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Random thoughts on Convergence

April 8, 2007

Next week, I will be at AIIM, participating in a panel on Convergence moderated by Tony Byrne. Here are some of the things that I’ve been thinking about convergence. They are not in any particular order (as the title of this post suggests) but are meant to generate some points and take take the discussion forward before the conference starts:

  1. The stake holders of different technologies are different at least in large organizations. For example, people who submit content for web site (and hence users of WCM) are different from folks in finance who use an ERP for end of the month reconciliations. Different groups, hence have different project life cycles and tool selection criteria. They seldom talk to each other to see if a convergent product could be chosen and hence different products get selected and implemented. In fact, because there are different groups, they some times select different products even for same functionality! Although, the technology is there, the businesses themselves are not structured so as to support convergence. So, what is the way out? One thing that could help is a task force, comprising of senior people from different groups in an organization. This could be like a PMO or operate in a shared services model and be responsible for creating standards, best practices as well as evaluating technologies.
  2. The above point is one side of the story where convergence is actually not happening as fast as it could. However, the opposite is also true. We respond to almost 4-5 RFPs/RFIs a week and I have seen the trend that more and more people have requirements that span across different areas. Some vendors have responded to this by incorporating different offerings in their core products. This also came out in my discussions with Pranshu. Fatwire, for example has had an analytics engine for long and almost all Business Intelligence, Data warehousing, ERP and CRM products include a “portal like” interface. Many Search products have a portal interface and they actually use EAI technologies to index content across multiple repositories to implement a federated search. Integrate MS Office with a Data warehouse and you’ve got a simple records management/archival system because you can scan and store millions of documents. This is a simplistic example but in some sense, technology convergence is happening.
  3. As things mature, maybe some of these things will become part of Infrastructure. The bigger vendors are already buying specialized vendors and integrating their offerings as part of their platform. Oracle’s Web Center already integrates with Siebel, Peoplesoft and other enterprise applications.
  4. This again came out when I was discussing with Pranshu. Open Source could actually be driving some of this convergence. His example was that cost of clustering, in memory db etc is actually reducing because MySQL now provides it. So Oracle and MS SQL have to do more to earn their money. Same logic can be extended to convergence – Because open source products are providing many of the features that commercial products provide, so the commercial vendors have to provide that “extra” to differentiate.
  5. How could “Web 2.0” not have an impact on anything? Actuallly, things like RSS and OPML make it easy for you to aggregate content from varied sources using loose coupling and enable convergence at presentation layer.

All the above are just some examples. However, I think real convergence is actually much more than technology convergence. There are elements of business, people, governance and so on.

By the way, we also have a booth at the AIIM expo.  So if you are there and want to say hello, do drop in.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2007 8:16 pm

    Apoorv – See my comments at: http://newton.typepad.com/content/2007/04/convergence_of_.html

  2. Karthick permalink
    April 13, 2007 7:49 pm

    Apoorv,

    Here’s my take on Convergence.

    Convergence of ECM, Content Vs Process Centric BPM, Business Intelligence and Text mining.

    Although still amateur in ECM space would like to share my thoughts on this.

    Because of so many products with overlapping features it’s not an easy task to generalize which bunch of products will make the implementation better. Would like to cite few of my experiences on observing ECM systems and finally will relate my thoughts on convergence.

    Products overlapping feature

    In one organization CRM tool is used for Workflow and ECM is used only for Image Repository. In another org ECM is used for Image repository as well as in Customer Support. In the first one, metrics captured by the CRM system is used for BI and in the second one metrics captured by the ECM system is used for BI. Ultimately everything boils down to data.

    Which product (CRM/ECM) doesn’t matter, but which data certainly matters.

    Best Implementation

    Which is the best ECM implementation? Is there anything? No, certainly not.

    Although the products would have been selected after evaluation, debates cannot be avoided completely for not selecting the other product/s or design. Once a product is selected and implemented no one would invest in doing an introspection to find out what would be the case now, if we would have selected the other product/s and designed the IT system other way ‘n’ years before.

    In the middle of the journey you will not really know whether the choice you had done on buying the product and designing the IT was the best/better/good/bad one. Probably few lessons learnt will be useful.

    Difficult to say, this is the best ECM implementation.

    How different is ECM from other Systems?

    Take a payroll processing system, ERP, banking system, CRM the output from the system is some thing tangible. For example,

    a) Take payroll processing system, Output could be a “Credit of 1000 USD” in your bank account – It never matters whether you are a knowledge customer or non knowledge customer.

    b) ERP – A pie chart or a sheet giving you the inventory details in Black and White. Nothing fuzzy involved here. (Let’s keep aside complex things in this example).

    C) CRM system: You might receive a greeting card delivered at your door on your birthday accurately. (Let’s keep aside complex things in this example).

    ECM is some thing different. There is nothing tangible or nothing results in black and white as the output from the system.

    • Content author, bit confused about the end user audience. There might be different end audiences with different opinions on the same content.

    • More knowledge users are involved in working with the ECM systems, they want more flexibility and they hate adhering to a tailored process. Designing and implementing a workflow solution for knowledge users with lot of sophistication by considering the limitation that a product has is not an easy one.

    • In the image capturing centre the end user’s awareness of the business has to be considered. Some organizations to reduce the man hours spent on indexing, they have one level of indexing at the image capture side. And further two more levels of indexing in the workflow application.

    • Mostly it’s how the users (both internal and external) interpreting the content. End user’s culture and geography plays a key role to find the degree of acceptance.

    • Information on demand: Stakeholders require information instantly. Classification of content and able to deliver the right content to the right user in time is a challenging one.

    • Collecting metrics which is very critical for BI, is also based on end user’s experience is not a straight forward thing although it’s not unachievable.

    Classification of content, classification of users, study on users based on the statistical data collected across different geography, rationalizing and sensibly managing the data across different systems and delivering the content/data according to the stakeholder’s needs are the key drivers for Convergence.

    Conclusion:

    Technology would not necessarily be the sole driver for this; IT will definitely complement the other disciplines in moving towards convergence.

    Where to store, process and deliver which data (content) for what? And finally for whom and when?

    If this is addressed clearly and achieved in an efficient manner within the window of opportunity then we are moving towards convergence in an implicit way. It doesn’t matter how many products and tools are being used, not necessarily with one can also be N.

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