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Alfresco Development—Past, Present, and Future

alfresco-logo

by Bindu Wavell, Chief Architect at Zia Consulting

There are two reasons I decided to write this post. First, I want to acknowledge Alfresco for their recent investments in the developer ecosystem. The other reason is to explain where I think we are heading with our development efforts. My ulterior motive is to find people to collaborate with us on these efforts.

Since Thomas DeMeo joined Alfresco as VP of Product Management a bit over a year ago, we’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the focus on system integrators being key stakeholders for Alfresco—and not just based on expertise in sales and business development. After the release of Alfresco One 5.0 at the Alfresco Summit, we saw the likes of Peter Monks and Gabriele Columbro tapped to bring focus to user stories that are important for administrators and developers within the product management organization. Recently, Richard Esplin transitioned from the community lead to focusing on the Community Edition within product management. Alfresco hired Martin Bergljung and Ole Hejlskov to focus on developer tooling/evangelism and community outreach. Within weeks of starting, these individuals put together a new release of the SDK; incorporating contributions, adding new capabilities, and completely revamping the documentation. I’m thrilled that Alfresco is focusing resources in these areas because I think we will see resolution of a lot of technical debt—and that allows for better solutions in less time, leading to a bigger and more vibrant community.

In the past year or so, Alfresco engineering has begun to reorganize into smaller, more agile, scrum teams. This reorganization—along with the focus on product management—will drive initiatives like release agility to provide more frequent and better tested releases of distinct products. It should also provide a platform for resolving technical debts in a more sustained and predictable fashion than we’ve seen in the past. We can also expect cool new products that are easier to integrate and customize. Things like Activiti Enterprise—the integration between Activiti Enterprise and Share—enhanced Office services, reporting/analytics, media management, and even new Case Management features. Not to mention, significant improvements in the repository, Share, and records management.

As the Chief Architect at Zia, part of my mission is to facilitate improvements in developer productivity and satisfaction. In addition, I want to help the team find ways to improve project quality and consistency. I’d like to share where we are heading in these areas, but first let’s cover where we’ve been.

In the past year or so, most of our projects have been based on the third major revision of our development framework. We call the framework—the project structure and the associated tooling—Zia Alfresco Quickstart (for more information, watch this video). Quickstart includes a standard project structure that we evolved from the all-in-one archetype provided by the Alfresco 1.0 Maven SDK. It features reusable code, examples, best practices, and, to some extent, standardizes how we version and deliver our projects and reusable sub-projects.

With version 1.0 of the SDK, as well as our earlier project structures, we were seeing cycle times (from the point when we saved our code to when we were able to exercise the code) of between two and five minutes on very powerful laptops with lots of RAM and solid-state disks. One of the main reasons we started evolving the SDK was to reduce this cycle time. When we started using Quickstart for customer projects, we were able to reduce the cycle time for most edits to about 10 seconds. We did this by taking advantage of incremental compilation and hot deployment techniques. If I was writing this post a couple of years ago, it would have been all about flow. It was hard to experience flow when you had time for tea and a bagel after most code/config changes. Fortunately, this is not as much of an issue anymore. The Alfresco 1.1.x SDK made some similar techniques available for the wider developer community. With the 2.0 SDK, this has been improved even more—but there’s still work to be done.

One area where Quickstart enhances the SDK capabilities is an integration testing framework for repository customizations that also supports continuous integration and, to some extent, delivery. After we presented this framework during Tech Talk Live #69 (see video above), the 1.1 SDK added a similar capability—however, that solution has been a bit unreliable. We contributed the Quickstart testing framework to the SDK team and are hopeful it will be incorporated in the near future. We are excited that the 2.1.0 version includes support for the Share Page Object testing extensions to Selenium WebDriver that was, and continues to be, developed by the Share engineering. This will make it much easier to create tests for UI customizations and to make sure our customizations don’t unexpectedly break existing capabilities provided with the products.

With the project structure we used before Quickstart, it often took us between four and eight hours to get a full development environment (just the Alfresco pieces) installed and configured. With Quickstart, we’ve reduced this to around two or three hours.

We often need to work on code for multiple projects in any given week. In order to handle this, and to accommodate customer variations, we usually set up our development environments in Virtual Machines (VM). Nearly every time we’ve had to start from a base OS machine.

Typically, one team member sets up the initial VM, installs the development tools, and sets up the project structure. Then the VM is shared with all of the team members. We make heavy use of VM snapshots and usually someone keeps a pristine copy of the VM that tracks releases. Should a new developer join the project, or an upgrade be performed, we utilize this pristine copy. Often these VMs are over 40GB, requiring a substantial amount of time just to copy the data.

