Next-Generation ECM Connected Users, Connected Enterprises, Connected Content John Newton Founder + CTO
Is traditional ECM ready for a new enterprise? Enterprise content management (ECM) is in a state of disruption. With the explosion of mobile and cloud technologies, users are working differently than ever before. Enterprises are more diversified than ever, with supply chains extending across the firewall, across organizations and across continents. What hasn’t changed is this: content is still king in the enterprise. But the types of content, and the places that content needs to travel to enable business processes, have changed dramatically. Traditional, legacy ECM platforms like Documentum, FileNet and OpenText are not ready for this new world. Those technologies were architected in a time when users and content stayed behind the firewall, on servers and PCs. They may paper-over their aging technology with cloud and mobile acquisitions, but that is more about being able to say “we have that!” than offering integrated, next-generation solutions. Even Microsoft SharePoint, which does a better job of addressing ad-hoc collaboration than legacy ECM, lacks an architecture that truly enables mobile and cloud use cases (and SharePoint still struggles to automate processes and scale). In this whitepaper, we will take a deeper look at how ECM must change to meet the diverse new needs of today’s enterprise. In fact, content management has never been more important. But just as the very nature of an enterprise is changing fundamentally, so must a category (ECM) that has previously defined itself as meeting the needs of the whole enterprise.
Users: Are the most ‘connected’ users also the most ‘disconnected’ (from the enterprise)? The pressure is increasingly on IT to support a new class of connected, tech-savvy users who are taking more control over their technology. Users are demanding support for their new tablet and mobile devices, new remote working styles and new cloud apps that they believe make them more productive. It’s hard to argue with the idea of more productive employees, so BYOD (bring your own device) policies and flexible working arrangements are on the rise. As many corporate systems have been slow to deliver the native mobile apps and capabilities that users desire, users are often turning to consumer-born web applications to meet their personal productivity needs. There is little doubt that a good deal of enterprise content is on Dropbox today — put there by users otherwise frustrated by the lack of mobile or B2B sharing capabilities in their enterprise content repository (or shared drives). There’s also little doubt that the enterprise, for the most part, is worried about the “Dropbox problem.” IT, legal, security and risk officers are concerned that they don’t know where their corporate IP is, much less how to get it back when users leave the organization. Which brings up a question: Is it possible that these new connected workers — who are working anywhere, at any time, on any device — are actually the most disconnected workers from the rest of the enterprise? To answer this question, let’s remind ourselves what the organizational needs are for managing content and deploying document management and ECM: •A utomate formerly paper-based processes • Improve operational efficiency via automation and version control • Ensure consistency and integrity of outbound content and communication • Enable data integrity, records management and compliance • Maintain control of company intellectual property (IP) • Collaborate securely with colleagues, to gain more organizational productivity alfresco.com
The needs for enterprise content management haven’t changed: make the enterprise, as a whole, more productive, efficient, secure and compliant. But the new challenge of ECM is to do this in an environment where quite possibly the most productive, motivated and valuable contributors to the enterprise are outside the firewall, using new devices and apps, and pushing the envelope of IT. You aren’t going to change the users. You must change your approach to ECM.
The enterprise: More connected and more extended Just as users are different today, so is the enterprise. It can be argued that the working definition of an enterprise, when looking at enterprise software categories, such as ECM or ERP, was that an enterprise was defined by its firewall. Everyone and everything inside the firewall was a controlled part of the enterprise, while everything outside the firewall was to be repelled. Interestingly, Merriam-Webster’s definition of ‘enterprise’ is actually a pretty good description of today’s reality: a unit of economic organization or activity, especially a business organization. The definition says nothing of firewalls, and indeed only implies a loose organization based on common economic activity — not necessarily an individual company. The modern enterprise is often an interconnected web of companies, contractors, free-agents, partners, suppliers, employees and customers, often defined more by a business process or a brand than by the bounds of a firewall. While Apple is often lifted up today as an example of whole-product thinking and usability (rightly so), they are also a prototypical example of a modern, extended enterprise. Its supply chain is made up of independent suppliers all across the globe, unified solely by delivering a brand experience that is second to none. Interestingly, Apple is also regarded as one of the most secure — even secretive — companies in the world, maniacally concerned about the security and confidentiality of its IP, launch plans and product roadmap. Apple is at once a completely extended enterprise, yet it still requires the control and security that have typically been only available behind the firewall. So if the modern enterprise cannot be defined by a firewall, then a modern approach to ECM must not be bound by the limits of an IT infrastructure. Content, business processes and collaboration must be free to travel anywhere it needs to, to get the job done efficiently, but in a manner where it can still be harnessed and controlled to meet the needs of the enterprise (productivity, efficiency, security, compliance, etc.). In short, a new, more expansive view of the enterprise requires a new approach to ECM…an approach that recognizes that modern enterprises are not bound by the firewall.
