Trad ECM is so out-of-touch


Traditional, legacy ECM platforms like Documentum, FileNet and OpenText are not ready for this new world. Those technologies were architected in a time when users and content stayed behind the firewall, on servers and PCs.

So starts paragraph two of Alfresco’s whitepaper “Next-Generation ECM”. This, and a recent post by Laurence Hart in which he says “Records Management as we know it is dead and it has dragged Enterprise Content Management (ECM) down with it.”, piqued my interest.

Preceding all this was a promotional email from Alfresco’s Melissa Meinhart: “4 reasons why Traditional ECM is dead“. Her reasons were:

  1. Users are demanding support for their new tablet and mobile devices, new remote working styles and new cloud apps. You aren’t going to change the users. You must change your approach to ECM.
  2. It’s not just users who are different today: the enterprise is different, too. A new, more expansive view of the enterprise requires a new approach to ECM… an approach that recognizes that modern enterprises are not bound by the firewall.
  3. Social content is now also enterprise content. Today’s enterprise content is driven by mobile devices and the fact that photos, videos and comment threads help companies get real work done faster. The context of the content — who posted it, at what time, in what circumstances and their opinion of the content — is now central to that content’s value.
  4. Traditional ECM vendors are failing at addressing the new realities of the IT infrastructure. ECM technology built for the new enterprise needs to span from traditional on-premise deployments, to virtualized private cloud deployments to full-fledged public-cloud SaaS deployments — and everything in between. And it needs to keep everything, and everyone, secure and in sync — no matter where users or content resides.

This got me thinking… My current role has me working with clients to help them create intranets that are “social”. Ones that foster richer collaboration, and interaction.

Customers are focusing more on this “visible” part of the social collaborative experience, along with the “content management” part that goes with it. In this case, I am talking about the content that is surfaced on the Intranet pages.

Those areas that come under the heading of “Information Management”, such as Records Management, or Enterprise Content Management (ECM), are “roadmap” items. Things that the customer knows are important, but that they also realise, needs more extensive analysis, and planning.

This awareness, by companies, that a well-thought out ECM system is a necessity, is truly excellent. But Alfresco’s white paper raises some good points…users are, more and more, disconnected from the Enterprise. They work anywhere, at any time, on any device. And there are still concerns (rightly, or wrongly) about content “in the cloud”.

Another excellent point that the white paper makes is something that I have had many long discussions on, at my current place of employment (and which is worthy of a separate blog post). This is with regards to the social content, and conversations, that are now trying to be fostered (see the above paragraphs). These often contain valuable tacit knowledge, or are artefacts that companies don’t want to lose.

Traditional ECM is not sufficiently capable of accommodating this new user behaviour, the extended enterprise, or social content. And even Microsoft’s SharePoint, now considered one of the latest members of the “ECM club”, is lacking.

Naturally, Alfresco’s white paper is a pitch for its own product. I do not have a problem with that. They raise some valid points, and their solution looks like it could have potential. I do want to look into it further though, and assess whether their solution is the “one”.

If you want to read about their offering that they claim meets the challenges of the new ways of working, as well as some other great insight to this area by, refer to the links below.

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AIIM’s Email Management Practitioner Course

e-mail messages

Recently, I was on business about an hour north of Chicago for two weeks. I was staying at a hotel, and this is always a great opportunity to get some study done. (I know – sounds boring, but there is only so much drinking and partying that one can partake of).

In 2009 I had paid for an AIIM Email Management Practitioner course. This is an online course, and had an expiry date. Unfortunately over the last two years, things have been pretty hectic, and I never got around to doing the course. But thanks to the great people at AIIM (especially Angela) I was able to get the course extended past its expiry date a few times.

I started the course with, I have to admit, low expectations.

However, I quickly found that the course was incredibly valuable.

As well as covering the basics regarding e-mail such as architecture and protocols, it went into governance, ways to capture e-mail (as well as the attachments), and classification,  as well as discussing the various regulatory requirements, and “discoverability”, etc. It looked at email from the Records perspective.  (You can read more about the content of the course here on the AIIM site)

What I really liked about this course is that it also discussed the challenges & pragmatics of email management (including the limitations). It raised points that I have never really considered.

