Cloudy With a Chance of Success – the Update


I originally posted this back in November 2011. A lot has changed since then, but there’s also a lot that hasn’t. One of the biggest things that’s changed is that Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) has gained a ton of legitimacy over the last little while.

I’m reposting this for a couple of reasons: 1) There’s much in the post that is still relevant; 2) I’ll be posting something in early January that’s related and want to use this post as a kind of introduction.

I debated whether or not I should edit the original post but decided against it. I’ve simply added some comments where I felt they were necessary to clarify things, likely as much for me as for you.

CloudsThis post was inspired by this article on CMSWire by @billycripe and by the Cloud themed tweet jam hosted by CMSWire on November 17, 2011. As usual this is just my opinion.

I’m not an expert on cloud computing, I’m just some guy that likes to be able to access the content I need to do my work, from wherever I happen to be, using whatever device I feel like using at the moment. Take this post, for example; it was written on a laptop and a tablet, in a dining room and a swimming pool (not really in the pool since my tablet isn’t waterproof though that would be mega-cool).

I agree with Billy Cripe’s thoughts that Agile can (ought to) be applied in the development of cloud based ECM solutions. However, as Billy correctly states, “Managing content is not the goal of most businesses.” Most businesses exist to make money by providing products and/or services that consumers want. Businesses rely on information in order to get their stuff done, whatever their stuff is. In order to fully exploit information, the tools (i.e.: information stores) that the businesses rely on need to be connected to each other (so do the people – the tools need to facilitate this). Content / information management tools (cloud or not) need to be part of bigger picture business solutions. We need to build solutions that deliver “I need to share this” in the context of why it needs to be shared (answer why you need to share and you’ll likely figure out who and what).

Re-reading this now it seems as of the above is meant to imply that the topic is legacy ECM systems. That may have been true originally, but it’s not now. I’m really looking at this in terms of anywhere that content can be stored.

No sane person can argue the value and validity of the cloud. Except me. I’m not daft enough to think that cloud computing doesn’t have value or is not a valid approach to take. However, I do think that we’re not going to realize the full potential of the cloud (and by extension, content) if we simply limit its scope to content management. Yeah, I know that there are other things that are done in the cloud, such as CRM, payroll, and accounting.

We’ve gotten to the point where there really is no need to keep much on premises anymore.

When I refer to “cloud” I am referring to more than just the data centre, if that’s not obvious.

Content Wherever I Am

One of the cool things about content in the cloud is that my content is wherever I am. (Okay, so it’s not really my content, it’s my organization’s content.) That’s not the point, though. The point is that I can work with content wherever I happen to be, using whatever device I choose. This does assume that the chosen content repository is able to be synched appropriately. Wouldn’t it be cool, though, that if in addition to being able to work with the content and share it with collaborators (the work variety, not the WWII Nazi variety) the content could also be appropriately tagged, filed, and placed under retention at the point that I plunk it into the repository? I.e.: Cloud repositories need to become extensions of ECM and ERM systems, probably through federation.

So the whole thing about federation is a little off. This really should be thought of as centralized policy administration and enforcement.

Correctly Connecting Corporate Content

Content is spread throughout an organization; cloudification just increases the spread. When I say content, I mean anything that is stored on digital media that serves any legitimate business activity. (For obvious reasons I am excluding physical content.) A key to widespread cloud acceptance is to be to able access / leverage content in order to execute a business activity, regardless of where the various pieces of content reside. An agent in a social services organization should not have to know or care that a citizen’s information is spread over a number of repositories that could be on-premises, in a private cloud, and in a public cloud. The agent is there to service the needs of the citizen, not to figure out some (likely) convoluted architecture just to try and find stuff.

CMIS is a step in the right direction, but where CMIS falls short is that it doesn’t address non-CMS (think ECM) repositories. What we need is something that allows connecting everything that we need, when we need it. Device and location should not be factors. In fact, the only thing that a user should worry about is whether or not they have the right content to do the job. Governance, classification, and security ought to be just taken care of.