Content: More types, more social, more context…yet still the same If users are different and enterprises are different, then surely enterprise content must be different, too. Well…yes and no. Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel and Word formats (along with CAD/CAM, Adobe Creative Suite files & PDF) are still the de-facto standards of knowledge workers everywhere. These files and formats must be managed and dealt with as a baseline requirement. What’s different, however, is the social content that now needs to be categorized as enterprise also. That photograph of your competitor’s shelf display that your business partner emailed you (along with the resulting comment thread)? That video of the equipment malfunction at the remote job site that your foreman sent to the repair team (along with the geo-location data)? That Google Doc that your supplier shared with you for collaboration? This is today’s enterprise content, driven by mobile devices, consumer social network behavior and the fact that photos, videos and comment threads help companies get real work done faster. alfresco.com
What is unique about this social content is that, more than ever before, it is driving people to truly understand and utilize the context of the content — who posted it, at what time, in what circumstances and their opinion of the content — is now central to that content’s value. In the early days of ECM, context around content had a name: metadata. Metadata is contextual information that is attached to content, and can be stored in the ECM system (author, created date, file type, etc.), and possibly even customized for business processes (customer name, invoice number, contract date, etc.). You can run actions and workflows against metadata, in order to help content move to the right person or system at the right time. Today, when you add opinion and preference metadata (such as who likes a certain document, or what people are saying about the content), and make it no-brainer easy to attach sophisticated metadata (such as geo-location, which most smartphones attach to photos by default), then you have a whole new richness to enterprise content that can launch totally new business processes and provide previously unattainable levels of insight. This is content (and context) that actually drives action, speeds delivery and enhances collaboration. It is also the fuel for ad-hoc business processes and collaborations — just like photos are the fuel for rich relationships on Facebook. So, if your ECM strategy isn’t contemplating both social content and traditional content, you need to consider a new approach to ECM.
And one more thing: The new IT infrastructure So far, we have asserted that traditional, legacy approaches to ECM are not sufficient, because they don’t address new user behaviors, a more extended enterprise and social content. But even if they did address those important business factors, traditional ECM vendors are failing at addressing the new realities of the IT infrastructure. It’s no secret that the cloud is here to stay and is fundamentally changing the technology landscape. And, like any technology trend, the left-behind legacy providers, who are trapped in software architectures made for a different time, are announcing cloud strategies and point-product acquisitions to buy themselves time to rebuild their platforms from the ground up. The fact is: legacy ECM platforms are generally not built for cloud scale, because they lack multi-tenancy and horizontal scalability to support a distributed enterprise. ECM technology built for the new enterprise needs to span from traditional on-premise deployments, to virtualized private cloud deployments to full-fledged public-cloud SaaS deployments — and everything in between. Specifically, ECM technology needs to be easily deployed on traditional servers, in virtualized environments (such as VMware or open-source hypervisors), in private clouds, and even as a pure SaaS cloud service — or, in some cases, utilizing multiple infrastructures, all at the same time. It needs to contemplate both traditional ECM use cases (i.e., document management, records management, workflow, collaboration) and the new, cloud and mobile use cases made popular by consumer-born cloud applications and mobile devices (i.e., simple file sharing, mobile content access, sync). And it needs to keep everything, and everyone, secure and in sync — no matter where uses or content resides. You should be in charge of your content strategy and your cloud strategy, and your ECM provider should enable you to implement your strategy on your timeline, with your unique requirements for security, integration, customization and scale. In general, your ECM technology provider should allow you to deliver a scalable content-as-a-service to your enterprise, on your terms. Sound impossible? It’s not. Alfresco is delivering it today.
