A new sales recipe for the enterprise:
Governance, semantics and a dash of open source sauce

IBM has been a key player in content and document management for many years. The company recently updated its website to include the Watson search system. As you may know, Watson is the focus of one of the most interesting public relations campaigns in the last two years. First, the search system "won" a television game show by answering questions only a smart human would know. Then Watson was positioned to revolutionize healthcare. Now the system is listed as a core IBM technology with no reference to the open source Lucene engine that beats within the IBM semantic code wrappers.

Is this technology enhanced by open source sauce, or is it one more example of layering promises, hints and metaphors on a system that continues to generate a demand for content management systems that work? On its website, IBM asserts its solutions do almost anything an organization might desire with content.

Several factors are interacting in this market sector. The need for automated tools to add value to content is growing. The volume of digital content is too large for humans to process if there were no budget concerns. With today's financial sensitivity, indexing and understanding digital content is a job for smart software. Technology is important, but cost control is the driver.

More triggers

Another factor is that employees armed with a content management system produce content. Most employees produce what they perceive as appropriate for a particular task. The niceties-like imposing consistent use of company names, corporate style guidelines and the basic principles taught in English 101-are not a priority. A CMS cannot impose editorial policies on an organization. But a CMS makes it much easier to see the inconsistencies, the problematic language and the overall direction of information. In short, a CMS exposes shortcomings and triggers the need for governance.

Can an organization engaged in shipping, the manufacture of tires or financial services generate well-formed content because a CMS has been installed? The answer is "no." Most organizations are not as skilled or incentivized in the way publishing companies or consulting firms that produce reports are. As a result, lousy content is the rule, not the exception. A governance policy does not address the hard truth that being good at producing radial tires or underwriting a loan translates to high-value content.

What can industry partnerships deliver? Partnering can give an organization with a content problem a more informed approach to an on-point solution. A bad partnering relationship, on the other hand, will just exacerbate a problem and consume time and other resources.

I also believe that firms that offer complementary services, software and solutions may be better positioned to deliver a more robust solution. Some vendors may find themselves offering a modern version of this observation made in Popular Mechanics in 1949:

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."  

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