A Tunnel of Opportunity


On May 5, 2020 I participated in a panel discussion (fun starts at the 1:35 mark), presented by AO Docs, about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting work and how technology is helping, or hurting, us adapt. Tunnel

The pandemic hasn’t really impacted the way I work. I’ve been consulting in one way or another for over thirty years and am used to working from home, hotels, coffee shops, airports, wherever. Some of my colleagues on my current engagement have been working from an office for their entire careers, and struggled a bit, at first, with not being in physical proximity to their friends and coworkers at the office. But that’s not really what I want to write about; I want to write about opportunity.

I’m never going back

On my current engagement I’m at my client on a back-fill assignment until the end of this year. This means that under normal circumstances I’m in the office every day, working as if I’m one of their staff. On March 14th I, along with everyone else that works there, received an email: don’t come in on Monday, you’re working from home until this COVID-19 thing blows over. Now, being the super-intelligent, partially clairvoyant type that I am, I’d been bringing my laptop home with me for about a week, in anticipation of receiving just such an email. Not everyone was as prepared, so there were some logistical issues to sort out so people could get into the office safely to retrieve what they needed to work from home.

While this operation did have a pandemic plan, it was predicated on a significant percentage of their workforce being incapacitated by illness and the rest being able to go to the office. 100% of staff being healthy but having almost zero access to the premises just didn’t figure into their models. There were some connectivity issues the first couple of weeks, as well as getting to grips with some new tools (they were / are in the early stages of moving over to M365).

Opportunity 1

A few weeks into our present state work is still getting done, productivity hasn’t collapsed, and the world wasn’t on fire. A company that pretty much manages by bums in seats found out that working from home works well and people are meeting their goals and commitments. There really is no reason to herd us all back into the office when the physical distancing restrictions are lifted, or EVER. Leave us to determine for ourselves when we need to be in the office and when it’s better to work from home. The benefits of working from home are numerous: better work life balance; less stress from commuting; better for the environment; reduction of physical infrastructure costs, and increased, yes, increased productivity.

Watch where you’re pushing that cart

Unless it’s related to cigars, guitars, whisky, motorcycles, gourmet local food, or beer I really don’t like shopping. This pandemic has forced me to change my grocery shopping habits. I used to figure out what I wanted for supper sometime during the day (when I was at the office) and pick up what I needed on the way home. Now I have to figure things out a week in advance to minimize the number of times I have to go out and face the multitudes and their germs, or perhaps it’s me with the germs. I dunno. Strange, but I actually find going to the grocery store a more pleasant experience now than in the before times (barren deli counters notwithstanding). Stores are less crowded; there aren’t any 4 cart collisions in front of the dairy case; no one is crashing their cart into my bum in the checkout line; and people just seem to be a little more chill and friendly.

Opportunities 2 & 3

Planning my shopping excursions has made me a little bit more thoughtful and deliberate, which has actually given me more time to do the things that actually bring joy to my life. Limiting my errand running to once a week means I have more time to play guitar, have virtual happy hours catching up with old friends, and have the occasional herf (you’ll have to google that) via zoom.

It seems that in grocery stores and liquor stores (they’re an essential service, you know) we’re all being a bit friendlier to, and respectful of, each other. I hope we keep being kind and considerate after this pandemic thing is over and done with.

How long will this last?

I’m not going to sit here and type that this COVID-19 thing is the best thing that’s ever happened. To be honest, it sucks. I have missed being able to see my kids (divorced – finally saw 2 of 3 this past weekend) and my girlfriend, missed being able to go to my favourite guitar and cigar shops, missed being able socialize in person with friends, and missed going to the office (that last is an outright fabrication). At the same time, I consider myself very fortunate that no one I care about has gotten ill or died, that we’ve protected the most vulnerable, I’m still working and making a living, and I’ve gotten the opportunity to virtually connect with some old friends (why’d it take a pandemic for us to figure this out?).

As awful as the pandemic is, and it is truly horrible on so many levels for so many people, it’s also an opportunity and a gift. We can use this time to heal and to be better. We can heal the planet, heal each other, and heal ourselves. We can become better companies, better people, and a better society. It really is up to us.

What would be even worse than the pandemic is if we came out the other end and went back to how things were a few months ago. If we do that, we dishonour the tens of thousands who have been taken from us. We can’t let that happen.

We don’t know when this will all be over. Anyone who even tries to make a prediction is a liar, a fool, or a politician. All I know is that there is light at the end of the tunnel; we just don’t know how long the tunnel is.

Content Integration Services – Connecting ERP to ECM


Hot Air Ballons

This was originally posted at e-Wave Solutions.

Several AIIM Conferences ago, one of the top tier Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors made a point of delivering a session based on the premise that no one actually wants to see an ECM platform doing its stuff. What they meant was that clients wanted the benefits without really seeing how the ECM platform works. Like we all like hot dogs but don’t really want to know how they’re made.

Note: Earlier this year someone claimed that ECM is dead (it’s not) and is being replaced by Content Services (wrong again, they’re the same thing). So, if you see something called “Content Services Platforms (CSP)” or similar, it’s the same as ECM platforms.

In an ideal world, ECM works with your other enterprise and business applications to provide the content in holistic, end-to-end processes and workflows. However, that is rarely the case. Despite the fact that it’s easier than ever to make applications interoperate, most content is still stuck in silos and not available to people and applications that need it. And the content that is available to everyone that needs it is made available by sending copies around as email attachments, insecurely stored and completely ungoverned. The result is a chaotic mess of multiple copies of documents that no one knows where they are until they’re produced as evidence against you in some court proceeding or other when you’d actually thought you’d (legally) disposed of them ages ago. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

We’re going to present a couple of use cases to highlight why content needs to be freed by using Content Integration Services (CIS) to connect ERP applications with ECM platforms. They’re not really complicated, but they are the type of use cases that many organizations waste many, many hours dealing with.

