WCM resurgence

This article in Intelligent Enterprise last week questions why ECM vendors — including Hummingbird, FileNet and Open Text — have been highlighting their WCM products lately, but they miss the mark on the answer:

Is it the fact that online advertising and e-commerce initiatives are back? Is it the prospect of capturing fast growth in the mid-market–the rationale Hummingbird cited for its Red Dot deal? Is it a defensive move in response to Microsoft’s recent signal that it will consolidate the SharePoint Portal and Microsoft Content Manger products? I suspect it’s all of the above, plus a healthy slice of pressure from Wall Street to fuel growth through new license revenue as well as services income.

A big part of the answer should be “compliance”, that is, for companies where their compliance requirements include control of the creation and delivery of content via the web, such as securities. WCM as a part of ECM is key for web compliance requirements, because it allows tight control over the processes of how something is published, and also provides a record of what content was available on what dates.

Why is it that everything that I see these days becomes compliance? 🙂

Global 360 Active Compliance Framework

I watched a webinar earlier this week about BPM and compliance, a topic that I’ve been working on for a while, in which Global 360 announced their Active Compliance Framework (today’s Computer Business Review also reviewed their announcement). The speakers were from Doculabs and BWise, the latter of which has just partnered with Global 360 (and a bunch of other ECM/BPM vendors) for a compliance offering. Global 360 states the advantages of their compliance framework as follows:

Improved Compliance & Risk Management (i.e., do a better job of being compliant)

  • Standardized, structured approach
  • Focused on highest risk controls & processes
  • Centralized visibility and control

Reduced Compliance Costs (i.e., be compliant in a more cost-effective way)

  • Reduced project costs via control reduction based on risk
  • Reduced testing costs for remaining controls via automation
  • Eliminated testing costs for continuously compliant processes

Process Optimization & Control (i.e., provide an opportunity to optimize your business processes)

  • Optimize process performance while increasing control
  • Proactive compliance issue visibility, notification
  • Evolution from obligation to optimization

I liked the focus on the last of these sections, or what they called “from obligation to optimization”: changing the organization’s attitude from compliance being a chore that they’re forced to implement, to compliance being an opportunity to improve business processes through standardization and measurement.

If, like 1/3 of Doculabs’ current customers, compliance is one of your highest priorities for 2005, it’s worth your time to check out compliance solutions like this from ECM/BPM vendors. The whole compliance field is still chaotic; a Gartner report on compliance management software lists 26 vendors and clearly states that the compliance market is not mature:

A key finding of our research is that there is no comprehensive compliance management application. Whether buying from one or many vendors to get a solution, you will need significant services for implementation and integration.

Partnerships like the one between Global 360 and BWise start to address this problem, but there’s still a long way to go before we can even agree on what “compliance management software” is.

Hallucinating about ECM

The thoughts of my previous post on BPM and agility came on the heels of a conversation with a collegue in Australia who was looking for anyone who had implemented a comprehensive “ECM vision”, including BPM, web content management, records management and document management. It appears that most companies are implementing one large ECM-related project and some bits and pieces of the other parts; I have to admit that most of what I see is still at the hallucinatory stage rather than a full-on vision, and is neither cohesive nor comprehensive.

How many cusomter organizations really have an ECM vision, and more importantly, how many have the ability to implement it?

Gartner’s BPM trends and forecasts

Another webinar going on right now, Gartner BPM Roundtable: Business Process Management Trends and Forecasts, hosted by Global 360 and featuring Jim Sinur of Gartner (yes, this turned out to be “webinar day”, I have a third one after this if I’m not burned out).

The usual webinar format is the “expert” talks to his slides for 30-40 minutes, then some marketing geek from the vendor talks about their product for 10 minutes. Not this one: it’s a very dynamic conversation between Mr. Sinur and Michael Crosno, President of Global 360, and both of these guys are really smart about BPM. Yes, Mr. Crosno talks about Global 360 product features, but it’s used as a springboard for Mr. Sinur to talk about the importance of specific functionality in the current and future BPM suites marketplace.

