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Adapting ECM to enterprise goals

By Judith Lamont, KMWorld senior writer

Enterprise content management (ECM) is often portrayed as a monolithic entity, created by integrating numerous repositories into a unified application. But ECM is far more differentiated, addressing business problems that are as varied as the organizations themselves. Prospective users of ECM should consider their specific needs, whether that means presenting mission-critical information to professionals, improving customer service, supporting collaboration or ensuring compliance with new regulations. System design should put the power where it's needed.

When Dave Holland joined Genesys Health Systems as CIO four years ago, he had a vision of a clinical database where all medical data would be in a single repository and would be instantly available to physicians. "The only problem with this vision," says Holland, "was that we had 117 different systems. Unifying it into one system was just not feasible." Nevertheless, the organization still had a pressing need to make medical information more readily accessible.

To zero in more precisely on how that information should be organized, Holland and a team of analysts began to look at how doctors worked. "We made the rounds with them and found that basically, the doctors worked from patients' charts. So we designed the system around that metaphor." Genesys worked with BlueWare, an IBM partner that specializes in medical systems, to develop an electronic chart system called the Wellness Connection, which is based on IBM's Content Manager.

"We created the same tabs, color scheme and information placement in the system that the doctors see on a day-to-day basis in the patient charts," says Holland.

About 80% of chart information is now provided in the Wellness Connection. Physicians access it on their laptops or via computers located throughout the hospital on mobile carts and at nursing pods (small, decentralized nursing stations that are part of the patient-focused care model of Genesys' medical facilities). The Wellness Connection taps into information such as patient admission and insurance records, lab tests, radiology and physical exam histories that is already in one of the Genesys systems.

Because the information is being disseminated electronically, it reaches the Wellness Connection before it is transferred to the paper charts in patients' rooms. Doctors have begun to make "virtual rounds" in addition to the physical rounds they make in the morning, since they are able to access the information remotely. As lab information becomes available in the Wellness Connection during the afternoon, doctors review it and may make modifications in medications or call in other orders. Holland notes that doctors have credited the Wellness Connection with more rapid improvement in patients' health because they can monitor it more closely and make adjustments as needed.

Genesys plans to continue developing the Wellness Connection. The company is in the process of capturing another 15% of patient data by scanning handwritten documents, and also plans to incorporate multimedia clips such as echocardiograms in the future. "IBM's Content Manager has more features than we can use now," says Holland. "They have done a good job of staying one step ahead of our needs."

Having a broad platform such as IBM's provides for flexibility in the future, allowing organizations to solve problems beyond the one that initially prompted the deployment. "We see customer service, collaboration and compliance as three key areas in ECM," says Deb Taufen, IBM's marketing director for enterprise content management. Each area places different demands on an ECM system. Customer service applications might require keeping track of signed documents, financial information and claim forms. "The reputation of a company," says Taufen, "depends on how well it puts together the content to process information and respond to the customer."

Collaboration often centers around the Web, allowing people to contribute content, put it through an approval cycle and simplify the process so it is not burdensome. E-mail can be a valuable information source for collaboration, Taufen points out, but is more efficiently managed if it is stored in an archiving system. In compliance, different content workflows must be established depending on the particular regulation involved. In the case of both collaboration and compliance, therefore, workflow becomes an important factor.

Content, commerce and collaboration

Field service and mechanics constitute one of the largest job categories in the world, and their performance has a substantial impact on the profitability of the companies in which they operate. Such workers need easy access to relevant information about the parts, service manuals and bulletins, best practices and inventory for the exact configuration of equipment they are servicing. Enigma has been specializing in providing technical information to this category of employees for more than 12 years.

"Because of the complexity of capital equipment," says John Snow, VP of marketing and business development at Enigma, "mechanics often spend 20 to 50% of their time seeking information. Given the size of this work force and the time they spend finding the right information, even a very small improvement in productivity (1 to 3%) is magnified at the bottom line."

One of the challenges of providing the right service information is that existing equipment manuals do not "know" about the latest product information like service bulletins and technical revisions. Enigma's 3C platform integrates the three functions of content, commerce and collaboration to provide up-to-date product encyclopedias to manufacturers in industries such as aerospace, high-tech and automotive. By using new approaches for linking information and leveraging technology such as XML, all relevant product information is delivered to the mechanic according to the serial number or equipment configuration. Those techniques provide "horizontal navigation" through product information.