Contractor Timesheets

Timesheets are a pain for many companies and contractors. In addition to having the correct information on timesheets (e.g.: project codes, PO #’s, dates, etc.), there are additional challenges related to printing, scanning, routing, and signing them. By building a solution from components that include ECM, digital signatures, ERP, and CIS, timesheets time becomes a joy. Okay, maybe not really a joy, but certainly less cumbersome and onerous than before.

Timesheet Process

By leveraging ECM, digital signatures, and ERP, and then gluing it all together with content integration services, organizations end up with a timesheet process that is nimble, complete, quick, error free, and auditable. The basic steps in the process are:

  1. Within an ECM platform, a contractor fills in their timesheet with all relevant information and digitally signs it;
  2. Using collaboration capabilities of the ECM platform, the contractor submits their timesheet for approval;
  3. Using digital signature integration in the ECM platform, the approver approves the contractor’s timesheet (or not);
    1. If not approved the timesheet is routed back to the contractor for corrections.
  4. Content integration service “strips” relevant data from the approved timesheet and passes it to the ERP application;
  5. ERP application processes the timesheet for payment;
  6. ERP application generates a payment slip;
  7. Content integration service takes the payment slip and stores it in the ECM platform;
  8. ECM platform presents the payment slip to the contractor.

Field Manuals

While not applicable to every industry, many industries need to service equipment in the field. Providing field personnel with the appropriate environmental standards, health & safety manuals, repair & maintenance procedures, and technical / engineering procedures & standards is critical. This documentation helps to save time and money, and also helps to keep field personnel from harm.

The following diagram illustrates how work order details are passed from an ERP application to an ECM platform, to provide field personnel with the right documentation to do their work safely and cost effectively.

Workorder Process

  1. ERP application issues a work order;
  2. ERP application assigns field personnel to the work order;
  3. Content integration service passes work order details (personnel, location, job type, asset id, etc.) to the ECM platform;
  4. ECM platform uses work order details to find the relevant documents;
  5. ECM platform delivers documents to field personnel;
  6. Field personnel execute the work order.

Connective Tissue

Above are only two examples of use cases that can be made better by using CIS to connect ERP with ECM. The fact is, any process that relies on both ERP and ECM can be helped by content integration services.

Assuming that an organization has an ECM platform and an ERP application, it’s the content integration piece that allows the full automation of the entire process. Content integration is the connective tissue that allows ECM platforms and ERP applications to work together holistically and harmoniously.

Solution Evolution


Note: I apologise in advance for this being an infomercial for Box. I assure you that was not my intent when I started writing this post.

monkey-1538315_1280A few weeks ago (Oct 10 – 12) my new colleague (I’ll explain later), Greg, and I were at BoxWorks in San Francisco. For those of you who don’t know, BoxWorks is Box’s annual conference, and a must-attend event for those interested in content management, especially cloud first content management. A topic that came up more than once was OpenText’s purchase of Documentum. Specifically, what it means for Documentum customers, and what they are thinking. I’ll give you a hint; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FPELc1wEvk.

Let me just say that Aaron Levie owes Mark Barrenechea a great bottle of Scotch, a bouquet of roses, and a hand-written thank you note. If OpenText hadn’t bought Documentum I doubt you’d hear of so many Documentum customers getting ready to bail, and taking a serious look at Box as a viable replacement.

More recently, we had a couple of very relevant and telling conversations; the first was with a Box customer looking to get off Documentum; the second was with Box. I also had a conversation at last year’s BoxWorks event with someone in a highly regulated industry. Their company is a sizeable Box customer and is, reluctantly I think, still required to use Documentum for some of their more regulated content. I’m fairly certain that they’d prefer not to have to rely on Documentum. For what it’s worth, I had this conversation prior to the closing of OpenText’s purchase of Documentum, but we all knew it was coming.

This is just me being long-winded in telling you that I have decided to join e-Wave Solutions (the Greg I mentioned is Managing Partner). We’re a small company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In a nutshell, we bi-directionally integrate content management systems with SAP. Greg invited me down to BoxWorks, we had some interesting conversations, I got excited, Greg got excited, and we literally shook hands on a deal on the flight home.

Anyways, I digress a little … where I’m actually going with this post is that there is going to be an evolution of Box within client organizations. It won’t simply be spread and sprawl, like we see with so many ECM implementations that begin life in one department and eventually spread throughout most of the organization. Certainly this will happen with Box, but with the added advantage of (easily) encompassing the extended enterprise (i.e.: external stakeholders).

No, the evolution of which I speak is about starting as a relatively simple content management implementation and evolving into actual business solutions. Yes, legacy ECM platforms are certainly capable of this as well, but most haven’t gone down that path for one reason or another.

For Box customers this evolution is going to happen one of two ways, or, more likely, in a hybrid manner. Customers are going to sign up for Box to solve some pretty simple content management and collaboration uses cases. Once they have this initial set of use cases sorted out, they are going to get a visit from their friendly neighbourhood Box representative and be shown “the art of the possible” (I really, really hate that phrase!). Once they see what can be done with Box and its myriad integrations, they are going to start crafting solutions that solve business use cases.

As much as Box, paired with some of its available integrations can do, it can’t do everything. And this is where that second type of solution evolution comes in, and it’s called Box Platform.

I’m fairly convinced that organizations wanting to have content centric business solutions are going to need to build applications that tie together disparate repositories with business logic. Today, a basic premise of Box is that all your content is in one place; that’s not realistic, nor will it ever be. Even legacy ECM platforms relied on Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) to tie together content and logic from multiple systems in order to deliver business solutions, rather than content management solutions.

A client that I have spoken with intends to use their content management system (CMS) for loan origination. That’s cool, but, other than the content, there is nothing in the CMS that helps with loan origination. The business logic is in an ERP tool and the content is spread across multiple repositories, one of which is Box. Currently, they really have no way to tie everything together in order to deliver an elegant, functional, efficient solution to their users and clients. However, once they go down the Box Platform path, and they will even if they don’t yet know it, they will have the tools necessary to build an end-to-end solution for loan origination.

