Author Archives: Roland

More predictions: Time for Transparent Content Management

Oh, I should start by saying I’m already a bit tired of reading predictions for 2012, and looking at the next year is so short term! So this one might be for 2013. If you ask me about 2012, I would tell you it will just be a smooth transition to the next year…

So here we go, what’s next for Content Management? I believe 2013 will be the year of Transparent Content Management, that’s my prediction—my only one. I won’t say it is “The year of Mobile Content Management”, “The year when the Web 3.0 reinvent Content Management”  or “The year the Cloud made it to ECM”, but simply the rise of what I would call “transparent content management” (some might have already use the term…).

I can say it another way: 2013 will be the death of Enterprise Content Management as a standalone entity! Enterprise Content Management will really become one of many horizontal pieces of the multidimensional puzzle that make up Enterprise Information Systems, just one piece of technology and processes that will be reused by all enterprise applications, in a transparent way to their users. Enterprise Content Management will expand out of its original silo to all area of enterprise architecture, to a point where it almost even doesn’t exist by itself beside the technology layer, a one that talks only to architects and developers building apps.

Actually I’ve been expecting and even waiting for this to happen for a while. It all started during a conversation with one of my uncles who was managing a large department at INSEE, a respectable institution specializing in data analysis and statistics in France. He was running some of the organization’s operations and purchase processes. A man of numbers immersed in a house of numbers, where science and metrics dominate business decisions. I remember talking to him at that time, it was in my early years of dealing with content management, I was passionate about it and I was bidding for a large project at his organization, markets for which he would be the final signature. So, discussing the  topic, he told me plainly about his take on “content management”, challenging my passion with a very scientific scepticism: “What does this Content Management thing mean? Couldn’t you find something more unclear? We manage people, business, departments, processes…we certainly don’t manage content.” The man was and is certainly right; the more entrenched I become in this field, the more I think that words, thoughts, pictures, numbers, ideas and overall what we call content, manage you more than you manage them… Anyhow, it was ironic to see this man of data so skeptical about the concept of content management! I often think back to this discussion as it still challenges many of my thoughts…

More recently, I remember the words of Dries Buytaert, the young guy behind Drupal, giving a talk entitled  “R.I.P Content Management System”  at SXSW 2010 (see a cmswire note about it). At the time, now almost 2 years ago, I was working for eZ Systems, a WCM Open Source company, and Drupal was of course starting to be one of our serious competitors even if we kept saying “we are Enterprise and they are not…”. I was (and still am) disagreeing with the headline of this talk and think it was buzzy and opportunistic, implying Drupal killed the WCM market, which was certainly not true (no one did) and the content of the talk itself was actually quite different than what was implied.

But somehow now I must acknowledge Buytaert was a visionary at least in the headline. Beyond the “surfing the acronyms” wave, I truly believe the shift from WCM to WXM is a real one. Yes, you can manage the experience of your visitors, customers, collaborators online. No, I don’t think you really manage content—you use it, you leverage it, you benefit from it—but you don’t manage it; and WCM really became about that: managing and controlling user interactions on web channels! Of course this requires interactions on content, but also many other things as well (many of which ECM is not about, see my post about it).

And now, after 13 months at my new job with Nuxeo, focused on building an Enterprise Content Management Platform, I can only assess that ECM is going through a similar shift  as well, and give credit to my uncle and Dries. ECM is evolving to something else, something that doesn’t exist by itself, something that is more deeply linked to real business processes, more scattered into enterprise applications and information systems. What our technology helps manage is not content and documents but real business and organizational processes. Name some? HR processes, specific business asset management, invoicing processes, customer relationship management, e-librarians, contract management, customer support… you want more? I could certainly go on… but I won’t as this post is already way too long!

