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Content, not document, management

Document management (DM): Drop another info-penny in your piggy bank, and if you want your info-money, smash your piggy bank, sort out the huge pile and look forward to the next piggy bank when you're done.

Content management (CM): Give your info-money to your info-stockbroker as diligent manager, use it how you want, move it around, get a statement on your info every month, cash in for the info you want any time you want it in whatever denominations you want it.

Document management was the shackles we put on information to control versions and access. Content management is the way we share information and put it to multiple purposes. Both are forms of network automation, but one is designed to control or limit access, while the other is designed to package and broadcast info on demand.

As David Weinberger has pointed out in “The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization”, with a little tweaking even Microsoft Office could be a full-fledged document management system under the old model.

It goes without saying--but to put things in perspective, I have to say it: The Web has changed the way people expect to access information. After they've seen the lights of the city, they won't go back to the farm. After they've spent a year or two zapping around the world on Yahoo and Infoseek, corporate staff are not going to be satisfied with public folders and pawing through directories.

Document management techniques are critical, but they are no fun. Content management systems are way cool. Rather than the user churning through documents, cutting, pasting, editing, paginating and all those torturous tasks, content management systems automate the process of creating dynamic, good-looking, up-to-date, orderly collections of information.

A couple of years ago, Content management was something reserved for high-end technical publishing. CM is specifically designed to manage as many input sources as possible. To build an airliner, you need engines and airframes, electronics, hydraulics, computers, software and support, and all of those services come from all over the world. CM systems were designed to satisfy that demanding market of global collaboration. CM creates an environment of dynamic, updated documents, customizable on demand to match the specific need of each user.

DM is on the other end of the spectrum, controlling documents and users with security uppermost in priority. The Web is the model of an infinite number of inputs, which is much closer to most users' daily reality.

Today's problem is a feast of content, which beats a famine any day, but still presents a problem. Given such large numbers of info sources, it is impossible to ask every individual corporate and extra-corporate user to manually gather, assimilate and discuss the most current and relevant information. Content management systems are active, whereas document management systems are designed to be passive, secure storage.

Content management aims to automate the presentation of information. Document management is being subsumed into the process, the security and doc info features becoming transparently accessible across applications. DM has become junior to CM, which is now used to pursue KM ... which leads inexorably to XML.

The value of that proposition is confirmed in the recent $850 million acquisition of Interleaf, the original "content management" company before it was called CM. Interleaf staked its future years ago on XML, and all of sudden it seems the market is there for structured text.

Meta Group predicts the obvious in some respects when it says that FileNet and IBM/Lotus will dominate the content management market. When you've got the content, you've got nine-tenths of the management, and those two vendors dominate the U.S. and global markets for imaging and Notes. Manifest destiny is usually a safe bet.

Meta Group predicts that the CM market will grow at 40% to a $9 billion sector over the next few years. Everybody's hoping for a dam-break of backed-up Y2K dollars to come spewing forth.

Such dollars are to be expected. It's the American way to invest in efficiency and innovation. KM is the new challenge, finding a better way to take advantage of the Web and instant 24/7 access. Content management offers a tangible way to manage diverse sources of knowledge. CM is like your private secretary, like everyone's private secretary, organizing all your input and expertly typing all your output. High-powered CM capabilities are increasingly available and therefore expected, thanks to the Web.

Here we see the power of a mass market creating an irresistible demand for a product it does not know even exists: content management. And here we see a series of visionary companies offering technology to assemble words and information as easily as earlier generations processed just data.

Tony McKinley is director of sales at Captiva Software, 610-647-5570, e-mail tmckinley@captivasoftware.com.

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