And that is what I liked. I didn’t feel that I was learning dry details. The course presented things in a way that I found myself, during the middle of the presentations, thinking about how I could apply what I was learning to real-life situations (clients I have worked with, etc).

All in all – I am really happy with the course.

Useful links:

  • AIIM
  • AIIM EMM course
  • Why Managing E-mail Matters
  • website
  • Archiving 101 blog
  • Electronic Discovery and Evidence blog

Why Managing E-mail MattersWhy Managing E-mail Matters

  • Management of Electronic Records Still not Taken Seriously (

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“Selling” something new to the users – a case of how NOT to do it

selling user adoption

Once upon a time, in a far away land, I was present at a demo that a vendor was giving to the end users of a Document Management System. These are users that had worked with the native client (the end-user application) of the DMS for many years. They knew how to make it sing and dance.

The vendor had worked with this customer for many years, and there was a good relationship. The vendor knew how the customer’s business worked. They knew because they were also the vendor of the Document Management System in use, and had originally worked with the customer to set up the system to match the customer’s requirements.

So, there we were. In a conference room. A representative of the vendor stood up front. As well as that there were 4 other people from the vendor in the audience – a technical guy, a subject matter expert, some from the vendor’s product development, and a client manager.

We waited in anticipation. The vendor was going to show us new technology that would allow the user to access the Document Management System via SharePoint using a web part. Not only could we access the documents, we would be able to interact with the document, and attach it workflows, etc. And all this via SharePoint. This had great potential. It meant that we could create “work areas” customised to the users’ requirements. And the specialised web parts could be configured to returns documents that meet specific criteria.

One thing I need to point out is that the users were not familiar with SharePoint, and certainly not with the concept of web parts. This was new technology for them.

The vendor’s representative coughed. Everyone went quite. Then the representative (who required no introduction as everyone had worked with him at one stage, or another) explained that the technical guy had created a  working system that he would use to introduce the new technology. He hit  a button on his laptop, and the overhead screen in the room flashed to life.

And what did we see. The vendor had created a SharePoint site, and on it were more than 10 web parts. In two columns. Each showing objects from the Document Management System in various forms (one web part showed an inbox showing workflow tasks, another was a single-box search web part, one had an extended search facility showing, one was for browsing a tree structure of folders, others had specific queries behind them.

The vendor carried on talking about what a web part is, and what each web part did, and, the eyes of the users started glazing over. It was too much for them. This was new technology, and a new way of working. What the vendor showed was too much at the same time. The users were confused. And you could tell by the body language that the users were against what  the vendor was telling them.

During the presentation, the vendor would be describing a specific web part and the functionality that it provided.

Several of the more entrenched users (those who had been doing their job since day one, and were damned good at it) would make comments like “This is not how we do it.”, or “We do things differently here.”

I cringed as the presentation died a quick death. The vendor had not planned properly for this audience. Even the managers in the audience were confused by what was being shown. After the everyone had left I approached the vendor, and got into a discussion with him about what had happened. After much analysis, the following was agreed:

  • The vendor hadn’t realized that the technology was so confusing. He works with it every day, and, for him, it was second nature. He had not looked at it from the perspective of his audience.
  • Too much was presented at the same time. The vendor should have chosen three web parts that provide the base functionality that matched what the users do on a daily basis. Then, once that had been explained, the other web parts could have been introduced.
  • There was no “education” done first. The vendor could have started with a explanation of what the new technology was and how SharePoint and web parts worked.

These are all basic things. New ways of doing things, new technologies need to be introduced gently. The users need to be held by the hand as they are shown. And then step by step. The more the users feel comfortable with something he easier it is to take them to the next step, and the more open they are to making suggestions of their own. This allows them to think innovatively.

But what had the vendor done? Strapped everyone in to their stools and bombarded their senses with new, and different concepts? And at all at the same time?

