Saturday, November 15, 2008

Business and Cultural Challenges of a Next Generation Collaborative Solution

Cross posting from my blog post on the EMC Knowledge Worker blog.

Last Monday, at Momentum Prague 2008, I held a Product Advisory Forum (PAF) with 27 EMC customers. The overall objective of the Knowledge Worker PAF was to assess the characteristics of a next generation collaborative solution. As an introduction, we reviewed a set of disruptive trends around:
  • The changing nature of the Enterprise
  • New work habits, social and cultural changes
  • Disruptive technologies that support new patterns of collaboration
  • The impact of the changing economic climate
See the presentation for more details on each trends.

3 teams of participants were then asked to assess business, cultural challenges and solutions that would help their organizations adapt to such trends.

Overall Needs and Business Challenges
The following needs and business challenges were identified:
  • Organizations need to improve collaboration within their organizations and with external parties. This raises issues around the proper level of openness and how to balance such a need against the needs for better security.
    • Open systems are necessary to enable expertise location and finding information
    • Integration between enterprise services is required to break information silos and encourage collaboration across various types of content in the enterprise
    • Improving connections between people and content provides additional context to the information and fosters better interaction between knowledge workers
  • Organizations need to improve the use of information structures and reuse of already existing information
    • Formalizing knowledge within organizations can improve its reuse. In order to do so, organizations needs better mechanisms for classifying and organizing information. Both taxonomies and folksonomies have a role to play.
    • Reusing content in new ways can open new business opportunities and improve the speed of delivery of new projects.
    • Organizationally, there is no substitute for producing lessons learned and synthesizing information. Organizations need to adopt models that encourage information reuse and developed template based information models.
      • This provides a framework for producing new quality information more quickly and on-ramping on new subjects and projects more quickly.
  • How do organizations make sure that the information they manage is valid and of quality and how do they effectively manage their information lifecycle?
    • Organizations can rely on informal validation where the collective intelligence of the community can be leveraged to produce and elevate the most valuable information
    • In parallel, some categories of content will never be properly assessed by the community. Formal processes are required for such content (e.g. Standard Operating Procedures)
    • In addition, organizations need to put systems and policies in place that preserve information readability over the years and retain only content that is relevant to the organization. How does an organization properly identify the content that needs to be retained, in particular when it pertains to the organization knowledge?
    • Organizations should look at technology that helps with concepts extraction and leverages such capabilities for improved information classification
  • Organizations must deploy technologies and solutions that empower their business users:
    • Business users should be able to configure applications in a way that meets their needs
    • Access to information should be ubiquitous
Cultural and Organization Challenges
Software does not drive organizational changes, people do. Too often, budgets get sucked into technical implementations to the detriment of investments in driving adoption and culture changes. Investments in driving adoption are critical and software vendors can help by delivering better out of the box solutions that allow organizations to focus on adoption and less on implementation. Some of the cultural challenges organizations have to confront include:
  • Fear. Fear of consequences and fear of rejection. Organizations need to assess how they value knowledge. Often, people are reluctant to contribute for fear that it will undermine their own value. Organizations needs to adopt processes that better value and reward sharing information.
  • Privacy. People are also concerned that we will share information and loose control of how the information will be used. Vendors need to provide features that help end users better understand how the information they contribute is being reused.
Organizations need to leverage the viral aspect of Web 2.0 technologies and move towards a Discover / Adopt / Adapt model. Only when the information is adopted and adapted does it start to deliver significant value to the enterprise.

Being able to justify the ROI of Web 2.0 and social networking technology is a challenge. Organizations must be able to measure the adoption of the content being shared. Measuring direct benefits should focus on productivity benchmarks with or without such technologies.

EMC Knowledge Worker Strategy Fit
Overall, EMC Knowledge Worker strategy is a great fit for many of the business challenges identified during the workshop. EMC's investments in CenterStage will provide improved patterns of collaboration that empower their business users and extend the reach of their virtual organization.

In addition, EMC Documentum provides a robust framework for managing the information lifecycle and the reuse of information. At the core of EMC strategy is a strong emphasis on information intelligence to permeate all of its collaborative capabilities. Based on advanced concept extraction and combined with an understanding of people social networks and interaction with content, such information intelligence will foster information reuse and provide better models for information classification and retention.

In order to help customers with the adoption of such technologies, EMC will work with its partners and its own consulting organization to provide best practices on how to most rapidly deliver business value.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

CenterStage: A Technical Overview

Cross posting from my blog post on the EMC Knowledge Worker blog.

