEO/CTO), Muhi Majzoub (EVP of engineering) and Adam Howatson (CMO), and today we heard more from Majzoub in the morning keynote. He started with a review of the past year of product development — specific product enhancements and releases, more applications, and Magellan analytics suite — then moved on to the ongoing vision and strategy.

Dean Haacker, CTO of The PrivateBank, joined Majzoub to talk about their use of OpenText content products. They moved from an old version of Content Server to the curret CS16, adding WEM integrated with CS for their intranet, Teleform for scanning, and ShinyDrive (OpenText’s partner of the year) for easy access to the content repository. The improved performance, capabilities and user experience are driving adoption within the bank; more of their employees are using the content capabilities for their everyday document needs, and as one measure of the success, their paper consumption has reduced by 20%.

Majzoub continued with a discussion of their recent enhancements in their content products, and demoed their life sciences application built on Documentum D2. There’s a new UI for D2 and a D2 mobile app, plus Brava! widgets for building apps. They can deploy their content products (OTMM, Content Suite, D2 and eDocs) across a variety of OpenText Cloud configurations, from on-premise to hybrid to public cloud. Content in the cloud allows for external sharing and collaboration, and we saw a demo of this capability using OpenText Core, which is their personal/team cloud product. Edits to an Office365 document by an external collaborator (or, presumably, edited using a desktop app and saved back to Core) can be synchronized back into Content Suite.

Other products and demos that he covered:

  • A demo of Exstream for updating and publishing a customer communication asset, which can automatically push the communication to specific customers and platforms via email, document notifications in Core, or mobile notifications. It actually popped up in the notifications section of the Enterprise World app on my phone, so worked as expected.
  • Their People Center HR app, which we saw demonstrated yesterday, built on AppWorks and Process Suite.
  • A demo of Extended ECM, which integrates content capabilities directly into other applications such as SAP, supporting both private and shared public cloud platforms for both internal and external participants.
  • Enhancements coming to Business Network, which is their collection of supply chain technologies, including B2B integration, fax, secure messaging and more; most interesting is the upcoming integration with Process Suite to merge internal and external processes.
  • A bit about the Covisint acquisition — not yet closed so not too many details — for IoT and deveice messaging.
  • AppWorks is their low-code development environment that enables both desktop and mobile apps to be created quickly, while still supporting more advanced developers.
  • Applying machine-assisted discovery to information lakes formed by a variety of hetereogenous content sources for predictions and insights.
  • eDOCS InfoCenter for an improved portal-style UI (in case you haven’t been paying attention for the past few years, eDOCS is focused purely on legal applications, although has functionality that overlaps with Content Suite and Documentum).

Majzoub finished with commitments for their next version — EP3 coming in October 2017 — covering enhancements across the full range of products, and the longer-term view of their roadmap of continuous innovation including their new hybrid platform, Project Banff. This new modern architecture will include a common RESTful services layer and an underlying integrated data model, and is already manifesting in AppWorks, People Center, Core, LEAP and Magellan. I’m assuming that some of their legacy products are not going to be migrated onto this new architecture.


I also attended the Process Suite product roadmap session yesterday as well as a number of demos at the expo, but decided to wait until later today when I’ve seen some of the other BPM-related sessions to write something up. There are some interesting changes coming — such as Process Suite becoming part of the AppWorks low-code application development environment — and I’m still getting a handle on how the underlying Cordys DNA of the product is being assimilated.

The last part of the keynote was a session on business creativity by Fredrik Härén — interesting!

Cloud ECM with @l_elwood @OpenText at AIIM Toronto Chapter

Lynn Elwood, VP of Cloud and Services Solutions at OpenText, presented on managing information in a cloud world at today’s AIIM chapter meeting in Toronto. This is of particular interest to Canadians, since most of the cloud service offerings that we see are in the US, and many companies are not comfortable with keeping their private data in a jurisdiction where it can be somewhat easily exposed to foreign government and intelligence agencies.

