Whether 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):
- To paraphrase Ann Cavoukian – 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
 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.
Several 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.
The graphic above (courtesy of AIIM) shows the five major activities that ECM solutions must provide to be considered ECM solutions:
- 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.
- Store – Store and secure information in appropriate repositories in order to achieve defined outcomes.
- Manage – Assign properties to content to make it appropriately accessible to the people and systems that require it.
- Preserve – Ensure content is accessible over its entire lifecycle and disposed of when required or permitted to do so.
- 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”.
Two key changes from last year really made me happy:
- Box’s enterprise customers (at least the ones on the panel during the analyst event) are calling Box content management (advanced content management, even);
- 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.
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.
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, 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.
Last 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:
- more breweries = more craft beers to try;
- more Alberta breweries = more Alberta jobs;
- 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.
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.
Anyone 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.