If the scope opens up to include non-ECM tools, how much of a factor is CMIS? Look at what’s happening in the broader EFSS space with open standards and open API’s.

Speaking of Governance…

Until the governance issues get sorted, I doubt very much that we’ll see widespread adoption of public cloud services. Smaller organizations, organizations with lax regulatory / privacy regulations, and organizations that can bully providers into rock-solid SLA’s may be able to go full public cloud, but I doubt they will. I think the reality is that organizations will end up having hybrid environments of cloud and on-premises.

When I say governance I am not only referring to the poo that legislators, regulators and litigators throw in our way. Governance needs to address issues such as:

  1. what can / should be stored in the cloud
  2. service level agreements
  3. disaster recovery / business continuity
  4. security
  5. classification / categorization
  6. retention & disposition (thanks to @JamesLappin & @AlanPelzSharpe for bringing this up)

Governance of cloud content has to deal with all of the things that we need to deal with for on-premises stored content, with the added complication that we also have to deal with where the damn box is and if some foreign government can get at it whenever they bloody well feel like it. Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act and the United States’ PATRIOT Act are not going to be very helpful in encouraging organizations to move to the cloud in a big way.

With so many employees using consumer devices and consumer services it’s better to accept the potential peek from the government than it is to continue to deny things and have content out in the wild.

Parting Shots

  1. Hybrid (cloud / on-premises) will be in the majority
  2. Governance (internally & externally imposed) has to be figured out
  3. Integration / interoperability are critical
  4. Privacy concerns and government snooping are major inhibitors (@ron_miller wrote a pretty good piece about this)
  5. If we’re not careful we’ll just move the mess from our hard drives to someone else’s
  6. Some Systems of Record will end up in the cloud, if they’re not already there
  7. Services are where it’s at

Bonus Material

I couldn’t decide which song I wanted to use for this post, so you’re getting three:

  1. CCR – Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
  2. CCR – Who’ll Stop the Rain?
  3. SRV – Couldn’t Stand the Weather

A couple definitions for those that think it should be “on-premise”

  1. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/premise
  2. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/premises

 

Give it Away – The Value is in the Knowledge


If I were to start an enterprise software company today, I’d give the licenses away. No, I am not thinking about open source at all. I’m thinking about services, non-core functionality, and integration. I’ll stick to Enterprise Content Management software, but the principles are applicable to any enterprise grade platforms or suites (we can debate what “enterprise” means until the cows come home to roost, but not here or now).

Let’s face it; you can go and pick almost any large ECM suite and the core functionality is going to be pretty much the same across all of them. For the sake of this discussion, let’s define core functionality as:

  • Check in / check out
  • Versioning
  • Basic search
  • Metadata
  • Security
  • Basic workflow
  • Audit
  • Some sort of UI (usually pretty crappy)

There is no substantive value differentiator to be had in choosing one over another. In fact, if any one of those items were missing, I doubt the software in question would even qualify as an ECM tool. I also think that in the very near future, file synching and sharing (e.g.: EMC’s Syncplicity and OpenText’s Tempo Box) could become core functionality (if it were my company it would be).

So, I’m going to give you the basics for free and I’m not even going to charge you for training and maintenance. I will charge you for implementation (if it’s on premises or on hosted infrastructure) and support, though. Why would I be so generous? Because I am really friggin’ smart. I want your organization to deploy, use, scale, and extend my software. I want you to realize that what really sets my software apart from the competition is the people I’ve got advising you, architecting your solutions, and deploying to your people.

What enterprise is going to live with just core functionality beyond a proof of concept phase, if that long? Even if they do, how long until they figure out that they’ll get way further if they hook up content services (yes, I said services) to other enterprise or line of business systems.

