I like to think that Alfresco had something to do with Adobe going open source with Flex. As long as Flex was not open source, we couldn't really incorporate it into our solutions or Web Content Management framework. We made the argument to Adobe's management that if Flex were open source, not only could we use it, but it could take off as fast as other open source web projects and perhaps define the next generation of the web.
The Alfresco developers definitely wanted to use it to build applications. Since it uses Flash, Flex eliminates a lot of the idiosyncrasies of the various web browsers. But look at the capabilities that Flex adds to SAP's dashboards. That is the real reason that the developers wanted to use it.
The Adobe/Macromedia web products such as ColdFusion have lost ground to all the PHP solutions out there. This move by Adobe, along with their new Apollo platform, could revolutionize how we use the web. Things that couldn't really be done is a web application can now be done - or at least now in open source. This will have a profound impact on business intelligence, charting, real-time monitoring, rich graphical navigation, dynamic content, any sort of drill down, mashed up video and a host of other capabilities that we have really only seen in fat clients. Now that Flex is open source, it releases the creativity of an exponentially larger set of developers to explore and innovate.
While I was in Davos, I got to meet Niklas Zennstrom, the founder of Skype. Somehow he neglected to mention that he was about to revolutionize TV. Later on in the conference, I heard rumors about Joost, his new service, but unfortunately I couldn't ask Niklas for a beta invite. It would help if remembered who I was along with other couple thousand people clambering around Davos.
The buzz is that Joost is the future of TV. I signed up for the Joost beta a couple of weeks after I returned and I got the download notice in my inbox two weeks ago. I finally have managed to download the beta today.
After a couple of sputtering starts on our home 5Mb DSL line, the thing finally got going. At first I thought this is not going to work as the image started and stopped, but when it did get going it was presenting me with near DVD quality images on my PC. I hear they have a new proprietary compression algorithm, but the image and sound are pretty good.
You are first confronted with a user interface for selecting channels of information. Since I live in the UK, I don't think I have heard of any of the channels or the programs on the channels, but I understand that they are signing up some pretty amazing media deals.
From these channels, you can select specific programs to watch on demand.
Once you start watching, you get a full screen viewing experience by default. It is absolutely nothing like YouTube. It is full screen with all the normal controls that you would expect.
While you are watching, you can access a set of widget for adding comments or instant messaging a friend. If they open up the platform the way that Skype has, you can imagine all sorts of widgets being created for searching for related shows, looking up references to and from the show, historical references or simulcasting your own commentary and voice over.
One thing you should watch out for. As soon as I downloaded this, I started taking screen shots. I live in the UK, so I don't know anything about a series called Total Recall 2070, but it looked interesting. After taking this screen shot, the couple take their clothes off and start getting it on when my wife walks in. I am only talking about the first few minutes of the program. I have to explain that I am doing this in the name of research! It could probably use some sort rating on the programs, at least while I am trying it out at home and not in the office.
Anyway, I have no more invitations
for 3 friends to invite to the Joost beta. Please let me know if you are interested.
It's good to see that Shai Agassi has found an blogging outlet now that he has left SAP. I found it by accident when somebody was searching my blog for the Geek Dinner at Davos. Shai's blog was probably the funniest moment during the dinner. The video that Shai mentions doesn't seem to be on AlwaysOn's web site. That is probably because I don't think Tony actually got permission before he brought his cameraman into the room. I was at the same table as Sergey and Shai, so I saw the whole thing. The trick is to take 3 glasses widely separated, 3 butter knives and rest the bottle on top of the knives. The answer looks something like this:
Shai is apparently off working on things environmental now and I guess still in enterprise software. While we are at Davos, we were in the same working group on what life would be like in the year 2015. Shai discussed what I thought must be one of the most innovative ideas I have heard in a decade - a physical analog to the internet. In other words, a world-wide mechanism that handles the logistics of physical things the way the internet handles packets. You don't care how things get there, you just send them. In the process, objects can actually be assembled and packaged as well. Having earlier come from a session on city design where Larry Page, the other Google founder, envisioned a world where "if I want a tomato, I just ask for it and it arrives a few minutes later," I could see a perfect meshing of these two visions. In fact, from my phone, I could arrange to have a physical good routed to my phone, no matter where I am with that phone. Thinking about it later, the whole notion of transportation could revolutionized with a physical goods infrastructure that didn't even need people or roads. The possibilities are too endless to mention. I hope this is a concept that Shai explores with his blog.