She used a building analogy to talk about cloud services:

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is like a piece of serviced land on which you need to build your own building and worry about your connections to services. If your water or electricity is off, you likely need to debug the problem yourself although if you find that the problem is with the underlying services, you can go back to the service provider.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS) is like a mobile home park, where you are responsible for your own dwelling but not for the services, and there are shared services used by all residents.
  • Software as a service (SaaS) is like a condo building, where you own your own part of it, but it’s within a shared environment. SaaS by Gartner’s definition is multi-tenant, and that’s the analogy: you are at the whim, to a certain extent, of the building management in terms of service availability, but at a greatly reduced cost.
  • Dedicated, hosted or managed is like a private house on serviced land, where everything in the house is up to you to maintain. In this set of analogies, not sure that there is a lot of distinction between this and IaaS.
  • On-premises is like a cottage, where you probably need to deal with a lot of the services yourself, such as water and septic systems. You can bring in someone to help, but it’s ultimately all your responsibility.
  • Hybrid is a combo of things — cloud to cloud, cloud to on-premise — such as owning a condo and driving to a cottage, where you have different levels of service at each location but they share information.
  • Managed services is like having a property manager, although it can be cloud or on-premise, to augment your own efforts (or that of your staff).

Regardless of the platform, anything that touches the cloud is going to have a security consideration as well as performance/up-time SLAs if you want to consider it as part of your core business. From my experience, on-premise solutions can be just as insecure and unstable as any cloud offering, so good to know what you’re comparing with when you are looking at cloud versus on-premise.

Most organziations require that their cloud provider have some level of certification: of the facility (data centre), platform (infrastructure) and service (application). Elwood talked about the cloud standards that impact these, including ISO 27001, and SOC 1, 2 and 3.

A big concern is around applications in the cloud, namely SaaS such as Box or Salesforce. Although IT will be focused on whether the security of that application can be breached, business and information managers need to be concerned about what type of data is being stored in those applications and whether it potentially violates any privacy regulations. Take a good look at those SaaS EULAs — Elwood took us through some Apple and Google examples — and have your lawyers look at them as well if you’re deploying these solutions within the enterprise. You also need to look at data residency requirements (as I mentioned at the start): where the data resides, the sovereignty of the hosting company, the routing between you and the data even if the data resides in your own country, and the backup policies of the hosting company. The US Patriot Act allows the US government to access any data that passes through, is stored in, or is hosted by a company that is domiciled in the US; other countries are also adding similar laws. Although a company may have a data centre in your country, if they’re a US company, they probably have a default to store/process/backup in the US: check our the Microsoft hosting and data processing agreement, for example, which specifies that your data will be hosted and/or processed in the US unless you explicitly request otherwise. There’s an additional issue that even if your data has the appropriate residency, if an employee is travelling to a restricted country and accesses the data remotely, you may be violating privacy regulations; not all applications have the ability to filter otherwise authenticated access based on IP address. If you add this to the ability of foreign governments to demand device passwords in order to enter a country, the information accessible via an employee’s computer — not just the information stored it — is at risk for exposure.

Elwood showed a map of the information governance laws and regulations around the world, and it’s a horrifying mix of acronyms for data protection and privacy rules, regulated records retention, eDiscovery requirements, information integrity and authenticity, and reporting obligations. There’s a new EU regulation — the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — that is going to be a game-changer, harmonizing laws across all 28 member nations and applying to any data collected about an EU citizen even outside the EU. The GDPR includes increased consent standards, stronger individual data rights, stronger breach notification, increased governance obligation, stronger recordkeeping requirements, and data transfer constraints. Interestingly, Canada is recognized as one of the countries that is deemed to have “adequate protection” for data transfer, along with Andorra, Argentina, the Faroe Islands, the Channel Islands (Guernsey and Jersey), Isle of Man, Israel, New Zealand, Switzerland and Uruguay. In my opinion, many companies aren’t even aware of the GDPR, much less complying with it, and this is going to be a big wake-up call. Your compliance teams need to be aware of the global landscape as it impacts your data usage and applications, whether in the cloud or on premise; companies can receive huge fines (up to 4% of annual revenue) for violating GDPR whether they are the “owner” of the data or just a data processor/host.

OpenText has a lot of GDPR information on their website that is not specific to their products if you want to read more. 

There are a lot of benefits to cloud when it comes to information management, and a lot of things to consider: agility to grow and change quickly; a services approach that requires partnering with the service provider; mobility capabilities offered by cloud platforms that may not be available for on premise; and analytics offered by cloud vendors within and across applications.

She finished up with a discussion on the top areas of concerns for the attendees: security, regulations, GDPR, data sovereignty, consumer applications, and others. Great discussion amongst the attendees, many of whom work in the Canadian financial services industry: as expected, the biggest concerns are about data residency and sovereignty. GDPR is seen as having the potential to level the regulatory playing field by making everyone comply; once the data centres and service providers start to comply, it will be much easier for most organizations to outsource that piece of their compliance by moving to cloud services. I think that cloud service providers are already doing a better job at security and availability than most on-premise systems, so once they crack the data residency and sovereignty problem there is little reason to have a private data centre. IT’s concern has mostly been around security and availability, but now is the time for information and compliance managers to get involved to ensure that privacy regulations are supported by these platforms.