A new era of ECM: It starts with open These challenges to ECM, as a category, are not insurmountable. In fact, when we started Alfresco in 2005, we set out to create a new architecture for ECM that would allow for dramatic, unforeseen changes to the nature of enterprise computing. In short, we built Alfresco for a time such as this. As a team of ECM veterans, we recognized that the future was not going to be predictable, so a new approach would be required. Any new approach would have to be future-proof. The changes to enterprise IT were already moving too fast to predict and the power of the incumbent, legacy vendors was not going to allow us to compete on features alone.
The value of being open Like Red Hat, JBoss & MySQL before us, the choice we made was to create an architecture that was open. Not open for the sake of open, but open for the purpose of guaranteeing that our technology could scale to meet the unknowable future needs of the enterprise. Open, for Alfresco, meant developing technology out in the open so that a community could help us, see what was coming next (open source), and build powerful solutions for specific business use cases. More importantly, it meant driving and adopting open standards, so Alfresco would be able to interoperate with both legacy technologies and whatever new technologies came out next so that customers had choice and flexibility in how they could benefit from Alfresco. This open approach earned us thousands of enterprise customers, hundreds of partners, and millions of users globally. It has also made Alfresco the largest open-source content management company in the world. But for our customers, partners and users, the choice of an open architecture has created something that is much more valuable today than we ever imagined: a robust open content platform that can be the content backbone for todayâ€™s modern enterprise (as well as tomorrowâ€™s). In the next section, we will address the challenges one-by-one, and demonstrate how Alfresco is the standard-bearer of a new era of ECM.
Alfresco delivers hybrid ECM today with Alfresco One At a recent Gartner conference, ECM pundits talked about how the future of ECM is about hybrid content architectures, where the systems of engagement (where users collaborate with colleagues and create drafts and work-in-progress) are often separated from systems of record (where final content is held for business continuity, legal or regulatory purposes). The content chaos that ensues in these mixed environments will be solved with a hybrid approach to ECM â€” and Gartner validates that most companies will be looking at this in 2014 and beyond. But why wait until 2014? As a recognized visionary and innovator in ECM, Alfresco now has all of the core technology to deliver a true hybrid ECM solution that allows document management, collaboration and workflow to cross the firewall and service the entire extended enterprise. We call this complete enterprise solution Alfresco One.
The Alfresco One solution includes: •A lfresco Enterprise on-premise: the proven, high-performance, scalable ECM platform that is in production at over 3,000 enterprises across the globe, and enables: — Document management — Business process automation & workflow — Records management — Case management — Imaging, scanning and archiving — Large scale collaboration — Web content publishing — Integration with SAP, PeopleSoft and other enterprise systems through a host of open interfaces and APIs •A n Alfresco in the cloud Enterprise Network: a true, multi-tenant version of Alfresco running in Alfresco’s public cloud. Used by over 40,000 organizations globally, Alfresco in the cloud provides: — Simple document management — Cloud collaboration for secure B2B extranets — File sharing — Desktop and mobile sync — Alfresco identity service that allows collaboration with external users, with full IT control — Integration with Salesforce.com, Google Docs and other cloud services through an open API •A lfresco Mobile: native iOS and Android apps, built for productivity, including: — Secure document access and mobile sync — Upload with support for metadata — Activity feeds — Task management — Note taking — Open-source code for rapid customization — iOS and Android SDKs for custom app development •A lfresco Enterprise Sync: native sync technology built into Alfresco Enterprise on-premise and Alfresco in the cloud, which allows: — Controlled sync of files or folders from Alfresco Enterprise on-premise to Alfresco in the cloud — Full fidelity of metadata and version control history — Un-sync capability, to ensure that Alfresco Enterprise remains the system of record behind the firewall In summary, Alfresco One is the first ECM solution in the world to provide all of the capabilities that today’s enterprise requires to support and manage the entire lifecycle of enterprise content — on any mobile device, inside or outside the firewall, and to both internal and external users. But the question is: how does Alfresco One stand up to the challenges of ECM today, as we outlined in the first part of this whitepaper? Let’s address those one by one.
