Solution helps to organize unstructured data

As information continues its shift to the Web, the need to manage that data is ever increasing. IBM’s recent unveiling of its Lotus Web Content Management System is aimed at meeting that very objective.

The system is being offered as either a product or as a bundled service solution. It is primarily aimed at medium- to large-size enterprises that are looking to manage their online content in their intranet and extranet environments. Some of the main features include a graphical workflow processing tool, collaborative content creation, site creation and maintenance, personalized content delivery and e-commerce transaction support.

This solution extends the WebSphere and Lotus Domino infrastructure platforms while providing business consulting services from Andersen Consulting, and implementation, education and solution delivery from Lotus Professional Services.

Marcel van Hulle, who, until recently, was responsible for IBM’s content management sales, said the demand for the product was created by IBM customers who were experiencing difficulty in managing their unstructured data.

The Toronto-based vice president for worldwide Linux sales compared content management to data management, saying the product is really an extension of the latter.

“The solution itself (content management) is a set of products that are on top of the database technologies and handle different forms of content,” van Hulle said. The product is aimed at the telco, financial and media industries as the solution can handle rich images, film and audio.

The product allows for application integration for Lotus Notes, Domino, SAP and others, and at least one analyst feels it will have early adoption with Notes users.

“If you are a Lotus Notes shop (and) you have been using Notes to drive any of your Web sites, this is going to be a natural follow of products,” said Andy Wazecha, senior vice president at the Meta Group in Chicago.

What has caused the demand for the product, Wazecha said, is the fact that the Web content manager is being integrated into the Notes environment. He added that while the solution is positioned as both a product and available as a bundled service, he envisages most demand to be for the solution as a product.

He had high praise for the release, saying such an offering was long overdue and added that demand would not be an obstacle. “Since this is quote/ unquote an IBM sold and supported product, you’re going to find most people gravitating towards that very heavily.”

The essence of Web content is the storing of data in an content repository and supporting the workflow of a group of people who are engaged in putting that data into that repository. Sandy Eaton, team leader, e-business strategy group, at xwave in St. John’s, Nfld., said despite the fact that it is called content management, it remains under the umbrella of knowledge management.

Now, the argument revolves around the convergence of all of a company’s data, Eaton said.

“It’s corporate knowledge that you’re trying to manage and Web site content, keeping it all current. When was it reviewed last and how do I know what I have in my document management system?” he asked.

The importance or relevance now is finding a way to link all of the data, according to Eaton. He was sceptical of vendors who said they offered a full and complete implementation, saying that was only true if they admitted their product limitations.

“A company that is managing their data (properly) knows where it all is, has integrated it all and can get that data to the right people at the right time,” Eaton said.

Pricing for the Lotus Web Content Management System will vary by engagement.