Breaking Enterprise Content Management Barriers

by Sjoerd Alkema, on Apr 2, 2015 11:09:03 AM

In this post I argue for more cooperation between the Web and Enterprise Content Management communities. And I’ll provide an example of mutual benefits to single-sourcing and classifying documents that are used externally and internally.


I've been very impressed with a recent blog post by self-proposed content philosopher Joe Gollner called Would the Real Content Management Please Stand Up. Gollner comes to the painful conclusion that the world of content is organized in silos. Which is ironic, since content strategists regularly call upon their clients to break out of organizational silos.


Integrated Content Management

Gollner distinguishes between four types of content management, each with their own communities, language, and technology:

  • Enterprise Content Management (ECM)
  • Web Content Management (WCM)
  • Learning Content Management (LCM)
  • Technical Content Management (TCM)

Even within these silos there are specialized disciplines that rarely exchange ideas. A terrible shame, because there is a world to be won in combining and cross-leveraging the relative strengths of each, benefiting organizations and the content community alike. Joe calls this silo-smashing new discipline Integrated Content Management (ICM).

Best Practices

One example of such synergy is 20-year old ideas from technical communication resurrecting in the web world. Such as dynamic assembly of screens from several content sources based on metadata. Static pages are on their way out; well-labeled building blocks are back. This time not to produce TV owner's manuals in 20 languages, but to provide relevant content to customers on whatever device.

Besides integrating best practices, it is time to break infrastructural barriers, too. A web content management system and a document management system currently compare less well than they could. The infrastructural distinction between them won't last another 100 years. Content needs to flow between them, ideally in an open format.

The Metadata Lubricant

At Xillio we like to help organizations leverage their content from whatever digital source. Metadata is central to our approach. Better metadata enables content to flow between systems, making it accessible to the right audience at the right time. We put breaking content barriers to practice. What we have learnt in WCM in our early years is equally powerful in the ECM market today.

Recently we’ve been exploring with a prospective client single-sourcing and classifying specific PDF documents that are used both internally and published on the organization’s public website. While the advantages of not having to publish the same document twice are obvious (saves a second step, prevents syncing delays), there are still tall hurdles to be overcome:

Thinking It Through

  1. The metadata needed for SEO reasons (like a proper metadescription) is not essential to the internal system that only supports full-text search. A shared metadata model taking both external and internal requirements into account adds complexity.  
  2. There are governance challenges. A PDF document on a website is publically available. But the same document might have workflow-based access controls in the internal document source. What does this mean for a web editor curating the single-sourced link?
  3. The CMS will still have a media library of its own. How do we prevent documents from being added to the web source, while they already exist in the internal library? The two document sources will need some form of assisted deduplication between them.

An exciting discussion for sure.

Promising Perspectives

When the ideas solidify, there is a lot of architectural thinking to be done (mutual metadata model, access control mechanism, deduplication rules), and a lot of development work thereafter. I find it an interesting example of ICM where single-sourcing richly metadated PDF files could be the starting point of longer-term integration of WCM and ECM.

I’m convinced, once preconditions are set, our powerful tooling will be able to efficiently add all metadata (needed for web, internal system, or both), set the correct access rights, and automatically deduplicate between the document libraries. If we manage to replace PDF with an alternative open format in the process, we have made everyone’s lives even easier.

Topics:DeduplicationClassificationEnterprise Content Management


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