Don’t get caught up in the whole “if it’s free there’s no value” thing; it’s bogus. You need to understand the difference between cost (what you pay) and value (what you get). Besides, I already told you it’s not free, sort of. You’re going to have to implement the software. I or a partner can do it for you, and you’ll get billed. You can have your internal folks do it, and you’ll get billed to get them trained. It comes down to paying for the knowledge and expertise, not for the tool.

The value proposition for core content services (or content as a service if you prefer) is in pushing the content to other systems (processes+people+tools), and in being the core repository for content across the organization. Once your content is in the repository and being managed with the basics, only then am I going to start charging you for the add-ons. Add-ons are not by any means trivial, but they are not core for all organizations. For example, Digital Asset Management (DAM) – not everyone needs it, but to those that do it’s critical. And I am going to charge you for it (license and services). Hey, you want to use someone else’s DAM solution because it’s more suitable for your organization? Cool, but I am going to charge you for the integration. Same goes for web content management, ediscovery, records management, migration tools, large file transfers, etc. Integration to desktop tools, other enterprise systems, line of business systems, and cloud services? Damn right I’m gonna charge you.

“But what happens when partners do the initial implementation? You won’t make any money.” Truthfully, I don’t care. What I do care about is being at least as diligent about selecting partners as you are about selecting technology and service providers; I want partners that are every bit as invested in your success as I am. I want you, me, and the partners to be a triumvirate. If I really want a shot at success, I have to make sure that you succeed, regardless if you engage me directly or not. The only way I am going to do that is to support my partners as much as I support you, and to be there when their skills have gaps.

“But they’re a partner, how can they have skills gaps?” Well, because they’re partners and not my staff. Partners are never going to be as close to the product as those who build the product; it’s a fact. Besides, they’re out in the field implementing stuff and gathering feedback. That’s what I want them to do. And if I’ve set my partner model up properly partners are integrated into my processes and supported. My partners are also a revenue stream.

I don’t want any schmoe that’s done one implementation and read some stuff to be running amok out there. I want partners that can do as good a job, maybe even better, than my own staff can. I am going to spend time and money making sure partners are up to the task, and for that partners are going to pay me. If you want to work with the schmoe, that’s on you. Don’t come crying to me when it all goes wrong. Do come to me to help you fix it. I promise not to say “I told you so”. As long as there’s long-term success, I’m not too concerned about short-term faux-pas.

Anyways …

I don’t own or run a software company, and I’m not about to start one up; I’m an analyst/consultant with Digital Clarity Group. We help organizations get stuff done, including selecting technology and service providers. I hope that I’ve made you think about a few key things as you ponder your technology and vendor choices:

  • Cost does not determine value – lots of open source and low cost tools are every bit as good as stuff you’d pay a fortune for;
  • Regardless of cost, knowledge is far more valuable than tools;
  • Clients, service providers, and vendors must, must, must be in a symbiotic relationship to truly succeed.

And if you happen to be looking for some guidance on selecting technology or service providers, reach out; we’re happy to chat. You should also check out our European and North American service providers guides (note that they are specific to the Customer Experience market).

Cloudy with a Chance of Success


This was originally posted on the AIIM Community on November 18, 2011.

This post was inspired by this article on CMSWire by @billycripe and by the Cloud themed tweet jam hosted by CMSWire on November 17, 2011. As usual this is just my opinion.

CloudsI’m not an expert on cloud computing, I’m just some guy that likes to be able to access the content I need to do my work, from wherever I happen to be, using whatever device I feel like using at the moment. Take this post, for example; it was written on a laptop and a tablet, in a dining room and a swimming pool (not really in the pool since my tablet isn’t waterproof though that would be mega-cool).

I agree with Billy Cripe’s thoughts that Agile can (ought to) be applied in the development of cloud based ECM solutions. However, as Billy correctly states, “Managing content is not the goal of most businesses.” Most businesses exist to make money by providing products and/or services that consumers want. Businesses rely on information in order to get their stuff done, whatever their stuff is. In order to fully exploit information, the tools (i.e.: information stores) that the businesses rely on need to be connected to each other (so do the people – the tools need to facilitate this). Content / information management tools (cloud or not) need to be part of bigger picture business solutions. We need to build solutions that deliver “I need to share this” in the context of why it needs to be shared (answer why you need to share and you’ll likely figure out who and what).

