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#MMTM16: Case management: The good, the bad and the ugly

April 27th, 2016 Comments off

People who have read my previous blogs know I have a soft spot for xCP and case management according to Documentum. The past months I have wondered why this is.

The first and easy answer is the fact that probably more that 70% of the solutions I personally have implemented for my clients, where some sort of case management implementation. The next question I asked myself was: What do you mean: case management? It was all document management! What makes it different from the other solutions? Thinking more and more about that question made it clearer where my soft spot comes from. IMG_0797_small

People who work with me will confirm: I am a bit more than a little chaotic. To be able to function it is mandatory for me, to have an easy high level overview of all the stuff that is hanging somewhere on my to-do list. Case management is (in my eyes) exactly that functionality. Give every knowledge worker their own dashboard, with what is important for them at that point in time. And what I see in my day to day encounters with end users is that demand, that thirst, for that overview from every knowledge worker.

IMG_0820_smallIt is never about one document only. It is always about a group of information items that have, at this specific point in time, a relation with each other and this relation has a certain current status, that makes it important to show to me (a knowledge worker) right now. I need to be able to drill down to the specific pieces of information and change all pieces at once, separate or in combinations. This has to do with the fact that most (but not all) knowledge workers don’t work on one large document, but on a lot of separate pieces of information that need to be handled quickly. When you are part of the quality authors of a life sciences company or managing all assets of a large power-plant (my other 30% of the solutions I implemented), having a real document centric management system, that has the focus on that specific document and its related documents, is very important and demands an EDMS like D2. All the rest of us need xCP.

In my experience, all other types of document management systems will have way more to do with case management than with real, pure document centric management: Working on pieces of information that have some sort of relation with each other during their existence.

Case management is all about a good dashboard that shows you the right information for the task/action you want to perform.

Hand drawing Content flow chart on transparent wipe board.

With TaskSpace, Documentum took the first leap into the real case management world and showed that it is way better to have a Case Management solution that is built on the foundation of an ECM system than a Case Management system solely based on a relation database. This first go at a case management solution was good, but lacked a good and consistent developing environment and a flexible and very user friendly interface. (Beside some annoying bugs in the core)

And then came xCP2. The idea is so simple, but so great that I really jumped with excitement when I found this. This is really the vision we all were hoping for from EMC-ECD (IIG at that time). This is the good in my story. The product team, who came up with this approach, should be decorated :-). Sure, the 2.0 version was far from perfect, it had too much issues and lacked some functionality to make easy deployment and testing possible, but it was clear that this is the direction that Case Management needs to go.

With the new version coming up, and the change in deployment strategy, ECD is taking the right approach to make this a very stable and easy to implement system.

IMG_0821_smallBut there is still a bad. This has to do with the fundament of information classification and the way Documentum is structured. It is easy to create a great app in xCP Designer and to make the perfect dashboard and underlying supporting pages. It is relative easy to make a workable deployment strategy to deploy new features and solve bugs without too much interference for end users. But once in production with the number of cases growing rapidly, that great dashboard becomes slow, slower, the slowest… At first, you have happy end users, who love the possibilities of designing their interface together, and the flexibility and modern look and feel you can give them. Suddenly, after a couple of months their comments are a bit more cold and distant. In the end, the solution is still good and they are happy, but you feel that the performance of their first and main screen is getting annoying.

So my hope when it comes to xCP and Momentum 2016 is that the new product team of xCP has put a lot of thought and effort in the performance improvement of the historical queries in xCP. Challenge Jeroen van Rotterdam and his baby xPlore (xDB) to make those queries super-fast. A whole xCP solution is as good as the main dashboard!!

Digital TransformationAnd then came the ugly. Don’t be alarmed ECD, this time it is nothing you need to change :-). The ugly is all about the fight between the top 5 big IT companies who like to annoy each other by downgrading the support for the others fundament. It started with Apple who did not like Microsoft Silverlight or Adobe’s Flash. The arrogance to just not support it, shows how big their ego is. But that was only the beginning. Now a lot of browser-companies don’t like Oracle and push to the limits to make the use of Java in your back-end web-application difficult or even impossible (Chrome). And last but not least Microsoft, who is doing so great in trying to be friends with everybody now that Nadella is behind the steering-wheel, still needs to show the strength to the others. JavaScript is the most common used front-end languages to create a dynamic webpage. It is the new standard for web development and the only easy way to fulfil the UX demands of the new user. But why should that be of any concern to Microsoft or Mozilla? Sure it is easy to shout about security issues and all, but in the end it is just budget that makes it not possible to make JavaScript run very fast. To see the difference in performance of an xCP application between IE10 and Firefox and Chrome is frightening. Even the new Microsoft Edge is still lacking compared to the others and we see no improvement in JavaScript speed in the new versions of Firefox. So the ugly is only something we can hope will improve but is for sure a challenge we consultants need to be aware of when implementing the next great Case Management solution in xCP.

Mmtm16. Where did the disruption go?