There are Canadian companies using cloud services, even the big banks and government, although I am guessing that it’s for peripheral rather than core services. Although some are doing this “accidentally” as the only way to share information with external participants, it’s likely time for many companies to revisit their information management strategies to see if they can be more inclusive of property vetted cloud solutions.

We did get a very brief review of OpenText and their offerings at the end, including their software solutions and their EIM cloud offerings under the OpenText Cloud banner. They are holding their Enterprise World user conference in Toronto this July, which is the first (but likely not the last) big software company to see the benefits of a non-US North American conference location.

AIIM Toronto seminar: @jasonbero on Microsoft’s ECM

I’ve recently rejoined AIIM — I was a member years ago when I did a lot of document capture and workflow implementation projects, but drifted away as I became more focused on process — and decided to check out this month’s breakfast seminar hosted by the AIIM Toronto chapter. Today’s presenter was Jason Bero from Microsoft Canada, who is a certified records manager and information governance specialist, talking about SharePoint and related Microsoft technologies that are used for classification, preservation, protection and disposal of information assets.

He started out with AIIM’s view of the stages of information management (following diagram found online but almost certainly copyright AIIM) as a framework for describing where SharePoint fits in and their new functionality:

There’s a shift happening in information management, since a lot of information is now created natively in electronic form, may be generated by customers and employees using mobile apps, and even stored outside the corporate firewaall on cloud ECM platforms. This creates challenges in authentication and security, content privacy protection, automatic content classification, and content federation across platforms. Microsoft is adding data loss prevention (DLP) and records management capabilities to SharePoint to meet some of these challenges, including:

  • Compliance Policy Center
  • DLP policies and management
  • Policy notification messages
  • Document deletion policies
  • Enhanced retention and disposition policies for working documents
  • Document- and records-centric workflow with a web-based workflow design tool
  • Advanced e-discovery for unstructured documents, including identifying relevant relationships between documents
  • Advanced auditing, including SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business as well as on-premise repositories
  • Data governance: somewhat controversially (at my table of breakfast colleagues, anyway), this replaces the use of metadata fields with a new “tags” concept
  • Rights management on documents that can be applied to both internal and external viewers of a document

AIIM describes an information classification and protection cycle: classification, labeling, encryption, access control, policy enforcement, document tracking, and document revocation; Bero described how SharePoint addresses these requirements, with particular attention paid to Canadian concerns for the local audience, such as encryption keys. I haven’t looked at SharePoint in quite a while (and I’m not really much of an ECM expert any more), but it looks like lots of functionality that boosts SharePoint into a more complete ECM and RM solution. This muscles in on some of the territory of their ISV partners who have provided these capabilities as SharePoint add-ons, although I imagine that a lot of Microsoft customers are lingering on ancient versions of SharePoint and will still be using those third-party add-ons for a while. In organizations that are pure Microsoft however, the ways that they can integrate their ECM/RM capabilites across all of their information creation, management and collaboration tools — from Office 365 to Skype For Business — provides a seamless environment for protecting and managing information.

He gave a live demo of some of these capabilites at work, showing how the PowerPoint presentation that he used would be automatically classified, shared, protected and managed based on its content and metadata, and the additional manual overrides that can be applied such as emailing him when an internal or external collaborator opens the document. Documents sent to external participants are accompanied by Microsoft Rights Management, providing the ability to see when and where people open the document, limiting or allowing downloads and printing, and allowing the originator to revoke access to the document. [Apparently, it’s now highly discouraged to send emails with attachments within Microsoft, which is a bit ironic considering that bloated Outlook pst files due to email attachments is the scourge of many IT departments.] Some of their rights management can be applied to non-Microsoft repositories such as Box, although this required a third-party add-on.

There was a question about synchronous collaborative editing of documents: you can now do this with shared Office documents using a combination of the desktop applications and browser apps, such that you see other people’s changes in the documents in real time while you’re editing it (like Google Docs), without requiring explicit check-out/check-in. I assume that this requires that the document is stored in a Microsoft repository, either on-premise or cloud, but that’s still an impressive upgrade.

