#5Thoughts – Mixed Bag for the week of Sept 21


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No single theme was worthy of 5 Thoughts this week, so here’s a mixed bag of stuff.

1.   Cloud Security still a concern

On September 16th I spoke at an event in Calgary, hosted by Box and Skyhigh Networks (the video and slides, if you’re interested). My presentation was about using cloud to enable innovation, but the discussion that followed focused primarily on security. Specifically, that an org’s data centre is more secure than a cloud provider’s. Uhm, no.

2.   AIIM Road Trip – Calgary

On September 22nd I attended the Calgary session of AIIM’s 2015 Road Trip. The theme was the whole going paperless thing. It got me thinking …

Almost every project that I’ve been involved in or heard about that involved getting paper out of processes didn’t go far enough. Sure, they scanned the incoming docs (invoice, application form, cheque, whatever), but then the process reverted to what they used to do with paper. Stop that. When org’s go to the effort to eliminate paper, they also have to get rid of the whole circulation, review, approve steps where possible.

For example:

I worked on a project for an auto insurance company a few years ago. They were attempting to remove paper from their claims processing. One of their largest sources of paper was from car rental companies. Their initial approach was to have invoices submitted as email (attachments and body, depending on rental company). It was a good move, but still involved too much human intervention. My advice to them, which they followed, was to talk to the rental companies and get them to send over data batches, to be ingested by my client’s solution. They called, the three rental companies with the largest volumes agreed (hell, it saved them time and money, too), and my client ended up saving USD$250K annually. Development and testing was a total of 2 ½ days.

3.   I Wasn’t Expecting That

Back in April I posted this case study about a client of mine. At the time that I submitted the report I had no expectation that my client would do anything with it. After all, during the final presentation the message about “managing information is not a priority for this year” was quite bluntly delivered. As it turns out, a government audit that impacts public finding soon changed some of my client’s priorities.

I’m happy that the client is taking action based on the report I delivered (with Laurence Hart’s help). It’s a shame, but not unexpected, that it took negative findings to get the ball rolling. Oh when will they learn that it’s so much better and cost effective to be proactive about these things?

No, KS, I don’t think I called you “sad and tragic”.

4.   Data Residency

During the aforementioned AIIM Road Trip, one of the presenters mentioned something about data residency and how they could point to providers with Canadian presence (mostly small players, is my understanding). The issue I have is that it continues to cave to the FUD. There are very few circumstances under which Canadian organizations must, by law, have data reside in Canadian data centres. Before going and selecting a provider based on FUD and misinterpretation of requirements / regulations, find out what the real facts are and go from there.

5.   BoxWorks & Scanners

BoxWorks 2015 is next week and someone needs to build a scanner the automatically shreds the originals, then burns them as they come out.

#5Thoughts – Mixed Bag for the week of Sept 7


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No single theme was worthy of 5 Thoughts this week, so here’s a mixed bag of stuff.

1.   Oil is the new oil

Theo Priestly’s “____ is the new oil” tweet last week (?) got me thinking about the amount of hyperbole and bovine excrement that spews forth from the minds of many technology content marketers. The way some of these people market their products reminds me of ads for products like perfume, luxury holidays, and erectile dysfunction pills (if your irritation lasts more than 4 hours go berate a tech marketer and have a drink). Get real. You’re flogging technology to run businesses. There’s no new oil. It’s the same old stuff just with better ways to collect and use it. Say that.

2.   Uber

Uber is interesting to me because I have ties to the taxi industry – I used to drive one. In urban centres the taxi industry needs a huge shakeup, and Uber may be the catalyst. I’m not going to get into all that’s wrong or right with the industry except to say that most cab drivers are hard-working individuals and will be hugely, negatively impacted by Uber if there is no regulation imposed. And don’t blame the drivers for the state of the industry; they have far less control over the state of affairs than you might think.

The City of Edmonton is proposing a bylaw that would let Uber operate legally. I’ve read the proposed bylaw and think it’s pretty reasonable. The linked news article contains links to City of Edmonton resources, including the proposed bylaw.

Another news article (from CTV) reports that a Canadian insurance company is working on products that would allow Uber to satisfy insurance requirements in Canada.

Personally, I think that the taxi industry is long overdue for change. That said, I’m not in favour of Uber or anyone else coming in and disrupting it without any form of regulation and protection (for passengers and drivers).

If I could figure out the revenue model and clean my Shaggin’ Wagon (Dodge Grand Caravan) I’d probably give being an Uber driver a try just to compare to my previous experience.

3.   Apple

On September 9, 2015 Apple made some announcements.