At Zia, we’ve been testing a few different code review approaches. Some projects are doing regular reviews (weekly for example), others are focusing on reviewing each new significant feature. The ability to create pull requests from forks and branches in BitBucket and GitHub has provided enough of a framework for us so far—though we’d love to incorporate more tooling around code quality and coverage to provide consistent feedback to users.

The Path Ahead

Quickstart has been seen as a proprietary solution that allows us to complete projects faster and at lower cost than we were able to previously. One of the downsides to it being proprietary is that there is a smaller community for collaboration and support of the approach. The next version of our project structure is being developed in-the-open using the open source model we admire so much.

The Quickstart project structure is quite different than any of the official SDKs, and there are good reasons for the differences. In many cases, they improve on what is available in the community today. However, what we have is different enough from the standard that new team members often have a steep learning curve to become proficient and ultimately master the structure. So, while a seasoned practitioner will be very productive, newer folks require more time and support to become productive. This turns out to be detrimental to the goal of improving productivity for some team members.

With the next generation project structure, we plan to stay closer to the official SDK so that there is a much larger community for collaboration. While we still plan to include support for certain opinionated features, we will also support and default to using more traditional Alfresco implementation approaches. Our hope is that this change in direction will facilitate quicker onboarding and allow SDK and Alfresco upgrades to be handled more expeditiously.

With Quickstart and all of the Alfresco SDKs to date, we have to duplicate a large portion of the boilerplate code for common Alfresco customizations such as web scripts, actions, behaviors, jobs, and workflows via cut and paste. While most of these aren’t difficult, they do tend to be error prone.

Our new approach is to provide a Yeoman project generator. This automates the construction of a project using the all-in-one archetype from the SDK while adding a few bells and whistles for improved productivity. Though it’s still in its infancy, this part of the project is available now and we are using it for customer projects when appropriate. In addition, we are working on sub-generators for common and boilerplate things like: adding amps (source, third party from git, third party from Maven, and checked into the project), adding webscripts, and adding actions. We also plan to work on sub-generators for adding behaviors, models, workflows, jobs, javascript extensions, and data bootstrapping. We may even create generators for common tasks like switching from h2 to a real database, enabling ldap, hooking up the standard image processing tools, and other common tasks that collaborators think will add significant value during the development phase of Alfresco implementation projects.

The development VMs we’ve been using are difficult to version control, slow to copy, and frankly, take significant CPU, disk, and memory resources that we’d prefer to allocate to development and runtime tasks.

We’ve been toying with setting up our development environments using devops tools such as Ansible, Chef, VMWare, Vagrant, and Docker. Using Docker, we have been able to spin up and exercise clustered Alfresco environments on a single machine for testing and POC activities. We’ve also used Vagrant and Ansible to get about a 40% head start on our development VMs. The hope is to script 90% of the project setup efforts, to reduce project setup time, and increase consistency between our projects. We also hope to utilize Docker or other lightweight container solutions to reduce the overhead of our environments.

To date, we’ve had mixed success using these tools to setup our development environments. It often takes a significant amount of time to create and refine the devops scripts and we don’t expect to see a return on our investment until we’ve utilized and stabilized these tools with a number of projects. Fortunately, we have worked with a few customers to create production quality release/delivery substrates using these tools. Our hope is to incorporate our experiences from these projects into the developer tooling with an eye toward standardizing how we install and configure Alfresco solutions in all environments. We feel that by utilizing these techniques, developers will be able to rebuild small, containerized environments from scratch when needed, rather than maintaining and sharing monolithic VMs. This approach will be much easier to version control, easier to upgrade, easier to share, and will be lighter on resources.

An area we are also exploring is the use of cloud development infrastructure (e.g. Codenvy) to develop, run, and test our projects. We’d like to utilize our devops work and create containers that we can use during development and testing and potentially as a vehicle for delivering projects as well. It would be great if this allowed additional interactivity and collaboration during code reviews, while fixing bugs, and for training/coaching users one-on-one or in groups. We’d also like to reduce expenditures on hardware for developers and to deliver progressive capacity to our engineering organization. The ultimate goal is to work smarter with our in-house, remote, and offshore team members.

