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ECM, at your service!

This article appears in the issue June 2017 [Volume 26, Issue 6]
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There was a time when just getting control of enterprise content was a big achievement—knowing where the content was, being able to search a central repository, identifying the latest version of a document and so on. Even now, that control cannot be taken for granted. Many organizations struggle to manage content that is scattered across multiple devices, departments and SharePoint sites. However, the vision for content has evolved, and progressive users of KM technology are well past the static repository stage.

That change has been in the works for several years (see “Today’s applications are saying to content: ‘Don’t just sit there, do something!’” KMWorld, October 2013) and is continuing to evolve. What is different now is that organizations and software solutions have become much more aligned with that vision and are making it happen with less of a struggle. For example, IT is learning more about business needs, and business users are more technology-proficient. Software solutions are being designed with the assumption that content may come from many sources, that workflow will be involved and that processes may be added or changed on short notice.

Gartner’s new definition of ECM and revision of the term to “content services” is based on the following idea from its report “Content Management for the Digital Era: Rethinking Strategies Beyond 2016”:

“ECM is a set of services and microservices, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications that share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization.”

Karen Hobert, research director for the content insights and experiences team at Gartner, says, “We realized that the world was changing and that the ECM market we had been covering was shifting. People are collecting and managing content in numerous work processes such as sales or line of business applications, not just storing documents for future reference.” The outcome includes the commoditization of the content repository decoupled from the user interface, so that content can be drawn into any scenario or application.

Also, increasing use of the cloud provides additional flexibility and options for managing content. “The influx of the cloud allows people to build applications quickly and use content for many purposes,” she says. “People can use, process and integrate rich, unstructured content in many use cases, using all content types including video and audio, going beyond Word and PDF files.”

Process takes hold

The concept of enterprise content services is linked to the incorporation of business processes. “Content is much more wrapped around business flow than it once was,” says Adam Storch, VP of business solutions at Micro Strategies. “A few years ago, my conversations were about the documents—loan documents, for example—but now they are about processes, and the process is ‘served’ with the content.”

Because of the discussions about process, the business side has been more involved. “When the business owns and explains its requirements to IT, the project requirements are better defined,” Storch says. “There is more buy-in, and a better solution.” Users are still dealing with the same content, but the business process focus of the solution drives them to be more engaged. “New applications do not go over well when IT is enforcing a solution,” he adds. “Now, people are more involved in how business processes are addressed in their solution.”

Agility is a must-have feature of business solutions, and that extends to the most basic elements. “The days of metadata that never changes are coming to an end,” Storch says. “There is a core set of metadata that does not change often, but companies cannot lock themselves into a restricted set.” For example, people do searches and those results will drive the need for additional or different metadata. “In some solutions, we capture the criteria used in keyword and full-text searches to help identify the next set of metadata,” he adds.

"New applications do not go over well when IT is enforcing a solution. Now, people are more involved in how business

processes are addressed in their solution."

Despite living in a digital world, many companies do not have formal enterprise content management systems yet. “Some of them are companies that grew very rapidly and did not see a need for a content management solution before,” Storch explains. “Or they may have acquired other companies and want a less fragmented content strategy.”

Migrating data to the cloud is a straightforward process, but layering on the business logic in the new environment may not be. “It’s not the migration that puts you in rehab,” he says. “It’s getting the business logic that will sit on top of the repository correct.” Legacy ECM companies were slow to recognize the need for more usable interfaces and more widespread access. “In some cases, you need to unravel 10 years of code on top of the repository to meet changing needs, and that’s a challenge,” Storch says.

Credit union moves ahead with leveraging content

When the Ohio University Credit Union started using OnBase by Hyland, the financial institution viewed its content as a static repository and did not exploit its capabilities to support business processes. “I joined the staff in 2011,” says Aaron Bowersock, system administrator for OnBase at OUCU, “and one of my goals was to see what else we could do with the documents stored in OnBase to make better use of the content.”

One of the early workflows was for compliance. “The auditors need to see certain documents are reviewed, and we built a short workflow for the compliance officer to handle the review process, which the auditors can then view easily. They can look at the notes from internal reviews and see how they went,” Bowersock adds. Word of mouth was enough to generate additional requests after employees became aware of the application.

“We are now up to about 35 workflows and growing,” Bowersock says. He has found the application flexible enough to be used for some unanticipated purposes. For example, he used it to develop a process with some of the functionality of a customer relationship management (CRM) system. “I built a workflow for the member services representative to onboard new members,” he explains. “We are finding that OnBase can do nearly anything we can come up with, and we have been able to make much more productive use of content that formerly was just being stored.”

Ohio University Credit Union is moving its OnBase operations to the cloud. “We would like to have someone else dealing with the infrastructure, so we can focus on more solutions for our front-office staff,” Bowersock says. Delegating the maintenance and storage for OnBase will allow the credit union to concentrate on its core areas of expertise. It has held a scope meeting with Hyland and has developed a roadmap for the transfer, which will take place within the next few months.

Cloud migration: Is it really that simple?

Yes, according to Marc Cianciolo, Hyland’s cloud business operations and compliance manager. “The change is seamless from a migration and integration viewpoint. We use the same codebase and software solution whether the product is on premise or in the cloud,” he says. The only heavy lifting is the physical migration, which is usually done via an encrypted hard drive, from which the data is uploaded to Hyland’s environment. OnBase integrates with any enterprise core platform, which allows users to work from the environment with which they are most familiar.

In 2016, Hyland introduced ShareBase, which is an enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) cloud product that allows users to share files outside OnBase so they can work collaboratively. The files can then be imported back into OnBase. In February 2017, Hyland introduced AirBase, a product geared toward small and midsize companies. It provides a simplified document management application that centralizes document storage and allows users to access documents from any location and through any device. It is designed to function with a minimum amount of intervention from IT.

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