April 11th, 2016 Comments off

It has been almost 12 month since Rohit spoke the heavy weighting words: We need to disrupt the ECM Space. Change is needed and there needs to be an alternative for the 2de platform. A new direction for ECM!

In the first blog leading to Momentum 2016 it is a good time to reflect what has happened since that bold statement and some reflection from the years before and how Rohit got to that statement. Momentum16 will be my 21st Momentum to get to the vision I will express below and since I got in contact with Documentum in 1995 a lot has happened and I am all for a new direction or a new step in maturity of ECM, but is it that easy/doable?

P1

In 1982 when Howard Shao and his team came up with Documentum and the object-related model with a very extensive and flexible security model, it was new and changed the world of ECM. It is impressive to see that the dm_sysobject and the dm_acl are still the fundament of Documentum. But a concept of 1982? Is that still actual and in line with the ‘new normal’ of this digital age? It is good to look back and see what has happened with Documentum and why and try to make some conclusions about the best steps (according to me).

When I startedP2 with Documentum we were in the top of the client/server age. Documentum had their super client WorkSpace. A heavy duty client application with for that time very flexible interface with a lot of functionality and a more than acceptable performance. In those times performance was the main pain. The hardware and database capacity made all ECM systems slow and the immaturity of the platform made it often a challenge to get them ready for production.

In 1998 my first Momentum we were all amazed by the new concept of the browser and Documentum came with their version of an application server with a full interface in it. Whitney Tidmarsh gave a super in-depth session about the new three-tier model and RightSite and we all knew we would win the world. Documentum was ahead of the competition but maybe a bit too fast and the performance and stability of the whole stack was a challenge. Still making a solution with Documentum was so much easier that their competitors like FileNet or Open Image (Wang). Why was that? It is simple: the base was so strong and consistent that it you really could focus on the other challenges.P3

And the world changed and open source showed its face and the web became more flexible. Rightsite was becoming out dated. Documentum invented there 7 layer configuration model for the web: WDK. The idea might have been good but maintaining any changes was tricky. WebTop is still used a lot, everybody complains about the outdated interface but I have seen a lot of great implementation that really gave great ECM support to companies across the world. And why is that? I think the answer is still simple: the base is so good: dm_sysobject and dc_acl.

And now iP7n the new normal with IoT where the world demands user friendly and flexible IT, Documentum comes with D2 and xCP2 with interfaces that meet the demand for UX, flexibility and maintainability. With now the front end in control and mature we see that implementing a good and solid Documentum solution is easy if you know how to combine the perfect foundation with the flexible interface options. It seems that we are there and we can take over the world again.

 

P4

But simultaneous with a great UX everybody demands the cloud and more precise the public cloud. Jeroen van Rotterdam was very right in his statement that Documentum can do a lot but it is not a multi-tenant environment that fulfills all demands for tenant separation and control. So EMC-ECD needs to come with a new platform with new demands and possibilities. So project NextGen Server was started and somewhere last year it would change to Project Horizon. What I expected of this was that it would be so very different and new and all that great stuff but that something would not change: the base is so good: dm_sysobject and dc_acl.

11 month after the announcement of Rohit I have to say: I don’t know. I have seen a number of demo’s/video’s of Snap, Exchange, Assent, Jazz and Shelf but that is all, no release date, no playgrounds for partners etc.. So the conclusion for now is simple: Did EMC disrupt the ECM space? Not in 2015 and the most important announcement we want for MMTM16 will be about the progress and availability of the disruption: Project Horizon or what the new name is going to be…….P5

What have I seen sofar: dm_sysobject and dm_acl are gone…. There might be a building block or two that might give you some sort of basic object model but for the rest it is all XML so you are free to make a mess out of it. I’m worried that this will mean that we will not reuse the power of Documentum in its new generation and I think that will be a missed opportunity.

What is interesting to see is that in the other big win from EMC-ECD: InfoArchive they started off only with xDB (The XML-database) to archive all stuff, but before the solution came to its full potential more control and security was needed and in the end the conclusion was: We need a strong security model and the ability to define clear objects and object-structure  as powerful and flexible as in Documentum, so we just added the content server from Documentum to the mix and suddenly InfoArchive is very secure and strcutured. Why, you can guess, Documentum has it perfect dm_sysobject and dm_acl.

P6So what do I expect to hear at @MMTM16 when it comes to the public cloud? A lot about the new name for Project Horizon and a lot about the perfect new app’s that EMC-ECD has created on the platform, but hopefully also something about the perfect fundament that demands structure and control in your object configuration and security that mimics a lot like: dm_sysobject and dm_acl!! And last but not least the way we partners of EMC-ECD can reuse this potential disruption of ECM, because the only way EMC-ECD is capable of disrupting the ECM space is by allowing partners like Informed Consulting to build the prefect vertical apps that will rock the world.

What’s up next? In my next blog I’ll try to reflect my thought about Documentum xCP3.0 (or 2.3??) and what is the good, the bad and the ugly is in the new IoS case management.