It is also a good time for him to ponder his previous reluctance to open source. When I was at Documentum and even immediately after, I just didn't get open source. Like Bill Gates, I compared open source to communism. It took Marten Mickos from MySQL to explain it to me before I actually got how you could make money with open source. Shai has not been quite as strident about open source, but he hasn't exactly been embracing. Perhaps freed from the mind set of SAP, it will be easier to see the opportunities that open source make possible. In fact, although I think the idea of a Physical or Logistical Internet would be brilliant, I don't think it would be possible without large portions being driven by open source concepts, just like the current internet is.
I wish him luck in his future endeavors.
Tsunami, Earthquake, Hurricane, Flood - everyone’s nightmare disaster can also create the biggest challenges in collaboration and employing information technology. The same Communications of the ACM that had the 7 Habits article had a whole series of articles on Emergency Management Systems. Surprisingly, the techniques that are required to cope with the flood of information in case of disaster don’t seem all that different from those required by business today. The Indonesian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina taught the whole planet about the need to invest in preparedness and reaction capabilities regardless of how poor or how rich we are.
One article I found particularly interesting was The Human and Computer as a Team in Emergency Management Information Systems. In fact, nothing in this article seemed to be limited what is required in a disaster, but what is necessary for coping with daily business pressure and information overload. The primary process of coping with a disaster is Build the Picture, Understand the Picture, and Change the Picture in a Goal-Oriented Fashion. Sounds like good business strategy to me.
The article talks about the people who are involved in the command, control, and analysis for emergencies that are built on trust of others who also are working in 14-24 hour shifts knowing that mistakes can cost lives and immediate action is essential. As if describing the persona in a use case, these workers:
This sounds like a typical Silicon Valley start-up or anyone else in a highly competitive field where people enjoy what they are doing. The design of the emergency response system then creates challenges that are not a typical of other collaborative systems in a highly reactive environment:
In disaster management systems under development, the emergency manager has the following tools at hand:
Wouldn’t it be great to have a system like this in any business? It requires a good understanding though of the participation of the people and computers. What is each good at and what is each bad at? People are good at:
Machines are good at:
In other articles, there were extending these systems to use community participation using open source and mashup to collect information not just from officials but the public at large. Those that were prepared for the Tsunami were often ready because they were alerted by mobile phones. The internet can also play an important role in collecting intelligence. After all, the internet was originally designed to withstand thermo-nuclear war and breakdowns in individual communication links. Here are some examples of mashups for accessing and collecting information:
Automation and collaboration have a role in emergency management. Just as triage methods were invented in time of war and moved on to ordinary civil use, emergency systems can probably help teach us what is important in collaboration and process automation. The primary lesson that the Human and Computer as a Team article conveys is that we ignore the human role at our peril and that the computer supports people and helps build trust between people by increasing trust in the information that they are sharing.
I have returned from AIIM where there was a real contrast from some of the conferences I have been to lately. Having floated around the open source and Web 2.0 world, it seems like between that and the enterprise software world represented by AIIM are two distinct universes where beings never interact. The former is becoming distinctly much more populated as well. The AIIM Show shared with the OnDemand Conference representing tens of billions of dollars of spending and production is physically very big with lots of huge stands and huge machines. OnDemand Expo, indicated by red isle carpets, is about on demand printing, not on demand computing, and hosts giant printing machines from the likes of Kodak, Xerox, Cannon and HP. Alfresco exhibited in the AIIM Expo half indicated by the blue carpets.