With CenterStage, EMC delivers an interactive web experience, together with the associated computational resources and web services, for accessing and managing communities and team workspaces within the framework of an enterprise information infrastructure. Designed as a rich internet application, CenterStage leverages AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and web services to provide a dynamic user experience. Let's take a look at CenterStage high level architecture:

For version 1.0 release of CenterStage, two CenterStage clients will be made available in Q1 2009: CenterStage Essentials and CenterStage Pro. CenterStage Essentials provides basic content services; CenterStage Pro builds upon CenterStage Essentials to provide rich Web 2.0 and Social Networking capabilities. CenterStage Pro leverages CenterStage Essentials sub-systems and builds upon them.

Server Infrastructure
CenterStage leverages the robust customization infrastructure of the EMC Documentum Platform components as well as core services to provide both data model and services.
The following server components are provided with CenterStage:
  • Content server - This core server component provides data model management, security services and content management services
  • Full text index - Provides CenterStage with full-text search functionality
  • Thumbnail generator - This component generates thumbnails for common file formats. More advanced rendition capabilities (advanced formats, multi-paging) require customers to upgrade to the CTS framework and its Media Transformation Services (MTS) or Advanced Documents Transformation Services (ADTS)
  • Federated search - Allows users to aggregate searches across multiple sources. CenterStage Pro will provide search adapters for Google, ODBC/JDBC, Open Directory, and Open Search to name a few
  • Classification and Entity Extraction - The classification and entity extraction server components extract metadata from the content being uploaded in CenterStage based on semantic analysis of the content itself. The extracted metadata provides additional dimensions used by users to filter content
In addition to the above server components, the following modules need to be deployed to support CenterStage functionality:
  • Collaboration services: Provide the core collaboration infrastructure and is also used as the underpinning for the collaboration functionality available in Webtop
  • Rich media and transformation services: Support the ability to preview content in context within CenterStage
  • Extended search services: Provide the core set of services for search and clustering capabilities
  • CenterStage Essentials and Pro services: Provide the additional core services and data model for both CenterStage Essentials and Pro
Services Infrastructure
CenterStage application services are built on top of Documentum Foundation Services (DFS) providing CenterStage with a strong service orientation . CenterStage application services provide coarse-grained APIs built to address the needs of the user interface. Elements of the services infrastructure include:
  • The Rich Content Management Platform (RCMP) services, which handles the presentation layer requirement for:
    • Component delivery - the component registry and configuration management for the various UI components (or Widgets) exposed in the CenterStage UI
    • Container manager: the infrastructure for managing the user interface layouts
    • Bundle support: the packaging and deployment model leveraging OSGi at its core
  • The CenterStage Essentials and Pro application services which provide a broad set of APIs to address the needs of the user interface and support its team productivity, information discovery, business process and web 2.0 functionality
User Interface Infrastructure
Built as a true rich internet application, CenterStage leverages browser - based technology to bind to the proper services and render the user interface:
  • A thin UI infrastructure allows CenterStage to render the layout definition provided by the services. Service binding is achieved via either DWR (Direct Web Remoting), REST or SOAP depending on the UI technology leveraged in a particular UI widget. CenterStage leverages the ExtJS toolkit for most its user interface, but widgets can be built using a different UI technology such as Flex.
  • A plugin infrastructure is also provided to enable seamless integration with the desktop when working with files.
Many of the architectural subsystems described above are in place in CenterStage Essentials Beta. Other sub-systems will be introduced with the formal release of CenterStage. Building upon the strength of the EMC Documentum Platform and standard rich internet technologies, CenterStage will provide a strong foundation for social, intelligent content enabled applications.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What's wrong with today's Enteprise 2.0 offerings

Cross posting from my blog post on the EMC Knowledge Worker blog.

In the report, "Enterprise Content Management's Next Step Forward", Forrester makes the point that Enterprise Content Management (ECM) does not work for most enterprises. Current ECM implementations provide poor support for how most business people, especially information workers, work; and IT organizations are in perpetual catch-up to the ever changing behaviors of their knowledge worker. Forrester argues that ECM must adapt to move to more organic content management approaches that help abstract ECM’s complexities from end users, adapt to the way people work, and provide contextual views of, and access to content.