Our first usable effort in the area of cloud development is the contribution workflow for our new Yeoman generator. By clicking a button on the project GitHub page, we can provision a development environment that has access to the project source code and a docker container that has been set up with the appropriate versions of Java, Maven, Node, and Yeoman. It would also have the local (in the container) Maven repository pre-seeded with assets needed for compiling and running the Alfresco projects we build while testing out the generators. Someone wishing to make a contribution can start developing and testing in under a minute and can send us a pull-request directly from the generated project on Codenvy.

View a generator contribution demo video here

We’d like to invite you to collaborate on these ideas and deliverables. Currently, we are focused on completing our first pass on the Yeoman generator and some high value sub-generators. We’d love to collaborate in order to continue evolving the developer/implementer experience for Alfresco extensions. If you are interested, please leave a comment, send an email, or ping me here on IRC. Once the generator is in good shape, we’ll likely set up a cloud-based development experience. This will be driven by the generators and backed by pre-packaged containers that can be used in the cloud, on our development machines, and possibly in customer dev, stage, and prod environments. Imagine quickly packaging your configuration and customizations with Alfresco into an all-dependencies included container. You could then run tests against the container, deploy that tested container to stage, perform UAT and—assuming everything is accepted—promote the exact same (tested and accepted) container to production.

Now that’s the future of Alfresco development.

Addressing Content Chaos in the Mortgage Industry

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More than a Loan Origination System

For the past several years, most technology investments in the mortgage industry have been focused on upgrading or enhancing Loan Origination Systems (LOS). This is understandable given the costs associated with processing the ever-increasing size of loan packages. These upgrades also have the opportunity for significant and immediate ROI by implementing solutions such as Intelligent Document Capture (IDC), which can automatically classify loan documents and extract data from HUD-1, GFE, and others.

While these technology investments have been extremely beneficial to many in the industry, they have also ignored the growing problem of content chaos in banks and other mortgage companies outside of the LOS. From our discussions with leaders in the industry at a series of events over the past 12 months, we’ve heard about two specific areas where they are most focused—and why they need more than an LOS.

Borrower Document Chaos

During the origination phase of a loan application, a large amount of borrower supporting documentation is required—from paystubs to 1040s to other financial information.  Traditionally this information has come through a mailroom model, as paper or perhaps scanned documentation, often in conjunction with a mortgage broker.

What has changed? Everything.

Today, documents come into the organization via borrower portals or websites, as email attachments, or in the latest trend–mobile capture. This growing complexity in the source and type of information has led many in the industry to seek a content hub to centralize collection and processing of these documents, with features such as:

  •      Case Management Functionality
  •      Email Integration
  •      Advanced Workflow/BPM
  •      Content Security
  •      View/Annotate/Redact
  •      Actionable Analytics/BI

Similar to the ROI opportunity that existed previously in automating the processing of loan packages, many see a chance for significant cost savings through automation at the front-end of loan applications.

Solving SharePoint, Shared Drives, and More…

Just last week, a representative from one of the world’s largest mortgage banks approached our booth at an industry event. What brought him in? The messaging around “Solving SharePoint”.  But the concerns were not associated with their LOS in any way. His comment was, “Do you know how many people we have that aren’t involved in loan processing directly?” From HR to legal to procurement/contracts, every mortgage company has substantial amounts of their own internal content, with needs including:

  •      Document and Records Management
  •      Internal and External Collaboration
  •      Content Security
  •      BPM/Workflow
  •      Federated Search
  •      And more…

As with the example above, many of these organizations are looking to solve the content chaos associated with finding, managing, securing, and storing information that is currently in:

  •      SharePoint
  •      Shared Drives/File Shares
  •      Dropbox/Box.Net
  •      Legacy ECM Systems

Ideally, these companies would love to find a single content platform that could address both these internal and borrower-facing use cases, allowing a technology investment to deliver a stronger ROI. Fortunately this is possible today through a modern, open ECM system that can function as this content hub—integrating with everything from borrower portals and email systems to SharePoint.

Want to learn more? Come see us at booth 316 this week at MBA Tech.

.Mortgage Bankers Association

Solving Content Chaos with Adhere for Alfresco: Government

zia-governmentAcross the public sector—from federal to state to local governments—agencies and departments are looking for solutions to the “content chaos” that exists today. Whether due to mandates like the Presidential Memorandum on Managing Digital Records or the continued cost and complexity of government document processing, organizations are looking for ways to better manage content and automate business processes.