One of the goals in this foray by Microsoft into more advanced ECM is to provide capabilities that are automated as much as possible, and generally easy-to-use for anything requiring manual input. This allows records management to happen on the fly by everyday users, rather than requiring a lot of intervention by trained records management people or complex custom workflows, and to have DLP policies applied directly within the tools that people are already using for creating, managing and sharing documents. Given the dominance of Microsoft on the desktop of today’s businesses, and the proliferation of SharePoint, a good way to improve compliance with better control over information assets.

AIIM Toronto seminar: FNF Canada’s data capture success

Following John Mancini’s keynote, we heard from two of the sponsors, SourceHOV and ABBYY. Pam Davis of SourceHOV spoke about EIM/ECM market trends, based primarily on analyst reports and surveys, before giving an overview of their BoxOffice product.

ABBYY chose to give their speaking slot to a customer, Anjum Iqbal of FNF Canada, who spoke about their capture and ECM projects. FNF provides services to financial institutions in a variety of lending areas, and deals with a lot of faxed documents. A new business line would have their volume move to 4,500 inbound faxes daily, mostly time-sensitive documents, such as mortgage or loan closing, that need to be processed within an hour of receipt. To do this manually, they would have needed to increase their 4 full time staff to 10 people handle the inbound workflow even at a rate of 1 document/minute; instead, they used ABBYY FlexiCapture to build a capture solution for the faxes that would extract the data using OCR, and interface with their downstream content and workflow systems without human intervention. The presentation went by pretty quickly, but we learned that they had a 3-month implementation time.

I stayed on for the roundtable that ABBYY hosted, with Iqbal giving more details on their implementation. They reached a tipping point when the volume of inbound printed faxes just couldn’t be handled manually, particularly when they added some new business lines that would increase their volume significantly. Unfortunately, the processes involving the banks were stuck on fax technology — that is, the banks refused to move to electronic transfer rather than faxes — so they needed to work with that fixed constraint. They needed quality data with near-zero error rates extracted from the faxes, and selected ABBYY and one of their partners to help build a solution that took advantage of standard form formats and 100% machine printing on the forms (rather than handwriting). The forms weren’t strictly fixed format, in that some critical information such as mortgage rates may be in different places on the document depending on the other content of the form; this requires a more intelligent document classification as well as content analytics to extract the information. They have more than 40 templates that cover all of their use cases, although still need to have one person in the process to manage any exceptions where the recognition certainty was below a certain percentage. Given the generally poor quality of faxed documents, undoubtedly this capture process could also handle documents scanned on a standard business scanner or even a mobile device in addition to their current RightFax server. Once the data is captured, it’s formatted as XML, which their internal development team then used to integrate with the downstream processes, while the original faxes are stored in a content management system.

Given that these processes accept mortgage/loan application forms and produce the loan documents and other related documentation, this entire business seems ripe for disruption, although given the glacial pace of technology adoption in Canadian financial services, this could be some time off. With the flexible handling of inbound documents that they’ve created, FNF Canada will be ready for it when it happens.

That’s it for me at the AIIM Toronto seminar; I had to duck out early and missed the two other short sponsor presentations by SystemWare and Lexmark/Kofax, as well as lunch and the closing keynote. Definitely worth catching up with some of the local people in the industry as well as hearing the customer case studies.

AIIM Toronto keynote with @jmancini77

I’m at the AIIM Toronto seminar today — I pretty much attend anything that is in my backyard and looks interesting — and John Mancini of AIIM is opening the day with a talk on business processes. Yes, Mr. Column 1 is talking about Column 2, if you get the Zachman reference. This is actually pretty significant: content management isn’t just about content, just as process management isn’t just about process, but both need to overlap and work together. I had a call with Mancini yesterday in advance of my keynote at ABBYY’s conference next month, and we spent 30 minutes talking about how disruption in capture technologies has changed all business processes. Today, in his keynote, he talked about disruptive business processes that have transformed many industries.

John Mancini at AIIM TorontoHe gave us a look at people, process and technology against the rise (and sometimes fall) of different technology platforms: document management and workflow; enterprise content management; mobile and cloud. There are a lot of issues as we move from one type of platform to another: moving to a cloud SaaS offering, for example, drives the move from perimeter-based security to asset-based security. He showed a case study for financial processes within organizations — such as accounts payable and receivable — with both a tactical dimention of getting things done and a strategic side of building a bridge to digital transformation. Most businesses (especially traditional ones) operate at a slim profit margin, making it necessary to look at ways to reduce costs: not through small, incremental improvements, but through more transformational means. For financial processes, in many cases this means getting rid of manual data capture and manipulation: no more manual data entry, no more analysis via spreadsheets. And cost reduction isn’t the key driver behind transforming financial business processes any more: it’s the need for better business analytics. Done right, these analytics provide real-time insight into your business that provide a strategic competitive differentiator: the ability to predict and react to changing business conditions.