A few really great insights. The first one is was that legacy BPM deployments are more likely to have been for the purpose of reducing paper, whereas the new deployments are all about streamlining processes and improving productivity, with a new and increasingly important focus on extending the enterprise. Although this is something that we all know by gut feel, it’s good to see some real numbers behind it:

The second insight is that customer requirements are evolving from enterprise content management (ECM) to enterprise process management: a shift from information lifecycles to process lifecycles. As a “column 2” advocate, I’m really glad to see Gartner recognizing the shift in focus from content to process. Mr. Sinur showed a scale that started with image management and went all the way through to business optimization, with the crossover from ECM to EPM happening between portals and process execution. He puts “workflow” in the ECM space, that is, the subset of BPM that is used for content lifecycle management.

Another point was the trend for CRM vendors to integrate BPM with their products, usually by buying or OEM’ing in a third-party product, because they see it as an essential part of managing the customer relationship. I’ve been seeing this trend lately as well, such as with Onyx‘s acquisition of a BPM product and their current push to integrate it into their mainstream CRM product.

By far the best webinar that I’ve listened to in months. The slides and the audio playback will be available tomorrow on Global 360’s site.

A “Column 2” sort of girl

Although process, not content, is my main focus, I dropped by the e-Content Institute’s 16th annual Information Highways conference in Toronto today to sit in on a workshop called “Bridging Obstacles in E-mail, Workflow and Compliance Management: Best Practices”. Although it was a vendor presentation by Tower Software, I figured that I’d see something interesting along the way.

As an aside, I have to say something about the conference title: the term “information highway” is a bit of a blast from the past. It might have been on the cutting edge 15 years ago when the conference started, but when’s the last time that you heard it without a snicker involved?

Meanwhile, back at the presentation, the speaker from Tower’s Toronto office couldn’t make it, and the replacement had flown in from DC this morning. She spent half of her intro expressing surprise that none of us had met the original speaker (from what she called “our Canada office”), as if Toronto were a small town where we all have dinner at the local Legion hall together on Saturday night. Sigh.

Tower’s view of workflow is interesting: they consider that it’s either ad hoc, transaction-based or knowledge-based, where the latter can be email-based, process-based or document-based… huh? Okay, I’ll cut the speaker some slack for having to work from someone else’s slide deck, but what was the original speaker thinking? Maybe he was trying to categorize everyone else’s stuff as ad hoc or transaction-based, then show why their “knowledge-based” workflow was better, but it wasn’t clear to me and I’ve spent enough years around workflow such that anyone’s explanation of where they fit in the space should be pretty obvious to me within a couple of minutes.

In spite of all that, some interesting tidbits, particularly about how email messages are now considered evidentiary in many cases, with their legal admissibility being based on authenticity, which in turn relies on content, context and structure being preserved and auditable. Unfortunately, although IT is usually responsible for email, they know nothing about records management (RM); furthermore, individuals manage/delete/archive (or don’t manage/delete/archive) their corporate email as if it belonged to them personally, not the corporation. The answer, even admitted by Tower, is not in a software package, but in the creation and enforcement of email RM policies.

Although their system can capture everything without user intervention, that’s not really recommended because you just end up with a mass of undiscriminated data, not unlike what is on many corporate email servers now. They state that every user needs to take some responsibility for RM (presumably because there are insufficient business rules built into the system to allow it to automatically categorize messages, or even recognize duplicates catalogued by multiple recipients), but I think that the chances of that happening on a suitably complete basis are pretty small when you consider that most people don’t even put the items in their InBox and Sent Items into properly categorized folders.

All good stuff, but a bit of a yawn: now I remember why I kept my focus on process and became less and less interested in content except as an adjunct to process. I recall working on a client project several months ago where I was designing a BPM implementation to integrate with a line-of-business database, hence I had a lot of discussions with the data architect who was designing the database side of things. I dropped by his desk one afternoon and we had a rather passionate discussion about the relative roles of data and process in the system.

After some amount of discussion, I said “Do you know the Zachman framework? Well, I’m a column 2 kind of girl.”

“That explains it,” he said, “I’m a column 1 kind of guy”.

Clearly incompatible.