So, while I love to contradict people who tell me ECM is a technology and answer them by saying, “you’re wrong, it’s a process,” I might rewind… Content Management is not anymore a process by itself, it’s an integral part of almost all business processes. That is part of our vision at Nuxeo, to move from traditional ECM to ECM platforms enabling the development of business apps that are content-centric. It is like “Communication” and almost as important. If Communication is king, Content Management is Queen, and together they can enable any business and organizational process. And this way, content management will be everywhere, but transparent, users won’t have to know about it!

On this note, I wish you all a happy new year from new york and would love to hear about your retrospectives and predictions for 2013 or 2012!

Happy New York

We released Nuxeo Platform 5.5!

Hi,

Earlier last week, Nuxeo released Nuxeo Platform 5.5. It was good to be part of this trip.
A bunch of new great features, plenty of core improvements, and a new official name “Nuxeo Platform” that comes with the fact that all the functional modules of Nuxeo, Document Management, Case Management, Digital Asset Management as well as the new Social Collaboration features are now packaged into one single product.

I wont say too much about it here, I would recommend to jump on the release note if you are technical, to have a sneak peek of the features if you’re not, or to simply get the “big-picture” looking at the following infographic.

Nuxeo Platform 5.5

Mixing Content Management and Comics for the best of Content Geeks

It’s been a while since I had a chance to take some time to post here!

One of the reason is that I started to write and post on a new blog, Content Geeks, with a few other Nuxeo fellow. Note that this is not a Nuxeo blog, so we would be glad to welcome anyone with good insights on content management technology to post there! Direct results: less post here, and I think they will be also shorter and lighter…

Anyhow, I just wanted to post a quick note here tonight to share my pleasure of our experience on Content Geeks. We had a chance to write and have Soulcie, a young talented french cartoonist, as a Cartoonist for our articles. I always have been a big fan of Cartoons in newspaper, being an avid consumers of them from “Le Monde” to “The NewYorker” via many many other publications. The result: a real pleasure to have the chance to combine Content Management with Cartoons 😉

If you want to have a look, you can check this portfolio of his work on Content Geeks, or simply browse on all the articles of Content Geeks, to have the context!

A sample:
Hokusai + Soulcié
I hope you like it as much as I do!

Cheers,

Roland

Why does a connector between ECM and WCM make sense?

A straightforward view on the question for people confused by too many CM based acronyms out there.

Last week we announced at Nuxeo, jointly with our friends from Hippo, that we teamed to offer integration software enabling a connection between Nuxeo Open Source Document Management system and the Hippo Web Content Management and portal solution. I won’t comment too much on the technology side and the standards behind this connector, but rather would like to give a quick insight on why that makes sense in my opinion.

One could indeed question this, and we do talk to many people as they explore and evaluate technologies, who are not really clear on what is usually meant by the Enterprise Content Management and Web Content Management terms.

To add to the potential confusion, the promise of many ECM and WCM vendors is often to offer some sort of 360° approach so that all stakeholders in the organization involved in the process of delivering or managing information can use the same tool — theirs — from the very early phases of working on the core of the content to the final ones of making it available to your audience on your online channels. Newcomers to the fantastic world of Content Management might be very interested in this vision! And this can only be more attractive when large vendors are offering both ECM and WCM in their portfolio, often branded as part of a unified suite, (but sometimes coming from totally different products that may not necessarily be communicating well with one another…)

So why do we make connectors between ECM and WCM, and why do we keep having vendors specialized in one or the other? To me, if we had one explanation to give, it would certainly be a very pragmatic one, simply looking at how people use content management solutions on the ground.

So let’s forget about the promises of marketing collateral and let’s look at how things are out there in the real world! Things are indeed slightly different, WCM is very much focused on building an online presence, and requires a pretty good understanding of what is a website, how we engage with visitors on that website, and what are the goals, rules and best practices to follow to make the best of this web channel (branding, information, lead generation, sales …). In short, it is very close to online marketing. This means that WCM solutions are used most often by Communication and Marketing departments, or departments dedicated to Online Content if we are talking of a pure Media or Content company. That is where they find users who adopt them!