Andrew McAffee coined coined the acronym "SLATES" (as in Blank SLATES) to described such organic content management approach in his article, "Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration", which appeared in the Spring 2006 MIT Sloan Management Review. SLATES stands for:
  • Search: for any information platform to be valuable, its users must be able to find what they are looking for. Improved information discovery drives reuse and better productivity
  • Links: understanding how content is interconnected is an excellent guide for what's important. The "best" pages are the ones that are most frequently linked to
  • Authoring: when authoring tools are deployed and used within a company, the intranet platform shifts from being the creation of a few to being the constantly updated, interlinked work of many
  • Tags: tags reflect the information structures and relationships that people actually use, instead of the ones planned for them in advance and make patterns and processes in knowledge work more visible
  • Extensions: automate work through the use of categorization and pattern matching
  • Signals: technology must be able to signal users when new content of interest appears
Since then, authors such as Dion Hinchcliffe have built upon the SLATES framework to add characteristics such as:
  • Social, emergent and freedom
  • Network-oriented to describe that the content of Enterprise 2.0 applications must be fully Web-oriented, addressable and reusable
While SLATES is a useful acronym to describe important concepts, it falls short - even with the additions provided by Hinchcliffe - of addressing the true need of the enterprise:
  • Since December 2006, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which set litigation guidelines in the US, now require electronically stored information be included in discovery requests. This means that organizations have a legal obligation to produce all electronic documents that pertain to a given lawsuit. As a result, organizations must have in place a robust information management strategy that decreases the cost of information discovery.
  • Information in highly collaborative gets stale quickly, particularly in project-driven environments. This is a typical knowledge management problem. Without processes in place to synthesize best practices and lessons learned, the trail of information is marginally useful. Information lifecycle management becomes critical to managing the growth of digital information and improve the quality of the information available for reuse. To meet the needs of the enterprise, enterprise 2.0 solutions must blend delegated administrative controls (such as provisioning, de-provisioning, retention policies, etc) with features that empower end-users
  • Sensitive information must remain protected no matter how it is accessed or exchanged. For instance, in highly sensitive systems, users may not be able to print or export content.
ECM can fill such gaps. ECM is entering a new and exciting phase where a compliant information infrastructure supporting new and innovative social networking and content creation paradigm will put ECM in business context and drive the adoption of such infrastructure. This is the vision for CenterStage.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Software Plus Services - An Interesting Development

Last month, I blogged about next generation internet application and how companies like Amazon are innovating on the business model side and scaling their infrastructure out to provide rock bottom prices. At the Enterprise 2.0 conference, Rishi Chandra from Google touched on a similar topic. Early July, Microsoft announced it Microsoft Online Services that can:
Help relieve the burden of managing and maintaining business systems, freeing IT departments to focus on initiatives that can help deliver true competitive advantage.

Microsoft Online Services include:
  • Office Live Meeting
  • Exchange Hosted Services
  • Dynamics CRM Online
  • SharePoint Online
The most interesting part of the announcement is the pricing. Microsoft introduces a new licensing model call a User Subscription License (USL). USLs are interesting because they blend online access and on-premise access. So if a company has bought a USL of Office Live Meeting, their users are licensed to use either Microsoft Online or an on-premise deployment of Live Meeting. This provides an interesting twist to the Software Plus Services that Microsoft has been touting for a little while now.

Licensing is very competitive as well. A USL for the Business Productivity Online Suite is $15 per month. That means, for $15 per month, a user can have access to Exchange, SharePoint server, Live Meeting and, when released, Office Communications Online. See the Office SharePoint write up for a good explanation of the licensing model. Customers can also license Microsoft Online piece meal:
  • $10/month for an Exchange USL,
  • $7.25/month for SharePoint,
  • $2.50/month for Office Communications
  • $4.50/month for Live Meeting
Each USL includes a storage allocation: 1GB per USL for Exchange storage and 250MB per USL for SharePoint, and additional storage can be purchased for $2.50 per GB per month.

Looking back at how Cloud Computing is shaping to be a disruptive trend, this announcement is particularly interesting. The business model part makes it particularly attractive to IT organizations as they can start testing out mixed deployment of hosted and on-premise while protecting their investment. It will be interesting to follow how this gets adopted, but in my opinion, this is indicative of a paradigm shift in our industry.

On a closing note, an interesting description of the infrastructure required to support this offering and telling on the level of investment:
  • 13 global datacenters (growing to 20 next year)
  • Replicated to two distinct datacenters to provide redundancy
  • Service guarantees a 99.9 percent SLA

Have you heard of CenterStage?

CenterStage is EMC Documentum next generation information workplace that will provide an integrated end user experience that's contextual, visual, multi-modal and personal. CenterStage will include two offerings:
  • CenterStage Essentials: a free client that requires the Documentum Content Server and provides basic content services functionality
  • CenterStage Pro: the full Web 2.0 client built upon CenterStage Essentials and the Documentum ECM platform.

