Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ECM: Too Big to Fail (or Succeed)

Why did Easter Island Implode?

So what do you do when your client says IT wants to cut infrastructure costs by consolidating all of their separate repositories into a monolithic one? On paper, using EMC’s sizing guide and empirical data (number of objects and size of content) the consolidation may make sense. The following is a partial list of areas that describe the dimensions of this decision:
  • Performance and Scale Issues
  • Political Fallout
  •  “Shared” Services

Performance and Scale Issues

The average size and number of content files is the foundation of this analysis, plus amount of processing and messaging between users. The EMC Sizing guide helps with the initial infrastructure logical architecture. The guide’s recommendations can then be applied to future growth of content and user projections. Content indexing and search, and security are essential factors to the future of the user’s experience. If security, for example, is complex, then search results may have a tough time processing through multiple layers of identity and access control. If content files are larger than anticipated then the indexing may take a lot longer when reindexing for upgrades. For backup/restore, failover, and disaster recovery, complexity is increased for the “routine” patching and upgrades.

Political Fallout

For medium to large content repository implementations there are considerable risks for internal turf wars, for example, IT’s top ten projects set the priorities of the IT’s services, however, if your business unit is not on the top ten, good luck getting the resources you need to complete your projects. So if the consolidation happens and a pool of money is paying for all of the ECM solution, then it becomes a political tug of war to get your work done. Downtime windows for even small fixes become bogged down with “red tape” from a group that has been burned before and is consumed by risk avoidance. Security can be an issue to, for example, if some content for HR is extremely sensitive which mandates that HTTPS is used instead of HTTP. This slows down content transfer and overall performance which in turn requires more hardware to speed up.

“Shared” Services

The concept of sharing is that everyone has an equal portion of resources to get their work done. This model works for IT because they need excuses to fall back on when projects are delayed. The portfolio model (like ITIL) fits neatly into shared services in that work is identified and prioritized, however the small projects get constantly pushed back and they add up. The business becomes frustrated but has no leverage to fix the situation. The success of IT should be measured, not by the execution of its big projects, but the attention it gives to the many smaller projects that usually languish and never see the light of day.