Yesterday (May 30, 2016) I read this article which contends that Box, Dropbox, and others are not content management platforms. I was considering not linking to the article and just putting up screen shots of the main points, but I decided on the link instead. The article is nothing but FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) being spread by an on-premises content management provider (props for dropping Gartner, Forrester, and AIIM names though). As a bit of a refresher on where I stand, you might want to read this whitepaper I wrote last year (sponsored by Box, 12 pages long). By the way, I tried to post a comment to the article, but it seems the site’s not taking comments (mine had a couple links).
Without further ado I’ll get into the counter arguments to the author’s “five reasons why cloud file sharing platforms can’t touch document management software platforms from an enterprise functionality standpoint” …
- Security at all costs – If the author had written something about data residency I would have bought it, probably. However, the author goes on about a bunch of FUD, and does nothing to dispel it. The author also illustrates her lack of knowledge, not only of security issues, but also of the capabilities of the cloud players. She implies that many think that on-premises security is better, which we know isn’t the case. Major hacks and leaks have come primarily from on-premises data centres.
- Document storage and beyond – uhm, just plain wrong. Sure, it may take a combination of tools to achieve the same level of functionality that one could achieve with a traditional, legacy suite such as OpenText, Filenet, or Documentum, but is that really a bad thing? Haven’t we already accepted that the whole ECM world is actually changing and the way forward is platforms, integrations, and API’s? I have. Has someone forgotten the abysmal success rate of traditional ECM deployments?
- Not yet ready for primetime – What? This is 2016, technology is changing and advancing more rapidly than ever. No one has a 10+ year window any more to demonstrate anything. Those traditional ECM players you mention are precisely the reason people and organizations are going to the cloud. Traditional ECM platforms are old and out of date. Yes, some are making changes, re-architecting, and adding CLOUD -FREAKIN’-CAPABILITIES-DAMMIT!!!
- Migration issues – Really? You really want to go there? How ‘bout migrating from OpenText to SharePoint? Or from Documentum to Filenet? Or from what you’re selling to anything else? Or from file shares to whatever the hell you want to name? Migration sucks. Always has sucked. Always will suck. Cloud or on-premises makes no friggin’ difference.
- Performance concerns – hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!! Ha. That’s cute.
- It’s ON-PREMISES for ***** sake!
Now I’m just angry and irritated. I need a drink.
I’m not saying that everyone should move everything to the cloud, but at the very least think a bit and don’t buy into the nonsense spouted by some people who may have something to gain by spreading FUD. The fact is that managing content in the cloud, whether via cloud capabilities of legacy vendors or via the “new” vendors, is perfectly viable. The key is to know what your requirements are before choosing a technology.
Over the last few weeks I attended the AIIM Conference (the theme was Digital Transformation in Action) in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA and the IRMS Conference (the theme was Information Superheroes) in Brighton, UK. It was my third time at AIIM, at which I did one of the roundtables, and it was my first time at IRMS, at which I did the opening keynote (a genuine honour to have been selected). Both the AIIM roundtable and the IRMS keynote (slides available here) were innovation themed. This post is not going to be so much a recap of the conferences as much as it will be my take on how innovation, disruption, and transformation fit into the whole Information Governance / Management (IG/M) space, and how AIIM and IRMS and their members (individuals, sponsors, vendors) may be affected.
Since my session at both conferences was about innovation, that’s the filter I am applying, with a twist. In his opening keynote at AIIM, John Mancini mentioned Slack as the type of vendor (new, innovative, disruptive) that’s become more important in our space, but was not present at, arguably, the most important conference in that space. Slack, which I use with some industry peers, is a marvelous tool for collaborating and sharing content. Via integrations with other tools it can be a part of an enterprise information / content management play. Other vendors that are critical players in the IG/M space include companies like Box, Dropbox, Splunk, Egnyte, Microsoft, Facebook (yes), …, the list is huge. The point is that there are hundreds of vendors out there that are producing platforms and apps that people use EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to work with and analyze the information they need to do their jobs. I’m talking about the simplest stuff (creating a document or email) to the most complex data analytics. People are doing these things using everything from supercomputers to mobile phones; in dedicated buildings and on tops of mountains.
For fun, take a look at this page on Box’s site; each of these Box technology partners could and should make up part of an organization’s IG/M technology package. So why were most of them missing from AIIM and IRMS? By asking that question I do not mean to imply that vendors like IBM, HPE, Onbase, Laserfiche, OpenText, etc. don’t innovate. They do. They’re just not overly exciting anymore. They are the legacy, staid, established vendors. Sorry guys, but as good as you are you’re just not cool anymore. I got excited about the Documentum-LEAP thing, but that didn’t last more than 5 or 6 minutes.