If we define content chaos as the inability to properly find, manage, and secure documents and records, it’s clear from metrics that most government departments and agencies (if not all) are facing content chaos in 2015. Issues range from the amount of time knowledge workers spend searching for documents, the times the wrong version of a document is used, or the significant investments that companies are forced to make in human capital to staff information governance or records management groups. And all of this is due to the failure of technology to address these areas. Perhaps the single largest area of concern is around content security within the government, with case of Edward Snowden never very far from anyone’s mind.

How did we get here? Let’s discuss three key developments that we believe have led to the content chaos of today.

  1. ECM Avoidance

It’s interesting to consider that all of the “find, manage, and secure” issues of today could possibly have been avoided if the legacy ECM vendors of the past had focused on one simple issue: user adoption. Instead, we saw an almost myopic focus by users on ECM avoidance, looking for any way to avoid logging into complex and time-consuming ECM systems. Across virtually industry, surveys show less than 50% of content being managed in ECM systems, with utilization numbers in the 10% (or less) being not uncommon.

  1. The Dropbox Problem

Technologies like Dropbox, Box.net, or other simple “file, sync, and share” have led to major concerns around security as well as creating silos of content within agencies and department, This is happening in spite of the incredible technology investments and advancements made into simplifying the way that documents are shared—particularly with those outside of your organization.

  1. SharePoint Sprawl

Across the government, metrics show that SharePoint has achieved a level of pervasiveness that few would have predicted even a few years ago. However, from a recent AIIM survey, now published as an AIIM Industry Watch paper titled Connecting and Optimizing SharePoint, some interesting themes emerge:

  •      Only 11% of respondents see their SharePoint deployment as a success
  •      Most organizations use SharePoint primarily for collaboration—with only 30% using it       widely for document management and only 11% for records management
  •      Only 13% say SharePoint aligns with their information governance policies
  •      Only 6% have true federated search—the ability to search across both SharePoint and other document repositories and silos

The Solution: Adhere for Alfresco: Government

So how do you address all of the topics above? It was exactly this question that led us to create Adhere for Alfresco: Government—our solution to the content chaos that exists today. Adhere is the glue that binds together and secures content across your organization and outside. Throughout your ECM systems and content silos, we can deliver to users what an ECM solution should have always meant to them. Our Adhere solution today provides:

  •      SharePoint Integration and Synchronization
  •      Federated Search
  •      Automated Workflow/BPM
  •      Embedded In-Process Classification and Extraction
  •      Simplified Information Governance
  •      Universal Content Security (UCS)
  •      Enterprise Mobile ECM

Zia delivers solutions across the public sector, at the federal, state, and local level. We have helped departments ranging from human services to court systems, and worked both in civilian and defense agencies.

Specific focus areas include:

  •      SharePoint Compliance and Security
  •      Legacy ECM Migrations with Zia ActiveMigrate
  •      Digitization of Records
  •      Automated Document Processing with Capture and BPM
  •      Secure Government Cloud

If you would like more information on Adhere for Alfresco, please feel free to contact me personally at probinson@ziaconsulting.com or visit our website at www.ziaconsulting.com.

The Creation of Content Chaos – Part 2

Adhere for Alfresco

Solving Content Chaos With Adhere

Where do we even begin?

In part one of this blog, we outlined the creation of content chaos, discussing how the past 10 years have shown a steady trend towards simplifying the sharing of content, both inside and outside the organization. At the same time, we’ve seen a diminished focus on managing and securing that content and associated information governance.

So how can you solve your content chaos?  Recognizing that SharePoint isn’t going away, and realizing that you need to deliver content security that addresses the Dropbox problem. You must to provide ECM systems that promote adoption with user-friendly interfaces, automated business processes, and also integration with email, office, and other tools.

It was exactly this question that led us to create Adhere—our solution to the content chaos that exists today.  The Adhere offering is built on Alfresco’s core document and records management platform, with enterprise-class components from collaboration to global information governance.  Available on-premise, cloud-only, or as the only true hybrid-cloud ECM model, our Adhere solution uniquely provides for both the wants of users and the needs of the enterprise.

With Adhere as the glue that binds together and secures content both in and outside of your organization, throughout your ECM systems and content silos, we can deliver to users what an ECM solution should have always meant to them.  Our Adhere solution today provides:

  • SharePoint Integration and Synchronization
  • Federated Search
  • Automated Workflow/BPM
  • Embedded “In-Process” Classification and Extraction
  • Simplified Information Governance
  • Universal Content Security (UCS)
  • Enterprise Mobile ECM

Solving SharePoint

Across both the public and private sector, companies have made an investment in SharePoint and it is clear that it isn’t going to simply disappear from their daily operations.  As noted in part one of this blog, over 75% of organizations still have a “strong commitment” to SharePoint, according to a recent survey.  However, only 11% say their SharePoint deployment is a success.

