IBM ECM user group breakfast

Electronic content management (ECM) is an unavoidable part of running most enterprises, be it small or large. For mid to large enterprises IBM provides a number of tools and technologies to cover all aspects of ECM throughout the document related processes or the document’s lifecycle.

Even though the businesses differ in many ways, the users of enterprise content management tools have a very similar set of functions, that they all need to implement. IBM Hungary with my friends at Atoll Technologies, have started the IBM ECM user group, where the users of such technologies could have a conversation of the dos and do-nots about the elements of the portfolio.

After the short introduction of the event from the hosting IBM and Atoll, we swiftly dug deep into a case-study.

ECM at the Central Administration of National Pension Insurance

Mária Gintl-Reszegi, has presented the results, of an ongoing ECM transition, that involved most aspects of ECM, at a body, that was so unlikely to achieve such results, I wouldn’t have previously believed possible. She has spearheaded the transformation of the Central Administration of National Pension Insurance from the legacy paper based processes, to a hybrid model, where the most frequently used processes were transformed to use electronic documents. At it’s core the solution uses FileNet as both file repository and as the workflow engine.

She has given us some numbers to better understand the issue at hand. There are 20 major locations, storing 70 000 meters worth of documents. Some of these documents, are up to 40 years old, and most documents should be preserved up to the lifetime of the insured plus eight years. There are about 4000 administrators, who have different levels of access all over the country, and anyone insured can submit paper based or electronic documents anywhere in the country.

In three years, they have established a centralized document repository, with standardized workflows and components, to cover the document lifecycle from creation to eventual disposal. As of now 18000 documents are stored a day, they provide centralized services for scanning, printing, mailing. There are 12 systems already integrated to the solution, and no new systems can be delivered with standalone document management solutions.

As further plans, they are planning to introduce a central document layout composition service, so the document generation can be maintained centrally, and the applications can get rid of the custom solutions.

One of the most obvious questions she faced, was how the results translated to management, does it bring cost saving, or better service? Even though the project is definitely a success in terms of simplification and rationalization, she could not label it as a success monetarily. Obviously we didn’t go into figures, but the tools and the required infrastructure and software development costs will take quite a long time to return, even if the printing and document storage costs have started to reduce dramatically. On the other hand the Customers surely feel the change. The common processes that took 4-5 days have been reduced to mere hours, and the pensioners get to their money.

Maturity of ECM in Hungary

wpid-wp-1448298611820.jpegNext up, Tamás Bartha was up to talk to us about the current state and outlook of ECM in Hungary. He is an expert in IBM content management offerings, and has worked on several local and regional projects.

When tooling and the enterprise content management core is considered, it’s easily said, it has reached the plateau of productivity. The repository, content centric BPM tools are mature, stable, reliable. The newcomers in the field are the analytics, that are still somewhat in the earlier parts of the cycle.

Hype-cycleGenerally speaking ECM has already became a commodity on the market, you must have your solution to run any business. In that sense Hungary is a little behind the leaders. On the other hand the big document producers and consumers have already recognized the necessity of the services, and have produced good albeit at times less than state-of art solutions. All the traditional players in the ECM field are present on the Hungarian market, with IBM having a sweet spot in the bigger traditional enterprises and government.

As the main advantages of having a single ECM system, Tamás Bartha has named the end-to-end identity propagation, for granular and secure access control all over the different layers, the ready made components, for lifecycle management and the reusable shared document management processes, that can be uniformly used all over the enterprise.

Several local cases were  presented, where such ECM solutions were created using the IBM tools, that are best viewed on the presentation itself. (I’ll link that here, as soon as it will be made available)

As a glimpse of the  future of the segment, Tamás Bartha has shown some upcoming applications of the ECM field. In these scenarios the ECM stored data is made useful, and through analysis, it is used for creating business value or for reducing the operational costs.

On this high note, we went on to the third topic of the day, and welcomed the last presenter, from the Big Blue.

Information Lifecycle Governance

Another good presentation about ECM and Dark Data

The third speaker of the day was representing IBM’s recently acquired software, the StoredIQ product line.

He  has presented us with some ideas we can make our data work by analysing it’s content.

It’s well known, that the faster you need to retrieve data, the more expensive it’s storage gets. You can save huge amounts in your operating costs, just by relocating the data to it’s correct storage tier with respect to the actual need for availability.  Still, you could save most money on storage, if you never stored data you don’t actually need.

Real life cases were presented, where data analysis shown for the saved desktops, that 20-30% of the data stored is in folders named TEMP.  Analytics of applications, such as Sharepoint have shown that such data stores grow in the organizations, like mushrooms in a forest after a heavy rain, and contain several versions of business documents, mostly duplicates, that are put there for safekeeping.

We were presented with the basic concept of reducing such waste, by getting rid of ROT (Redundant, Obsolate, Trivial) data. This is data that you don’t need.

There is also an enormous amount of “dark data“, that you should discover in the “dark storage” space, that’s not unlike the “darkweb” media and Holywood producers are so hyped about. This data duplicates the actual business data stored in proper systems, but are not accessible using proper access channels and security protocols.

This “dark” data lurks in the shadows, of the file shares, email servers, Lotus Domino databases or ad-hoc SharePoint sites. There is no or little control over this data, and is definitely not reliable. Data like this may contain data that can be classified as Personally Identifiable, Highly Confidential, Payment Card Industry information, all having their regulatory compliance criteria that are so blissfully ignored.

The responsibility of IT departments, is to analyse the actual storage content using business rules, pattern recognition, and even supervised learning (Bayesian) filters, and eliminate the redundancies, identify the risks, and try to mitigate them.

Closing words

I’m very much looking forward for further events of the group, as I feel it finally provides a well deserved platform for sharing ideas and solutions, without having to go through all the otherwise company mandated sales smokescreen.

Lighter side

A friend has always recited a “well known” proverb, that I have not found the original of. Since it was one of my favorite comeback, when I was to fill some useless weekly report and upload it to SharePoint, I feel it’s time to share it on the Internet.

The original quote was:

PDF is where documents go to die

Chris Pratley – Microsoft

To which my friend’s quite apt response was:

Sharepoint is where documents go to die.

Gábor Auth

This is getting even more fitting, as you start considering it with respect to the principles of Information Lifecycle Governance…

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