In the same real world, document management and ECM solutions are not as strong in the areas mentioned above, simply because it is not in their DNA! They were not born and raised in a world where we speak online conversion, engagement, interactivity, A/B testing, zoning and SEO … but in a world where we speak collaboration, documents, capture, records, workflow, storage, information retrieval, document versioning. This makes them solutions used more widely in the organization, usually by all sort of users, more or less the same ones that are using Office suites; but never touching the specifics of “how” you will place and direct this content on the online stage!

Take a very simple organization, let’s say a small business with around 80 employees. Even in such a small business, in most cases, the WCM solution will be used only by a few people in the Communication or Marketing department, plus may be a few others from the management team. On the other hand, there is a high chance that the company has a unified document repository, managed through an Intranet application or directly from Office, and used by all to keep a repository of documents and information alive and available to the whole company. Do we really need to look at how this looks like in larger enterprises?

Users and usage are not the same, and if you want a pragmatic way to bring content from the company internal repository to the company online presence, without creating revolutions, you have very few options: let your Communication and Marketing team do the work manually (with a risk of losing control of versions, duplicating content… and have a very unhappy webmaster) OR you can bridge the WCM and ECM applications, changing as little as possible the way users interact with them!

In summary, different usage, different users, very little in common beside the C & the M; a connector between your favorite WCM and your favorite ECM solutions will enable you to keep your users in charge of the Websites, while working in a tool that is good for that (and keeping them happy!), and will let anyone in your organization prepare content that could potentially be taken on the big stage of the Web with no effort and simple control!

I would of course love to hear other opinions or stories about the marriage between ECM and WCM, but one thing is sure, at Nuxeo we know where our focus is, and while we make a strong platform (Nuxeo Enterprise Platform) that can be use to develop many types of content-driven applications, we are happy to connect our Document Management solution with Hippo WCM, as well as with other solutions, whether they be WCM, WEM, CRM, ERP, PLM or some other acronym!

A zest for agility (and agile tools) in our Marketing

Upon joining Nuxeo, I had to not only start work on the Product side, but also lead our Marketing team. Our team is a bit complex to manage, it is splited across several locations, Paris, Boston, San Francisco (and sometimes more…). It has grown with different people, on different roles, some usually not considered as Marketing related, like documentation and UI designer.

I must say I am tempted at times to rename us from “Marketing” to “Product Perception” because in the end we are a product company and the most important thing that matters!

I wanted to write this post to share some of our experiences as I, and I should say WE as a team could see that we had a couple of issues in the way our team was running. So, we tried a couple of things to improve. To sum it up, our main issues centered around difficulties in:

  • Connecting with the rest of our company, and sometimes understanding it
  • Maintaining control on the flow of tasks, and making sure they continued moving at a good pace, with an emphasis on getting many a lot of things done and having as little as possible in standby
  • Understanding, even within the same team, to know someone who does what

As I come from an engineering background,I could see the value of some of the agile development methodologies and, more specifically, the SCRUM methodology. We decided to give it a try with a couple of concepts taken from them! After all, even though Marketing is not development, they are very similar on many levels: you have to manage complex tasks (often involving several players, most of which are dependant on others), you have deliverables like in software development, you have to manage quality like in software development, and as a manager you have to be able to have predictability and to take your velocity at the max! So why not?

On top of this, I have the conviction that trying to share the same methodology and also tools with other teams in the organization will help us improve the company.

