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April 15, 2005

Organic content management

To see the biggest benefits of Enterprise Content Management, don't try to do Enterprise Content Management.   While many vendors and speakers spoke of eliminating stovepipes of information within companies, in my Content Technology Works keynote at the Gilbane Conference on Content Management this week, I advocated something different.  

There are two approaches to ECM...one is the big-system-installation model where a large deployment serves all users across the enterprise.  This model addresses the needs of everyone with careful requirements collection and coordination amongst the many constituents of a content system -- across departments from marketing to engineering, from public relations to customer support.  Some businesses need this end-to-end approach -- the top-down, comprehensive structuring that can solve compliance-related ECM problems.

The other model is one that was further suggested in a brief hallway conversation I had with Jon Udell on the topic.  That approach involves an organic, modular approach to managing content.  The idea is that building stovepipes is OK - provided that they include connection points -- technical interfaces based on open, available standards that allow innovation outside the tools themselves.  People with needs will come up with amazing innovative ways to use, link, and engage your content  if you leave them the freedom and "hooks" to do so.   Significantly, these smaller projects will also be easier, less costly, and less risky to develop.

Case in point, take two classic stovepipes of information on the public internet: Google Maps and Craig's List's real estate listings.  Paul Rademacher has cooked up something totally new from open interfaces to these two apps.  By scraping Craig's List for real estate rental and sales listings, then employing Google's maps API, he's built a graphical interface to an area's available housing. Browse on the map, view photos, visit listings...it's an amazing implementation of something truly useful.  To restate the obvious here - this incredibly useful integration was done by an internet user who's not associated with either Google nor Craigslist (echoed in Udell's software as a service Infoworld article).

Now imagine this dynamic working within your company.  Sufficiently open, scriptable interfaces, combined with creative internal development capacity, equals innovation and utility beyond what you'd ever have designed from the top down.  

Posted by larryb at 05:41 PM [permanent link]
Category: Web and Software Development
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