Our Adhere solution focuses on solving SharePoint by identifying and classifying critical content within your sites. It then integrates and synchronizes SharePoint + Alfresco, streamlines business processes, and then delivers content security, information governance, and federated search.

In addition, while most organizations are looking to manage, rather than replace, their SharePoint sites, our Adhere Solution can also migrate your content from SharePoint to Alfresco when required.  These migrations leverage ActiveMigrate methodology from Zia and can be either a full migration or simply a migration of active content (a “lazy” migration).

Solving Dropbox

For many CIOs, the single largest area of concern right now is making sure they don’t end up as the next Sony Pictures or Anthem, with their corporate data shared around the world by hackers.  This is not just a public relations concern, with the recent news that Sony is facing a multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit by employees. They allege the company “failed to secure its computer systems, servers and databases, despite weaknesses that it has known about for years.”

So how do you protect critical corporate content, while recognizing a world where Dropbox and Box.net are pervasive, and that employees can very simply accidentally or intentionally share information inside or ourside the organization.  With our Adhere solution, we introduce the concept of Universal Content Security (UCS)—which secures data based on policy, not platform.

Whether you are sharing content via Dropbox, USBs, email, SharePoint, Alfresco Cloud Sync, or any other technology platform, our UCS solution will protect the data—even through a cut and paste scenario.  From employee records to sales data or board documents—across internal and external collaboration—the ability to remove users from responsibility for content security provides the solution to the Dropbox problem.

Solving Information Governance

The legacy of records management (RM) systems is one where solutions have often been designed for dedicated compliance officers rather than content creators. These are deployed in a standalone environment that is disconnected from corporate collaboration and ECM systems.  This situation has only become worse with the rise of SharePoint—where in a recent study only 13% said SharePoint aligns with their information governance policies.  And of course, the paper problem still exists with many large organizations storing the majority of their records as paper files.

Zia provides Easy RM solutions that work the way you do, connecting those who are creating content with the compliance process. As we like to say, “Everyone’s a Records Manager, and Nobody Knows It!”  Easy RM incorporates the tools you use on a daily basis, from SharePoint to Office to email, reducing barriers to implementation and widespread usage.  Additionally, Easy RM solutions are built on a single DoD5015.02 certified content hub for document and records management, reducing duplication and wrong version usage.

Principles of Easy RM solutions include:

  • Automated Declaration of Records
  • Intelligent Rule-Based File Plan
  • SharePoint Integration and Synchronization
  • Consolidated Paper/Electronic File Plans
  • Digitization with Intelligent Capture
  • Office and Outlook Integration

When your records management tools fit into the daily work habits of employees, you can reduce barriers to adoption, reduce duplication of efforts and errors with one central repository, increase productivity with automated processes, and keep control of your data by reducing use of external tools.

Adhere

In 2015 we have reached a tipping point where once again the need to find, manage, and secure content has become as important as the need to simplify the sharing of information.  For the first time since 2007, we would expect more respondents to list compliance/risk as the primary driver for new ECM related investments, rather than collaboration.  The Zia Adhere solution was designed for the world of 2015, the world of Sony and Anthem, and the world where most organizations are committed to SharePoint and yet still deem it a failure.

 

If you would like more information on Adhere, please feel free to contact me personally at probinson@ziaconsulting.com  or visit our website at www.ziaconsulting.com.

Phil Robinson, SVP at Zia Consulting

The Creation of Content Chaos

Adhere for Alfresco

How did we get here?

It’s taken nearly 10 years to arrive at our current state of Content Chaos—perhaps starting back in 2007 when managing compliance/risk began its steady decline as the primary business driver for investments into ECM systems.  At the same, we initiated the rapid growth of collaboration—simplified sharing of documents both internally and externally—as the leading reason for new ECM investments.

If we define content chaos as the inability to properly find, manage, and secure documents and records, it’s clear from virtually every metric that most organizations (if not all) are facing content chaos in 2015.  Whether it’s the amount of time each day that knowledge workers spend searching for documents, or the number of times the wrong version of a document is used, or even the significant investments that companies are forced to make in human capital to staff information governance or records management groups, due to the failure of technology to address these areas.  Not to mention the fact that in the news virtually every week is another Sony Pictures or Anthem, where data or content security is the headline for another enterprise.

