Transparency comes to document management

The rise of the web has changed the nature of electronic records management. Randal Jackson tracks the trend

IBM’s plan to acquire business process and enterprise content management specialist FileNet for US$1.6 billion (NZ$2.5 billion) represents its largest potential acquisition since it bought Rational Software for US$2.1 billion in 2003. It signals more consolidation in the content management market as the larger IT vendors look to bolster their capabilities.

Earlier this month, Open Text, which formed a partnership with Oracle in June, announced plans to acquire Hummingbird for US$489 million.

Commenting on IBM’s plans, analyst firm Forrester said infrastructure vendors were taking over all of content management, forcing pure plays higher up the stack. Companies like Oracle and Microsoft have unveiled plans to begin offering basic content management capabilities.

Assuming the deal goes through (it is still subject to FileNet shareholder approval), IBM will regain its position as the number one enterprise content management software vendor in revenue terms, heading off EMC, which owns Documentum. According to IDC, the enterprise content management market grew 9.6% last year to US$3.2 billion. IDC says EMC had 11.3% of that market, followed by FileNet with 9.2%, and IBM with 9.1%. Open Text is the fourth-largest content management vendor.

IBM has indicated it will continue to develop its own content manager software and FileNet’s P8 platform independently, preserving FileNet’s existing partnerships and continuing to support multiple platform options, including those from Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun. This should provide customers with a broader portfolio of information management products from which to choose.

FileNet specialises in handling unstructured data such as images, video and other documents that are generally more difficult to manage than structured content in databases.

An AMR senior analyst, Jim Murphy, says he wouldn’t be surprised if in a year’s time, 80% of all content management software was under the control of infrastructure players EMC, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.

This apparent consolidation comes at a time when New Zealand organisations — particularly within government — are facing up to the need to meet the requirements of the new Public Records Act and document management in the new age of corporate accountability.

The act came into effect last year and the objectives of the legislation are to promote accountability between the Crown, the public, and government agencies; enhance public confidence in the integrity of public records; enhance and promote historical and cultural heritage and encourage the partnership and goodwill envisaged by the Treaty of Waitangi in relation to public records.

Specifically, it makes each individual responsible for the records and documents with which they are working. There is a requirement to make a record of everything within government.

The act may thus not be popular with government ministers, who in the past could verbally ask for a particular policy to be developed without any specific reference back to the minister. Now, this must be recorded.

In 2010, everything will be subject to audit by the State Services Commission. Just how this will take place has yet to be defined, likewise with has how penalties may be set. Janita Stewart, who works for the Ministry of Transport and is treasurer of the Records Management Association of Australasia, says she has reason to believe the individual will be held liable.

“Archives NZ is doing a lot of work to get the word out to government agencies on how they can comply,” she says.

“There is a huge push for document management [systems]. They’re buying them like hot cakes.”

Stewart says that ensuring people make a record is almost an insoluble problem. “People have protected their backsides in the past by not making a record. I’ve had policy analysts say ‘How do I protect my backside or the minister’s?’.

“Ministers seem to think that an unwritten instruction is not discoverable. And it appears that a lot of people in industry have not thought about it.”

There are very definite technical issues around implementing the act. Stewart says she is aware of many government and local government departments that have no access to 1980s records because the organisations were running on Prime computers back then. “They’ve saved the tapes but they now have no machines on which to play them back.”

So what’s the difference between document management and enterprise content management? The former began from a file-and-find perspective, while the latter came about from presentation, usually as HTML, where everyone is an author.

Records management became the next step under document management, though there is still some lack of clarity over when a document becomes a record.

Ross Bidmead, managing director of document management vendor Tech-Tonics, which resells Hummingbird in New Zealand, says records management is what is driving most of the current interest in document and content management systems, because people need compliance.

“But that’s the wrong approach,” he says. “If you put it in just for compliance purposes, you fail to get acceptance. People get confused over when a document becomes a record. There’s too much work up front and they don’t want to do things like that.”

The problem with the file-and-find approach was that individuals had to learn a new interface, he says. But all modern systems use common software such as Word or Excel as the interface.

“Application integration is the next thing that is required: for example, integrating the call centre to the CRM, asset management and consent processes. All of these must integrate to line-of-business applications.”

Bidmead says all the credible vendors have moved to a common enterprise architecture at the repository level. “Integration with other applications is the big differentiator between them.”

Content management has had workflow added around approvals, then time validation and archival requirements.

Bidmead says document management has become the knowledge repository, the single source of truth for an organisation, and that it is only a very small step for it to be able to publish and render as HTML. “The two are tending to merge,” he says. “Content management is just smart presentation without document management.”

IBM has a different approach. Its content manager software is its repository, its “single source” upon which applications are built, according to IBM information management specialist Duncan Richards. IBM’s document manager software was purchased from Green Pastures.

Commenting on IBM’s approach to the Public Records Act, Richards says IBM thinks all things should be records.

“A lot of people may come to grief [over the PRA]. “They have the view that they’ve got to keep everything and so they create archive solutions. It’s not true that complies with the act.”

He describes some of the compliance issues brought about by the PRA as a nightmare. For example, records must not be able to be altered but because databases can be changed, it means building some sort of an application to run over the database to deny access.

He’s not convinced enough thought has gone into the 2010 audit process to ensure compliance. “Will the State Services Commission create a department to do it?

“We’re trying to work with Archives NZ and State Services to get more clarity. The trouble is, they haven’t thought it through.”

Richards says there are three types of approach to records management.

“Some have bought enterprise systems that comply with US Department of Defence specifications. They’re probably have a track that enables them to get compliant.

“Some have bought backup and archive systems. They’re screwed. When they are audited they will find they can’t do all the things they are supposed to do.

“The third approach is to wait and see. That’s happening across the spectrum. But they won’t be able to get something done in time.”

It is Richards’ view that for all the organisations that achieve compliance, three times as many won’t.

Australian Objective holds lion’s share of ECM

Australian listed company Objective has become one of the dominant players in central government in New Zealand.

New customers last year included the Crown Company Monitoring Unit, Land Information New Zealand, and the Office of the Clerk, as well as Genesis Energy. It had previously signed up the Ministry of Social Development, the Tertiary Education Commission, Parliamentary Service, Land Transport New Zealand, Pharmac and Archives New Zealand.

CEO Tony Walls established the company 20 years ago. It came out of a systems integration background, also representing US document management products.

Walls came to the view that Objective could do better developing its own software, and in 1993 the company sold its first products after some years of investment in development.

“We were one of the pioneers in this space in Australia,” he says.

He puts the company’s current success down to understanding the customer. “The day we sell the product is the beginning of the relationship.”

Objective invests around 20% of turnover back into research and development, he says.

“The Asia Pacific market has had a very strong year, and we’ve also got a strong presence in the UK.”

Curiously, Objective’s strongest geographic market share is the Scottish public sector where, Walls says, the product is the de facto standard.

The company also has offices in Belfast, London, Singapore and Shanghai.

In New Zealand, Objective is based in Wellington but Walls says he expects to open an Auckland office before Christmas.

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More about Department of DefenceDocumentumEMC CorporationExcelFileNetHewlett-Packard AustraliaHummingbirdIBM AustraliaIDC AustraliaMicrosoftOraclePRARational SoftwareState Services Commission

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