"Another issue for this group," adds Snow, "is that the workers are often outside the IT infrastructure, so access to multiple databases may be difficult." They may need to use CD or DVD as offline repositories or utilize handheld devices with small screens, which in turn require special style sheets to effectively deliver the information.

Speaking the same language

When the Dallas Museum of Art began to investigate how to manage its Web content more efficiently, its site was about 25 times larger than it had been originally, and updating it had become a burden. Rather than just automating the maintenance of the existing site, which was based on the museum's organizational structure, Webmaster Lance Fordham revamped it to cater to the primary audiences served by the site. "We have educators, visitors, potential donors and others who all have different needs," he says.

With the help of systems integrator eForce, the museum selected Universal Content Manager from Stellent. In part, the choice of Stellent was driven by Fordham's realization that content management could do more for the museum than just manage the Web site. It could also provide the collaboration that the museum needed.

"Almost every project carried out by a museum crosses departmental lines," notes Fordham, "yet the departments can be very isolated from each other. Each one has its own mission." The curatorial department, which is responsible for acquisition and maintenance of art, makes recommendations about exhibits. That group's proposals are then handed off to the development department, which seeks funding. The education department creates programs that go along with the exhibit to support the school districts.

Prior to deploying Stellent Content Management, the museum had set up a drive for sharing content, but the existing file system was not well organized, so documents were hard to find. Six months into the implementation, Fordham sees a shift in how the museum staff members interact with each other and with content. "The system gets them all speaking the same language," he says. "People in the education department can see the original proposals from the curators and what their comments were about the exhibition."

The most significant benefit to the museum, Fordham believes, was facilitating communication in the organization from top to bottom. In planning the content management system, the museum brought the directors, department heads and many others to the table to discuss the processes they are using and then refine the way they do them. "We identified better ways of doing things," Fordham says. "Now that the Stellent Content Management system is in place, it will help us maintain our new methods."

Being able to run multiple ECM applications in a single architecture is critical, according to Dan Ryan, senior VP of marketing at Stellent. "Web content management, collaborative content and document management should not have different interfaces," he says. Tracking and reporting capability that shows which content is being used the most is also beneficial. Sometimes, companies want to apply records management to customer-facing Web sites, so that the content becomes part of a formal record. Stellent can also apply "transparent" records management to content based on criteria such as an individual's name, a folder or key words. That allows policies to be applied in situations where the content creator might not know the rules for records management.

Compliance component

A number of products are focusing specifically on the compliance aspect of content management. "Compliance and risk management are increasingly important for corporations today," says Deidre Paknad, president and CEO of PSS Systems, which provides a document policy solution that helps manage the information life cycle. "However, companies involved in high-level activities such as financings or mergers and acquisitions don't want to place a heavy administrative burden on individuals in order to comply with policies for document retention, usage and disposition." PSS' solution allows organizations to establish policies centrally and enforce them in a distributed manner, even when users are not on the company network.

That approach enables work teams to be dynamic, mobile, prolific and creative but still comply with company policies. For example, when a company is pitching business to a client, documents are created and modified by numerous individuals. With the PSS solution, the team working on the project would be established as a work group, and a centralized policy automatically applied to the documents associated with the project.

"Team members do not need to change their work behavior," notes Paknad, "which helps maintain agility and productivity." When the project is over, the policy continues to be applied to the point of expiration and disposal, and can be updated as the company's risk strategy or policy changes. If some of the documents, such as final versions, are later classified as formal records, a new policy can be activated for them.

Another approach to securing content is reflected by Trusted Edge, which addresses the fact that documents may travel far from their originator yet still need to be controlled. Secure Xchange wraps each document with a policy template through which conditions can be set for the document's use. For example, a request to cut and paste, copy or print will be mapped against the user's license to determine whether that action is allowable. Timing criteria, such as use of the document during office hours, or expiration of viewing privileges after a defined time, can also be set. If a document is checked out of a workflow system, Secure Xchange can send an alert to a specific individual.

"ECM products have their own built-in policies," says Michael Beck, CEO of Trusted Edge, "but Secure Xchange extends beyond the capabilities that are typically available through these products." One of the primary functions of Secure Xchange is to manage content across the extended enterprise. "The policy travels with the document," notes Beck, "and if the user does not have the client software installed, the 256-bit encryption makes it very secure from unauthorized access."

Secure Xchange is intended for sensitive content rather than for across-the-board usage, and content owners can create their own security templates. "The most challenging piece is coming up with the appropriate policies," says Beck, "not with applying them."

Judith Lamont is a research analyst with Zentek Corp., e-mail jlamont@sprintmail.com.

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