Since I kind of do the industry analyst thing on occasion, I do know why some of the cool vendors don’t bother with AIIM, IRMS, and other similar conferences; they don’t get the leads. However, I think they are missing a marvelous opportunity to educate and transform the market, including the associations themselves. I believe that these vendors need to look at two or three years of conference investment before they can reasonably expect to use the conferences as sales opportunities. That said, these vendors, individually, probably have little idea of what they’re really on to. And let’s face it, individually most of them aren’t significant in a IG/M or RIM (Records and Information Management) context. It’s as a whole solution built of the best bits for the job that they shine. And that is a beautiful thing.
I think the whole IG/M space, including the associations, is having a bit of a tough time with its own transformation. It’s not an analog to digital thing; it’s more of what should we be doing and to whom should we be doing it. Both conferences featured sessions about the evolution of the space and those who practice in it, but not enough, in my opinion. The transformation of the space was missing. I.e.: what is IG/M going to look like in the not too distant future? Like it or not, there are some key vendors out there that are going to have a massive influence on what our profession will look like, and they weren’t at either conference.
One of the things I’ve been seeing lately is this concept of “content as a service”. Essentially it’s having a managed repository serving as a platform on which to build actual business solutions. The back-end takes care of all the IG/M stuff like versions, policies, security, etc, while applications that solve actual business problems are built on top of the platform. Why am I mentioning this in this particular post. BECAUSE THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE WHOLE IG/M or RIM PROFESSION SHOULD BE DOING FOR THE ORGANIZATIONS THEY SUPPORT!!!
Very soon, if you’re only (don’t take this the wrong way) a records manager or archivist your career will be over. The titles may stay the same, but the skill sets and thought processes must evolve. All information, regardless of medium or storage location, must be in scope. I think that with the right mindset, training, and skills, today’s information professional can become tomorrow’s internal management consultant and strategic advisor. I’ve said more than once that information assets must be treated with the same gravity and urgency that financial assets are treated. There is, in my view, a small window of opportunity for those of us currently in the profession, in whatever role, to make that happen. You / we can specialize in certain disciplines that make up IG/M, but we’ve got to have an understanding of the whole.
Everything we information professionals do ought to be done in support of the core business of the organizations we work for. This does not mean we take a subservient approach to doing our jobs. Far from it. How many other professions are as well placed as we are to actually understand what’s happening? How many other professions have as holistic a view into an organization as we do? As professionals we need to look around our organizations and start to ask what problems or challenges we can help with. And it’s not just how to file something, how to prepare for litigation, how to defensibly delete something, or how to save money on storage. We need to be asking questions about how to grow the business, how to better compete, how to better serve citizens, i.e.: ask strategic, forward looking business questions.
We need to be pushing IRMS, AIIM, ARMA, and every other professional organization we belong to to ask those same questions of companies and of vendors. Associations need to be our voices, especially when it comes to defining what our profession will look like in the future. We need to step up and make sure our associations are positioned to attract the right vendors / sponsors, to answer the right questions for end-user organizations, and to provide the thought leadership that we as professionals need in order to learn and grow.
Miscellaneous Closing Thoughts
You’ll notice I’ve stayed away from using the term ECM; that’s because it doesn’t matter anymore, if it ever really did. What matters is solutions. ECM is just background stuff, which is exactly as it should be.
I’m scratching my head a bit over the IRMS offering the Foundation Certificate in Information Governance (FCIG); there seems to be quite a lot of overlap with AIIM’s Certified Information Professional (CIP) thing. Don’t get me wrong, the FCIG is a good thing that covers a little bit that the CIP doesn’t. Is it enough to warrant a separate certificate / certification? Is it a manifestation of the differences between the North American and UK markets? I dunno. I do, however, wish the IRMS and AIIM all the best with their programs.
This being my first IRMS conference, I didn’t know what to expect. What I encountered was a massive attack hug (thanks Emily), a wonderfully warm reception from the entire IRMS executive and the event organizers, and a fantastic experience in Brighton. This was definitely a records management focussed conference, with most (80%+?) participants being from one form of public sector or another. Now, many of you know what I think about pure records management and may assume that I started to itch and twitch, but I didn’t. I think there is an openness to a more holistic approach to managing information that doesn’t seem to be present at other records focussed events I’ve been to. There was also a much more palpable sense of community and intimacy than what I’ve previously experienced.
That one conclusion I alluded to in the title …
This profession of ours is as much in a state of transition as the industries and professions we support. I don’t really know with any certainty what that’s going to look like in the next few years. However, I think those of us practising our profession had better embrace a little uncertainty, tempered with a lot of flexibility and creativity.
Information surpassed people as an organization’s most valuable resource a few years ago. There is no reason to believe that things will ever go back to the way they were. More than likely the value of information will continue to increase as its volume grows. Therefore, those of us who really know how to govern and manage it, how to leverage its value, and how to mitigate its risks … well, there’s no stopping us.