CenterStage Essentials Beta will be announced with EMC Documentum 6.5 launch. We have also created a community on to manage the beta program. Join us there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Enterprise 2.0: A State of the Industry Address

Dan Keldsen, director of market intelligence at AIIM and Carl Frappaolo, book author and vice president, market of market intelligence at AIIM are presenting the result of an extensive study they just completed on what's going on with Enterprise 2.0. The survey had 441 respondents and was recently released as a 90 pages report available at

AIIM also assembled a panel to assess the findings of the survey. The panel included Patti Anklam, Stowe Boyd, Andrew McAffee, Eric Tsui and David Weinberger

Among the top findings from the survey:
  • Age does not matter (as much as you think)
  • Culture matters (more than you think). This is the single most important thing to embrace Enterprise 2.0
    • KM inclined organizations are 2X as likely to significantly increase rate of networking and increase formation of communities
    • KM inclined organizations are 31% as likely to pursue Enterprise 2.0 strategically
    • The key drivers for adoption are: Increase collaboration (69%), Awareness of what we know (56%), Increase agility and responsiveness (56%), Faster communication (55%)
    • The biggest obstacles are: Lack of understanding, Lack of best practice
  • It is a slow market which frustrates early adopters - market is not moving as fast as led to believe
  • Strategy (is hard to find) and Enterprise 2.0 is often undertaken in a non-strategic way

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Working in the Cloud: How Cloud Computing is Reshaping Enterprise Technology

At the Enterprise 2.0 conference, Rishi Chandra, product manager for Google Enterprise delivered a thoughtful and interesting talk on how cloud computing is reshaping enterprise technology. Rishi makes the point that the next 10 years of innovation will be in the cloud.

From Rishi's presentation, I took the following takeaways:
  • The cloud will drive towards unmatched scalability which in return will marginalize the cost per unit of the infrastructure whether it be storage or processing power
  • The uptime requirements of the cloud will provide unmatched reliability
  • Cloud computing providers need to build trust in their infrastructure. Security being often the primary concern.
  • This is a highly disruptive trend which could transform the economic dynamics of the software industry for on-premise software
During his presentation, Rishi outlined 4 areas of innovation that will further increase the appeal of cloud based solutions:
  • Consumer driven innovation will set the pace. Why? Because the consumer world is Darwinian in nature. Within the Enterprise, there is a lack of direct connection to the end user as purchase decision connect vendors with IT or purchasing departments. In the consumer space, consumers have direct choice and access to the technology.
    One key lesson learned at Google is that simplicity wins. Google has been able to accomplish this by having an explicit focus on end user. This results in better solutions for the end user and drives towards increased innovation.
  • The rise of the power collaborator. The world is about team and group productivity where individuals needs to become increasingly connected to be more productive. Rishi makes the point that tools in the enterprise are still built for power users. The cloud is focused on collaboration and allows users to contribute information anywhere, all the time. Rishi envisions users being able to collaboration on content online and leverage "cloud services" such as automated translation to break communication barriers between contributors, or publishing services to publish information. The cloud is the right platform to provide those services and will offer one repository of information with open APIs.
  • The economics of IT are changing. The larger question for the enterprise is: how does the enterprise deal with scalability? Google as tremendous scalability challenges it needs to deal with. For instance, on the Google Picassa web service, 7 million new photos are uploaded a day. As Google scales its infrastructure, Google predicts that scale will drive unit costs towards zero. This is an interesting trend and aligned with what Amazon S3 services illustrate with storage at $0.15/GB. This provides some clear challenges for more traditional storage companies. Google positions its App Engine as a scalable hosting platform. This trend towards unlimited scalability provides huge opportunities and have great implications for the enterprise.
  • Barriers to adoption are falling away. Connectivity is becoming less of an issue. In addition, the user experience of web applications is getting richer all the time. Also, reliability expectations have changed. For instance, Gmail is multi homed, providing unmatched reliability. Rishi predicts that this will provide a level of reliability that on-premise deployment will be challenged to meet. One key barrier to adoption is security. But how secure is your organization today? 1 in 10 laptops are stolen within 12 months after purchase. Rishi makes the argument that data in the clould is more secure. However Google recognizes that in order to address the security issue, it will need to build trust with its customer. Google already does this, Postini is leveraging its cloud infrastructure for security and compliance solutions.
As closing remarks, Google does not believe that on-premise software is going away but predicts that innovation will happen in the cloud and open APIs will foster competition. Rishi predicts that all Google applications will become more social and leverage a common platform.