Alfresco One: How does it stack up to today’s challenges? In the first section of this whitepaper, we looked at today’s users. Users of enterprise content management systems are: • Using new mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets • Increasingly working outside of confines of the office •E xperimenting with consumer-born cloud tools to make themselves more productive (and thus demanding new use cases and ease of use) The challenge? How can we keep these users connected to business processes and continue to make the enterprise as a whole more efficient and secure, while still enabling them to maximize their personal productivity? Answer: Today’s document management and ECM platforms must enable productivity on any device, integrate with the content tools of choice for users, work inside or outside the firewall, and deliver consumer services use cases that users expect today — as well as the traditional ECM use cases. Alfresco One delivers on all fronts. With Alfresco Mobile for iOS or Android, users get a native document management and workflow experience on their favorite devices — both smartphone and tablet. Alfresco Mobile’s open-source code makes the apps easy to customize for specific business requirements, and Alfresco’s SDKs for iOS and Android allow Alfresco functionality to be embedded directly into custom-built mobile apps. On traditional Windows and Mac desktops, Alfresco has best-in-class integration with Microsoft Office and Google Docs, allowing users to edit and save content while version control and file-locking happens in the background. Alfresco in the cloud allows you to extend collaboration out to agencies, partners and contractors, without letting them into your secure network. When you initiate collaboration in the cloud, external users are invited only into content that you authorize, and their access can be turned off at any time. Alfresco in the cloud is a true web app that enables everything from secure file sharing to desktop and mobile sync to full collaboration on content — all in a secure, company-controlled environment.
Second, we looked at the modern enterprise, which is: •M ore ‘extended’ than ever before, with an interconnected web of employees, partners, suppliers, constituents, customers & free-agents • Not defined by the bounds of the ‘firewall’ anymore • Still concerned about security, compliance, efficiency and protecting its corporate IP The challenge? How can we enable an extended enterprise, where business processes and content don’t stop at the firewall anymore, yet security and control are still required? Answer: ECM must allow content, metadata and business processes to span from behind the firewall out to the extended enterprise, outside of the traditional IT infrastructure. ECM must still allow the enterprise to control its content and processes, but be flexible to extend those controls to users who are not directly controlled by the IT department.
At its very core, an ECM solution must make an enterprise itself more efficient, more compliant and more productive. Consumer-born cloud applications that have relied on user adoption to drive a wedge into the IT department may be compelling for individual users and even ad-hoc collaboration, but do they really help the enterprise as a whole? Alfresco One views the cloud as a necessary extension of the ECM system of record. Sure, users can use Alfresco in the cloud as a standalone service (and many do). But the true power of Alfresco One is demonstrated with Alfresco Enterprise Sync — where users can sync files and folders from Alfresco Enterprise on-premise to Alfresco in the cloud for the purpose of B2B collaboration. Importantly, the content, the metadata and version history all stay in sync between Alfresco Enterprise on-premise and Alfresco in the cloud — and users and IT can shut down the sync at any time. And with Alfresco’s powerful and customizable rules and workflow, Enterprise Sync can be protected with approval steps or even restricted, based on types of documents or particular users. For the first time, enterprise content is free to go where it needs to go and to whomever needs to use it — but still controlled by the enterprise.
Third, we looked at how the nature of enterprise content is: • Still largely dependent on traditional Microsoft, Adobe and other desktop file formats • Increasingly characterized by richer, more contextual, social content, with new formats, new types of metadata and new content creation tools (from mobile and web apps) The challenge? How can we integrate social content into our ECM strategy, so that we can still automate processes and make the enterprise more efficient, without losing control? Answer: ECM must be able to handle social content and content from mobile devices, enrich ALL content with social context (such as “likes” and comments), and even be able to publish out content to social networks, so that it can be shared more broadly. ECM must also be able to handle new rich media in ways that are appropriate to the medium, with richer views and appropriate actions. Alfresco One includes the full power of the proven Alfresco platform, which natively handles all types of documents and files. Social features, such as ‘liking’ the most popular content, activity streams and commenting are built-in, enriching content collaboration all the way to mobile devices. Social publishing allows customers to use Alfresco to publish straight to popular social networks, with an audit trail of when content was published by whom. And Alfresco’s class-leading support for mobile metadata means that location data and tags can be captured from photos and videos on mobile devices, in order to start new types of workflows or collaboration.