Of course, the mistake would have been to apply Scrum “by the letter”. We would more try to make our own methodology and organization taking some good practices of SCRUM or other Agile methodologies. For instance, the simple fact of being geographically dispersed, and in different time zones, some almost not overlapping, is not necessarily scrum friendly, which  is an issue that has often been raised. So, no Scrum “by the letter”, more slight adaptation and inspirations. We’re still experimenting, but here is what we’ve done so far:

  • Cohesion, understanding, and collaboration — We try to have some sort of Scrum Meeting everyday. We don’t have a fixed name, I used to call it the Daily Scrum but the name isn’t important. What is important is that we take a few minutes to quickly exchange notes on what we are working on that day, what we just achieved, and also raise any topic where collaboration might be needed but not anticipated. Due to different cities and different time zones we can’t make this as a stand up face-to-face meeting, like the book (or the rugby rules) define it. What we do instead is, depending of the days, carve out 15mins in a jabber chat room using instant messaging or do it asynchronously as an email chain. I think it’s good to not be too strict about it and have some flexibility, but it is also important to have the discipline to not forget and keep doing it. In two months it’s definitely brought value and allowed us to have a better understanding of who we are as a team, giving us more visibility on what we do, and enabling us to identify issues related to time such as schedules, bottlenecks or overlaps.
  • Focus and iterations — We also try to have sprints, like in the scrum book. It’s not as clearly defined, but we hold a “sprint” meeting every two weeks (initially we decided on a 2 week iteration cycle, but might extend it — I don’t think shortening it would be good for us). Some might think this is just a usual team meeting, but we really treat this as a sprint meeting, where we do both do a retrospective of the last 2 weeks: what did we achieve? And more importantly, did we achieve what we wanted to? Then we go through the major items, the focus points for the next 2 weeks. We certainly don’t make a very strict planning of the next two weeks, but we try to identify the items that matter the most at the time and decide to focus more on these and try to agree on a reasonable list of things to get done. This helps  to control the pace, and also helps in minimizing the list of tasks sleeping, in standby, half-done, “ni fait ni à faire” as we would say in French. This may actually be closer to Kanban than to Scrum, but I consider it an essential factor in helping us become efficient and productive, all the while maintaining a good mood, which in the end, is what a company like ours is all about!
  • Tools — We, like so many people today, were really tired of how we collaborate. Of course we have an excellent Collaborative Open Source Document Management solution at Nuxeo, that we use ourselves 😉 but this does not address all the different types of project collaboration that we engage in. We were still living with a lot of email, IM, and others communication vehicles in which information can get lost or buried in an inbox. What we decided is to give the same tool our tech colleagues use for development a try, specifically Jira. Jira is known as a ticketing system for software development projects but to me it’s really more than that, it’s a global project and task management tool. The start was slow, for some (including me), because the user interface of Jira is not the most appealing (a lot of clicks, often a lot of useless fields) but we quickly found it very very helpful, and on its way to becoming our best friend! Even though it’s designed or project management or software development, it really works for our activities as well! And, the icing on the cake, we just did the migration to Jira 4, which incorporates many enhancements to the UI addressing some of the previous issues we had with usability, making it much more pleasant to work with! For us, using Jira really improved some of the tasks that we do all the time, like launching a marketing campaign or releasing a product.
So what’s next? For us a lot more of exploration of Jira’s capabilities, as it demonstrated high value! I am jumping now in customization of Jira and I am sure we can optimize many things… Also trying to gain in being able to do good estimate on “user stories”, so we will jump in the game of the estimation process. I would love to hear and read about other Marketing team following the same kind of approach for collaboration and project management!

BIRT Integration with Nuxeo EP: Welcome to ECM Business Intelligence

At Nuxeo, we released last week on our Marketplace an integration between BIRT and Nuxeo Enterprise Platform (EP). For those who don’t know about it, here is, in short, what BIRT is and can do for your business.

BIRT is a reporting tool provided by Actuate, a US based software company dedicated to this sector of Business Intelligence. It enables report designers to prepare reports on the data sources of their choice with all the advanced features a report designer might need … BIRT also comes (of course) with a rendering engine — the software that takes care of report generation and enables BIRT to not only to design reports but to make them available in different formats (HTML, PDF, image, etc.) to end users.

Of course, this is a very short summary, and I am not a specialist, so if you want to know more, you should check out this introduction or Google it a little — you will find a lot of resources.