Think about all the different content centric / reliant use cases that every organization has that they use every day. Think about their desire to go mobile and go to the cloud with as much as they can. That’s when the beauty and the magic that something like Box Platform happen; it allows organizations to build content centric applications that transcend technical, geographic, and organizational boundaries. A little over two years ago, when Box Platform initially became available, I was pretty excited (as you can tell if you read this); there is no reason for me to change my mind. Box customers looking for solutions beyond content management and collaboration are going to evolve into Box Platform customers. When that happens the potential impact of Box products such as Relay, Skills, and Graph (all announced at BoxWorks, all coming soon) is going to be even more important than it is today.

 

Information Governance – Still Need It, Always Will


chicago-night-traffic-1447010-1280x960A while ago I was pointed to an article proclaiming that Information Governance is no longer necessary (ROFLMAO). I laughed because I think its grasp on reality is about as firm as that of whoever proclaimed that ECM is dead. However, once you get past the intermangling of “governance” and “management”, there are a couple threads that have validity.

Today’s technology and architecture are definitely built to encourage sharing and collaboration, and that is an awesome thing. As for a good digital workplace being a “bellwether of your company culture”, humph. “Digital workplace” is very tool and mechanics oriented, and has little to do with defining culture. A digital workplace (i.e.: tools) enables a culture that encourages trying stuff out, collaboration, openness, whatever. And the digital-ness of one’s workplace depends highly on what and where one’s workplace is. By the way, I am of the opinion that if paper can be eliminated from the workplace paper should be eliminated from the workplace (please insert caveats about having the right tech available and the required bandwidth). The more digital “aides” we have to help us do our core jobs and not have to worry about governance and management of information, the better.

(information) Governance is needed. Always has been, always will be. The level (think rigour) of governance required, and the manner in which governance is implemented vary depending on what information is in scope, what your regulatory obligations look like, what your internal policies are, and on and on and on.

The way work gets done and the tools used have changed to the point that governance has to change, rather than go away. The reality is that governance needs to be more stringent than ever before. Solution architectures today are designed to include multiple services, applications, data centres, and service providers. Regardless of how nimble and user-delighting the solution is, the governance requirements and challenges are exponentially tougher than when all you had was a single custom application that no one liked but it did the job.

We’re being handed ever more simple and elegant devices and apps with which to do our jobs. But, as everyone ought to know, the easier things look to the user, the tougher it was to build it and maintain it, and to impose an appropriate level of governance.

Fortunately, the tools we’re using to do information governance and management are changing as well. Egnyte, Dropbox, Box, Google, and a host of others are delivering applications and experiences that make many aspects information governance and management easier and more lightweight, and hidden from the everyday user. Even some of the legacy ECM vendors are getting in on the act.

Goodbye Governance? I don’t think so. What I find a bit amusing about the article is that it was written by someone who works in a space that, from a tool perspective, is littered with stories about failures that could have been prevented with … GOVERNANCE! Governance, you’ve come a long way, baby. (quote plagiarized from some 1970’s ad campaign for a product that’s no longer legal to advertise).

In this video, from Boxworks 2016, I express some of my thoughts about information governance, and how Box is approaching it. For those of you interested in ECM, cloud, and information governance, Boxworks 2017 is coming up in October. You should go. Maybe I’ll see you there.

If you love the video so much that you want your very own copy, you can download it right over here.

 

#5Thoughts – Cloud Information Governance


gerbera-1323960_1280Whether we like it or not, we’re storing more and more content in the cloud, and that content needs to be governed. Here are some things that I think about and talk about with clients when they are getting started with Information Governance (reg req’d):

  1. To paraphrase Ann Cavoukian[1] – You can outsource your data but you can’t outsource responsibility. All of the rules and regulations that applied to your content in your data center still apply. If something goes wrong you are still, ultimately, responsible. You may or may not have company in court or jail.
  2. Content in the cloud is likely more secure than content in your data center. Remember all those breaches that were so widely publicized? Well, most of them happened to corporate data centres. Companies whose business is storing other companies’ data haver better tools and resources to secure data than you do; it’s their job.
  3. To be effective, managing and governing content in the cloud needs a modern, simplified approach. Trying to manage content like it’s paper or stored in on-premises repositories just isn’t going to work. You chose cloud content management because it’s a better, modern experience for your users, governing your info can’t break that.
  4. FOCUS ON THE VALUE OF YOUR INFORMATION. IF YOUR ENTIRE APPROACH TO GOVERNING INFORMATION IS BASED ON MINIMIZING RISK (LITIGATION, LEAKS, ETC.), YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO FOCUS ON LEVERAGING THE VALUE OF YOUR INFORMATION ASSETS. IT’S THE VALUE THAT’S GOING TO ENABLE YOU TO INNOVATE AND TRANSFORM YOUR BUSINESS. (colour and bolding as requested by a loyal reader – thanks, Dan)
  5. Start Something. Anything. Sitting around navel gazing is going to result in you being crushed. Pick something small, easy, and safe, but with tangible benefits and get going. You don’t need to have everything planned and analyzed to get started; you just need to have enough thought out to allow you to get moving. Remember, some governance is better than no governance.
  6. BONUS THOUGHT – Your information governance doesn’t need to be perfect, it merely needs to be good enough to get the job done and to allow you to meet your obligations.

This Box whitepaper (reg req’d) provides some additional thoughts about Information Governance for cloud-stored content, as well as details about how Box is tackling some of the necessary functionality. We (Box and I) would love to chat with you about Cloud IG. And as always, I’d love your feedback about this post and the paper.

Cheers!

[1] Ann Cavoukian is the former Privacy Commissioner for Ontario (1997 – 2014) and is currently the Executive Director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University.

The More Things Change – ECM Isn’t Really Dead


rose-165819_640Several weeks ago, a Gartner analyst wrote about (Enterprise Content Management) ECM dying and content services being born. That’s cool other than, you know, it’s nothing new. And it’s wrong, IMO. There were / are two ways of looking at ECM: 1 – ECM defines a set of tools / technologies, or; 2 – ECM defines an approach and strategy for managing information, and includes the tools. I tend to go with the latter, which means that I have never subscribed to the theory that everything had to be in a single repository. The fact is that much information that needs to be managed is not even in what most of us making a living in ECM or Information Management / Governance would even really refer to as a repository.

