Monday, June 29, 2015

Post ECM Modern New New

When John Newton, Alfresco CTO, talks about the “Modernization of ECM” he takes the biggest, most pervasive view possible of ECM at an organization. The issue I have with this view is that most solutions are point solutions which may be expanding into other departments, but are mainly focused on specific solutions, not necessarily solutions that impact the enterprise. He wants everyone to think big with “millennials” using “mobile” phones “collaboratively”, “sharing docs”, using “Instagram”, and “Snapchat”, etc.

Ok, great, CIOs think big, I get it, but what happens during the implementation? Did the big idea get implemented well, or are we blaming Users for “poor adoption”?  John says, “Employees don’t buy in because the systems are cumbersome, non-intuitive, or lack support for B2B sharing and remote access.” That type of statement side steps the many bad implementations made by his previous company’s professionals. You can’t leave a company, build a better solution, and then blame the old software for being inferior. For those of us who have seen their share of implementations, we know that ECM was first CM at many of these companies. The “E” depended on the professional services as much as the software.

The “extended enterprise” beyond the firewall concept has been around for over a decade. The issues of security and sharing information are evolving and involve way more than an ECM solution’s capacity and technology. The larger enterprise is under the gun here, not the content management system.

With the “Explosion of Digital Content” as quoted from IDC sources, the “big data” issue of finding and contextualizing content will always be an issue. The point should be that the “crap in, crap out” adage is the real issue, not the system. If you don’t take the time to add context to your content on the way in, the search results later, regardless of how heuristically brilliant the algorithm, will not be as accurate as you want or need.

There’s no doubt Alfresco has a head start with open technology, integrations, and UI simplicity. I just find it hard to believe that they still think ECM is everything to everyone when it comes to content. All applications have evolved to deal with content and metadata. ECM can help patch the holes and connect the dots, and even be everything to a small/medium sized company, but with large enterprises it takes many software solutions to deal with its content and information. Whether it be financial, human resources, healthcare, pharma, registration, etc., in each case there are specialty professional services and software solutions to fit the requirements. What ECM promises is to patch the hole when a leak occurs because a leak in the other solutions will eventually occur.

Friday, June 12, 2015

ECM Safety Net

The big promises of ECM solutions ten years ago could not have foreseen the importance of risk mitigation in today’s risk adverse business environment. ECM systems have turned into safety nets for many companies. Not that information or content is in free fall, but it is reassuring to know that the location and storage of content is safe.

Many ECM initiatives were underfunded or over-architected:

Underfunded Scenarios:  when a solution performs great, but does not have a disaster recovery solution. When the version you are on is four years old. When you have more paper be shuffled than when scanning started.

Over-architected Scenarios: when it takes a senior engineer to unpack a workflow. When there’s a custom solution that does close to what is out-of-the-box in the next version. When it takes an act of congress to change a form.

ECM is also a good place to land when political maneuvering in the company causes paralysis with some solutions, or budgets get swept leaving your great idea with no funds. Catching the falling projects and at least saving them for complete disaster is at least admirable. It may not push forward the mobile agenda, but it will soften the blow when it’s budget is slashed in half.

Friday, June 5, 2015

When your system has an outage and you have to resort to paper

The more we computerize our work, the more difficult it will be to recovery from unanticipated down times. In a hospital situation for example, when your system goes down, every task done on the computer goes into manual “paper” mode. Work is done and forms are used. At some point when the system is back up, you have to deal with the pile of paper that accumulated during the outage. This paper pile could consist of notes, orders, assignments, referrals, medication list, etc. What do you do with this stuff?

Did you plan for recovery from paper?

Everyone plans to recovery, but the real question will it go as planned? Did everyone follow the downtime documentation procedures accurately? For example, was the account number written on the form? Can barcodes be printed after the outage?  


Automated scanning with barcodes for indexing paper can be a life saver, however with an outage there no barcodes, which can be a major hassle from which to recover. Also, what if the accounts are still caught up in the content management system?


If you have an automated workflow for coding diagnoses or approving invoices, is there a paper alternative for this, or do you just go home?


To recover a system by back loading information from paper, it might take a temporary surge of contractors. This unexpected budget hit should be noted as a risk in your outage plan.

Fixing data

Sometimes during an outage, only one system is down, leaving up or downstream systems running. Users could go about their normal routines without knowing for a while. Data entry could get queued up as the integration is broken. So, one process is using paper and another one is still using a computer. When the outage is over, some data might have been corrupted. For example, a patient is registered and is being seen by a nurse. The nurse fills out the patient’s drug allergies on a paper form. The patient goes in for surgery and is recovery. A physician checks the EMR for allergies and sees none. The paper form for allergies is in the chart, but the physician assumes the system is up-to-date…

The Need for recoveries of recovery

Chances are good that the downtime procedures cover what should happen and are in compliance with the auditors, however when your system goes down and the paper comes out there are many more chances of mistakes. Of course the answer is a plan for system redundancy, however, this comes at a hefty prices that not every hospital or entity can justify.