Sunday, September 13, 2009

What the F’ Happened to the Customer’s Vision?

It seems every new technology or architecture or new way of looking at the complexities of content is like building a new platform on quicksand. It eventually sinks below the surface and then a new “genius” comes along with a solution that gets sold to our “shock and awe” addicted users.

The customer used to always be right, now they are sold what’s “right”. What is sold to the customer is pretty and “easy-to-use” technology which is over their heads. They become reliant on experts to build the solution and to come up with language that makes the Manager/Director look good to his superiors.

Once ECM is in place, the users look at it and inevitably want their old system back. After a while they become more comfortable to the new ways of doing things. Then they want continuous improvement. By the time this happens a new version is released, new bugs cause the experts to come in and fix them. The continuous improvement requirements get scaled down by technology issues of performance and content growth. The IT department thinks they own the system. The Business Units get frustrated with IT. Yada, yada, yada.

At this point “shadow IT” starts its cycle again. In the late 90’s it was websites popping up every where as intranets via easy to use, inexpensive website publishing tools. Now it’s Sharepoint portals. These portals are what the customers want. They want messy rooms (unstructured content spaces) where they can play with content and ideas, not technology. Metadata, security, taxonomy, workflow, lifecycles, retention, etc. need to be worked into these “messy rooms”, periodically cleaning them up, organizing the useful content and throwing away the building blocks. EMC’s CenterStage, like Sharepoint, is trying to fulfill the need for users to produce, edit (collaborate) content while the systems handles structuring and storing behind the scenes.

This introduces the big gray area of ECM: the void between structure and unstructured content. Let’s say an invoice is structure content because it originated from a database and has a number. The problem is that this invoice was printed to paper, signed, scanned, and place back into a content repository. The number is still there, but the systems are different. Even though the systems are interoperable there is no source of record anymore. What is more important the financial aspect of the content or the actual scanned proof of purchase? It depends who you ask.

No comments: