In my post “Why ECM should play an important role in the Business Process and SOA discussion” of February 11th, 2008 I made a statement “that we need to close the loop between inbound – outbound – inbound communication” and find a way to “prevent each developer, application and PC user to become its own document developer” and let Business get control back on all communication processes in the company.
The answer to this should be “Enterprise Content Management” (ECM) which is the technologies used to “capture, manage, store, preserve, and delivery content and documents” related to organizational processess.
BUT…… Everyone of you who has been involved in ECM projects knows that there are a lot of Vendors and Products out there each and everyone specialised in their own area. A typicall project involves easily 3 or more Products and always from different vendors. E.g. Scanning software, Capturing software, Email management software, Classifying software, routing / workflow software, Document Management software, Document Output Management software, Printers, etc. Of course they all need their specific version of hardware, operating system, database and this constellation has to be expensively managed for the coming years by specialized staff.
Wouldn’t it be nice if instead there was a common infrastructure for Document generation, printing, archiving and a Repository that allowed it all to be managed centrally.
Component Repository Management
As Wikipedia states “Component repository management is a field of configuration management that seeks to ensure the safe storage of different components of a software product and all its versions. This topic includes product model, revision control, and software configuration management”. The Component repository we are looking for should contain the business domain model, document building blocks, resources, business rules and should provide Services for authorization and authentication, version management, release management, audit trail, business intelligence, Integration with third party systems and legacy using webservices, messaging, http, sql.
A central Repository allows us to manage the domain classes centrally, shielding the business user from the back-end systems that are needed (e.g. client, contract, account, claim, insurance, etc). A further advantage is that it allows for the creation of an enterprise wide consistent client experience due to document templates being made from standardized building blocks. Furthermore, an integrated authorization system means that modifications can be allowed or prevented within the organization (e.g. department, end-user).
As the requirements become more complex would it not be nice if an “inheritance mechanism” (from the Object Oriented world) was used so that every aspect of the system was fully referenced? This would allow for the simplification of repetitive tasks such as changing a company logo which could be achieved by checking the old logo out, the new one in, and applying it to all documents where the logo is used. This methodology would also allow for document creation and modification starting from certain base documents where the correct usage of legal text, consistent usage of fonts and logo’s, etc could be entirely ensured.
But a common infrastructure is also needed to be able to manage application components, printers, print pools and print streams (documents). Why? Because in each enterprise there is a variety of printers that need to function for both local and central printing. Moreso, customers demand uniformity in their documents whether they be in an email, PDF, on the web or on paper. Furtunately there are some accepted standards that can be used for this.
The most common is TCP/IP which allows for the location and management of the different instances of the ECM application suite as well as with printers, faxes and mail servers. The other required standard is one that guarantees a 100% consistent look & feel of produced documents on each and every output device. IBM’s AFP is a standard that describes such a document and with specific adapters for specific devices we can ensure production of 100% equal documents.
I’m aware of only one Vendor that can offer a business communication infrastructure and services as described above and much more and this vendor is ISIS-Papyrus . They offer an unique product that is years ahead of competition because they can close the loop and they provide a repository that fulfills all mentioned requirements and even more. They have built-in support for Event Processing, User Trained Agent and a very strong User Interface based on FLASH which can all be maintained by a super user in the repository. But above all they provide the Business truly Agility because of their integrated version management and release management. Without intervention of IT an administrative user can promote changes to Test and Production but also reverse it if necessary and this all in minutes not weeks or months.
Doesn’t sound this to much as a fairy tail? I challenge you to check-out their Papyrus product suite. Be warned, it takes an open mind and at least a second read to grasp the innovative approach they took some years ago.