So how did we get here?  Today we’ll look at three key areas that helped us create our world of content chaos: ECM Avoidance, the Dropbox Problem, and SharePoint Sprawl.

ECM Avoidance

It’s interesting to consider that all of the “find, manage, and secure” issues of today could possibly have been avoided if the legacy ECM vendors of the past had focused on one simple issue—user adoption.  Instead, we saw an almost myopic focus by users on ECM avoidance, looking for any way to avoid logging into complex and time-consuming ECM systems.  Across virtually every industry, surveys show less than 50% of content is being managed in ECM systems, with utilization numbers of 10% (or less) being not uncommon.

From our own experience, when we started working with one of the world’s largest corporate legal departments, they had nearly all of their content stored in either emails or shared drives. This was because users simply wouldn’t utilize the legal DMS systems that were delivered to them by IT.

Ironically, perhaps the best description of this ECM Avoidance issue comes from Box.net in a corporate datasheet way from back in 2011:

Connecting to the ECM system, however, is not all that employees need.  Workers want to easily find, access, and leverage current, relevant content.  They don’t want to work on a sales proposal, marketing collateral, or contract, only to discover a more up-to-date version is out there in email.  And if a system isn’t easy to use and intuitive, email is exactly the place people go first to share their information updates.

Shouldn’t the ECM system have been the exact place that people go to find, access, and leverage current, relevant content?  Of course—but only if it’s intuitive and easy to use.

The Dropbox Problem

Dropbox, and Box.net, are obviously another key element of the content chaos seen today in the incredible technology investments and advancements made around simplifying the way that documents are shared—particularly collaboration outside of your organization.

Reviewing the story that is told around the founding of Dropbox, it’s said that the founder developed it while a student at MIT after repeatedly forgetting to bring his USB drive to class.  He tried existing file sharing services but they were too slow, complex or error-prone.  He then formally founded Dropbox in 2007—the same pivotal year noted at the outset when managing compliance/risk started to decline in importance and simplified collaboration began its march.

While these technologies are indeed incredibly easy to use and certainly address the need for simple collaboration, particularly outside the organization, unfortunately this ease of use makes it simple to share virtually anything outside the organization.  Hence, the Dropbox problem became part of the ECM lexicon.  A recent report showed over 35 billion Office documents are stored on Dropbox.  Where did they come from, who are they shared with?

According to Dropbox support documentation: “other users can’t see your files in Dropbox unless you deliberately share links to files or share folders”.  As we’ve seen and heard from many organizations, “deliberately” can also mean “accidentally”.  And whether deliberate or accidental, this simple ability to share large amounts of corporate data (including entire folders or drives), via Dropbox, Box.net, or other similar technologies contributes to the content chaos issues of how to find, manage, or secure content.  Or, put another way from a leading security researcher, “the problem is not a security flaw as such, but instead an unexpected consequence of user behavior.”

SharePoint Sprawl

During a recent AIIM Survey, only 7% of organizations responding stated that they did not use SharePoint in some way.  Even assuming some bias in the response rates, it’s clear from this survey and virtually every other metric available that SharePoint has achieved a level of pervasiveness that few would have predicted back in 2007.  And, as with Dropbox, the SharePoint sprawl problem is not so much a technology issue, as much as a user behavior issue—and an issue of organizations attempting to use a technology for something which is was not designed to do.  When companies describe scenarios where they have an average of two SharePoint sites per employee, clearly there is a problem.

From the same AIIM survey, now published as an AIIM Industry Watch paper titled Connecting and Optimizing SharePoint, some interesting themes emerge:

  • Only 11% of respondents see their SharePoint deployment as a success
  • Most organizations use SharePoint primarily for collaboration—with only 30% using it widely for document management and only 11% using it widely for records management
  • Only 13% say SharePoint aligns with their information governance policies
  • Only 6% have true federated search—the ability to search across both SharePoint and other document repositories and silos
  • At the same time, the commitment to SharePoint remains strong—and so there is a clear need to co-exist in the future, while still addressing those areas described above given that:
  • Over 60% of respondents are already using or planning to use SharePoint as the search/access portal to multiple ECM repositories
  • Over 75% still have a “strong commitment” to SharePoint

So how do you address all of the topics above?  You’ll have to wait and see!  Stay tuned for part two of this blog, where we’ll introduce Adhere, our solution to solving content chaos.  Coming soon!

Phil Robinson, SVP at Zia Consulting

 

It’s 2015. Now CIO means “Career Isn’t Over”.