 If you added information governance / management related sessions to Boxworks, it could actually be a better info gov conference than AIIM, in terms of having relevant vendors show up.
A few weeks ago I was approached about working with an organization to help them put together a new SharePoint 2013 site to replace the one they currently have (SP2010). The business unit that approached me is responsible for engaging with stakeholders when the company wants to build infrastructure in their operating region; let’s call the unit EE (external engagement) for the sake of discussion.
Now, before I get all ranty and critical, you should know that EE wasn’t getting much love and attention from IT; this post is not about assigning blame to EE or their Business Analyst, with whom I’ll be working pretty closely. The fact is that there are problems in how IT engages with the business that are way beyond the scope of this post. As you read this post, keep in mind that a business case has been prepared and approved by IT (a VP) and EE (a Director and an SVP).
“To enable [EE] to capture the benefits of SharePoint in our department, we need to revisit our existing 2010 [EE] Team site.” That quote is the first sentence of the main body of the approved business case for the project. The case goes on, in excruciating detail, to describe in non-quantifiable terms how implementing various features and functions available in SharePoint 2013 will benefit the department. What the case doesn’t contain is any sort of goal or objective from the business indicating why the project is necessary and what the measurable business outcomes ought to be. Nor does the case contain any criteria upon which project success will be based.
If I were to summarize the business case as it’s currently written, it would be something like “There’s a bunch of cool SP2013 stuff that isn’t being used and we think we can use it to make our site look pretty and show people what we’re doing and we’ve started a Proof of Concept (PoC) that we’re going to finish soon to show you just how pretty those SP2013 things will look on our site and we’re going to do whatever we want whether it’s standard or not even if it’s stuff that other projects and departments are really responsible for. Okay?”
In addition to containing a shopping list of SP2013 features to be deployed, the business case also makes assumptions about the way in which many of the features will be deployed. Now, having some insight into the organization, I can tell you unequivocally that many of those assumptions are incorrect because they don’t comply with standards and guidelines that the organization has adopted. To be fair, had IT paid more attention, these deviations would have been caught and much time and money would have been saved.
I, and others, have advocated for trying to get the most out of the technology organizations have on hand. However, that doesn’t mean that organizations should invent requirements that provide no discernable business benefits simply to make use of some feature that’s currently sitting on a shelf. What it means is that, once real business needs and benefits have been identified, organizations should look at the tools they have on hand before going out to acquire something else. Of course, this should all be bound by an organization’s standards and guidelines.
Fortunately, the business case has been approved only to get the business requirements done. The organization uses a pure waterfall, gated SDLC so I’m going to use that to our advantage and try to get things back on the right track. I’m also going to try and get the PoC descoped or killed altogether. Things aren’t so far down the path that they can’t be corrected, but it will take a fair bit of cajoling and coaching of the BA. We’ll also have to get IT more engaged but I have a pretty decent PM to help with that bit.
Things to take away from this story:
- Only deploy technology based on identified and accepted business needs;
- Have measurable outcomes defined so you can actually determine whether or not you’re succeeding;
- Business and IT are partners and must work together;
- If your BA isn’t that strong, make sure they are properly coached and supported;
- Don’t sign off on a business case that doesn’t contain business objectives, business drivers, or success criteria;
- If you’re not going to comply with corporate standards and guidelines, cool, but have solid justification for not complying;
- If the first sentence in your business case is something like “To enable [EE] to capture the benefits of SharePoint in our department, we need to revisit our existing 2010 [EE] Team site.”, you don’t actually have one;
- Shiny Object Disease is both preventable and curable.
 Many years ago I had a contract gig with a major airline. My sole responsibility was to evaluate non-standard IT requests to determine whether or not the provided justification was sufficient enough to warrant approving the request. I.e.: Standards and guidelines can occasionally be broken if there is valid justification.
Information Management is a profession, not an industry. Steve Weissman of the Holly Group wrote a pretty good post about IM/IG being a profession rather than an industry last year. Like HR, Accounting, IT, legal, etc., Information Management is here to support the core business; this does not imply subservience. And like the other support functions, there are several types of professionals practicing Information Management.
Don Lueders wrote a post comparing Accountants and Records Managers (one type of IM/IG professional) a couple weeks ago, so I’m going to take what Don and Steve wrote a couple of steps further. I’m also doing it because like money, information is a corporate asset.
As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I believe that IM/IG Professionals are to information what Accountants are to money. And just like there are different types of Accountants, there are different types of IM/IG Professionals.
Accountants, at least in Canada, fall into three broad categories: 1) Strategic; 2) Tactical; 3) Governance/Risk/Compliance. Hmm … IM/IG professionals can be lumped into three broad categories: 1) Strategic; 2) Tactical; 3) Governance/Risk/Compliance.
Need I go on?
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.
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.
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.
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.