Federating the Enterprise: FileNet’s CM Vision Evolves


The definition of content management continues to expand, while content often remains fragmented throughout organizations. For years, the market moved steadily in the direction of a broader and broader definition of content management, seeking to encompass everything from assets and data to knowledge and intelligence and adopting adjectives like Enterprise and Total. However, many early adopters of these massive CM undertakings invested startling sums and significant time, with the purported potential never panning out. Thus, even ECM vendors shifted to modular offerings, which could still be assembled to manage all things digital, yet could be purchased piecemeal at lower cost of entry and to meet specific needs. According to FileNet, the content management landscape is set for another tectonic shift. At the AIIM Conference & Expo, May 17-19 in Philadelphia, FileNet plans to make product and roadmap announcements related to what the company sees as the next phase in ECM: Federated Content Management.

Chris McLaughlin, FileNet's director of product marketing, says, "The ECM category has emerged over the past couple of years, but what it has really been is a bunch of different technologies grouped together under one umbrella . . . many systems and no real solution." While he sees how this might be a better approach for some companies than the first-generation tactic of requiring companies to combine all content types into one system, McLaughlin says, "ECM isn't about picking one platform and stuffing everything into that one platform . . . it is about choosing a platform you want to build forward from and giv[ing] your organization a range of options on how to move forward with a CM strategy. We are seeing a move from tools to a strategy-focus."

It is time, McLaughlin believes, "to elevate content management to an enterprise service level." He says that FileNet has found that most of its customers have five or more CM technologies in use, including WCM, DM, and imaging, and that the company has been examining how to "fit these pieces together in an enterprise fashion." While McLaughlin recognizes that there are situations where "the technology has sufficiently evolved that it does make sense to consolidate content repositories and move all of the content over," he says there are probably an equal number of cases "where a connectivity strategy is a much more intelligent approach."

He believes that "the conversation around ECM is beginning to evolve into one about information management"—a conversation which FileNet hopes to lead at AIIM this month with announcements about its P8 Platform. According to McLaughlin, "We will talk about the evolution of ECM as a platform, what is implicit in what it needs to do: support standards, interoperate seamlessly, and behave like an Enterprise standard." He says that they will discuss FileNet's focus for the future of CM, which will include federating metadata so that content—regardless of what type of repository it resides in—can be presented in a unified way anywhere in the enterprise. This is not merely a question of content integration, McLaughlin emphasizes. "Integration," he says, "speaks to me of a one-off point of access with a remote repository. Federation creates a union of information across multiple content stores."

With its most recent iteration of FileNet P8, FileNet hopes to elevate ECM to that of "a platform, which serves as a federating force in an organization."