I recently talked about “Intelligent” Content Management with a focus on the intelligent management of content, not in making the content itself more intelligent (a completely separate topic).

One of the key principles of this intelligent management is the ability to find and use content in the appropriate context using standards, such as the new Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS).

The ability to simply expose content in any context makes CMIS a powerful tool for Intelligent Content Management. Everyone get your bingo cards ready, I’m going to throw around a lot of marketing terms.

The First Take on Providing Context

Today’s knowledge worker, essentially everyone working for more than minimum wage, has to deal with lots of information. It is thrown at them from all sides.

The only problem is that this information has historically all resided within their own, discrete systems. This isolated information from the information in other, equally discrete, systems is creating silos.

Ten years ago, a solution was proposed -- the Portal. It was wonderful and shiny. The pursuit of building the ultimate portal solution led to the establishment of many new ventures and the refocusing of several established vendors.

If you looked at a generic demo back then, you might have seen a portlet not dissimilar from this classic workflow inbox:

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From this view, I can tell that several items of content are ready for review so they can be published. If I open the item, I would see some specifics about the content, be able to retrieve and review it, but I would be working with information from a Web CMS or Enterprise CMS. To see more, I would have to open separate systems.

That wasn’t considered a problem, because on that same portal page all of my other systems would be available. I would have a portlet for every system, from CMS to CRM to email to Dilbert. Behind the scenes, nothing changed with the systems. The Portal was just a starting point before jumping into each of those applications individually.

Moving Beyond “Arrange All” and into CMIS

Portals didn’t conquer the world, because the content and data provided were shown without any more connection than they had before. Sure, you had one place that you could search for things, but you had to access each underlying system individually to compile the answer to your question.

Essentially, we went to an “Arrange All” paradigm for viewing applications on one screen. Any meaning derived from having portlets grouped together was created manually. It was great for those that needed to feel in control, but it didn’t help people get work done.

What was missing was context. If I am working on a “case,” I need to stay in the system where I am working without having to jump between systems to retrieve everything. Providing links for convenience is not the same as working with all the data and content in one location.

That is where CMIS comes into play. In an ideal world, all the content would live in one repository and a simple integration could be written to provide direct access to the content. That approach works great until that content is needed in multiple systems. The newer problem is that sometimes the content may live in multiple repositories.

This is becoming disturbingly more and more common. Many organizations bought a repository to store their content years ago and have since bought a new system from a new vendor. It isn’t even a case of age as different groups may have their own repository. Each separate repository works well for managing content, so they have value. There is a difficult choice between managing a large set of integrations and migrating content solutions to one system.

CMIS allows all content to stay where it already lives and surface that content into the systems that people are using. No more going to the CMS directly, the content can be accessed and reviewed from within the proper context.

Let’s Be Smart

This is part of the intelligent management of content. It isn’t enough to perform the traditional management tasks for all content. Content needs to be served to the correct place in a simple manner. By providing a standard interface for all CMSs, CMIS provides that layer of simplicity.

I was once told that one of the features of a CMS is that users can manage content without having to be technical. That concept can now be extended to include the programmatic use of content. Content can now be integrated into other systems without learning any technical interfaces for the individual CMS system.

As the role of Content Management evolves over the next few years, one of the key separators between the vendors will be their ability to apply intelligence.

  • Are we managing the content smarter?
  • Are we making better use of the same content?
  • Are we able to do our work without thinking about how Content Management works?
  •  Is the user population even aware that they are using Content Management?

These questions will be critical for vendors to answer. As the amount of content continues to grow exponentially, enabled by the cloud, content needs to be simple for users to find and use. This is going to require new tools to facilitate using content where it makes sense.

CMIS is a critical tool that most of the vendors are embracing. The true measurement will be how they work together to build the next version of CMIS. Content is everywhere and CMIS is going to need to evolve to solidify its role as a critical tool.

If not, then you might want to dust off those old portals.