What was disappointing was that the vendor was no stranger to the customer. As I mentioned above the customer company and the vendor company had worked together for years. The vendor knew what the users did.They knew what the users knew.

The vendor left promising to do a better job next time. That they would definitely take the softly, softly approach. And because they did have a relationship with the customer, that was OK. However, know they had the extra burden of having to re-convince an already resistant audience.

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Predicting User Acceptance

I‘ve been asked to help a friend with the design of a portal. Not just any type of portal, but one that will provide an alternative to using the standard “thick client”.

So, I started thinking about what I can do to really “sell” the portal to the users. What will make them WANT to use it, instead of the client that they are already familiar with.

During my studies for the AIIM course (mentioned in earlier posts), I read about the TAM.

The TAM is short for “Technology Acceptance Model“, and is a model that proposes that application usage and adoption can be predicted based upon two factors. Here is what the basic TAM looks like:

TAM User acceptance Technology Acceptance Model Percieved Usefulness Ease

So let’s look at it closer:

Perceived Usefulness can be defined as “the degree of which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance“.

Perceived Ease of Use as “the degree of which a person believes that using a particular system would be free of effort“.

These, together, influence the attitude of a user to a system, which in turn determines behavioral intentions and leads to actual system use.

So – what did I think of this when I first saw it? I thought “Duh!! That’s obvious.”

But then,as I though about it more, I realized that it IS obvious – if a user thinks something is going to make their job easier, AND they think that it will be effortless (not having to learn a new system, etc), then, of course, they are more willing to use it.

Now, the title of this post is “Predicting User Acceptance”. Because this is a model, lots of different values can be matched to each of the parts of the model, so that the outcome gives a mathematical value for the user acceptance.  That’s definitely gives something measurable. There are, in fact, a couple of documented examples where the TAM has been used to predict intranet/portal usage. I want to go into these in a future post.

Till then, the simplicity of the TAM has helped crystallize, for me, the real essence of user acceptance:

  • “Will this make my job/life easier?”
  • “Does it require effort to use?”

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New & Classic – Ways that SharePoint & Traditional ECM systems can play together

In this post I look at some SharePoint-ECM Integration scenarios.


The AIIM SharePoint Master course material that I am studying at the moment presents 4 scenarios about how SharePoint can be used alongside, or integrated with, traditional ECM systems.

These are:

1. External Storage Provider

In this scenario, SharePoint is used to manage indexes, metadata, user presentation, etc, and the ECM application manages content storage/retrieval

2.  External Repository of Record

In this, all content is managed in SharePoint, until it is declared a record. Then a copy is pushed into the ECM application, where it can only be accessed by Record Managers. SharePoint provides the user interface where documents are created, and edited. The ECM application handles the security, record retention, etc of the document once it has the status of a record. Content only gets into the ECM app via SharePoint.

3. Cooperative

In a cooperative scenario, all documents are created in SharePoint, where they can be edited, etc. The ECM system  is used to manage and control documents that have the status of a Record. Unlike the External Repository of Record scenario, in the Cooperative scenario, content can only exist in one system at a time.

4. Portal

In this scenario SharePoint acts merely as an interface into the ECM app. All documents are created, and managed there.

In researching this further, I came across  Andrew Chapman blog “Never Talk When You can Nod“. In it he covers the use of SharePoint with existing ECM systems a lot better in his .

Andrew offers 8 scenarios. I won’t regurgitate all of what he has written (you can read the posts yourself – see link at the end of this post), but I do want to summarise his 8 scenarios, and discuss where the AIIM scenarios match. (Andrew has got some really cool images on his post that visually represent each of the 8 possibilities beautifully. I’ll use this as well, but remember, they came from his site 🙂

Andrew Chapman’s 8 Reference Architectures


1: Keep Systems Separate, Restrict Usage.


Content is moved manually from SharePoint into the ECM application.

2: Loosely Coupled Solution

2: Loosely Coupled Solution

Content is moved from SharePoint into the ECM application based on some rule, or event.

