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ECM expands its reach

This article appears in the issue October 2011, [Vol 20 Issue 9]
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Enterprise content management (ECM) typically is considered to encompass document and image management, records management, Web content management (WCM), digital asset management (DAM) and collaboration. Some parts of the market are quite mature, while others are emerging and rapidly changing. Content in the cloud (see sidebar which follows and also is on page 11, KMWorld October 2011 ), social content and mobility are among the hottest areas.

Strategic channel

Websites have clearly become an increasingly important channel for most industry sectors, and organizations are devoting more thought to using them strategically. According to market research firm TechNavio, the worldwide market for WCM systems is expected to grow 14 percent per year from 2010 to 2013, fueled by the desire to find economical modes of communication and to use the Internet as a channel for customer service, as well as to reach out to new audiences.

Long before the Internet, the television show Sesame Street was formed to help educate preschoolers through an imaginative and entertaining format. Now pervasive in American culture and around the world, Sesame Street has evolved with the times to reach its young constituents and their parents through its website. In its early stages, the website was built and maintained by a design firm, but Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization that develops educational content for Sesame Street, eventually decided to bring the process in house.

Sesame Workshop had a number of goals in making the change. "We wanted to manage the content ourselves," says Noah Broadwater, VP of information systems at Sesame Workshop, "because each revision to the site was expensive and slow." In addition, the site did not have a consistent look and feel.  Broadwater and a colleague in the digital media group also began discussing the role of the website with others in the organization and gained the support of upper management. "It was clear to us that the website could become an important medium for us," Broadwater says, "which was a change in perspective from the organization's previous vision."

Sesame Workshop then embarked on a systematic search for a Web content management (WCM) and publishing system. It enlisted the aid of a consulting firm to review requirements and develop a list of candidate vendors. "We spent about a year developing an RFP," Broadwater recalls, "because we were taking a very strategic, long-term view of how we wanted the website to fit in with our overall direction as an organization."

Open source option

The system integrator that Sesame Workshop selected helped narrow the search to Liferay Portal, an open source portal product. "As a non-profit, we could not take on expensive licensing costs," Broadwater says. "We use open source technology in many of our other IT solutions, so Liferay was a logical fit." He also liked the flexibility that the product offered.

Liferay Portal is used as the interface through which editors update the content of the Sesame Street website, and stores the metadata for the website's content as well as some of the images. Video clips are stored on Akamai servers, and other images reside in Alfresco. "When editorsneed to locate an asset, the Life-ray interface allows them to search all the repositories at once," Broadwater explains.

The site now has a consistent look across all its pages and is managed entirely in house. "It's very easy to update, and we do so several times a week," Broadwater says. "We are constantly adding new features, and the site has grown exponentially." The site is now available on some mobile devices, and support for tablets and other touch screens is being developed.

Although the process of defining requirements and selecting the solution was challenging, the results prove that it was time well spent. "We ended up with exactly what we wanted," Broadwater says. "The site is scalable so it can grow as our requirements grow. It offers the consistency of a template, while allowing our editors the freedom to do what they want creatively with the content."

"Social equity" measure

For organizations that want to fulfill a number of functions with one product, Liferay Portal can provide ECM, WCM, DAM, collaboration and social tools. It has its own content repository and also supports nine other databases. "Our history is more strongly associated with managing websites," says Paul Hinz, CMO of Liferay, "but we have a broad range of capabilities." One new feature is "social equity," which measures the participation and contributions of users, and the value of the information contributed. The company markets Liferay Portal as a competitor to SharePoint. It is available as a free community product and as a commercial enterprise product.

Secure content sharing

The Group of Twenty (G-20) was established in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis of 1997 to provide a forum in which to host meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors to promote a stable and sustainable global financial environment. After the global financial crisis in 2008, a series of meetings were held in Washington, D.C., in 2008, London and Pittsburgh in 2009, and Toronto and Seoul in 2010.

For the meetings held through 2009, participants were sending numerous e-mail messages and documents back and forth, outlining proposals and stating positions on various issues and topics. That process was inefficient and did not provide for secure sharing of content. When the Canadian government presided over the G-20 conference in 2010, it formed a collaborative group that included the Canadian Digital Media Network, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and OpenText, which offers an ECM software suite.

As a result of that project, participants in the G-20 conference in Toronto and subsequently in Seoul were able to use OpenText Social Workplace as a secure collaborative platform through which to share their documents and to communicate with colleagues. Tyler Knowlton, chief strategist on digital innovation with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, says, "This was a great improvement over the situation at previous meetings, when participants were using many different e-mail services and having difficulty tracking documents and recipients." Through OpenText Everywhere, participants could also access the application through Blackberrys, iPhones and iPads.

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