What Is a Composite Content Application?

By Meghann Wooster posted 05-14-2012 20:48


If your organization is like most, you probably have between five and 20 applications that are content-related. Employees have to learn how to use multiple systems just to get one task done. IT staff has to dedicate time and resources to managing multiple systems—many of which have very similar functions—in multiple departments.

It’s a recipe for complexity, and it is just now—with the rise of composite content applications—starting to change.

Defining Composite Content Applications

Many organizations have begun implementing enterprise content management (ECM) as integrative middleware that enables content-related applications to work together to drive business processes. Composite content applications (CCA) are the physical manifestation of this strategy.

Gartner defines a composite application as “an abstraction layer on top of a service repository, which orchestrates a new business process and has its own user interface.”

My colleague Kimberly Samuelson likes to say that CCAs are cross-functional process solutions assembled from prebuilt components. For example:

  • CRM + eForms + ECM + BPM = client onboarding CCA

In other words, the unified whole is greater than—and different from—the sum of its parts.

CCAs and ECM

Where an integration typically links two different software applications together to act as a coordinated whole, a CCA involves linking three or more systems in service of a specific business process, such as:

  • Invoice processing
  • Purchase order management
  • Contract management
  • Correspondence support
  • HR onboarding
  • Sales order and material processing
  • Case management
  • Claims processing
  • Benefits enrollment

CCAs are generally built on top of an ECM system because they automate complex processes that previously required staff to manually sort through paper documents and other forms of content such as green screen case records, e-mail correspondence, etc.

Currently, although 27.4% of documents are used to either initiate or drive a business process, only 28% of organizations capture their documents at the beginning of the process. The earlier you capture a document, the better the ROI, so using ECM as a foundational element of a CCA is important. By doing so, you gain benefits including:

  • Shorter cycle times.
  • Fewer errors.
  • Improved compliance and auditability.
  • Better visibility into the business process.

Get More Out of What You’ve Already Got

CCAs are attractive because they allow organizations to create new and innovative solutions using existing technology investments. According to Brent Burns, Founder of Asset Dedication, LLC, “We wanted to keep our fees low enough that we’d be extremely competitive. Technology was the way to get more done with a smaller headcount.”

He explains that Asset Dedication has created a CCA to automate the account opening process while streamlining compliance procedures by integrating BondDesk’s inventory and trade management system with Asset Dedication’s portfolio management, customer relationship management (CRM) and ECM systems.

Burns says, “Once someone signs onto the system, they can do everything they need to without leaving the program they’re using. I don’t want people having to learn 20 systems—I want that single sign-on; I want it to be that fast.”

CCAs allow access to multiple data sources and foster the merging of real-time and legacy data into a single interface in order to simplify a complex business process. When you build a CCA, you are extending and evolving your existing IT assets in order to extract more value from what you already have.

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