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A Case of Component Based Authoring

September 30th, 2015 Comments off

Component Based AuthoringYesterday afternoon I attended an EMC webinar about their Next Generation solutions for Life Science, when a slide passed by about Component Based Authoring. It was a different way of expressing the same subject Jeroen van Rotterdam addressed recently in his EMC Spark blog called ‘Who is using Word?‘ From that blog, comes this quote:

Then there is the trend towards targeted point solutions with very domain-specific capabilities to create these smaller chunks of content. A generic word processor is far from efficient in this scenario, and even harder to customize with the desired user experience. Content creation applications are so much more powerful in a business context and becoming less focused on text.

It’s fun to read about a trend – in this case Component Based Authoring – when you’re already practising this approach. It feels for me as if this is the only way forward in case based solutions being delivered today.

My current project is implementing an EMC xCP based solution to support a decision making process where each decision is backed by carefully build cases.

In its previous implementation, documents were the content containers. A lot of copying and rewriting was taking place. A cumbersome and error prone way of working. We didn’t investigate it, but if I were to place a bet, I would say that it’s almost a guarantee that each document is formatted uniquely and it’s highly likely that not every document contains the mandatory information. The flip-side of the coin is, that this freedom is very well received by the end-user who is using Microsoft Word, a tool perceived as very user friendly and productive (don’t get me started…), to let his creativity flow.
You could argue that the needs of the end-user are prevailing over those of the enterprise. At Informed Consulting we believe that connecting people and the enterprise should be a win-win situation and is key to success.

With the new xCP solution we’re applying Component Based Authoring and Word is now only needed for the supporting documents. Not for the key information of the case. That key information is divided into logical components and authored independently. With this approach we created a balance between both user and enterprise needs. But in order to achieve this, more is needed than just solving the challenge of business process re-engineering. In fact, in this case the process is hardly changed.

Once you know what key information you need to capture, it’s time to let the UX (user experience) designer do her thing. My colleague Sandra did a tremendous job with the key users, to design screens for both capturing and displaying information. There has to be a natural order in the information that fits the way of working in the business. This means defining where on the screen a content component is positioned for a particular role (yes, different roles will typically lead to different positioning…), which content components need just plain text formatting and which need rich text to be able to add lists, mark text bold or even include hyperlinks but on the other hand prevent the usage of fonts other than what the corporate style-guide dictates. It means defining where you need to restrict input to predefined taxonomies (or just simple drop-down boxes populated with values) and where you need supporting wizards. A sample of the latter is one where the user provides answers and numbers after which the system draws a conclusion that is used as input for the decision. To cut a long story short, information with a good user experience will help to make the transition into component based authoring smooth.

Another key aspect is the transition from paper to digital. A topic on its own. In our project we opted for a gradual transition because it’s more than a business process change to replace meetings full of annotated documents, prepared off-line over the weekend, with information accessed digitally through tablets and laptops. As an intermediate, the individually authored content components are aggregated in PDF/A documents. These documents are available for on-line reading as well as printing. It’s now up to the business themselves to execute the behavioural change process. In the mean time they can still print and scribble away where and whenever they want.

The third aspect I want to mention is archiving. Although it should be part of your business process re-engineering, it typically isn’t. Too often archiving is not seen as a business process. But even if it is, it’s a beast of its own. Still today it is common practice to archive ‘just’ documents. With component based authoring, you can no longer think in terms of archiving documents. Neither can you think in terms of archiving these content components on their own. They have relationships with other content components and together they have meaning. A content component that holds the annotation of an approval, only has meaning in its context. Archiving thus needs to evolve into Contextual Archiving whereby containers are archived and these containers include the appropriate content components as well as their relationships. Rethinking needs to be done around the purpose of the archival and the retention policies. How can you meet the archival goals for a case if key information in that case needs to be destroyed before the case itself gets destroyed? And what will regulators say when you include a content component into multiple containers which are managed independently and whereby not all (logical) instances of the content components are destroyed simultaneously? When you think about it, component based authoring reveals what has been hidden under the covers of a Word document for a long time: we didn’t manage the information but only the container that carried that information…

Times are changing in the ECM playing field. New ways of working, progressing technology, distributed collaboration and blurring boundaries pave the way into an interesting future. Next-Gen ECM / Next-Gen Information Management… Welcome into my world!

 

This post also appeared on LinkedIn.

