Info360: When Monkeys Fly

By Joe Shepley posted 03-24-2011 17:02


I spent most of this week at the Info360 conference in Washington, DC. I presented at a few breakout sessions, moderated a bunch of expo floor panels, saw a couple of presentations, and had some great conversations throughout the three days I was there…and as the icing on the cake, I not only spotted some of the illustrious members of the #ecmcoven in the wild, but actually got to meet a few of them. All that and the cherry trees in bloom on the Beltway—what more could an enterprise content management practitioner ask for?

And although the conference wasn’t strictly speaking an E2.0 event, E2.0 was, if not ubiquitous, then at least very prominent. Other than the imaging and capture hardware vendors, it seemed like everyone was talking about the social implications of their product, solution, or service.

If I had a longer flight home, I might get really ambitious and try to write something hard-hitting, analytical, and insightful. But since I’ll be in the air for less than two hours, I’ll confine myself to a more impressionistic post and reflect a little on what struck me as most interesting from the show.

The Cloud

With making a splash at Info360 in a big way (as large a “booth” as EMC and Microsoft, bigger than IBM, Oracle, Kodak, HP, etc., and a swanky cocktail party Wednesday night), you can imagine that the cloud was a hot topic. It was a running joke with fellow Doculabber Rick Tucker that if he heard the term “private cloud” one more time, he was going to hurt someone (DM @ricktucker88 to hear his rant directly)…and Rick’s a normally level-headed guy, so this tells you just how cloud-happy the atmosphere was.

I’ve been pretty open about my skepticism regarding the cloud for ECM at large organizations. To me, there are not only information security, compliance, and litigation concerns, but also baseline issues of control to overcome—managing information is one of the three things organizations do (along with managing human assets and physical assets), so to expect that they would cede control of that willingly is a bit of a stretch for me.

And I know there are potentially enormous cost savings on storage…and given how steep the increase in IT storage costs is these days, this is a good driver—but on its own, I don’t think it will ever be enough to get F500 organizations (particularly those in heavily regulated industries) into the cloud for content management.

In my opinion, the problem here isn’t so much the cloud, because I think folks like will eventually overcome the security and governance issues. The problem is that cloud CMS, as currently envisioned, only solves half the problem (and not necessarily the most critical half). It essentially outsources the repository, but leaves organizations in charge of the application layer.

It seems to me that the real returns both in terms of cost and time will come when there are viable SaaS offerings of leading CMS platforms (Open Text, EMC, IBM, Oracle, Hyland), particularly if the SaaS providers verticalize these platforms to address core business functions or major industry groupings. This would not only give an organization storage savings but also application savings around licensing, provisioning, support, service, upgrades, etc. That’s an ECM cloud I could get behind.

Imaging and Capture

Could there be anything less E2.0 than imaging and capture? Could there be anything less E.20 than imaging and capture vendor booths?

This is the world of old school trade shows: hardware you can touch and feel, branded stress balls, water bottles, and tote bags. Sure, a few of them were giving away iPads; but for my money, the closest any of them got to E2.0 was having some fresh-faced twenty-somethings enthusiastically manning their booths alongside the more grizzled, decidedly E1.0 imaging and capture veterans.

Scratch the surface however, and you find that imaging and capture are a critical part of an organization’s E2.0 efforts.

I was fortunate to moderate a panel with some folks at the cutting edge of imaging and capture: Peter Beccaccio (Fidelity Investments), Sean Baird (EMC), and Scott Blau, (IBM/Datacap). We talked about imaging and capture from a lot of angles, but what really stuck out for me was the fact that they all saw it not simply as an efficiency play, but as central to how an organization manages its customer engagement and experience.

And this is not only in terms of the look and feel of forms used to gather customer information; it’s also about an organization’s ability to make the information contained in documents (structured forms, completely unstructured documents, and everything in between) available to the knowledge and process workers who need it, when they need it, no matter if it arrived via mail, email, web form, or fax (and eventually voice mail, video, and beyond).

As if this wasn’t E2.0 enough for you, all the panelists stressed the increasing centrality of mobile to imaging and capture. We’ve already seen the decentralization of capture functions from dedicated centers to the branch (and even desk) level, but the sophistication of mobile devices is going to push this all the way down to the individual level, with every employee potentially having an input device on the hip at all times.

Information Lifecycle Governance (ILG)

I heard lots of talk at the conference about the changing face of records management (RM), both on panels I moderated (thanks to Bryant Bell and Fiona Schrader from EMC for participating) as well as in presentations and around the proverbial water cooler.

We’ve already seen RM evolve from the people who manage boxes of paper to the people who manage electronically stored information (ESI) on servers in addition to boxes of paper. What’s happening now (and will be complete for most organizations in the next five years) is that RM is evolving past simply managing records to managing all information at the organization, records or not.

The impetus for this is the fact that information lifecycle management (ILM), i.e., how each employee manages information in the course of their day-to-day jobs, has a profound effect on how successful traditional RM efforts are. Traditional RM efforts, in turn, have a profound effect on how successful other compliance activities, like discovery and audit, are.

So as organizations come to realize how interrelated ILM, RM, discovery, and audit are, they’ll increasingly roll them up under one umbrella, and that umbrella is looking more and more like RM (rather than IT, legal, enterprise risk management, ethics and compliance, audit, etc.).

And when RM steps into this role, E2.0 is going to be a major concern for records managers. All that social, collaborative, dynamic content, much of it living in third-party applications, perhaps outside the firewall, is going to pose significant challenges to RM departments that have only recently moved beyond being the paper box people to also address ESI. It’ll be interesting to see how the discipline evolves to meet those challenges.

App Store Model

I gave a talk on this and I thought it was going to be jam packed: sexy, cutting edge, invoking Steve Jobs and Apple—it had the makings of a blockbuster session.

And while I’m sure the five (5) people in attendance found it valuable, I was a bit mystified at the near total lack of interest in the topic. IT operational costs, time to market, end user adoption and satisfaction, innovation—the app store model is poised to bring all this (and more) to the enterprise in the next five (5) years.

My takeaway on this one is that the domain needs to emerge a bit more so that ECM/RM types begin to get curious about it.

Social Business Software (SBS) Vendors

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from SBS vendors at Info360: who would show up, how big a footprint, in what capacity (show floor versus presentations, hosting social events, etc.).

With the exception of News Gator, best-of-breed SBS folks (Social Text, Jive, Drupal) were all but absent from the show floor, and the big ECM guys really didn’t have a strong SBS presence (didn’t hear much about Lotus Connections or Center Stage, for example).

Even Microsoft, which had one of the biggest footprints on the show floor (comparable to EMC and didn’t have much to say about SharePoint as a social platform. From what I saw, the big push around SharePoint was closing its ECM gaps through the ISV partner ecosystem, which was out in force.

Best. Schwag. Ever.

SharePoint 2010 flying monkey, complete with sound effects. Full stop.

The Final Word

There you have it, my two cents on Info360 from the exit row on UA 621. Would love to hear what folks out there think, those of you who attended and those of you who’re just interested in what all the fuss was about—jump in and get the conversation started!


#ElectronicRecordsManagement #ScanningandCapture #flyingmonkeys #E20 #info360 #SharePoint