I remember having discussions (online and in person) about “content services” with peers and colleagues years ago. Way back then, we defined content services as those functions that ECM platforms and suites did so that enterprise content could be managed throughout its lifetime. You’ll notice the double emphasis I put on the word “managed”, because ECM really is about managing enterprise content. Think of “enterprise” as a meta descriptor of the type of content (or data, or information) being managed. I.e.: we’re managing stuff that belongs to the business, no matter the size or purpose of the business. And we don’t care about the purpose or format of the stuff we’re managing; all that matters is that it relates to, or is controlled by, the business.

AIIM (industry association for information management) defines ECM as: “…the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.”

ECM is not a technology, methodology, or process. Rather, it is a mindset or framework designed to get the right information to the right audience, in the right context, at the right time. ECM is enabled by tools and processes that help capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver information.

Roadmap-Final

The graphic above (courtesy of AIIM) shows the five major activities that ECM solutions must provide to be considered ECM solutions:

  1. Capture – Content is submitted to, or created by the organization. This content may be electronic or paper-based and may be provided by people or systems/tools.
  2. Store – Store and secure information in appropriate repositories in order to achieve defined outcomes.
  3. Manage – Assign properties to content to make it appropriately accessible to the people and systems that require it.
  4. Preserve – Ensure content is accessible over its entire lifecycle and disposed of when required or permitted to do so.
  5. Deliver – Get content to the people or systems that need it to achieve objectives and perform their jobs effectively.

Nowhere in the definition of ECM or in the descriptions of the five functions does it state what type of technology to use, where the technology (storage) must be physically located, or how many different bits of technology can be used to build a solution.

The most common realization of the strategy formerly known as ECM was to provide a centralized enterprise (the E in ECM) wide platform that could meet one or all of the following primary goals associated with the utilization of “content”:” from the article linked in the opening paragraph

Says who? Of all the people that I hung out with and had at least 5 five minutes’ conversation with at last year’s AIIM and IRMS conferences, I don’t think you’d find one that believes ECM relies on a single repository. And that realisation is not very recent. I think what’s really happening is that certain vendors and some analysts are having their “holy sh*t!” moments and coming to realize that ECM isn’t the be all and end all. They’re realizing that ECM suites and platforms are nothing more than pieces of real business solutions.

To be fair, some vendors realized this a couple years ago, and have been making the right noises, though I still don’t see much in the way of solutions. If you really want to see how things are going to be, take a look at solutions / partnerships / integrations that have been largely spurred by cloud content management players like Box, Egnyte, Dropbox, Google, and others. While the cloud vendors may or may not be ECM vendors, they are certainly capable of being part of ECM solutions (assuming anyone really wants one to begin with). The same goes for MS SharePoint in its cloud or on-premises guise (it’s not an ECM product, but could be part of an ECM solution).

Legacy ECM vendors like OpenText, FileNet, Oracle, Hyland, etc. are certainly ECM solutions, but where they tend to lose their lustre is that they were not necessarily business solutions, which is where the real value lies. It seems to me that this is shifting as more and more vendors realize that the products they make are really better suited to be in the background, much like infrastructure. Their value is in serving up content to people and systems that need it. I.e.: their value is in providing content services, or, as I like to call it, content-as-a-service.

Look, I understand that Gartner and other analysts need to “refresh” things sometimes or face irrelevancy through stagnation, and I’m cool with that. But relabelling ECM is rather pointless. I’m fairly certain the buyers don’t care, and the vendors are going to have to use terminology that resonates with the buyers. “Wanna buy ECM? or “Wanna buy Content Services?” are likely to get the same none too friendly response. Content Services is not a market. Content services are what content management tools provide and it’s been that way ever since someone coined the term “Enterprise Content Management”.

Cell Phone Radiation – Are You Concerned?


pokemon-1553977_1280I’ve written this post for two important reasons: 1) it’s a favour for a very dear friend of mine and; 2) this may help protect you and your loved ones.

Just before Christmas (2016) I was having a chat with an old friend, and the topic of a product that she markets came up. She’s known me long enough to know that I am somewhat sceptical when it comes to claims about everything under the sun causing cancer, rendering one sterile, or otherwise adversely affecting one’s health. That said, I’ve gone through some pretty tumultuous stuff, personally and professionally, over the last eighteen months or so. I’ve learned to be a bit more open-minded and accepting about a great many things, including health & wellness related matters.

I took a look at the product that she’s marketing, and at the science behind it. Unfortunately, the science isn’t conclusive one way or the other, as to whether or not cell phones cause cancer. Cell phone radiation causes cancer – I’m sure each of us has heard or read this at least once since whenever someone started saying it (has to be twenty years or more ago, it seems). Whatever. I still hold my mobile to my head for calls. When I use the speaker or a headset it’s generally to keep my hands free for other things (like driving – which is perhaps a greater phone related health risk) rather than out of concern for my health. I still carry my phone in my pants, in close proximity to my man parts (I’m done having kids so it’s not a big deal).

But what if there actually are health risks from cell phone radiation, electro-magnetic frequency (EMF), electro-magnetic radiation (EMR), and whatever else is emanating from our phones? I’m not going to try and convince you one way or the other. How can I when I’m not convinced? I’ll simply point you to a couple places for additional information and you can make up your own minds.

Lif3 Canada – this is the product / company my friend is doing the marketing for. Tons of info and, obviously, an easy way to buy the product.

Erica Ehm video – some high level info about the Lif3 Smartchip and EMR. Erica is the founder of the Yummy Mummy Club. She’s also a former Much Music VJ and I had a major crush on her way back when.

I’ll think about this whole thing some more, and debate whether or not to buy one of those chip things for my daughter’s phone. I’ll also be very interested to see what comes out of continued research on this topic. Not to sound too alarmist, but there was a time when smoking was okay, drinking during pregnancy was fine, and seatbelts were optional.