Social Welfare at the ECM Workplace

January 19th, 2015 Comments off

A few months ago, Linda gave birth to her son Luca. Linda is the wife of Stephan, a colleague of mine. Curious as he is, Luca was premature when he decided that it was time to see the light of day. That by itself wasn’t any problem at all. The world was ready for him.

The birth of Luca triggered me to share a story that I tell my customers in the early days of a document management project. By now you are wondering why the birth of Luca trigger this story.

Here in the Netherlands, we have a social welfare system in place that kicks in at the early days of a pregnancy. Not only is the health of both mother and her child monitored, but the system also ensures a safe home is in place for the new born. It may sound overanxious, but one of the checks they do is to see if you have a cradle for the baby. That same social welfare system functions as a lifeline throughout your entire life until you shall come to your grave in ripe old age.

That lifeline provides the guidance, the procedures, the policies and the actions to fall back upon during your life. It’s the blueprint of the minimal life. You can still live your live to the max the way you want it, as long as you don’t underperform and drop below the minimum that the lifeline provides. It also takes into account the stages that you pass in your life. You may become a parent yourself, which gives you access to child support. You may develop a partial disability to work, which provides access to special compensation benefits. And even a basic pension is provided when you reach the age of 65+.

For us humans, the Social Welfare system provides the lower limit blueprint of our life from Cradle to Grave.

If you’ve read my previous post (Diversity at the ECM Workplace) about Connecting People to the Enterprise, you will understand that bringing and keeping your users on board requires an ECM solution that is easy to use but still honours the enterprise needs. One aspect that you need to facilitate is what I call the Social Welfare for the ECM Workplace.

Cradle to Grave is the concept that implements core information management functions, which become a lifeline throughout the entire life of your documents.

If I create a new document, the system needs to be ready for that. It needs to support the cradle. This can be done if the lifeline supports me with e.g. content types, templates, managed metadata and rule-based storage. In these early days in the life of the document, it needs the lifeline to understand whether it is going to be a contract based on the English language template. We stick more labels on the document to classify it and together that allows a document management solution to decide where the cradle should be located.

That lifeline also provides the guidance, the procedures, the policies and the actions to fall back upon during the life of the document. It will pass stages depending on the life it lives. In the infant stages you’ll see typical states like draft, and for review. In the adolescent stage the document will go up for approval, and get approved. While the document matures, it can use the supporting processes to move between these states and stages. At some point in time it might become a reference document to others which alters the access permissions as well as its information classification. Some documents will move from classified to unclassified, from internal use only to publicly available.

Like all of us, there comes a time when also the document will retire. It will be withdrawn from active service but is still available in some archived format with again changed access permissions and information classification. It may also move into a new storage location.

For managed information, laws, rules and regulations determine the length of the pension. There is no fixed rule for this, just like nobody knows how many years one is given to enjoy the old age. The harsh reality is, that it won’t last for ever. For managed information the grave implies that the information is deleted from the ECM solution or moved from the system to preserve its historical value elsewhere.

Depending on your requirements and circumstances, you determine what that lower limit is and which ‘social benefits’ you provide your users.
For managed information, Social Welfare for the ECM Workplace provides the lower limit blueprint of the life of that information from Cradle to Grave.

So, why did the birth of Luca trigger this? Because of the parallel between the Dutch Social Welfare System and the Cradle to Grave. You don’t want a fixed path for your newly born and nor should it be a one-off approach for your documents if you want to keep your users connected with your enterprise needs. But the opposite is also true. You don’t want uncontrolled chaos in both situations. It should be predictable and acknowledging that new documents get created and deleted and need to be managed in between. From Cradle to Grave.

Like the concepts of Diversity and Cradle to Grave matches perfectly in real life, as do they match perfectly in our ECM world. Take a look at SPA4D.com if you want to learn more about how we can help connect SharePoint collaboration functionality to the enterprise control of Documentum. Or watch our blog for more articles on enterprise information management.

Diversity at the ECM Workplace

November 10th, 2014 Comments off

Just the other day I was driving home from the office reflecting back at events that happened in the last few days and weeks. As always driving home is one of those precious moments where I can sit back and reflect. Sitting in the car in traffic, it finally dawned to me.

For a couple of days already I was trying to put finger on something that bothered me. I had been working on multiple engagements over the last few weeks. Some only related to EMC Documentum. Some only to Microsoft SharePoint and some included both. All were in different industries. If you wouldn’t know better, there was nothing they had in common. But there was.
Read more…

Improving the DIA EDM Reference Model

November 18th, 2013 Comments off

EMC, by means of its Information Intelligence Group (IIG), has provided new solutions for Life Science. The solutions are based upon their Documentum D2 flagship.
Currently 2 solutions are out on the market: eTMF for managing Trial Master File and LSQM for managing Quality and Manufacturing.