"You mean that in your universe services are free and source code is open? That is illogical." From the episode Mirror, Mirror of that well-known television series
Since the East Coast was hit by bad late April weather, a lot of people found it difficult to make it to the conference compared to previous years. Even the IRS gave New Englanders a break on sending in their income tax this year due to the weather. It makes you wonder if Boston is a great place to host an event like this though. It could be that people are time shifting into that other dimension. Those left behind are vendors talking among themselves. However, traffic seemed to pick up on the Wednesday and Thursday. Still, there was a definite lack of energy in the conference. Vendors talking to vendors is no fun, especially when some companies had giant booths filled with people talking to other people from the same company. The bar next door at the Westin, the only source of beer within a mile, was heaving after the show with people who just seemed to be relieved that the day was over.
Parallel to the expos was the AIIM and OnDemand conferences which shared keynotes. I attended the sessions on the first day and actually found them very informative. Unfortunately, I missed the first 15 minutes of John Mancini’s presentation on the state of the ECM market due to some confusion on the AIIM conference web site. Russ Stalters was disappointed in the presentation, but I found the latter half pretty interesting. John talked about the measurable benefits of using ECM came in the second half of his presentation. These statistics say that ECM is important and that it is growing. Some key points:
These statistics show how important ECM is to American enterprises and it should galvanize the industry. But I think the lack of energy in the expo and the conference comes from continuing to try and bind AIIM to OnDemand together. As one journalist put it, you have one half of the show telling the world that printing on paper is still important and the other half trying to eliminate it. Bringing two brands together dilutes both and defocuses each from what should be their main goals and objectives. Nothing indicates this more than the content of Charlie Pesko, the speaker after John Mancini and the CEO of InfoTrends, who told those in the audience who were interested in printing to adopt the ways of the online world or go out of business. AIIM should be at the forefront of helping enterprises get completely online and avoid the old physical models of printing.
Charlie’s talk, although phrased in Web 1.0 terminology, told us that the print on demand market is maturing and that companies that purely focus on printing are at great risk. This should have come as no surprise to anyone since the boom of the 1990s. Still, I found some of the insights interesting since I have not paid as much attention to this area in the last few years. I didn’t know that color printing was still a growth market and growing at 15% CAGR. I also discovered that the cost of color printing has gone from $1.05 in 1995 to 40 cents now to 20 cents in the next five years. His solution for print service providers to take advantage of this growth in hardware was to focus on adding value to what is being printed. Add workflow so that you can efficiently handle all the processing, since every time a human touches a print job you will lose money. Chillingly, I discovered that the big market will be to take all those mail inserts that you throw away and add them to your bills through glossy printing so that you can’t throw them away, something he called TransPromo or Transactional Promotion. Yikes! I can now see a path to everyone getting all their bills electronically.
How much more different could the next speaker be than one who wants to get rid the marketing tactics that breed all things “TransPromo”. Arkadi Kuhlman is the CEO of ING Direct, which is the largest internet bank after 5 years in business and now one of the top 30 banks in the US. All the things that Arkadi talked about were the concepts that Open Source and Web 2.0 espouse. He talked about turning the banking model upside down where banks currently just keep creating more paper and more profit. He chose to operate the company like a modern retailer with high-volume, low cost services. He encouraged the bank to build customer advocacy, aligning itself with the issues that customers care about rather than coerce them and upsell them through TransPromo marketing initiatives. Customers opt-in, not opt-out. This is not just about technology, but in viewing the customer in a different way and AIIM really needs to take this on board.