#BoxWorks2016 – My Thoughts


boxworks2016Two key changes from last year really made me happy:

  1. Box’s enterprise customers (at least the ones on the panel during the analyst event) are calling Box content management (advanced content management, even);
  2. Box is unequivocally stating that Platform is the base upon which the Box application is built – they weren’t so clear about that last year.

On a personal level, the first of those makes me the happiest because, along with Cheryl McKinnon of Forrester (my reaction to Box’s inclusion in the Forrest Wave), I was the first analyst / person-who-should-know type that came out and unabashedly called Box an Enterprise Content Management vendor. Here’s my post from June 2015 when I first called Box ECM (you can also get to the whitepaper I wrote on the topic via that post). Whatever. I’m just happy and gratified that Box is finally being seen as what they are. I’m guessing they’re pretty pleased about it as well.

Remember in this post I included a footnote stating that BoxWorks could be a better Information Management / Governance conference than the AIIM conference (I didn’t even mention that records management conference or organization)? Yeah, nothing took place at BoxWorks that made me change my mind.

On to my thoughts about the conference happenings … I’m not going to recap all the announcements; they’re available on the Box site over here and elsewhere on the web and on Box’s site. There were a bunch of announcements about making Box more usable, intuitive, and user friendly, but they didn’t tell me that Box Capture for Android is coming. Box Desktop, Files, and Notes are much needed improvements that are coming, and will make for a much better user (yeah, I said “user”) experience.

Platform

If I’ve got this all right, Box Platform can serve up Relay (workflow) and Governance (governance), as well as versioning and all the other mundane content management stuff as a service. While that’s very cool and all, what I really find exciting is that there is a growing ecosystem of partners / developers that include companies like Cognizant, as well as in-house IT shops, ISV’s, and small niche / boutique app developers. The potential implications are pretty cool for all the stakeholders. For example – during his session at the analyst event, Jeetu Patel (heads up Platform and Strategy for Box and is a really nice guy) mentioned that: A – all companies are becoming digital companies (glad he gave up using all companies are becoming SW companies), and; 2 – there’s no templates for digital transformation (I am summarizing). So it seems that there is an opportunity for Box to do for digital transformation on an industry basis what SAP did for ERP on an industry basis. Between in-built capabilities and partnerships, Box has the beginnings of being able to build content-centric digital transformation on-ramps / roadmaps / whateveryouwanttocallthem. The Perkins+Will demo was really cool and a harbinger of what is possible.

What’s really cool and significant is that, if the implementation gets done properly, that whole thing about putting governance in the background and letting users just focus on their jobs will actually happen.

There’s also some other stuff happening with Platform and the application that, if done correctly, could make the whole auto-classification thing a reality. There are other ECM providers that have been working on it for years, to very little uptake. What’s happening, I believe, is that Box is trying to solve the same problems, but in a different way.

One of the product managers told me something to the effect that she was talking to her team and they were telling her they knew nothing about Information Management or Governance. She responded by telling them that they were actually delivering it. There’s a whole bunch more detail, but that’s actually a very cool story. It’s possible because Platform takes care of it in the back end.

Innovation

Regardless of the size of a company, if they operate in a regulated industry they have to comply with the relevant regulations and legislation. At the same time, if you’re one of the smaller players you likely need to do more with less and can’t afford dedicated compliance solutions. Where Box fits is that they don’t know how to do it the legacy way, and this is a very good thing.

During the customer panel at the analyst session, one of the customers, in a highly regulated industry, was lamenting that they could not use Box for some of their controlled documents. The issue is that Box brings out new stuff too fast and the regulators and legislators simply cannot keep pace. That just sucks.

I asked Aaron Levie something along the lines of “do you think that current legislation and regulations hamper your ability to innovate?” I liked that he acknowledged that it’s the customers, not Box, that are actually being hampered. Box’s approach is to innovate to the spirit of the legislation or regulation, rather than to the letter. I.e.: they’ll satisfy the what, but the how may look a little different.

Odds ‘n’ Enns

  • One of the most interesting, to me, integrations I saw at the conference had to do with SAP (apparently you don’t pronounce it “sap”). There’s this company based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that effectively does for Box-SAP what OpenText Extended ECM does for OT-SAP. I don’t know a ton about it yet, but it is something I will be looking into and getting more familiar with. The fact that the folks at e-Wave Solutions have put effort into building a Box-SAP integration in addition to their Filenet-SAP integration (I think I have that right) is significant. They’re not just chucking up content that’s relevant to stuff happening in SAP. No, they’re doing it in an intelligent way that leverages / manages metadata and preserves the integrity of the “records”. That’s kinda cool. Like I said, I’ll be looking into this a bit more.
  • One of the really good things about being an analyst at an event like BoxWorks is that you get one-on-one time with some key people at Box. The normal scenario is the analyst asks questions and the company person answers them. What I love about the people at Box is that we both get to ask questions and have an open, frank discussion.
  • Thanks to the Box Governance Product Marketing people (thanks, Veena!!!) for inviting me to share some of my thoughts on Box Governance.
  • Thanks to Aaron Levie for taking the time to come and chat with us analysts. I’m a bit of a sceptic at times, and I sometimes wonder if certain tech CEO’s are putting on a show for analysts, the press, prospects, etc. After sitting less than thirty feet from him and being able to look into his eyes, I’m pretty certain that Aaron Levie truly believes in what he and the rest of Box are doing.
  • Lastly, a huge thank you to Joely, Signe, and Megan for making the analyst day and,boxworks2016-analyst-dinner especially, the analyst dinner truly excellent. The whole idea of going to a chef’s residence and having a home made meal in a more intimate setting … loved it.
  • That pic is what greeted us as we walked into the chef’s home. There were leftovers.

The one thing that I didn’t hear anything about is a service organization that can make it (all this next generation ECMness) happen (Box Shuttle aside). I still believe that without the right services capabilities, things will not progress as smoothly as they could. Overall I’m pleased about Box’s progress over the last 12 months. You could even say I’m optimistic and excited for what they can achieve and change about ECM in the future. The recently announced OpenText acquisition of Dell EMC ECD (ya know, Documentum and LEAP) just made Box a more attractive option for ECM buyers. As one industry analyst type mentioned, it’s a changing of the guard in the ECM space. Among others, Box is leading the charge. Not to say I told ya so, but I told ya so.

