Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Linking collaborative content creation to web publishing

Complicated title eh ?

Well this post stems from both yesterdays Oracle tech session and from a conversation I had at CMF2006 in Arhus with James Robertson of Two Step Designs (Sydney, Australia), so its quite a complicated story to start with !

In his workshop session at the conference James was lamenting that sometimes fail because they get overly complex, often because of trying to use a single platform for everything, instead of using the right tool for the right job. If you have never spotted James slides on or seen his sessions, he suggests intranets are used for four main purposes:

  • Content

  • Communication

  • Collaboration

  • Activities

His point was that you don't need a single system or even a single platform to do all these things, but that it makes much more sense to use the right tool for the right job. So, you might provide publishing facilities, news and interactive 'eForms' via a WCMS, but if collaboration is a big thing for you, then you should buy a specialist collaboration system such as EMC eRoom or Lotus Quickr etc

He also suggested he had never seen a nice, full end to end integrated system where users could collaborate around content in the collaboration system, but then easily send it through the workflow to be published on an intranet site via the WCMS (including if necessary, linking to documents from and EDRMS). I think James was also suggesting (and I am sure he will jump in and correct me if I am wrong) that he is not a big fan of the big "ECM suites" (back to right tool for the right job ?).

Anyway after I got back to the UK, and the Open University, I got to thinking that we could have created such a setup with our full set of EMC products, but that it would have needed some custom code written to glue it all together. My 'design' if you like, would have people working on collaborative authoring in an eRoom, drop the resultant content item into a 'linked folder' – (which is a folder in which the content really resides in the main Documentum ECMS repository). From there it could be workflowed into the Documentum Web Publisher sub-system and published to the required site on the intranet. Like I say with the version 5.25 / 5.3 products we had at the time, this certainly would not have been 'out of the box' and no body, but no body I talked to back then had a very good opinion of Web Publisher as a WCMS.

However, EMC put quite a bit of effort into improving Documentum version 6 (D6) Web Publisher, and of course they were going to rebuild eRoom as .Net based web services oriented interface on top of the D6 repository. Moving along to where we are now with the D6.5 product set and we are talking about Web Publisher based blogs and wikis and eRoom is going to be replaced by CentreStage (ex-codename Magellan).

So could we be getting towards the seamless 'suite' based intranet, which does allow the use of the right tool for the right job, but by providing all the relevant tools built up from the same underlying platform ? Well not 'all' the tools, but the collaboration and content management ones, with any other application you like being surfaced via portlets in a portal ???

So, are Oracle already there ?

At the demo yesterday we saw collaboration via an enterprise portal (WebCentre Interaction – aka ALUI) with blogs and wikis etc built on the WebCentre Services infrastructure, passing content into the UCM repository (Stellent) and publishing it out via the UCM WCM module (which could also have been Oracle portal or WebLogic portal based external sites). As I said yesterday, I always had a high opinion of Stellents technology (and their web publishing was way better than Documentum) and I was also a big fan of BEA Aqualogic (Plumbtree). < Please note I may come back and edit this post, but putting links to all the Oracle products above, but tonight all the said links are sooooo slow, I can't be bothered to wait ! >

So it all looked good and pretty seamless in the demo – I guess the only thing that might put James off would be the price – lets face it, buying this is not going to be cheap....... OK possibly a sweeping statement, but lets face it, your probably going to need an 'enterprise class' budget ! But then I have always said that ECM should be treat as a major infrastructure investment, not as a 'point solution' application buy.

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