Beware the evils of content lock in

By Daniel O'Leary posted 06-17-2010 13:26


Last month, Cheryl McKinnon brought up an excellent point when looking at ECM technology vendors and when you evaluate your existing technology- vendor lock in isn't the issue, content lock in is. 

At first, this didn't make sense to me; I've been brought in for countless migrations from legacy vendor A to shiny-new vendor B, often at laughable costs of time and money to the end user. Was vendor lock in the problem? With closer inspection, the real issues were things like proprietary "blob" formats, poorly documented APIs, hard to discern BPM systems, and legacy content formats. Cheryl, you nailed it, customer's content is trapped! When it comes to managing and creating records, this is even more important. 
So, how do you avoid content lock in from occurring?
  1. Embrace open file formats.PDF/A is an excellent choice for long term imaging and archival, and formats like XML and ODF can be used over vendor's default file formats. This will ensure maximum accessibility on things like mobile devices and in 50 years, they will (hopefully) still be accessible. One of my biggest headaches is trying to convert legacy file formats, so plan ahead.
  2. Work with vendors that support CMIS and other standards. CMIS was designed to make sure that different repositories can talk to each other, eliminating siloed content, and vastly roving the user experience. As this is embraced by more vendors, customers will be even better off when it comes to interoperability and migrations. If your systems can already communicate, your information won't be held hostage.
  3. Support open source. With common products like Android, Apache,Wikipedia, and Word Press, chances are you already use open source on a daily basis. In the ECM world, open source software typically means lower costs, more flexibility, and faster implementations. When we built LincDoc for example, we took advantage of technology like PostgreSQL  to keep our users from having to purchase additional software to implement ours. With Open Source solutions and open file formats, content lock in is practically impossible.
  4. Buy it, don't build it. Before you ask your developers or a consultant to build you a custom application or widget, see what APIs, Open Source, and commercial applications are available. Using off the shelf technology makes getting data in and out much easier. Custom applications are one of the most fun to later clean up and try to work with. Of course, exceptions exist, so make sure you do research to determine what is the best fit for you and your organization.
Any other tips and advice are appreciated!

#ElectronicRecordsManagement #opensource #ERM #contentlockin #vendors #implementation