#TBT: Does ECM need Kevorkian or Kardashian


Not KKThis is a Throwback Thursday post. I originally wrote this back in January 2012, at the invitation of Ron Miller. Ron was with FierceCM back then, and I thought he covered the ECM space pretty well. Anyways, I was reading this recently and thought that it is still pretty accurate, mostly. I was thinking about updating it a bit, but I just left it alone.

So, is ECM all puffed, primped, pimped, buffed, glossed, sprayed, splayed, like Kim Kardashian, or is it time to summon Dr. Jack (Kevorkian, not Daniels)?

The way I see it, ECM doesn’t really exist; at least not as something I can hit with a hammer (not that I advocate hitting KK with a hammer). ECM is more of a wrapper/ label that we’ve put around a whole bunch of other related things for the sake of convenience and to make it look and sound pretty. Inside the wrapper we’ve got things like document management, records management, digital asset management, and web content management. Depending who you ask, there may or may not be business process management stuff in there as well. Go further and include content that’s stored in ERP, CRM, db, and various line of business (LOB) systems. The truth of the matter is that I don’t give a rat’s ass what’s in there as long as it can do good stuff for my business. And by that I do not mean just managing content.

Managing content is great, but if it doesn’t serve the goals of the business, if it doesn’t get stuff done, there is no point. In order to serve the goals of the business managed content, in all its forms, needs to be available when business activities are executed. It doesn’t matter whether that activity is approving invoices, publishing web content, administrating social services programs, developing new drugs, or a telco ramping up new services for subscribers.

Consider this for a moment; I recently came across an initiative to implement paperless claims processing. The organization will use ECM tools as part of the solution, but it is by no means an ECM initiative. This organization will develop what they call ECM Governance, but the reality is that it’s going to be about managing information for the enterprise. Whether or not the information is managed with ECM tools remains to be seen, My guess is that some of it will and some of it won’t. Oh, and if you want a little more justification why we should be calling Dr. K in to deal with ECM – a major ECM vendor has rebranded the ECM out of their products and now just uses the word “content”.

If we scrape away the goop that’s on the surface of Kim Kardashian, we know that underneath is a real person with the requisite components to ensure everything is in proper working order (I’m bashing on ECM, not on reality TV celebrities, remember?); can we say the same for ECM? Here’s a challenge (not open to vendors, especially their marketing folks) for implementers and clients; go find one real ECM implementation that’s in production. First person to find one, within two weeks of this article being posted, and prove it to the satisfaction of a panel of judges (me and whomever I select to help me out) can name the Canadian animal or children’s charity to which I will make a CDN$50.00 donation.

Things have changed, dramatically, over the last few years. We used to be happy with document management. If it was done well, most people in a department had the latest version of the document they needed. But it didn’t span the enterprise in the majority of cases. Web content management systems were fine because they helped to ensure that your site had the most up-to-date copy, images, videos, etc. (helped by digital asset management tools, whatever they really are). Records management systems tried to make sure that once we were done with our documents they were properly declared, stored, and disposed of. They couldn’t do diddly about the rogue copies of stuff that were all over the place just waiting for a discovery order.

Even all those pieces that are supposedly under the umbrella of ECM tools don’t really work together in an “enterprise” fashion. That is, they don’t talk to each other, their reach doesn’t extend throughout the organization, and they sure don’t play well with LOB systems. I think it’s time that we admit ECM is simply on life support and will never be what we thought it would be. Call Dr. Kevorkian and let’s do the right thing.

I’m not certain what’s going to replace ECM, but I am certain that it’s gonna be cool. We’re at a point where we need to mix together what used to be ECM with social tools, engagement tools, governance, and process management. These things need to be deconstructed and then recreated as services (as in Service Oriented Architecture) to be consumed by organizations in order to truly manage their content, holistically, across the enterprise. I’m not ignoring cloud or ?aaS, they’re just not really relevant to building the solutions, they’re delivery options.

The More Things Change …


digital-marketing-1433427_640Last week I wrote that I’m starting to focus on a new market for my services; for a number of reasons I’ve decided to have a go at landing clients from the craft beer industry in Western Canada. Something I didn’t mention in last week’s post is that the craft beer scene in Alberta is booming. Recent rule changes and “incentives” have combined to make it easier and more feasible to start a small brewery, so plenty of small breweries are getting started. This has me excited for a few reasons:

  1. more breweries = more craft beers to try;
  2. more Alberta breweries = more Alberta jobs;
  3. a booming craft beer industry = better chances of me succeeding.

In fact, I’m so excited I started a semi-serious, but mostly not, beer related blog.

Anyways, on to the point of this post …

All brewers, regardless of size, pretty much have to comply with the same governmental regulations, do the same types of activities and quality checks, maintain equipment, clean equipment, be safe, etc. What really changes are the ability and will of the brewers to invest in IT tools and services to make these things happen in an efficient, cost effective manner. Many of the brewers I’ve spoken to are using spreadsheets, whiteboards, and loose-leaf paper to get stuff done. Even those that are using some combination of brewery management and accounting software are struggling to stay ahead of things. So I’m thinking that they’d be all over this content / information / records management thing (I didn’t really think that). It turns out that those who are interested are interested in solving business problems. Go figure.

Like Every. Other. Client. I. Have. Spoken. To. they don’t care what something is called or what tool is used as long as problems are getting solved, issues are being addressed, and opportunities aren’t wasted. And like every other industry sector I’ve worked with, the size of the organization doesn’t dictate what the requirements are.

Late the week before last week I met with the CEO and the Controller of a craft brewery. We chatted a bit about beer, the beer industry, what their goals / vision are, what I could do for them, and what their challenges are. Surprisingly, they didn’t say “we have challenges managing content.” It turns out that their most pressing priority is having the information they need to make the decisions they need to make to achieve their vision. Sound familiar?

