This was originally posted on the AIIM Community on November 18, 2011.
I’m not an expert on cloud computing, I’m just some guy that likes to be able to access the content I need to do my work, from wherever I happen to be, using whatever device I feel like using at the moment. Take this post, for example; it was written on a laptop and a tablet, in a dining room and a swimming pool (not really in the pool since my tablet isn’t waterproof though that would be mega-cool).
I agree with Billy Cripe’s thoughts that Agile can (ought to) be applied in the development of cloud based ECM solutions. However, as Billy correctly states, “Managing content is not the goal of most businesses.” Most businesses exist to make money by providing products and/or services that consumers want. Businesses rely on information in order to get their stuff done, whatever their stuff is. In order to fully exploit information, the tools (i.e.: information stores) that the businesses rely on need to be connected to each other (so do the people – the tools need to facilitate this). Content / information management tools (cloud or not) need to be part of bigger picture business solutions. We need to build solutions that deliver “I need to share this” in the context of why it needs to be shared (answer why you need to share and you’ll likely figure out who and what).
No sane person can argue the value and validity of the cloud. Except me. I’m not daft enough to think that cloud computing doesn’t have value or is not a valid approach to take. However, I do think that we’re not going to realize the full potential of the cloud (and by extension, content) if we simply limit its scope to content management. Yeah, I know that there are other things that are done in the cloud, such as CRM, payroll, and accounting.
Content Wherever I Am
One of the cool things about content in the cloud is that my content is wherever I am. (Okay, so it’s not really my content, it’s my organization’s content.) That’s not the point, though. The point is that I can work with content wherever I happen to be, using whatever device I choose. This does assume that the chosen content repository is able to be synched appropriately. Wouldn’t it be cool, though, that if in addition to being able to work with the content and share it with collaborators (the work variety, not the WWII Nazi variety) the content could also be appropriately tagged, filed, and placed under retention at the point that I plunk it into the repository? I.e.: Cloud repositories need to become extensions of ECM and ERM systems, probably through federation.
Correctly Connecting Corporate Content
Content is spread throughout an organization; cloudification just increases the spread. When I say content, I mean anything that is stored on digital media that serves any legitimate business activity. (For obvious reasons I am excluding physical content.) A key to widespread cloud acceptance is to be able access / leverage content in order to execute a business activity, regardless of where the various pieces of content reside. An agent in a social services organization should not have to know or care that a citizen’s information is spread over a number of repositories that could be on-premises, in a private cloud, and in a public cloud. The agent is there to service the needs of the citizen, not to figure out some (likely) convoluted architecture just to try and find stuff.
CMIS is a step in the right direction, but where CMIS falls short is that it doesn’t address non-CMS (think ECM) repositories. What we need is something that allows connecting everything that we need, when we need it. Device and location should not be factors. In fact, the only thing that a user should worry about is whether or not they have the right content to do the job. Governance, classification, and security ought to be just taken care of.
Speaking of Governance…
Until the governance issues get sorted, I doubt very much that we’ll see widespread adoption of public cloud services. Smaller organizations, organizations with lax regulatory / privacy regulations, and organizations that can bully providers into rock-solid SLA’s may be able to go full public cloud, but I doubt they will. I think the reality is that organizations will end up having hybrid environments of cloud and on-premises.
When I say governance I am not only referring to the poo that legislators, regulators and litigators throw in our way. Governance needs to address issues such as:
- what can / should be stored in the cloud
- service level agreements
- disaster recovery / business continuity
- classification / categorization
- retention & disposition (thanks to @JamesLappin & @AlanPelzSharpe for bringing this up)
Governance of cloud content has to deal with all of the things that we need to deal with for on-premises stored content, with the added complication that we also have to deal with where the damn box is and if some foreign government can get at it whenever they bloody well feel like it. Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act and the United States’ PATRIOT Act are not going to be very helpful in encouraging organizations to move to the cloud in a big way.
- Hybrid (cloud / on-premises) will be in the majority
- Governance (internally & externally imposed) has to be figured out
- Integration / interoperability are critical
- Privacy concerns and government snooping are major inhibitors (@ron_miller wrote a pretty good piece about this)
- If we’re not careful we’ll just move the mess from our hard drives to someone else’s
- Some Systems of Record will end up in the cloud, if they’re not already there
- Services are where it’s at
I couldn’t decide which song I wanted to use for this post, so you’re getting three:
A couple definitions for those that think it should be “on-premise”