Both eTMF and LSQM rely on their Life Science Core Document Framework (CDF), a data model for managing information in the Life Science domains.
This CDF is a core part of both solutions, like a data model is in any solution.
And like any other solution, success in using the solutions relies heavily on the fit of the data model.
To guarantee success, EMC has adopted the DIA EDM Reference Model to manage life science documentation in the Regulatory, Quality, Non-Clinical, and Clinical domains.

If you’re not working in the Life Science industry you might wonder: who is DIA and what is their EDM Reference Model?
Read more…

Your new interface in …? D2? xCP? Both?

November 7th, 2012 Comments off

Going through the Retention Policy Services class at Momentum 2012 in Vienna, I could not keep from thinking of a new interface. Why? I’ve seen so much of D2 and xCP during the past days that the new user interfaces and the new way of solution building, have become to norm for me. Although brand new, this is what customers expected for a long time.

Going through the class I realized that such is not an easy thing. It’s all integrated into Webtop. Not being a records manager, I can be wrong, but it seems as if there is a mismatch between how the tool is designed and the way records management is organized. It seems tool driven rather than process driven. Just for the sake of this blog, let’s assume that my feeling is spot on.

The question is: how would one recreate this? Using D2? Using xCP? Using both?

The easy answer is: it depends. It depends on goals, objectives, budget, time, resources… Foremost it depends on the business requirements and use cases.

Recreating the RPS interface should be driven from the requirements that tell us what the user needs to have in order to do his work. One of the constraints however will be that recreating a user interface should not lead to large changes to the back-end. Only then we will be successful given the time and money spent by the companies to implement a records management solution and in some cases have that validated.

Won’t we do that, we would end up with a clone of the current interface in D2. Possible, but in my opinion a missed opportunity.

Strangely (is it?) enough I believe the answer should be 2 separate solutions. One for the average user and one for the records manager.

The one for the average user is needed because he works with documents and needs to apply a policy every now and then or promote a document to a record. Yet, I hope most of this is done automatically. In those cases that human intervention is needed, the functionality will be available through D2 solutions that exists for that average user. Not an RPS solution.

The other one is needed for the records manager. Records Management is a structured process with unstructured data. Such processes are to be implemented through xCP.

The question that is addressed above is a typical question for all current user interfaces/solutions that rely on Webtop. What will be the replacement? Something in D2? Something in xCP? Something in both? There is no single answer. Each case must be validated on its own. And unlike the above, factors like time, resources and money may do influence that choice. I strongly advice however, to make the choice first without looking into these 3 spoilers. Make sure that you take the conscious decision to cut corners for time, resource of money sake.

xCP Intelligence

November 7th, 2012 Comments off

Where BI mines structured data, Content Intelligence mines unstructured data. It mines unstructured data to make better business decisions.

Today 25% of time is spent on finding the right information but even then, we’re only 80% sure that it is the right decision. Shockingly true. Too much time spent and still not sure that you do the right thing.

With content intelligence the context of the information that is derived from content and process analysis, insight is created when combing this with big data analysis, often from external information like trends. Together leading to actions. Actions that lead to new contexts, new insights and new actions.

Tools from EMC can deliver this but it was hard to deliver it in a business application through xCP.

With xCP 2.0 this has now changed.

  • Although dm_relation was available in Documentum, it wasn’t in xCP. Now it is. So business objects can be related like they are in the underlying data model
  • The availability of meta-data from both the data model, including meta-data, and discovered meta-data from CIS can now be used to created context or to created e.g. faceted navigation.
  • Connecting to external services to include Big Data results. Plumtree.
  • Easy way of creating flows, wizards, to support human decision steps.
  • Create rules for business events like a change in a status attribute
  • The document viewer for all sorts of documents in stead of the obvious common handful — believe it’s the one from Deaja.

So, what will this impact the business? Structure human business decisions!

With xCP 2.0 you can start looking for those business critical processes that are important enough to be supported with a formal process that is dynamic and as accurate as possible from your information assets.

Oh, and for a side note: Where does D2 fit in? D2 is a rules engine for content. Different from what xCP does, fitting perfectly next to each other.