So, the way we integrated BIRT with the Nuxeo platform is very straightforward for the end user and I think it can provide a lot of value. BIRT report designers, as power users, will use BIRT to define report models in the usual BIRT way: in BIRT itself as a standalone desktop application. What the integration brings to them is the capability to query the Nuxeo system directly when making reports. This was not as simple as it might seem to achieve technically, and represent a good share of the work that has been provided in developping this integration. In a typical use case, this will however be very useful as the report designer will be able to work on a test environment and not on a production environment.

From that point, when report models are designed, Nuxeo administrators can upload them (a specific document type has been developed for that) into the Nuxeo platform and make them available so that other users might generate reports from them (another document type has been developed for that). This solution is very flexible as it relies on the permissions and rights managed by Nuxeo EP. A typical use case is to give access to a Report Models to a workspace administrator, who will create reports and made them available in the workspace(s) he is administering. Reports are then rendered directly on the Nuxeo platform at the right location, where the BIRT engine has been integrated on the server side.

So that is one aspect which is cool about the BIRT integration, but I only touched the functional part of it.

The other thing which is cool is about being Open, and we are fond of this at Nuxeo.

Like Nuxeo EP, BIRT is open source software, developed under the umbrella of the Eclipse Foundation, an organization where Nuxeo is also active (you might have heard about our project proposal Enterprise Content Repository). So this integration provides a totally Open Source approach to ECM analytics!

Of course, organizations can also explore a bit further and consider Actuate commercial products and services that can be used on top of BIRT, but having a software stack for serious ECM Analytics that is fully Open Source offers great value in my opinion!

Nuxeo Connect users can get this integration ready to roll after a couple of clicks on the Nuxeo Marketplace.

Others, you might want to get the source code from the source code repository or simply sign up for a 30-day free trial of Nuxeo Connect to give it a test drive. It is as simple as download Nuxeo DM, our Open Source Document Management system, signing-up for the trial in the configuration Wizard and and downloading and installing the BIRT Integration package from the Update Center of your installation of Nuxeo Document Management. And if you want a deep dive into the way this has been done, you can also just jump in the source code, available as ever at Nuxeo!

If you want to see this integration “live” with no effort, just follow the screencast published for that purpose, a nice introduction to it:

More resources:

Want more resources?

For less skepticism and more understanding on the Eclipse ECR proposal

Apoorv Durga, from Real Story Group, recently wrote a blog post providing a more skeptical look at new repository and portal initiatives to the Eclipse ECR Project proposal.

Eclipse by Luc Viatour © GFDL

I think this is an interesting piece of reading. I also think it is pretty good that it doesn’t follow automatically the overall positive and enthusiastic response that the contributions discussed have provoked in the industry. I believe it’s good to express concerns on how these contributions affect customers, as Apoorv put it, providing a more “skeptical” look. I appreciate this and indeed think that it is the role of an analyst or a consultant to be an advocate for customers.

However, I would like to bring some comments to this post, as I’m running Nuxeo’s marketing and product management and think Apoorv’s look might be missleading and slightly superficial. I hope this will be of interest to anyone interested in the topic and will offer more understanding and less skepticism regarding this topic.

The main driver for my response to this article lies in the conclusion that Nuxeo’s (and Hippo’s) contributions (e.g. the Eclipse Enterprise Content Repository (ECR) Project proposal and the Rave incubation project) center around inexpensive marketing tactics and a short term increase in visibility. Speaking about the ECR Project proposal and Nuxeo, I must say I don’t think this is an accurate representation of our motives and I would like to clarify our position on this matter:

My first point relates to Nuxeo’s position when it comes to contributing with others on vendor-neutral Open Source projects, going beyond our own software products (which are fully Open Source as well, available under LGPL, but hosted by Nuxeo, so not a neutral foundation).

