Canadian government agencies have pegged content management as atop IT priority this year. Fair enough, bearing in mind thatresearch makes clear that one size definitely doesn’t fit all.
Marketers position the many guises of content management as anindispensable housecleaning mechanism, a means to sort scattered,unstructured information and sweep up the clutter of unwantedpaperwork. But governments, and other public sector agencies, forthe most part have trouble seeing the forest for the trees.
Vendors try to differentiate their products on the back oftargeted branding, finely tuned tweaks and niche repackaging. Theylabel technology as a solution to every concept, however plausible,of information and knowledge management. “Innovative” productspromise to get a handle on everything from Web content, e-forms,cases, contracts, digital assets and other documents, to recordsand retention, risk, compliance and regulation.
Customers, meanwhile, want to enhance business efficiency, driveemployee productivity and improve service delivery, and,particularly in the public sector, keep costs down. Technology canprovide the tools. But the content management market remains sorelylacking and is struggling to keep pace with customer demand,suggests a survey headed by Kyle McNabb, senior analyst forCambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.
“Today’s reality is that many content management suite offeringscannot effectively address the divergent needs of IT and lines ofbusiness,” says McNabb.
“No single vendor can address the full spectrum oftransactional, business and persuasive content that ranges fromsupporting back-office processes to selling products and servicesvia the Internet.”
Lost in the forest
By way of example, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Agri-Can)relies on the federal government’s records, document andinformation management system (RDIMS) from Toronto-basedHummingbird Ltd. Ten years on, the department is still plugging in”point solutions,” developing customized functionality withadditional application layers and running pilot projects ofsupplemental software.
That approach is not without success; Agri-Can was honoured witha silver award of excellence by the Canadian InformationProductivity Awards last year, for its development of an “executivecorrespondence” management system. RDIMS, however, hadn’t provedcapable of tracking e-mail and other correspondence, and Agri-Can’sexisting “correspondence tracking and briefing system,” a separateproduct, didn’t integrate well with RDIMS.
Agri-Can had to call in a systems integrator, Montreal-based CGIGroup Inc., to write a new application layer on top of RDIMS tomeet its content management requirements. “RDIMS comes with genericmetadata for document management; we then added to it for thespecific business process,” explains Jeff Lamirande, Agri-Can’sassistant director of information management utilities.
Recently Agri-Can also has been trying out a product fromInterwoven Inc., based in Sunnyvale, Calif. Lamirande saysHummingbird’s RDIMS gave him the tools to create a good foundationfor internal records and document management, but Web contentmanagement presented new challenges.
“It’s a matter of timing for where you want to start,” saysLamirande. “We wanted to start with managing the basics and theHummingbird suite, with its document and records management,workflow and reporting component, was the place to start.
“By getting a good grasp on our content internally and primarilyby managing versions, access, distribution and research, it gave usthe proper foundation.”
But when it comes to Web content management, with its publishingand portal challenges, the issue becomes business-contextsensitive, he adds. “RDIMS came first, and that evolved withincreased functionality from Interwoven.”
Lamirande says Interwoven started with Web content managementand later added the document management basics. Conversely,Hummingbird’s strength lies in records management, but it now alsosells the publishing and collaboration side.
“It’s a freaky world right now,” Lamirande says. “Everybody doespretty much the same stuff in different ways and you’ve got todecide as a client. That’s what we’re facing right now: Interwovenand Hummingbird can do the same things.”
Lamirande says that, depending on what the government decides todo, he may have to look at different scenarios, for example usingone product suite for some functions and another suite forothers.
Barking up the wrong tree
If content management purports to help organizations create ataxonomy, or hierarchical classification structure, for sorting andmanaging information and knowledge, perhaps information lifecyclemanagement (ILM) should also be given a part in the play.
ILM is typically the territory of storage vendors like EMC,Hewlett-Packard, Network Appliance (NetApp) and StorageTek. Butboth content management and ILM claim to address issues such asinformation policies, management processes, governance and changemanagement. In both cases, policies are determined by businessobjectives.
NetApp, for example, defines ILM as “a strategy that allows youto make intelligent decisions about how you manage yourinformation.”
Records and document management is about moving informationaround an organization, tracking version control and allowing thesoftware to make logical decisions that have already been set asbusiness rules, according to Dan Larocque, industry manager forHummingbird’s government sector.
And Dan Ryan, COO of Stellent Inc., a content management vendorwith headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn., says records andretention management maintains metadata about content in variousdocument repositories performs legal holds and disposes of anddeletes content.
Content management becomes a storage issue and should form apart of ILM, says Christine C