3: Use SharePoint as a Portal Container

3: Use SharePoint as a Portal Container

SharePoint uses Web Parts that allow content from the ECM application to be seen, and at the same time, other Web Parts that allow the user to interact with content in SharePoint.

4: Passive Unification in Web Part

4: Passive Unification in Web Part

SharePoint contains Web Parts that allow a user to see content from both the SharePoint system, and the ECM system. This is from within the same Web Part. The user is unaware that the documents are located in separate systems.

5: Active Unification

5: Active Unification

Similar to Architecture 4 except that in this Architecture, the user is able to perform more complex operations with the content (managing versions, attaching objects to versions, etc).

6: Passive Back-end Aggregation

6: Passive Back-end Aggregation

An aggregated view of all the content stored across all libraries in created in the ECM. This aggregated view could then be used to make security decisions, perform risk analysis, monitor file usage, etc.

7: Active Back-end Aggregation

7: Active Back-end Aggregation

All content is aggregated from SharePoint into the ECM system where it is managed, and controlled.

8: Synchronized, Intelligent, 2-way Shortcutting

8: Synchronized, Intelligent, 2-way Shortcutting

As with Architecture 7, all content is transparently moved from SharePoint into the ECM system. However in this scenario, users can still act upon the document directly from SharePoint.


As you can see, Andrew Chapman has put a lot of thought into the various possibilities of SharePoint and tradition ECM systems working together.

Looking at what the AIIM SharePoint course material mentions, and comparing it to Andrew’s various architectures, there are close correlations – the AIIM scenarios match the first four of Andrew’s Architectures, with the last four describing variations on the Portal concept.

Andrew Chapman’s post: Eight Reference Architecture Organizer


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Momentum Lisbon – A welcome invitation.

I was invited out for dinner after the Welcome Reception by CSC.

CSC offer a product called FirstDoc that adds a compliance layer to Documentum. As well as that, they have products that allows documents in a  Documentum repository to be exposed in SharePoint, while maintaining 96% of the functionality of FirstDoc.

It was a very pleasant evening, and the meal that was served was wonderful.

Thanks Nigel, Paul, Chris & Jim.

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AIIM SharePoint Master Course – Day 2, 3 & 4

Day 2 was the second day of the Practitioner’s part of the course. The day was very similar to the previous day – we covered the course material, which Mr English interspersed with real world examples, along with “Bill’s take” on a particular subject. The members of the class also contributed with their own experiences.

To summarise, on Day 1 we covered:

  • Product
    • Core Capabilities
    • Components and Parts
  • Function
    • Records Center
    • Document Libraries
    • Imaging & Capture
    • Report Management
    • Forms Design
    • WCM/Sites
    • Workflow & BPM
    • Email Management
    • SharePoint & MS Office Integration

On Day 2, we covered:

  • Design Elements
    • Content types
    • Classification
    • Search
    • Workflow
    • Communities
  • Infrastructure
    • Architecture
    • Governance
    • Site Provisioning
    • Admin & Maintenance.

The Practitioner’s course gave a good overview of the capabilities of SharePoint 2010 within the framework of content and records management. The people attending were made up of consultants, Record Managers, Business Managements and similar. When necessary Bill would delve into the technical realm of specific parts of SharePoint 2010, but this was not frequent as the course was not a technical one.

On Day 3 we started the Specialist course. The class was smaller as several people had only been attending the Practitioner’s part.

The material covered for the Specialist course included:

  • Assess
    • Information Gathering
    • Strategy
    • Business Case
  • Transition
    • Documenting Requirements
    • Records Management
    • Governance
  • Implement
    • Customisation
    • Integration
    • Migration
  • Sustain
    • Change Management
    • Test, train, sustain

Initially I felt that a lot of the material covered in the Specialist course could be used in any ECM decision making process.

However, upon re-reading the material I see that it is applicable to SharePoint, in the sense of deciding whether SharePoint is actually the best solution for the business needs, as well as outlining SharePoint strengths and weaknesses. Many useful assessment and decision making strategies tools are described.