Syncplicity ‘syncs’ in

November 7th, 2012 Comments off

Over the past days Jeroen Jansen and I had several discussions about the business value of Syncplicity. Why sell a enterprise look-a-like of DropBox at a price that matches Office 365? There had to be more.

Both the keynote of Rohit Ghai and Jeroen van Rotterdam gave a different angle to it: being able to sync between the many clients that some way or another use information from within Documentum. And not only sync it, but also wipe it when needed.

Syncing includes ‘simple’ things like providing you with a notification when a particular document has been updated. So imagine you’re on a remote device and an important document has been updated in the content server. You mobile client then will give you a notification that the older version of that document — if it happens to be on your mobile device — must be replaced. So syncing extends beyond content. It’s also about knowing where cached copies of documents reside. And with that knowledge you can off course wipe it when needed.

In Jeroen’s architecture session the word sync showed up as part of two environments: on premise and the next-gen public cloud. So think of it. Information available in multiple environments but fully controlled: we know where it sits. It sit in the grips of the enterprise.

Suddenly Syncplicity becomes a suited technology for connecting people to the enterprise. A story we believe in for some years now. A story that is recognized by EMC when listing to Rohit’s keynote. A story we read from the roadmap that Jeroen van Rotterdam shares.

Connecting People to the Enterprise is a key message for most organizations. The new normal.

D2, a hammer, but is everything a nail?

November 7th, 2012 Comments off

As Informed Consulting we believe in the individual employee that needs to be connected to the enterprise.
The individual has become important and will increasingly become more important.
Today employees are a mixture of people that grew up without PC’s and people for whom always on-line is like breathing: you can’t do without.
Our live has changed. Our expectations of the organisations have changed. Bring your own device. Choose your own tool.

From the needs of the enterprise this looks completely different.
Control. Compliance. Structure. Successful ECM solutions typically meet these two needs roughly halfway.

Meeting both needs halfway needs more than just the good old Documentum Content Server and Webtop. We see the combination of SharePoint and Documentum — connected through SDF — as a common solution.
But what if — right or wrong — the customer doesn’t want SharePoint in their IT landscape? Is D2 a product that could fill that gap? Can we SharePointize D2?

Yesterday was election day in the USA so the applicable answer is: Yes we can!
But like these elections, it’s a close call.

More importantly, it depends on the context of your collaboration.
If it is just document handling and providing ‘info’ widgets next to it, there is a significant overlap between SharePoint and D2. Later, when D2 will add full 2–way communication in the widgets, it will even get closer.
If your collaboration is also around discussions, contact lists, meeting agenda’s, and all those (sort of) content-less objects, it becomes a different story.

The question then becomes: will you create all those missing features somehow in a Documentum back-end? I think — although technically possible — you shouldn’t. Once you have a hammer, not everything is a nail.

To avoid this pitfall, you must think carefully before you act. Ideally, even before you choose the solution!
D2 to some extend reminds me of the late 80’s with interfaces on top of databases.
We’ve come a long way since and learned some lessons.
One is to do your application analyses very well. Get all requirements. Make your use cases. Do your interaction designs. Then choose your solution.

D2 Application Building

November 6th, 2012 Comments off

At Momentum 2012 in Vienna there are 3 numbers that pull the attraction: 2, 4 and 7.
Although the target is still the New Normal (Peter Hinsen), the user that mixes work and private in a 24/7 (see the numbers…) economy, it refers to the 3 major products of EMC. It’s xCP 2.0, D2 4.0 and Captiva 7.

Side note: for those that linked 7 to the new Documentum stack, which has reached version 7.0, I must admit that it is tempting to do so. However, that stack sits underneath xCP and D2 and I believe that it will be a matter of time before it becomes irrelevant for the normal user.

From the 3, D2 is the one that is of particular interest. With version 4.0 being available (4.1 is due early next year), demo’s, the tutorial and the hands-on lab all show one thing: this is the foundation for all user-interfaces to come. It will be very simple and tempting to configure a Webtop clone using D2 or in the future, replace e.g. TaskSpace with the paradigm of D2.

The question is: should you configure that Webtop clone in D2 or not?

I believe you should not. D2 is the tool-set that allows you to configure whatever (within limitations) interface you need. Or better put: the interface the new user needs. The business user.

All of a sudden we’re no longer tweaking an interface (Webtop) to meet the business user half way. No, were creating a specific interface for a group of business users to do their work. Doing so also means that it can no longer be the average Documentum consultant — you know that technical guy or girl that eat and drinks DFS, Content Types, ACL’s — but you do need to bring a different consultant to the table.

