There is one aspect of most enterprise content management (ECM) systems that vendors do not shout about: complexity. Despite promises of ease-of-use and Office-like interfaces, users often find the tasks of loading, placing and manipulating content so difficult that they turn it over to a specialist team or webmaster.
But a new breed of content management system is emerging that aims to make content management less impenetrable. So-called ‘basic content services’ (BCS) offer entry-level functions such as version control, check-in, check-out, document security and auditing – and all at a fraction of the price of their ECM counterparts.
As organisations have sought to offer content management to a much wider group of employees for managing of day-to-day unstructured documents, they have realised different users require different levels of sophistication. And this has given birth to a range of products – among them Xerox’s DocuShare and a new entrant into the UK market, Xythos’ Enterprise Document Management Suite – which offer less taxing applications that can sit alongside the standard but complex ECM systems already found in many organisations.
“As people get more proficient at using this, we hope they will be weaned off using email.”
Russell Altendorff, director of information systems, London Business School.
“I am not saying that Xythos is a replacement for a FileNet, Documentum or Vignette ECM system – those applications are very well suited to a defined set of requirements,” says Jim Till, vice president of marketing at Xythos. But the other 80% of employees in an organisation are excluded from content management and they don’t have a way to exchange or collaborate easily with other users, he says.
It is here that products such as DocuShare and Xythos are establishing a niche for themselves. Implementation is swift and they provide an ease of use not found on larger installations, say technical reviews in magazines such as InfoWorld. This is spurring on the adoption of BCS generally, with analysts at Gartner predicting that the technology will be as ubiquitous as email, calendaring and scheduling tools by 2008.
London Business School (LBS), for example, a member of the London Metropolitan Network (a metropolitan network connecting over 100 schools) is using Xythos to help support document collaboration among its worldwide alumni of over 22,000 students.
This has had a subtle impact on the use of email and there is now a pressure on students to use web-based document stores rather than keep everything in email format, says Russell Altendorff, director of information systems at LBS. “As people get more proficient at using this, we hope they will be weaned off using email.”