After that uplifting talk, how low could Microsoft stoop than to give a SharePoint pitch and demo as an industry trends talk? I’ll tell you that I completely rewrote my Web 2.0 presentation to eliminate practically all traces of Alfresco in order to be more neutral and engage in a conversation that is important. I think Jeff Teper could have done the same thing, but he is a busy guy. His nod to wider issues was that other people on the show floor could do the same things as Sharepoint. Jeff did bring up some interesting points on the bifurcation of the Governance and Empowerment cultures and the need to provide the best of both to most enterprises. I read the descriptions of Empowerment as including Web 2.0 features, since later they demonstrated wikis and blogs inside of SharePoint. However, the demo by Group Product Manager Arpan Shah did little to show us how ECM is really going to change except that you can add a wiki and a blog. I’ll write more about this tomorrow.
Later in the afternoon, I went to some of the sessions. I attended Tony Byrne’s session on Convergence of Content and Data as I indicated in my blog. Unfortunately for Tony there were probably only about 20 people in the session, not counting the four panellists and Tony. Far more popular were the getting started sessions and the session on records management. Wilson and I did alright in our session on Web 2.0 and ECM given the overall attendance of the conference. However, Rory Staunton asked the question “Why are you here?” during the question and answer session. “Good question!” I replied. My response was that I was interested in a dialog in what is going to be really important for ECM.
Now I could have gone to the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Certainly the weather would have been a lot better. However, AIIM is a good show for us. It shows that we are playing in the same market as the large players. It is where we have met many of our OEM customers. AIIM represents billions of dollars in revenues and millions of end users and for that reason they are important. But they have lost the opportunity to engage in the bigger debate of where do enterprises go to go on line and engage in conversation with their customers. How do they take that transactional information and constructively use it to help their customers. It is not through TransPromo! Take a look at the following graphs of the blogs going on around both the AIIM and Web 2.0 Conferences.
Note that there are many times the number of blogs talking about the Web 2.0 Expo and probably tens to hundreds of thousands of readers. This is about the conversations that all enterprises should be having with their customers. Web 2.0 is not about billions of dollars in revenue today, but it will be about billions of dollars in the future. AIIM must release itself from the big ticket machines of the past and look forward to the content-rich services of the future.
One of the best values for money I have of any subscription is to the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). The ACM is the premier organization for computer science and the ACM portal is the best place to go for the state of the art in computing. The Communications of the ACM is the monthly magazine for the latest themes in software and computing. I just got my March copy last week, which is a bit late, but is not unusual for a lot of things coming over to Europe. However, this issue is full of some very interesting articles around the topic of Emergency Response Systems and Time-Critical Information Systems.
One article though, is not directly related to the topic, but is well worth reading. Modeled after Steven Covey’s 7 Habits series, the article The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Technology Leaders by Stephen Andriole looks at the habits of successful technology leaders gathered through surveys since 2001. The habits of highly effective business leaders are:
Although this list is not quite as deep and profound as Covey’s “Keep the end in mind” and “Sharpen the Saw”, it is an interesting way of looking at the transforming world of technology. I particularly like shifting notion from pain relief, a hang over from the analyst-driven days of ROI, to business pleasure or delight which is espoused in the concepts of Web 2.0.
I am off to the AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) Conference in Boston right now. This is perhaps the largest Enterprise Content Management conference there is. I will be speaking tomorrow on Web 2.0 and ECM with Wilson D’Souza of MIT. Looking through the agenda of the conference, I was looking for sessions on security.
James McGovern has constantly asked me and other ECM vendors to solve security issues for ECM using the standards that have already been developed for web services, such as XACML. Looking at the agenda at AIIM, it doesn’t look like the vendors are taking it quite as seriously as James. James is an enterprise architect and his role is to look at stuff like this.
Trying to address security in some of the standards groups such as AIIM’s iECM initiative and JSR-283, the successor to JSR-170, has been politically tricky. It is difficult to figure out what a common view of security is given all of the different models of security such as Access Control List, Role-based Security and Policy-based Security used in Records Management, let alone all the different vendors’ implementations of each. However, looking at this problem going forward, without addressing and standardizing security, we are creating huge barriers to interoperability and not meeting the requirements of new models of interaction on the internet.