The Top 5 reasons you still need a CIO

by Mike Mahon, CEO – Zia Consulting

cioTraditionally the primary role of the CIO was to secure and govern information, while also making technology investments that provided cost savings for the company. This “legacy” CIO role, which focused on reducing costs instead of adding new value, has been criticized widely since 2008 as having little knowledge of what it actually means to be a CIO or sit on a board. Their primary stakeholders were typically the company’s employees and it’s been noted that they have limited ability to relate to customers or investors—and limited relevance in the strategic direction of the company.

In the context of document and records management, CIOs face a number of barriers in executing their role. First, there is an issue of enterprise content management (ECM) avoidance. CIOs have not been successful at engaging customers in utilizing available tools. Typically these tools are challenging to understand, difficult to use, and time intensive. This is not solely the CIO’s fault; the industry as a whole has been providing advice, guidance, and consulting that has ignored users and poorly implemented the business tools that drive productivity. Several research studies have shown an overwhelming amount of failure in the industry regarding ECM implementations. Not only is it challenging to input information, it is difficult to locate the information once it is entered. In addition, the cost and complexity of the in-place systems are high for the value they bring.

Finally, CIOs are challenged to manage a massive amount of content and keep up with the ever-increasing pace of business. Content is exploding in areas such as mobile, social, electronic, and paper. With no way to effectively manage these areas, the CIO loses trust with the board or CEO. According to a recent AIIM research study, a “Stunning 82 percent of firms lack an enterprise-wide content management solution, and half of all content still sits outside ECM systems…” The bottom line is that if the CIO’s core job responsibilities are still security and governance, they are not doing their job!

However, Zia would like to offer 5 reasons you still need a CIO and how we can make sure they are still in place in 2016:

(1). Solve ECM avoidance once and for all! CIOs have the capacity to provide a solution to this problem. Using our solutions, that actually provide a competitive advantage, CIOs can respond to what the business needs (e.g., governance, security, reliability, scalability, and connection), while at the same time delivering what users want (e.g., ease of use, simplified processes, ability to collaborate, access through existing tools, and the ability to search and access information through mobile devices).

(2). Solve SharePoint! With Adhere for Alfresco from Zia, CIOs can finally solve the puzzle that is SharePoint. Users demand it, IT really struggles with it, and it continues to grow out of control. We can show you how to use SharePoint with your users, but manage the complexity, bloat, archival, and governance needs of the business with a solution that delivers integration and synchronization, federated search, simple and smart business processes, and more.

(3). Solve the Dropbox problem! CIOs can use our Universal Document Security (UDS) Solution, powered by Covertix, to address the risk of your company being the next Sony. You can lock down any piece of content, anywhere, within any system at any time and never worry about it being stolen or misused. Forget the Dropbox (or Google Drive, USB or Email) problem—security at rest or in the wild is handled.

(4). “Everyone’s a records manager (and nobody knows it)”! Our EasyRM solutions provide a strategy for automated governance and records management. If you were working in our system, you would be able to email, use Office products, and collaborate internally and externally with customers, without ever knowing you were in an ECM system or declaring records.

(5). Solve the tactical problems and become strategic! Once we deliver on the promise of ECM (governance, integration, cost-savings, and freed-up content), we can build systems of engagement that will contribute to the growth of your business. Together, we will provide you with new ways to do business that give you the ability to move out of a cost center and into the business itself.

In the future, we expect many more of our customers to share the same vision as a leading mortgage insurer: “this solution isn’t about cost savings or ROI, without this solution we don’t have a business!” Similarly, a leading property and casualty insurance provider completely rebuilt their business processes—leveraging Document Automation Solutions from Zia—delivering not just cost savings but increased customer satisfaction and time-to-revenue through this strategic initiative.

More recently, we have seen other CIOs that buck the traditional challenges presented above. With the right training and tools, CIOs can play an integral role in the success of any business. Quoted from the article “Why a Company Should Consider Adding a CIO to the Board” by Peter High, “Boards will increasingly think about including the strongest CIOs on their boards to ensure that they do not have any blind spots in their plans both from an innovation and from a risk mitigation perspective.” Zia provides the solutions that will propel companies into the future and CIOs into the boardroom!