Much of what was covered in this course, was of a “dryer” nature (i.e. more conceptual) than in the previous course, and this would result in a slight drop in the attention, and enthusiasm of everyone.

Because many of Microsoft‘s definitions, or descriptions, do not quite match the global “standard” definitions/descriptions found in the Industry (in Records Management for example), often there would be healthy discussions. The specific functionalities of SharePoint were often questioned and the “intended purpose” of such functionality was debated. These times were really valuable, as everyone present had a good understanding of “real” Records Management.

At the end of the course we were presented with an 8 page Case Study. There were three assignments that, because of their group nature, were to be completed during the course, with a third assignment that needed to be done outside of the course, and then presented to AIIM. This, along with passing an online exam are requirements for achieving SharePoint Master Certification.

I felt that two days was not long enough for this course (especially if done in a class). As mentioned in my post on Day 1, the value of doing such a course in the classroom is the ability to ask questions, get feedback on comments, as well as expanding on topics through describing “real-world” situations. This requires extra time, and often we found we were racing through the material, so that we would have enough time for the Case Study assignments.

However, besides that one comment, I really enjoyed this course, and was happy with the material covered. As mentioned, the AIIM SharePoint Master Class is not a technical course, but one designed to describe the concepts and technologies of SharePoint as well as the best practices for implementing SharePoint. I think the course achieved that.

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The importance of real End User Acceptance testing

Here’s a real-life story that shows the importance of End User Acceptance testing and what happens if this is skipped.


Just doing an upgrade

I was a systems analyst in a project for a client once that involved an upgrade for an Enterprise Search application. The application allowed users to locate documents that were scattered across different locations and was one of the important tools that the users relied on to do their job.

The tech guy who was doing the upgrade had worked many, many hours.

The job was not complex, but the server on which the application was installed was also used for other things and so, there were starts and stops as others demanded their own slice of time to do maintenance on other apps running on the system.

Time to test

Finally, Techguy had finished the upgrade. He made sure that all the settings were still correct and that the software was still able to give the logged-in users access only to the documents that they were allowed to see.

Techguy ran the software and checked that there were no errors.

Everything looked fine. The documents were being returned OK.

He did further testing, by physically eyeballing a document in the system, checking the content, and then doing searches on various metadata, as well as content searching. Yep, system worked well.

Techguy even performed Regression Testing, following a scripted Regression Test that he had written. It went through the whole process of creating a document, sending in for review, getting it approved, changing the status of the document, etc.

Everything checked out beautifully. Techguy proudly confirmed that the system was working fine.

Then the errors started

Then the users were allowed back onto the system. Within hours, tickets issues were being lodged. It seemed that the documents that were being returned in a Search were not opening. The user would click on a search result, and get greeted with a page not found error.

Techguy was called back in. He started looking at the system. Everything looked OK. He was told to look harder. After much scratching of head, and flicking back and forth between various screens Techguy looked up sheepishly. “He had forgotten to add one critical setting – the address of the computer that would allow a document to be displayed.

It turns out that all the Search application could talk with most of the computers involved, but when it came to doing the indexing, but when a request was made to open a document from the search results, a different mechanism was used. If the address of another server is not correctly entered, then a big fat nothing happens when a user clicks on a search result.

End User Acceptance testing – Test as a user, not as a techie …

Techguy was just that – a tech guy. When he did the upgrade he was a tech guy, and when he did the testing he was a tech guy. And

When he did the upgrade he was a tech guy, and when he did the testing he was a tech guy. And as a tech guy, he had focused on the technical side. He had made sure that all the main knobs had been turned, he had made sure that the process of indexing was working fine. He had even made sure that the system was returning search results as expected. The one thing that he hadn’t done was to try and open one of the documents that was returned!

Techguy’s oversight raised a very important point.

As well as technical guys doing technical testing, end users are also required to do end-user testing.

Why? Because the end user does stupid things that the technical people never expect…they actually use the system. And, even if there is a Standard Operating Procedure in place, users tend to use systems in ways that the technical guy would never think of.

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