In looking at how new Web 2.0 companies are starting to mash-up and integrate different services, it is hard to see how we can extend these capabilities into more secure and sensitive services such as eCommerce or bringing these services into the enterprise without a common notion of identity, role, entitlements or membership. As vendors, we either address these issues or, like so many time before, they will be addressed for us by others on the internet and we will be forced to catch up.
I have been doing some background thinking on this and here are some important points that I think ECM vendors need to consider:
Help the process by asking your vendor how they expect to address these types of security concerns. If you are at AIIM, bring the issue in relevant sessions. I don’t have all the answers nor does any vendor. People in the middle of this problem like James can help by bringing up their use cases. If we start asking the questions, then perhaps we can collaboratively answer the questions and solve this problem. If you think standardizing this is hard, try imagining building next generation systems without standardizing these security needs.
Checking my email this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see Alfresco listed as one of 10 Enterprise Companies to Watch by LinuxWorld. Those of you who read my post on how we named Alfresco and Documentum will know that it is worth starting the name of your company with an A. We were able to be listed first among some pretty impressive companies like the last listed, Workday founded by PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield.
Also included in the list is Vertica, started by Mike Stonebraker. Mike is one of my heroes and I had the great pleasure of working for him at Ingres when it first started. Prior to that he was one of my professors at Berkeley and taught me all about relational databases while he was working on the original Ingres project. Mike has been one of the most influential people in database technology and perhaps computer science as a whole. I am still in awe of him to this day. It's good to see that he is still in the business of starting companies. The concepts behind Vertica and column-oriented databases are probably worth a blog as well.
Today, Salesforce.com announced that they will be getting into the ECM business by acquiring Koral, one of our neighbors here in Maidenhead. Some of the guys there are our friends and we wish them luck in this new turn in the ECM market. They scored a real coup showing up at Demo last year and it obviously got the attention of Salesforce. The system has not been around long, but they have added some interesting Web 2.0 twists. It is focused on document management and was born out of the efforts of BuildOnLine, a specialist online content management provider for the construction industry that has recently merged to create CTSpace.
This is a significant shift for both Salesforce.com and for the ECM market. As we all know, although most of the Fortune 1000 have ECM, penetration into those accounts can generally figured in single digit percentages and practically non-existent in smaller organizations. Increasingly, ECM will be delivered either as a software or physical appliance or as software as a service in a utility like form. Smaller enterprises or organizations that have generic content management requirements will find this service useful. This will allow Salesforce to leverage its brand and start with the sales organizations. It also give Salesforce a means to expand its business beyond the sales and marketing organization. It also further validates the Software as a Service model for simple utility functions.
Although everyone is looking for simplicity, not everyone will be looking for a utility-like approach to ECM. It is up to the ECM vendors to simplify the installation and set up process to make it as easy as flipping a switch, but keeping the content inside. Organizations that are not comfortable putting their documents outside the firewall, such as financial services and government organizations are more likely to look for an internal system. Also, as the BuildOnLine guys found out, once you move to the area of specialist content applications, the sale gets much harder and configuring systems becomes even worse. Records management, engineering applications and specialist publishing applications fall into this category. It will be entirely up to each organization which makes sense for them.
Software as a Service is a model that Salesforce.com didn't invent, but has become its biggest proponent and greatest success story. This acquisition will raise the profile of SaaS as a model for ECM. Salesforce will not be alone in delivering content management services as others are developing their solutions with systems like Documentum and Alfresco. Likewise, Microsoft is taking Sharepoint on-line with the Office Live offering. Other companies are now looking at providing an SaaS model for web content management and collaborative content management as well. No doubt we will be seeing feature by feature comparisons between these various solutions soon. Depending on the breadth of functionality, integration with internal systems and scope outside of sales and marketing content, we will see how Salesforce does.