I’m willing to bet that as I talk to more and more brewers I’ll be hearing the same things I’ve been hearing for the majority of my career. Regardless of industry or geography, for-profit businesses have challenges with making decisions, being efficient, being competitive, and being profitable. Good information and effective automation can a go a long way to help companies meet these challenges, regardless of size, industry, or geography. Information is a strategic corporate asset and must be treated accordingly. In today’s environment, automation does not necessarily mean capital investments in infrastructure, expensive software licences, and spinning up a large IT department. We’re in a time and place, thanks to cloud technologies, where smaller organizations can have the type of functionality that used to only be available to large enterprises.

Taps ‘n’ Apps: Craft Beer Meets the Cloud


Note: this post contains links to every craft brewery in British Columbia and Alberta that I could find. Sadly, I have yet to sample all of their wares.

Village Brewery - Tour 08Anyone who’s been paying attention lately, or who has met me in person, knows that I’m fairly passionate about Information Management and Craft Beer. Depending on the day, my passion for one is slightly higher than my passion for the other. What does one have to do with the other? I’m glad you asked. Please bear with me, this may take a while. Three things happened that resulted in a new vision for me:

  1. In late June at a networking event in Calgary I met Chris. Chris is one of the co-founders of Caravel Craft Brewery in Calgary. Over a couple pints of IPA from Last Best Brewing, Chris and I started chatting about beer. It turns out that we both love beer, though he knows a ton more about it than I do. My expertise is limited to knowing what I do and don’t like.
  2. A few weeks later, just prior to the Calgary Stampede, I saw a feature on CBC News about craft beer being shut out of official Stampede events because one of the Big Beer companies had the beer contract. One of the guys from Tool Shed Brewing was talking about how there is more than enough space and thirsty Stampeders for all to benefit. And, what better place and time to showcase all the wonderful Alberta craft beer producers.
  3. A snarky comment about whether a tour of Village Brewery could be used to make money led to a “why not” moment. I took the picture in this post during that tour, by the way. I also ate a cascade hop pellet – that was a mistake.

So far I’ve been able to find 156 craft brewers in British Columbia and Alberta. Starting with Alberta, I decided that I was going to reach out to all of them and pitch my services to them. I mean, they have a fair bit of paperwork to deal with, right? They produce alcoholic beverages which means much governmental regulation stuff to deal with. They use big shiny equipment which means maintenance and safety stuff. They do stuff which means various types of operating procedures. I’m betting that there is a lot of paper to deal with in a craft brewery and I want to help brewers get rid of it as much as possible. Basically, I want the brewers to be able to concentrate on brewing great craft beer, not pushing paper around.

So I wrote to all the breweries in Alberta telling them what I wanted to do and why. The first response I got was a phone call from the CEO of a brewery located in Calgary. The dude called within 15 minutes of my email and we chatted for about 20 minutes. However, he wanted to chat about craft brewery specific ERP (there is such a thing) rather than content management. So now I’ve got to go and reach out to a bunch of brewery management software vendors, mobile app developers, and consultants to see if we can collaborate (I think we can).

There is a market there, but information management / governance is not the springboard (something I’ve said for some time now, frankly). It’s going to rely on solving the immediate challenges the brewers have and moving on from there. I’m not saying IM and IG aren’t important, they’re just not the immediate need.

So what does the above have to do with the Cloud? Well, a lot, actually.

One of the really cool things I’ve noticed about the craft beer community is that it’s, well, a community as much as it is an industry, maybe more. Despite being competitors, craft brewers collaborate, a lot. Not only do they get together and jointly concoct sudsy, hoppy wonderbeers, they invite others to have guest taps and share brewing facilities to help each other out.

Now, if I look at many of the companies involved in cloud content related stuff, I notice the same thing. Perhaps not with the same level of artistry and fun, but it’s there. If you look at companies like Google, Dropbox, Egnyte, Microsoft, Box, Splunk, GlassIG, …. etc., you’ll notice the level of collaboration and cooperation that exists. In fact, it’s this very collaboration and cooperation that’s going to allow many of these companies to be the core set of cloud technologies that make up the next generation of Information Management and Governance solutions. Craft brewers being what they are, I suspect that cloud apps are going to be of far more interest to them than on-premises solutions.

In the same way that craft brewers experiment with techniques and ingredients, cloud vendors experiment with features, functions, methods, and requirements. Just as brewers have an openness about them, cloud vendors (the good ones) do as well. The end result in both cases is better end products for all. This Brews Brothers collaboration from Parallel 49 Brewing was pretty cool for beer fans; cloud vendors are seemingly announcing new collaborations every week that are pretty cool for those of us interested in managing and governing content.

156 BC and AB Craft Brewers

ALBERTA

http://www.alleykatbeer.com/ http://highlinebrewing.com/
http://www.annexales.com/ http://lakelandbrewing.wix.com/beer
http://www.bambrewingco.com/ http://minhasbrewery.com/minhas-micro-brewery-calgary
http://bandedpeakbrewing.com/ http://www.norsemeninn.com/
http://www.bearhillbrewingco.ca/ https://www.oldscollege.ca/community/oc-market/olds-college-brewery/index.html
http://benchcreekbrewing.com/ https://twitter.com/outcast_brewing
https://www.facebook.com/Bent-Stick-Brewing-Co-320698708092396/ https://twitter.com/PolarBrewing
http://bigrockbeer.com/ https://www.facebook.com/prairiedogbrewing/
http://www.blindmanbrewing.com/ http://redbisonbrewery.com/
http://www.boilingoar.com/ http://ribstonecreekbrewery.ca/
http://brewery-fahr.ca/ http://situationbeer.com/
http://brewsters.ca/ http://www.sixcorners.ca/#home
https://twitter.com/canmorebrewing https://www.facebook.com/somethingbeer
http://www.caravelbrewery.ca/ http://thedandybrewingcompany.com/
http://www.coldgarden.ca/ http://www.thewellbrewing.ca/
http://commoncrown.ca/ http://theorybrew.ca/
http://couleebrew.co/ http://www.toolshedbrewing.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DogIslandBrewing/ http://trolley5.com/
http://www.federationofbeer.com/ http://www.troubledmonk.com/
https://www.facebook.com/fitzbrewing/ http://twosergeantsbrewing.ca/
http://goatlockerbeer.com/ http://www.villagebrewery.com/
http://www.gpbrewingco.com/ https://twitter.com/watershedbrew
http://www.thegrizzlypaw.com/ http://www.wildrosebrewery.com/
http://halfhitchbrewing.ca/ http://www.yellowheadbrewery.com/
http://www.hellsbasement.com/

