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A content technology roadmap

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This article outlines what Doculabs has found to be a highly effective modeling approach to planning and implementing content-intensive processes and applications in organizations. Today, the most pressing challenge for organizations trying to implement the emerging "systems of engagement" technologies—mobile, social media, cloud, SaaS—is how to get there from here: How do they yield sufficient benefits while controlling the substantial potential costs and risks, when no one really knows yet what the optimal "target future state" should  look like? Certainly no one has been there and reported back what it's like.

Planning and implementing a three-year roadmap that requires moving an enterprise from a complex, and not-quite-satisfactory, current-state hodgepodge of ECM and other "systems of record" to a successful target future state is far more difficult than most folks assume. If your organization is pretty typical, you may be a company—for example, in manufacturing-with a little EMC Documentum or OpenText, spreading unmanaged SharePoint usage and a swamp of files in shared drives and Exchange. Or you may be a company—say, in financial services—with a lot of FileNet and other IBM (ibm.com) pieces, spreading SharePoint usage, some Jive and other social media products, an even worse swamp situation, proliferating mobile devices and justified concerns about security, regulatory compliance and litigation discovery.

Should the next steps in your content technology roadmap be to:

  • provide external social media capabilities to customer service, marketing and sales—thus letting the world in?
  • mobile-enable your mature process worker ECM applications?
  • mobile-enable your mature knowledge worker ECM applications?
  • allow partners and customers to participate in your workflows?
  • implement dramatically redesigned or brand new applications that replace the old ECM-based approaches with newer social processes and technologies?
  • perform governance and management on some (which?) or all of those opportunities?

Your roadmap should at minimum do the following:

  • yield sufficient benefits while controlling the substantial potential costs and risks, and
  • order the potential activities according to the "Rollout Principle," a simple best practice for roadmap design: Roll out the simpler, lower-risk, more independent, more foundational components before more complex, higher-risk, dependent components.

Getting started

Here's how to get started by using a standard reference model or map of the content technologies. Your possible content initiatives have three dimensions: content, process and participation management.

Content management addresses the input, control and output of electronic information. It ranges on a scale from simple to complex—from minimal file management to synching to basic document and content services (the library functions) to more complex document and content services to specialized component management, document control management, sophisticated records management, etc.

Process management addresses the rules, orchestration, automation and control of processes. It ranges on a scale from simple to complex—from none to simple routing to structured manual workflow to BPM with high automation, culminating in straight-through processing.

Participation management is the newest and, for our purposes, the most important dimension. It addresses the amount and complexity of human engagement—of human interaction, collaboration, collective deliberation, analysis and creation. It measures both the breadth and depth of such participation. Breadth ranges from a single person to a workgroup to a department to the enterprise to larger circles of participants beyond the enterprise. Depth ranges from none (no multiperson human interaction) to relatively structured collective decision-making to highly variable, unrepeatable, creative activities. 

Deeply participatory processes are the traditionally "untamed processes" that Forrester addresses http://www.kmworld.com/Articles/Editorial/Features/The-next-frontier-for-software-Smart-process-applications-fill-a-big-gap-85806.aspx with its identification of smart process applications. Forrester's analysis of smart processes is outstanding but the discussion here differs in two respects. First, Participation Management measures both the breadth as well as the depth of the human interaction - how many people are involved as well as the complexity of their collaborative interactions. Second, the model discussed here is designed to represent the entire domain of the content technologies, one region of which is occupied by Forrester's smart processes.

It's useful to measure each of the three dimensions—content, process and participation management—according to a 5-point scale, ranging from simple (Level 1) to complex (Level 5). For simplicity, the graph on this page shows participation management segmented in this way.

Note that the three dimensions are sufficiently independent of each other:

  • Some of your relevant processes may be low participation management, low process management, but high content management-like a specialized CM application used by a few experts.
  • Some may be low participation management, relatively low content management, but high process management-like many STP processes.
  • Some may be high participation management but low content and process management-like many communication-centric social media processes that require at most basic file sync and sharing.
  • Some may be high in all three dimensions—like complex marketing campaign management. Such processes require all types of content to be authored, captured, managed, distributed and otherwise managed. But they also have steps that require efficient process management to get things done, often without human involvement. And they have steps that require the facilitation of human collaboration to reach a difficult decision or create something new.

Participation management

Let's focus on participation management, because that's the most pressing challenge in the content technologies today. As I said previously, it's useful to distinguish among five levels:

Level 1 is low enterprise participation. Keep in mind, however, that applications can be low in participation and high in content and process. Examples of Level 1 applications-from simplest in both content and process management to the most complex at this lowest level of participation management—include using hard drives and shared drives, DM ranging from basic to standard to advanced to specialized (including component management and document control management), image capture and management ranging from basic to advanced high-volume production imaging—with sophisticated document classification and OCR. Level 1 includes records management from the simplest retention capabilities to sophisticated RM. And it also includes administrative processes like AP invoice processing, batch customer communications (like bills and statements), straight-through processing and exception handling processes.

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