You will need a skilled user experience consultant to sit with the business user and have her working towards an interaction design for the solution. Only then you’ll be able to deliver the solutions that the business needs. At Informed Consulting we’re glad to have that expertise already at hand. It’s more common in a SharePoint world and for us as a C3P partner that is EMC’s go-to-partner for SDF — SharePoint Documentum Framework — we’ve seen the challenge of creating a bridge between the business and IT tools. We’ve seen the risk of creating a language barrier by putting the Documentum guru next to the business guru. We’ve seen that creating a design document is not enough. Most business user find it hard to visualize from words. It goes without saying that a picture paints a thousand words.

It’s here were the user experience consultant steps in. Not only for retrieving better requirements, but also for creating mock-ups, screen layouts and other visuals to validate that the needs of the business are fully understood before we’re starting to configure the application.

So, to tame the beast of D2, take care of your application analysis first.

Syncplicity: Connecting DropBox to the Enterprise?

November 5th, 2012 Comments off

Today at Momentum 2012 in Vienna, EMC shared with us what Syncplicity adds to their portfolio. So far, I find it hard to see the business value. The question that I want to answer is: why would I buy Syncplicity Business Edition if I have Documentum with the Mobile client or Documentum and SharePoint connected through SDF?

Part of getting to the answer is understanding what Syncplicity is. Let’s look at what it says on the Syncplicity site.

  • Seamless and Automatic File Sync and Sharing; a comprehensive solution for cloud file storage, automatic sync, mobile device access, backup and one click file sharing and collaboration

For controlled content I don’t want a second content silo. The client application should connect to my single source of truth. Regardless if the device is mobile or a desktop. Collaboration is way more that providing a content storage location that can be accessed from multiple locations by multiple people.

  • Productivity. Sync and access your files and folders from multiple places on your PC, Mac and your mobile devices without ever having to move a file. It works the way you do.

Right. This is what I want. Ease of use for the end-user. But I do expect this when using SharePoint (check, is there) and DCTM Mobile (…check… sort of…). So, an improvement to DCTM Mobile would be what I expect.

  • Freedom. Work with files both on or off-line between multiple computers, mobile devices and popular cloud applications. Without having to think about it in advance

Check. But for this too, I do want to work with SharePoint or DCTM Mobile. And like DCTM Mobile, Syncplicity will face the challenge to get into the hundreds of apps that use DropBox or likewise.

  • Easy File Sharing and Collaboration. Share large files of any size with anyone. Access old versions and automatically handle change conflicts. And with just one click. No more mail attachment file-size limitations!

Well… this is what I don’t want from control point of view just because of one word: anyone. Make it ‘all authorized users’ and I’ll be happy. And I would even be more happy if collaboration would be treated as more than sharing files.

  • Enterprise-grade Protection. Ensure that all of your work is protected in the cloud with military-grade security, SSAE-16 Data Center compliance and automatic backup with file versioning

Great. Good security is needed. But this alone won’t sell. Especially because it will already be there in a regular Documentum instance if you need this level of security.

  • Administrator Controls (Business Edition). Set file access policies and permissions to safeguard data with our unique controls. Easily create and manage user accounts and support users remotely with our IT Administration Console

Now we’re getting somewhere. With the exception that I want this in the Documentum Mobile client. Being able to wipe content is great but can this truly be achieved?

 

So far, I see a few things I would rather have in the existing Documentum Mobile client and not in a second solution. Having said that, merging the two into one will be even better. And frankly, I won’t be surprised if that is what is cooking in the labs.

But still, I’m having a hard time to get the business value out of it. The weak side of this story? I’m assuming that the customer wants to invest in solutions like Documentum Mobile or SharePoint. Something that can’t be taken for granted. What if he doesn’t want to. Maybe he understands that SharePoint would be the proper solution but constraints force him to look for alternatives. Or even better (worse?), use of mobile devices is officially not supported and treated as if it doesn’t exist.

Therefore I want to reverse the case: do you use DropBox as part of the solutions that you offer your users to do their work? And you don’t want to (or can) use SharePoint, Documentum Mobile or even your own xCP solution with remote access? In that case Syncplicity offers you a far better solution from an enterprise control point of view.

So to me, the true business value of Syncplicity is that it is the enterprise version of DropBox. Like Yammer is that of Twitter. With Syncplicity,. EMC is connecting DropBox (and all likewise) to the Enterprise.

Update November 7th: see Syncplicity ‘Syncs’ in