And finally, we looked at the new IT infrastructure, which is: • Increasingly virtualized • Aware of and often integrated with the cloud • Able to support users no matter where they are, and what tools they choose to use The challenge? How can we keep everything and everyone in sync and secure, even throughout the extended enterprise? Answer: ECM must be able to be deployed on traditional IT hardware behind the firewall, in private clouds, or even spun-up in seconds in the public cloud. And, everything must be able to stay in sync, no matter how an enterprise chooses to deploy.
Alfresco Oneâ€™s modern, lightweight architecture, when combined with Enterprise Sync and Alfresco in the cloud, provide almost limitless options for deployment. Depending on your security needs, customization requirements and cloud strategy, you can use Alfresco full behind the firewall (fully supported by Alfresco Mobile), entirely in Alfrescoâ€™s public cloud, or anywhere in between. Alfresco can be deployed in virtualized containers, and is even optimized for deployment in Amazon AWS, making full use of EC2, RDB & S3 for storage. With Enterprise Sync, you can enable your users to begin using Alfresco in the cloud for document management and collaboration, even while you are customizing Alfresco and integrating it into your internal enterprise systems. When that integration is complete, users are already used to Alfresco and true business process automation can begin. Alfresco One has the fastest time-to-value of any ECM solution on the market.
So, what are you going to do next? The challenge of managing enterprise content and enabling collaboration has never been more complex. With more connected users, a more extended enterprise, the new diversity of enterprise content and increasingly virtualized IT infrastructures, legacy ECM vendors and traditional approaches will not be able to keep up. We started Alfresco in 2005 with a vision to build a new ECM architecture with a new, more open approach. Today, the Alfresco One solution, with the perfect combination of on-premise, cloud and mobile capabilities, is truly the standard-bearer of the hybrid future of ECM. We invite you to experience Alfresco One for yourself at Alfresco.com. Try Alfresco in the cloud and Alfresco mobile today for free, or download an Alfresco Enterprise trial to see how Alfresco fits into your IT infrastructure. Most importantly, see how other companies are saving money, becoming more productive and responsive and driving efficiencies with Alfresco at alfresco.com/customers.
About Alfresco Alfresco is how great businesses share, organize and protect their content. Nearly 7 million people in over 180 countries use Alfresco Enterprise, Cloud, Mobile and Community to manage over 3 billion pieces of content worldwide. Whether on the go or in the office, Alfresco empowers today’s teams to do great work. And, with one in eight Alfresco customers operating in the financial services sector, there are compelling reasons why these customers are choosing the freedom of open source with Alfresco: • Lower risk — Alfresco offers a single repository for all electronic documents, workflow portfolios and other unstructured content — reducing information silos and redundant data. Unified management of all electronic files reduces maintenance, leverages a single content standard, and removes end user complexity and versioning errors. • Compliance — The Alfresco Platform simplifies record keeping, and its automated document retention and destruction models enable regulatory compliance created by the Dodd-Frank Act and BASEL III. Alfresco also provides fully automated routines that convert documents from proprietary formats into long-term archival formats such as PDF/A and ODF. • Open standards — Alfresco easily interoperates with existing front-end applications, desktop software and enterprise infrastructure. Through the use of protocols such as CMIS, CIFS, WebDAV, RESTful APIs and Soap, its open approach makes innovation and adoption easy and minimizes expensive recoding. • Business process — Alfresco can leverage existing organizational workflows, and provides award-winning BPM capabilities that can reduce an institution’s decision cycle times and increase productivity. • Cost efficiency — With no upfront license fee, Alfresco’s subscription-based model covers all upgrades and maintenance — and, because it is based on the number of servers rather than concurrent users, it is easier and more cost effective to scale. Alfresco is also virtualization and cloud-friendly, and enables secure mobile access and collaboration for cloud-based content. • Agility and flexibility — Alfresco enables applications to be quickly built, deployed and modified as needs change, and, by avoiding vendor lock-in, offers freedom of choice and the opportunity to leverage existing technologies with the platform to deliver a complete ECM solution.
To find out more about the uses and benefits of Alfresco for financial services applications, please visit: alfresco.com/customers
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