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Archive for November, 2012

Zia to the Rescue

Over the last 18 months, a number of companies have asked us to come in and rescue their failing Alfresco projects/implementation. Having worked on a few of these projects, I have found that many of these companies ran into the same problems.

For anyone just starting to implement Alfresco or looking to expand their existing implementation, here are some tips to ensure your project does not need rescuing down the road:

Assess Your Business Needs – The biggest mistake companies make is forgoing the formal assessment of business needs both from a user and IT perspective. Without this step, companies do not have a vision for how their Alfresco environment will look and work. If you are building Alfresco sites and adding content in a random process – eventually your implementation will hit roadblocks. Without a vision for how the Alfresco repository should act, you are likely to end up with a disorganized repository that has little site or folder structure making content hard to search and manage. Ultimately, this will lead to user dissatisfaction and it will not solve your content needs.

Proper Server Configuration – A common problem customers ask us about is performance – their Alfresco implementation is slow or freezes up. Often times this is because Alfresco is not properly configured and is inefficient. For example, one Alfresco CPU license allows a company to create 4 virtual cores. By setting up the virtual cores on your server, you can optimize Alfresco’s performance. Many companies will incorrectly configure their available virtual cores, slowing down the system. Other issues involve setting up Alfresco in an unsupported environment. This means that Alfresco technical support is unable to help address any support questions. Knowing the nuances of how to properly set up and configure your Alfresco implementation in the beginning and as you expand is essential for its success (this holds true for most systems).

Customization vs. Supporting Software – Too much customization can make your implementation complex and hard to maintain and upgrade. A successful Alfresco project can quickly become a rescue project if a company wants to upgrade its highly customized Alfresco implementation. It can be done, but it takes longer. The key to customization is understanding when to customize and when to leverage supporting software. For example, we worked on one rescue project where the company had done extensive customization to provide functionality that was already available through Alfresco software partners. After a year of trying to upgrade their complex environment, users became frustrated and IT lost credibility with the project.  In many cases, the company could have leveraged supporting software to provide the same functionality that they received from the custom code.  This would have eliminated problems during the upgrade. Leveraging software such as Liferay, Ephesoft, WeWebu and MuleSoft reduces the complexity of creating custom code. Knowing what technology can be used with Alfresco to minimize customizations will make maintaining your Alfresco environment easier.

These are some of the common pitfalls that customers encounter when implementing Alfresco (or any new technology for that matter).  If you are in this situation and need someone to rescue your Alfresco implementation, Zia can help!

More importantly, contact Zia before you implement or expand your implementation to avoid these mistakes all together. We have a unique assessment methodology and will work with you to understand your content needs, requirements, workflow and business processes. We will help you evaluate your IT environment strategically and make recommendations on how to implement Alfresco, leverage supporting products and design a system that lets you leverage your content in smarter ways and manage it more effectively for immediate results.

Why are we so excited about Ephesoft?

We have worked with a lot of different document capture technologies over the years and we believe Ephesoft is truly a next generation product.  This year Zia Consulting was named Ephesoft 2011 Partner of the Year  and we create solutions with it every day. Based on our experience creating Document Capture solutions for our customers, here are a few key reasons why we are so excited about Ephesoft and why you might be too.

Cost Savings

Yes, there is a huge cost savings associated with Ephesoft and it is clearly seen for those high-end customers that have complex document capture requirements.  For example, Kofax is very module and volume driven which can drive up the costs – especially for those customers that require its full functionality. If you using Kofax Transformation Modules (KTM) with invoice processing, 10 fields of extraction and table extraction, etc. – then you will see a 90 percent savings by moving to Ephesoft.  For these types of customers, it’s an easy value proposition which translates to tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars saved.  However, not all companies will see this type of savings – it depends on the type of solution / features you require.


The CORSET Content Management Design Pattern

Over the past year, Zia has seen a noticeable uptick in engagements that utilize Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) to solve important business problems.  As a systems integrator that is heavily invested in open source and open standards, this is extremely exciting to us.

As with other technology standards, we have also run into a few challenges implementing capabilities over CMIS that we have resolved using a common architectural pattern.

Imagine you need to solve one of the following problems from a client system that is connected to a content management system (CMS) using one of the well-defined CMIS bindings (REST/AtomPub, SOAP or Browser):

  1. Email documents from the CMS to people defined by the sender.
  2. Allow users to create/find/update/delete users and/or groups in the content management system (and possibly an external directory that is synchronizing with the CMS).
  3. Initiate or participate in workflows provided by the CMS.
  4. When creating certain folders, we want template content hierarchies to be instantiated automatically.
  5. Send notifications when new content is created or when content changes states (as indicated by metadata on the content).
  6. Augment/enhance metadata for new or updated documents by querying external systems with content and/or metadata.


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