Three Areas of Successful Workflow Implementation

Written by Ryan McVeigh – VP of ECM Solutions, Sales

Recently I was in discussion with our team as we contemplated a response to a proposal request. This particular request was heavily focused on workflow which lead to a spirited discussion. It occurs to me that often at Zia, we are cautious about scoping workflow implementation work. There’s good reason for this, as workflows are that type of software in our business that is heavily utilized by our client’s users, so we have to get them right. Workflows also typically have integration points with other pieces of software. What that tells us is that there is reason to be clear on both the technical and user-facing components of the implementation. Interestingly, the Java portion of this isn’t really the hard part. Our team agrees that ultimately writing the software, drawing the diagram and creating the workflow isn’t where the time is spent. I find that I get caution from my team around duration of workflow implementation and when we look closely at why that is, we can attribute the overall effort to three distinct areas:

  1. Requirements Gathering: This is where we collaborate with our client to understand their business process. We guide our clients on what makes for a successful workflow or business process implementation in Alfresco given their unique environment and build a successful implementation plan. Many organizations that Zia has worked with to implement workflows require multiple design iterations to finalize the requirements for their business processes. We recommend clients allow an appropriate amount of time in their project plan to finalize requirements for automated business processes.
  2. Implementation: This is the relatively straightforward part. Creating the software, implementing the workflow and integration points, and testing.
  3. User Acceptance Testing Loop: Users need to test and provide feedback, fix bugs and update, then test again.  This loop is important to enable users to get hands on experience with the workflow. Workflow Adoption-2

These three areas are ultimately very straightforward. What happens in reality is users learn through this process and the workflow changes – and thus we spend more time than it would seem is required for a workflow implementation. The lesson learned here is that workflow actually takes a reasonable amount of calendar time to implement, but not in the traditional sense. Time is spent more in getting user consensus and feedback which simply takes time, than in writing software.

This brings us to what does this mean to you, our reader? Well, if you’re thinking about implementing workflow as a developer, prepare yourself for the feedback loop. If you’re an Alfresco customer, what can you do to expedite this cycle? First, work on your requirements for the “To Be” process ahead of engaging your integrator. Second, don’t try to implement your existing broken process! I always tell folks to start small, get a quick win and build upon that. This seems obvious, but more often than not, folks request complex processes. These are not very easy to implement and usually do not facilitate user adoption or produce user satisfaction. Consider these trends before approaching the automation of business processes. Remember you cannot please everyone. Finally, be on point when it is time to test and verify. Be patient and don’t expect a perfect business process, but rather something that can work and can be built upon over time.

Case Study: Zia Consulting Delivers Rapid ROI for Leading Mortgage Wholesaler

zia-mortgage-solutions

IN THE NEWS:

Zia Consulting, Inc., the leading provider of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Intelligent Document Capture solutions, today released a new case study about their project with Interbank Mortgage Company–providing details on the automation solution delivered utilizing Ephesoft Smart Capture™ software as well as the exceptional results of the implementation.

View the Case Study Now.

New Whiteboard Video: Records Management + ROI

The legacy of Records Management (RM) systems is one where RM solutions have traditionally been designed for dedicated compliance officers rather than content creators, deployed in a standalone environment that is disconnected from corporate collaboration and ECM systems. This duplication of effort–moving documents from ECM to RM systems and back again–adds tremendous cost and complexity to the management of information within the enterprise and leads to the increased probability of non-compliance from errors during this process.

Zia provides Easy Records Management (Easy RM) Solutions that work the way you do, connecting those who are creating content with the compliance process. Easy RM incorporates the tools you use on a daily basis, reducing barriers to implementation and widespread usage. Whether it’s “in-process” records management, automated declarations of records, or intelligent rules for file plans, our Easy RM solutions simultaneously increase productivity and compliance.

This whiteboard video hosted by Zia’s SVP Phil Robinson will demonstrate how to gain a positive ROI on the Alfresco One Records Management module with Zia’s Easy RM solutions.

New Video Demo: HR “Offboarding”

For those outside the HR department, one area that is typically “hidden” when considering the cost and complexity of document processing is the “offboarding” of employees – either through termination or resignation. With both company and regulatory requirements for documentation and data, and ranging in source from Paper to Email to E-Forms, for many organizations the need for automation of “offboarding” rivals that of “onboarding”.

This demo will show:

  • Creation of “Offboarding” Case – with Dynamic Role-Based Views & Templates and Zia’s Document Assembly offering
  • Processing of Case – with Advanced Workflow, Office / Email Integration, and Annotation/Redaction
  • Employee Collaboration – featuring Alfresco One Cloud Collaboration
  • Leveraging Intelligent Capture to automate the classification & extraction processes