BRITISH COLUMBIA

http://33acresbrewing.com/ http://www.moodyales.com/
http://www.4milebrewingco.com/ http://www.mt-begbie.com/
http://www.aframebrewing.com/ http://nelsonbrewing.com/
http://andinabrewing.ca/ http://www.oldabbeyales.com/
http://www.arrowheadbrewingcompany.ca/ http://www.oldyalebrewing.com/
http://www.axeandbarrel.com/ http://parallel49brewing.com/
http://www.badtattoobrewing.com/ http://www.persephonebrewing.com/
https://barkervillebeer.com/ https://phillipsbeer.com/
http://brbco.ca/ http://postmarkbrewing.com/
http://www.beachfirebrewing.ca/ http://www.powellbeer.com/
http://www.blackkettlebrewing.com/ http://www.prohibitionbrewingco.com/
http://www.bnabrewing.com/ http://www.randbbrewing.com/
http://www.bomberbrewing.com/ http://www.ravens.beer/
http://www.bowenislandbeer.com/ https://twitter.com/RealCask
http://bridgebrewing.com/ http://redarrowbeer.ca/
http://www.callisterbrewing.com/ http://redcollar.ca/
https://www.cannerybrewing.com/ http://www.redtruckbeer.com/
http://www.canoebrewpub.com/ http://ridgebrewing.com/
http://www.canuckempirebrewing.com/ http://riotbrewing.com/#coming-soon
http://category12beer.com/ http://rosslandbeer.com/#!/splash-page
http://centralcitybrewing.com/ http://www.russellbeer.com/index.html
http://chaosandsolacebrewing.com/ http://www.sherwoodmountain.beer/
http://coalharbourbrewing.com/ https://silvervalleybrewing.com/
http://www.crossroadscraft.com/ http://www.sookebrewing.com/
http://cumberlandbrewing.com/ https://www.facebook.com/SookeBrew
http://dageraadbrewing.com/ http://www.spinnakers.com/
http://www.deadfrog.ca/ http://www.stanleyparkbrewery.ca/
http://deepcovecraft.com/ http://www.steamworks.com/
https://www.facebook.com/doanscraftbrewing http://steelandoak.ca/
http://www.dogwoodbrew.com/ http://steeltoad.ca/
https://driftwoodbeer.com/ http://www.stormbrewing.org/
https://twitter.com/EastVanBrewing https://strangefellowsbrewing.com/
https://twitter.com/facultybrewing http://www.strathconabeer.com/
https://www.ferniebrewing.com/ https://www.facebook.com/TallShipAleCo/
http://fieldhousebrewing.com/ http://www.moonunderwater.ca/
http://firehallbrewery.com/ http://www.theparksidebrewery.com/
http://www.foamersfolly.ca/ http://www.threeranges.com/
/www.fourwindsbrewing.ca https://www.facebook.com/TinWhistleBrew?fref=ts
http://fuggleswarlock.com/ http://tofinobrewingco.com/#tofinobrewco
http://www.gladstonebrewing.ca/ http://www.torchlightbrewing.com/
http://gib.ca/# http://townsitebrewing.com/
http://www.greenleafbrew.com/ http://tradingpostbrewing.com/
http://hathibrewing.com/ http://www.treebeer.com/
http://www.hearthstonebrewery.ca/ http://www.trenchbrew.ca/
http://www.howesound.com/ http://www.twincitybrewing.ca/
http://hoynebrewing.ca/ http://twinsailsbrewing.com/
http://www.kettleriverbrewing.ca/ http://vanislandbrewery.com/
http://www.lighthousebrewing.com/ http://www.wheelhousebrewing.com/
http://www.longwoodbeer.com/ http://whistlerbeer.com/
http://luppolobrewing.ca/ http://www.whiterockbeachbeer.com/
http://mainstreetbeer.ca/ http://whitesailsbrewing.com/
http://www.maplemeadowsbrewingco.com/ http://www.whitetoothbrewing.com/
http://www.martenbrewpub.com/ http://www.yellowdogbeer.com/
http://www.missionsprings.ca/

Information Governance Must Change


Information governance (IG) is all the rules, regulations, legislation, standards, and policies with which organizations need to comply when they create, share, and use information. Governance is mandated internally and externally. (PHIGs IMC Inc – 2014)

IGI Facets of IG 2015

The above graphic, courtesy of the Information Governance Initiative, presents facets of Information Governance. I don’t agree that everything in the graphic belongs under IG, but it does illustrate how all encompassing and complicated IG is.

With cloud content management, collaboration, and storage offerings becoming more and more accepted, IG needs to adapt. No longer can organizations govern and manage information as if it’s paper or as if it’s stored in on-premises, silo’d repositories. Vendors and their clients have rethought how to work with information; users have come to expect great experiences when working with information in the course of their daily jobs; now we need to rethink how we govern and manage information.

We’re at a point where the whole IG profession must change. It’s not just about the people practising the profession adapting, it’s also about how we actually execute that needs to change. Coming out of a couple conferences a while back I put my thoughts down. Read them for a little more insight, if you wish. I’m convinced that we’re at a point where, together, we can make a huge impact on how IG gets done, and actually get adopted by information workers. At 10am PDT on June 29th Box’s Jessica Fain and I will be chatting about How to Succeed at Information Governance in the Cloud; join us and join in on the discussion – we’d love to get your thoughts.

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