No sane person can argue the value and validity of the cloud. Except me. I’m not daft enough to think that cloud computing doesn’t have value or is not a valid approach to take. However, I do think that we’re not going to realize the full potential of the cloud (and by extension, content) if we simply limit its scope to content management. Yeah, I know that there are other things that are done in the cloud, such as CRM, payroll, and accounting.

Content Wherever I Am

One of the cool things about content in the cloud is that my content is wherever I am. (Okay, so it’s not really my content, it’s my organization’s content.) That’s not the point, though. The point is that I can work with content wherever I happen to be, using whatever device I choose. This does assume that the chosen content repository is able to be synched appropriately. Wouldn’t it be cool, though, that if in addition to being able to work with the content and share it with collaborators (the work variety, not the WWII Nazi variety) the content could also be appropriately tagged, filed, and placed under retention at the point that I plunk it into the repository? I.e.: Cloud repositories need to become extensions of ECM and ERM systems, probably through federation.

Correctly Connecting Corporate Content

Content is spread throughout an organization; cloudification just increases the spread. When I say content, I mean anything that is stored on digital media that serves any legitimate business activity. (For obvious reasons I am excluding physical content.) A key to widespread cloud acceptance is to be able access / leverage content in order to execute a business activity, regardless of where the various pieces of content reside. An agent in a social services organization should not have to know or care that a citizen’s information is spread over a number of repositories that could be on-premises, in a private cloud, and in a public cloud. The agent is there to service the needs of the citizen, not to figure out some (likely) convoluted architecture just to try and find stuff.

CMIS is a step in the right direction, but where CMIS falls short is that it doesn’t address non-CMS (think ECM) repositories. What we need is something that allows connecting everything that we need, when we need it. Device and location should not be factors. In fact, the only thing that a user should worry about is whether or not they have the right content to do the job. Governance, classification, and security ought to be just taken care of.

Speaking of Governance…

Until the governance issues get sorted, I doubt very much that we’ll see widespread adoption of public cloud services. Smaller organizations, organizations with lax regulatory / privacy regulations, and organizations that can bully providers into rock-solid SLA’s may be able to go full public cloud, but I doubt they will. I think the reality is that organizations will end up having hybrid environments of cloud and on-premises.

When I say governance I am not only referring to the poo that legislators, regulators and litigators throw in our way. Governance needs to address issues such as:

  1. what can / should be stored in the cloud
  2. service level agreements
  3. disaster recovery / business continuity
  4. security
  5. classification / categorization
  6. retention & disposition (thanks to @JamesLappin & @AlanPelzSharpe for bringing this up)

Governance of cloud content has to deal with all of the things that we need to deal with for on-premises stored content, with the added complication that we also have to deal with where the damn box is and if some foreign government can get at it whenever they bloody well feel like it. Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act and the United States’ PATRIOT Act are not going to be very helpful in encouraging organizations to move to the cloud in a big way.

Parting Shots

  1. Hybrid (cloud / on-premises) will be in the majority
  2. Governance (internally & externally imposed) has to be figured out
  3. Integration / interoperability are critical
  4. Privacy concerns and government snooping are major inhibitors (@ron_miller wrote a pretty good piece about this)
  5. If we’re not careful we’ll just move the mess from our hard drives to someone else’s
  6. Some Systems of Record will end up in the cloud, if they’re not already there
  7. Services are where it’s at

Bonus Material

I couldn’t decide which song I wanted to use for this post, so you’re getting three:

  1. CCR – Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
  2. CCR – Who’ll Stop the Rain?
  3. SRV – Couldn’t Stand the Weather

A couple definitions for those that think it should be “on-premise”

  1. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/premise
  2. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/premises
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