If Nuxeo’s move was ‘opportunistic marketing’ and not based on a long term vision of innovation and open source software development, Nuxeo would not be what it is today: a 10 year old Open Source software company that prides itself on how well we collaborate with others whether they are customers, developers, integrators, partners, or even competitors. If you take a look at Nuxeo in more detail, you’ll see that we couldn’t have accomplished anything in the last 10 years if we hadn’t been listening attentively to our community and our customers.

Recently, for instance, the Chemistry project has gone out of incubation at the Apache Software Foundation to become a top level Apache project. This project is an important one for us, and for ECR as well. This has been possible because companies like Nuxeo, and others (including Alfresco, mentioned in the article) have decided to join forces in developing a vendor-neutral Open Source infrastructure middleware that could be useful to all in building open and interoperable solutions. By building upon the same commodity layer we focus on establishing a standard infrastructure which helps us and others compete on the real differentiators between our solutions—our ideas, our concepts, our specific feature set—rather than solely on the underlying plumbing.

We have many other examples as well, another being the Apache Stanbol project, aiming at providing a middleware between CMS solutions and Web Semantic technology.

So, NO, the Eclipse ECR Project has nothing to do with simple opportunistic marketing. To be perfectly honest, we have developers doing very significant work (… meaning significant costs …) on preparing our initial contribution and adapting our own software development processes and tools to not only make the contribution happen, but also to allow us to embed it in our software factory, making it the opposite of free or cheap marketing. The ECR project is an investment for us and it has a cost that’s not negligible. I won’t go into the P&L, but can only assure that it’s a long term strategy and not short term marketing.

Of course, Nuxeo is a business and needs to turn investment into value and it’s true, we may leverage the positive aspects that our contribution can bring from a marketing standpoint even if again, marketing is not the main driver here.  But it’s not to the detriment of our customers and doesn’t mean that we don’t think about the impact that this technological move will have on them. The real marketing value of this contribution is by the way less about visibility and more about enabling relationships with other key software vendors as there are many great software companies involved in Eclipse projects (and the same goes for the Apache foundation). For a platform software maker such as us, joining the Eclipse Foundation is a great opportunity to build relations and we want to make the most of it.

Another topic I would like to provide some clarification on: Apoorv says that Nuxeo “dropped support for Java Content Repository (JCR), a repository spec that didn’t really take off spectacularly.” Indeed, that’s true. However, here again I would like to point out that this decision had very little to do with Marketing and the fact that we dropped it is not directly tied to its “unspectacular” take off. The reasons behind why we dropped JCR support are engineering ones, technical ones, related to software design of JCR. Still, there might be a relation between this and the “unspectacular” take off of JCR … they are not directly correlated but perhaps we are simply not the only ones to think JCR is not the best tool for what we wanted to do! I would invite anyone who wants to know more about why we dropped JCR to read Florent Guillaume’s (Nuxeo’s Lead Software Architect) blog post on that subject.

And the last item I would like to comment on is when Apoorv says that the ECR project “provides an opportunity for Nuxeo to compete with Alfresco on the CMIS bandwagon.” I just would like to mention that Nuxeo has not waited the ECR project initiative to compete on the CMIS bandwagon!! Nuxeo Enterprise Platform is already fully CMIS compliant and as of today, a serious option for anyone looking at a CMIS enabled ECM platform. What the ECR project aims at is simply to move the lower level of this platform, the Content Repository with all its APIs (including the CMIS one), into a neutral Open Source project as we think it can benefit from being used by many other software builders who are making business applications (not only ECM providers) that might, as a way of return, help us speed up and improve the development of this content repository.

I hope this brings some additional insights regarding the motives behind our contribution and will aid anyone’s analysis of the ECR proposal. And on one of Apoorv concerns — what does the ECR proposal brings to end-users — of course I would first recommend to wait for the project to be approved and the first versions to be released for in-depth assessment, but no doubt it will bring the value of Open Technology and Open Source, that I don’t think needs to be demonstrated here.