How consumerisation of IT leads to content integration

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Nowadays, for most consumer processes, there is an online service available, for which in the past a physical product had to be purchased. It seems like the market is slowly shifting from products to services. This has consequences for the IT landscape of organisations.

Let’s give an example: If you would want to translate some of your organisation’s Word documents, you probably use Google Translate or a paid online translation service, which returns the translated document within half an hour. Ten years ago, this process was a lot different. Back then, the documents were mailed to a translation agency or an FTP server had to be set up to handle the exchange of the documents. Documents often went back and forth between the customer and the translation agency before the final translation was made. Because of the emergence of online services, this process has become much easier for users.

Non-public document management

Ease of use means that users want to use their consumer-orientated online service for business purposes as well. A good example of such services is WeTransfer or Dropbox. Great online services, users, however, encounter barriers using these online services for business purposes. The document management infrastructure of organisations is not public and these services can often be used in a limited fashion commercially. For example, it’s impossible to drag documents from your SharePoint installation directly into WeTransfer, which would speed up the process. First, you need to download the document locally. Or, when using your favourite translation application, it’s not possible to select documents directly from an ECM system as Documentum, FileNet or Alfresco without leaving the interface of the application. Companies and employees are becoming more and more interested in integrating online and cloud services with on-premise storage systems (repositories), so that these limitations are eliminated and their customers are served better.

Documents behind the firewall

Vendors of online and cloud apps have already started such an integration. They want to be able to access documents stored on on-premise repositories in their own application and they offer a plug-in for integration with two or three of the most popular systems. This works fine, but what about the other systems? There is no plug-in for many of these other systems, and since the plug-in-development isn’t a core business of these vendors, these will most likely never be developed. In addition, there is another problem. These cloud apps must connect to certain (legacy) systems that operate within the walls of an organisation, which means there are firewalls, etc. So, although vendors really want to make the connection between online and on-premise, still 95 per cent of the documents remain unreachable and locked in their original repository. According to Forrester, 87 per cent of organisations surveyed retain some or most legacy content in old systems.

On the other side of the spectrum are the vendors of (traditional) repositories, such as ECM, DM, WCM, and records management. Based on their point of view, it is not interesting for them to open up their systems for integration with cloud services. Managing and saving documents is, after all, the reason for their existence. However, they recognise that users want access to these services through their platform. Therefore, both cloud service providers as vendors of traditional storage systems do feel the need for integration between repositories and cloud services.

Still, organisations (think they) have to choose between the two conflicting solutions, cloud, and on-premise. First, they are making plans to take advantage of cloud content management solutions and are investigating how these can be implemented in the next 18-24 months. On the other hand, they have multiple legacy systems in place that are performing critical functions that can’t be turned off without business disruption. But maybe, organisations don’t have to choose between these two options.

Content brokers

According to Gartner, the current “content services” market is divided into three segments: The traditional repositories (ECM, DM, WCM), the basic on-premise applications (think of BPM, ERP, BI, CRM) that use the data in the repositories, and the relatively new cloud services. And content is scattered everywhere. On laptops, on network shares and hidden in email folders. And, stored in one of the above types of systems. In addition, the amount content is constantly growing.

Currently, the integration between these systems are the responsibility of the vendors themselves. We have already concluded that this integration is currently based on scarce plug-ins. But, so-called content brokers are upcoming. They offer an integration platform that allows for an extremely easy exchange of content between the different types of systems. This way, content becomes a commodity that users can directly access in business and consumer applications on-premise and in the cloud without having to worry about where the content exactly resides.

For instance, consider accessing documents stored in OpenText Content Server within a SharePoint application, or the possibility to place documents from SharePoint directly into WeTransfer. SDL, a leader in global content management and language translation software and services, has just revealed they added integration features in their translation services. They added direct connectors to content repositories, like Adobe Experience Manager, Zendesk, and SharePoint, within their translation services, eliminating the need for users to download the document from the source system, save it locally and upload it into their interface. Uses can now select documents from their legacy content systems without leaving the SDL interface. This is a great example of how vendors are opening up their applications for integration purposes.

Consumerisation of IT continuously evolves and now leads to the need to further integrate applications and content. Organisation no longer have to choose between cloud and on-premise and they can modernise their content infrastructure.

Ernst van Rheenen, CTO, Xillio
Image Credit: Peshkova  / Shutterstock