Mancini finished by allowing today’s sponsors, with booths around the room, to introduce themselves: Precision ContentAIIMBoxPanasonicSystemWareABBYYSourceHOV, and Lexmark (Kofax). I’ll be here for the rest of the morning, and look forward to hearing from some of the sponsors and their customers here today.

Join the AIIM paper-free pledge

Pledge_badge1AIIM recently posted about the World Paper-Free Day on November 6th, and although I’m not sure that it’s recognized as a national holiday or anything, it’s certainly a good idea. I blogged almost three years ago about my mostly paperless office, and how to achieve such a thing yourself. Since that time, I’ve added an Epson DS-510 scanner, which has a nice small footprint and a sheet feeder; it sits right on my desk and there is never a backlog of scanning.

It’s not just about scanning and shredding, although those are pretty important activities: you have to have a proper retention plan that adheres to any regulatory requirements, and a secure offsite (cloud or otherwise) backup capability to ameliorate any physical site disasters.

You also need to consider how much backfile conversion that you’ll do: I decided to back-scan everything except my financial records at the time that I started going completely paperless, then scan everything including financials from that date forward. Each year, another batch of old paper financial records reached their destruction date and were shredded, the last of them just last year, and I no longer have any paper files. If back-scanning is too time-consuming for you but you want to start scanning everything day-forward, then store your old paper files by destruction date so that you can easily shred the batch of expired files each year until there are none left.

These things – scanning, document destruction, retention plan, secure backup, backfile conversion – are the same things that I’ve dealt with at large enterprise customers in the past on ECM projects, just on a small-office scale.

IBM ECM Strategy at Content2015

Wrapping up the one-day IBM Content 2015 mini-conference in Toronto (repeated in several other cities across North America) is Feri Clayton, director of document imaging and capture. Feri and I were two of the few female engineers at FileNet back during my brief time there in 2000-1, and I have many fond memories of our “women in engineering” lunch club of three members.

Clayton talked about how enterprises are balancing the three key imperatives of staying competitive through productivity and cost savings, increasing growth through customer centricity, and protecting the organization through security and compliance. With ECM initiatives, this boils down to providing the right information to employees and customers to allow them to make the right decisions at the right time. From and ECM capabilities standpoint, this requires the critical capabilities of content capture, content protection, activating content by putting it into business processes, analyzing content to reveal insights, and engaging people in content-centric processes and collaboration. Some recent advances for IBM: they have been moving towards a single unified UI for all of their ECM portfolio, and IBM Content Navigator now provides a common modern user experience across all products; they have also been recognized as a market leader in Case Management by the big analysts.

She did a pretty complete review of the entire ECM portfolio, including recent major releases as well as what’s coming up.

Looking forward, they’re continuing to improve Navigator Cloud (hosted ECM), advancing mobile capture and other document capture in Datacap, releasing managed cloud (IBM hosted) offerings for CMOD and Case Manager, and releasing a new Information Lifecycle Governance solution. They’re also changing their release cadence, moving to quarterly releases rather than the usual 1-2 years between releases, while making the upgrades much easier so that they don’t require a lot of regression testing.

IBM Navigator Cloud — the cloud ECM product, not the unified UI — has a new mobile UI and a simplified web UI that includes external file sharing; soon it will have a Mac sync client, and an ECM solution platform on the cloud codenamed “Galaxy” that provides for much faster development using solution patterns. There’s quite an extensive ECM mobile roadmap, with Case Manager and Datacap coming soon on mobile. The core content platform continues to be enhanced, but they’re also expanding to integrate with web-based editors such as Office 365 and Google Docs, and enhancing collaboration for external participants.

Case Manager, which is my key product of interest here today, will soon see a mobile interface (or app?), enhanced case analytics, enhanced property layout editor, simplified solution deployment and packaging, and more industry and vertical solutions. Further out, they’re looking at hybrid use cases with cloud offerings.

Good summary of the IBM ECM roadmap, and a wrap for the day.