Getting personal with content management
"Property taxes are a matter of public record," continues Lucero, "and some information about the owner is provided online. However, personal information is excluded from display on the public Web site." Similarly, names of individuals who are arrested and the reason for the arrest are listed online, but the personal details relating to the subject are accessible only to law enforcement or other related officials.
Because more information and transactions are Web-accessible for citizens, Lucero expects the county to be able to handle a growing volume of business without increasing staff size. In addition, working from a centralized data source eliminates the potential for introducing errors if data had to be re-entered to serve multiple purposes.
"We strongly believe in the need to focus on content itself, not simply Web pages or documents, which are presentation formats," says Edward Shenderovich, president and CEO of Quantum Art. "This allows us to customize information more easily, aggregate it or syndicate using standard syndication protocols." Other content management products also separate content from presentation, Shenderovich agrees, but he says they do not provide a straightforward means of laying application logic over the content they manage.
Application-level logic allows QP7 to manage content by function, going beyond flat files or taxonomies. By loosely coupling data, process and presentation layers, Quantum Art allows organizations to create lightweight content applications to manage their information. Those applications may include workflow, scheduling or personalization as standard components. For example, when HR specialists access the system, they see an interface specifically designed for managing employee-related information; when a news editor logs in, he or she sees a screen specific to working with press releases.
"Different departments have their own process for managing content," Shenderovich says. "QP7 provides greater efficiency by allowing that management to occur in the optimal environment."
First Franklin, a mortgage lender, needed to personalize content for three initiatives: communication with customers, an extranet and an intranet.
"One of the major initiatives we have as a mortgage lender is to entice mortgage brokers to our site," says Gaurav Kohli, application manager and architect at First Franklin. "To do that, we provide an array of services including e-mails that are sent to brokers as the loan goes through its life cycle." The message content varies depending on the status of the loan being processed. Content for the notification e-mails is stored with metadata that allows the right message to be picked up by the notification application.
The content for the messages is managed by Rhythmyx from Percussion Software. That product was selected in part because of its flexibility of content submission and simple process for reviewing and publishing content to various destinations. Rhythmyx's compliance with the Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) standard is also a benefit. User authentication is set up through Microsoft's Active Directory, and personalization is accomplished based on login types, which define user categories.
In addition to managing the outgoing messages, Rhythmyx is also used to handle content on two Web sites. One is an information extranet, and one is an employee intranet. Both sites have similar content, but are presented differently.
"We leverage Rhythmyx's ability to push content to various destinations in a personalized way quite a bit," says Kohli. "More and more, people are looking for ways to put together content contextually, creating Web sites specific to particular user groups."
The differences in content are subtle, but important. "How your hiring policy works is explained differently, depending on who is reading the material," says Vernon Imrich, CTO at Percussion, "so the content cannot be completely standardized." Early on, he adds, everyone assumed that accessibility to information via portals or federated searches was the best solution. But documents seen out of context can be confusing and even misleading.
"It is just as important to exclude some items for a given user as it is to include others," Imrich observes. "You may want to extract a library of policy documents from a large repository, rather than having users search the whole repository and get many irrelevant hits." A set of such documents could be displayed to employees if their start date was within a certain time frame that indicated they were new to the company, for example. Often, better metadata needs to be added and information from other enterprise systems made available in order for delivery to be customized.
E-mail messages as content? Not yet.
According to the Radicati Group, more than 100 e-mails per day go in and out of each corporate mailbox, gobbling up 15 MB of storage space daily. But their use as business content beyond the initial transaction is rare, and even basic management can prove challenging.
"Companies have a pressing need to archive e-mail just to free up storage space," says Deborah Baron, director of corporate strategy at Zantaz. Zantaz provides a variety of solutions for e-mail management, including a hosted service. "At the next level, they want to demonstrate compliance, so they manage e-mail messages as records, with appropriate retention and destruction schedules. Finally, they may want to manage risk by being prepared for the discovery process in litigation."
Right now, organizations appear to be falling short of those goals in a major way. According to a survey by AIIM, half the respondents archived e-mail messages but did not actively managing them as records. Nearly one-fourth of the respondents did not even archive the messages. Many archiving options are available (see March 2005 KMWorld), but the AIIM study indicates that companies are not yet moving ahead.
The use of e-mail as business content seems to be an even more remote target. A few business intelligence software products are beginning to mine them for customer data or forensic purposes, and they are analyzed to determine social networks. FileNet points to their importance in initiating business processes, tracking decisions and other transactions. But on the whole, the effective use of e-mail as business content remains elusive.
Judith Lamont is a research analyst with Zentek Corp., e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.