From the Bottom-Up: Building the 21st Century Intelligence Community

At the Enterprise 2.0 conference, Sean Dennehy and Don Burke, both Intellipedia evangelists at the CIA covered some interesting aspects of Intellipedia. Intellipedia encompasses:
  • Wiki, the core of Intellipedia
  • Blog
  • Tagging and social bookmarking (ala branded as Intelink
  • Document management branded as Inteldoc
  • A gallery of images similar to flickr
  • Video services
Intellipedia differs in many ways from Wikipedia. With Intellipedia, all edits are attributable to the author as users are required to login. It is not limited to an encyclopedia use case. Intellipedia also introduces a team dimension as well where many contributors from different agencies are contributing attributable point of views. Adoption is still ramping up and Intellipedia is not at a point where everyone is contributing knowledge. One of the challenge for adoption has been cultural. Sean and Don created a framework with 3 core principles to deal with distribution of knowledge issue:
  • Work at broadest audience possible
  • Think topically not organizationally
  • Replace existing business processes and move processes out of channel but into a platform. For instance, if a user is about to send an email sent to 50 people, it would be more effective as a blog post.
At Intellipedia, the #1 contributor is 69 years old with 40 years of experience. Adoption is not an age issue, organizations need to address the cultural challenges, and start small.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Visual Search: A Better Way to Find Information?

Visual search is an area that's definitely gaining traction. A couple interesting startups have emerged that put a new twist on searching for information:
  • SearchMe, located in Mountain View, CA, a well founded startup, launched its private beta in March 2008
  • Viewzi, based in Dallas, TX, is offering early access to its visual views
SearchMe takes the Cover Flow approach to visually represent search results. Their model is very similar to Finder in Apple's Mac OS X.

Though very attractive, the SearchMe model is limited when searching for songs, videos, or shopping items. SearchMe always return a web page which may not always be the most appropriate context.

Here comes Viewzi, which created a platform with an API to allow domain experts to build specialized views. As it matures Viewzi is planning to open up its platform to allow the community to contribute views and expertise. Viewzi already provides multiple ways for users to search for information and users can switch between different views based on the type of search that they perform. Some interesting samples from the various view Viewzi provides:
  • Video x3 View
  • 4 Sources View
  • Web Screenshot View
  • Gadget View
  • Everyday Shopping View
  • MP3 Search View
  • Album View

Viewzi also does a pretty good job at associating the relevant views to the search term.
Such focused visual searches are very effective to help locate information more quickly as they clearly set the context for the user. The application of such technologies within the enterprise would be tremendous. It will be interesting to follow Viewzi's evolution as they open up their platform to a broader community and how many business related views emerge.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Next Generation Internet Applications

A colleague of mine, Michael Hackney, pointed me to an interesting company, DreamFactory and their Cloudware offering. DreamFactory leverages the Amazon infrastructure for their storage and billing infrastructure and Webex for their realtime. This allows them to focus exclusively on the application side and they leverage SalesForce AppExchange as an alternative delivery mechanism. I have to say, this is quite an innovative approach and a disruptive business model. Basically, they hardly own any infrastructure and focus exclusively on value-add. This allows them to be dirt cheap for their entry offering - @12.95 for a starting point + usage fees:
  • For their professional offering:
    • Storage: $1.50 per GB/month
    • Data Transfer In: $1.00 per GB/month
    • Data Transfer Out: $1.70 per GB/month
which is basically what Amazon charges for their infrastructure plus a small markup.

Their business model is set up to be low cost and profitable from day one and cover cost as usage increases. For the Amazon of the world, it solidifies their position as the infrastructure that runs the web.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Back from EMC World

Back from EMC World in Las Vegas. Overall this was a very positive show. The numbers are impressive:

  • The Content Management and Archiving community represented 23% of the EMC World Audience
  • There were more that 200 tracks, sessions and demos showcasing our products for our CMA four solutions platforms

On the Knowledge worker side, this was a very positive event. We publicly announced "Project Magellan" and got some exciting response. Here are some extracts of the positive feedback we received:

  • First at Mark Lewis keynote which can be found on YouTube, Mark Lewis introduce our new generation of client as follow: "You will be amazed by the new levels of usability in the content management products we’re introducing, and also the use of Web Services and Service Oriented Architectures to connect our products together" from Byte and Switch
  • We also got some very positive blog coverage. Marko Sillanpaa wrote a nice piece on Project Magellan, a few extracts from his post:
    Better still the UI is not only clean but sexy. Learning from the best in UI, Magellan adds interfaces introduced by Apple for iTunes and iPod. In addition to standard thumbnail directory views, Magellan offers a browse option similar to Cover Flow. While search adds a filtering option similar to that in iTunes for finding a song based on a genre and artist.
    But what it does show is that EMC is listening. Finally a UI that is as clean and simple as Alfresco and SharePoint and a bonus that it’s as sexy as an iPhone. And I for one want to say, thank you for listening.

    You bet Marko and thank you for the positive write up!