4.   Where’s the “Enterprise”?

I had a chat this morning with a friend of mine who happens to be the Canadian Public Sector rep for a large ECM vendor. Long story short – almost everyone involved in ECM purchasing and deployment has no clue about what “enterprise’ really means. Most of them figure it’s a technology buy and implementation. And people wonder why ECM’s not living up to its often overblown hype.

5.   un-FUD

I read a (vendor) whitepaper yesterday about the need for enterprise grade file synchronization and sharing solutions. It. Was. Bad.

I’ll give the paper credit for trying to get rid of some of the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) related to storing business critical content in cloud repositories, but that’s about the only positive thing I can say. The paper’s about two years late and presents a lot of incorrect information about data sovereignty, especially in connection to the U.S.’s PATRIOT Act and whose information can and cannot be subjected to government snoopery.

Nope, not gonna link or give you any info about the paper. Your heads’d explode. Truly.

The Hybridization of EFSS and ECM


work-in-progress-24027_1280Consumer and enterprise file synchronization and sharing popped up because people needed a way to easily share and collaborate on business content. This gave rise to the “Dropbox problem”, which is just stupid and ignores the real problem; organizations didn’t provide their people with policies and tools that allowed them to GSD[1]. Today there are plenty of options, consumer and business grade, that provide a cool experience with the security and controls that business and IT need.

Organizations that haven’t sanctioned business grade file sync and share are foolish and open to a world of pain. If they think that their people aren’t chucking content around in the wild, well, think again. Go fix that problem, it’ll take all of 5 minutes.

The bigger problem today is figuring out what goes in the cloud and what doesn’t, and then providing access to it (don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing, start with something easy and low risk). The reality is that, for any number of reasons, not everything can be chucked into cloud based repositories. Even if an organization were committed to putting 100% of its content and processes into cloud services and repositories, that would not happen overnight. That reality means many, many organizations are going to require hybrid solutions.


Cloud On-Prem Arch


The image above is not an unreasonable representation of what many organizations are faced with. It’s fair to say that even if you remove the cloud based services, organizations can’t adequately provide a single point of access to all of the on-premises content people need on a day to day basis. The problem is exacerbated when that content must be shared and collaborated on by disparate groups of stakeholders. Now add in other information governance and management requirements, such as metadata, classification, retention-disposition, e-discovery, process integration, legal and regulatory compliance, and security and the challenge is more difficult still. Toss in some cloud services and repositories and what do you end up with?

The real initial challenge was conceptually pretty simple: “I want access to content from wherever I am, using whatever device I want, and I want to work on that content with whomever I need to work on it with.”

The likes of Google, Dropbox, Microsoft (OneDrive, not SP online), Box, etc. solved that problem, but in doing so created other problems, both real and perceived. The perceived problem they created was a security one. Trust me, it’s less of a problem than most organizations storing stuff in their own data centres or networks is. The real problem they created was around information governance and management, which is a strong suit of many Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors.

ECM vendors like Alfresco, EMC (prior to selling off Syncplicity), OpenText, and Oracle tried to solve the initial problem, and did a fair job of it. The big problem there was cost. In order to use their file sync and share capabilities you had to be using their repositories. Sure, you could opt for a cloud deployment, but you’re still running a full-blown ECM platform (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, Box, Alfresco, OpenText, and Oracle all work on the premise that your content is in their repository. If it isn’t, oh well. Syncplicity allows access to Documentum and SharePoint content, so I’ll categorize that one as a not quite semi-open option, though it does work on-premises and in the cloud.

Accellion, AirWatch (VMWare), Egnyte, and Citrix all offer hybrid solutions that may or may not work with ECM repositories in a limited capacity. However, from what I’ve seen from some of those guys the user experience is not always, shall we say, pleasant.

Of the ten vendors I’ve identified, not one is capable of providing secure, mobile access to all an organization’s content, and governing and managing it. Not one. Go and check out the latest Gartner (MQ) and Forrester (Wave) reports ranking the best of ECM and EFSS (silly market categorization); of all the vendors in those reports combined, not one can provide that combination of access, search, security, and governance.

Now, if a service were providing access to content in an ECM repository there would be no real need for that service to also provide all the information governance and management capabilities. Maybe I’m making the problem bigger than it really is. On the other hand, OneDrive, Google, and Dropbox have no governance / management capabilities to speak of, and what’s available from Box is 1st version functionality that has improving to do.

As far as I’m concerned:

  1. The initial problem has only been partially solved;
  2. There was not, is not, never will be a “Dropbox problem”;
  3. Sharing and collaborating on content is easier today than it was a couple of years ago;
  4. Platforms, apps, and API’s are the way forward;
  5. There’s still a long way to go, but holy crap have opportunities for innovation and transformation opened up.

[1] GSD – Get Sh!t Done

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