Posts tagged "information management"

W3C Cuts Path for Global Government Linked Data

Governments, Open Data

The notion of using open data, the semantic web, and so on in open government is not new; the U.K. for example, has been working on it since 2009. 

As described in the new group's charter:

The mission of the Government Linked Data (GLD) Working Group is to provide standards and other information which help governments around the world publish their data as effective and usable Linked Data using Semantic Web technologies. The group, a part of the eGovernment Activity and closely connected with the Semantic Web Activity, will collect and make available information about government Linked Data activities around the world. It will use that information and the experience of its participants to develop W3C Recommendations for Best Practices and for RDF Vocabularies necessary for publication of government data in RDF, as Linked Data."

Linked Data, as defined by the W3C, is the collection of interrelated datasets on the Web.

Deliverables

Deliverables from the group are intended to be:

  • an online directory of the government linked data community, first version of which is due in September
  • "cookbook" advice site, the first version of which is due in December
  • best practices for publishing government linked data, the first version of which is also due in December
  • standard vocabularies, the first version of which is also due in December

Stable operation is expected in 2012, and transition to post working group operation is expected in 2013. The group's work is public.

Dealing with CMS Obsolescence

As a consultant, I don’t often get to enjoy the fruits of a successful project. I get a good handshake and a nice project wrap-up party. After that, I usually move on to the next client, often to solve the same problems, with some new wrinkles, all over again. I do like to stay in contact with several clients and over the years, there is one challenge that they are rarely prepared to solve — obsolescence.

The Price of Success

Let’s take your generic enterprise content management system — this is CMSWire after all. Five years ago, you sat down, defined your content types, defined the content life-cycles and built out the core business processes.

Over the years, new types were added and new processes were implemented, but on the whole, it has been a reliable system.

On top of that, you have had some luck. The original software vendor has not been bought by a company looking to move customers to a different product or aiming to milk the software maintenance. Upgrades have been implemented on a fairly regular basis and they haven’t been nightmarish.

Now the system’s age is showing. Over time, meaningful new releases have become further apart. Meanwhile, there has been a gradual change in your requirements that didn’t track directly with the vendor’s enhancements. Some examples that I’ve seen the past few years include:

  • Progressing from managing content to capturing the content.
  • Supporting significantly more users in the organization over a wider area.
  • Sharing information with external partners.

These are all problems. All in all, it is a pretty pickle. There are two basic approaches you can take to attacking this problem.

Just Start Over

This always has lots of appeal at first blush. A fresh start with new technology can be very exciting. The techies love to play with the latest technology and management can point to the shiny new toy that they brought into this world to solve the problem.

Of course it is never that simple. Remove from consideration all of the content that may have to be migrated and just look at the embedded business rules.

There is a lot of business knowledge tied up in older systems. Outside consultants/experts may come look at an older system and start pointing to how things can be better if they only use their products instead.

Theoretically, their assertions may be correct. The issue is that you have to make things dramatically better for the users to accept the new solution. Do not underestimate the ever-present danger of a key feature not being available in the new system. What you may view as something that needs to be listed as a key requirement, the user may just assume that feature is a given and not even mention it. That lasts until the user realizes it isn’t in the new system.

Let’s consider the enhancement route.

Bonus Features

An alternative to a full replacement is acquiring new technology that can enhance and supplement the current system's capabilities. This can be as straightforward as adding a new search engine, to something more obscure as compression software for content.

A common challenge in larger organizations is budgetary politics. Management may see the problem and wonder why the existing system can’t do what they deem to be core features of an Enterprise CMS. Management tends to react in one of three ways:

  1. Decide to live with it. Why spend any more money? The system has been good enough for years. Why not a little longer?
  2. Replace it. Take on the previously discussed challenges and bring in a new vendor that does it all.
  3. Go with the Golf Solution.

Let me explain that last one. The Golf Solution happens when someone in management is socializing with someone and they share, at a very high level, the basic problem. The response they hear is: “Oh, my company can fix that.”

This leads to an actual meeting where it is agreed that the suggested solution is the answer to the problem. Shortly after that, the actual system team is brought into the discussion.

Now comes the tricky part. The components being proposed aren’t ideal. They may not even be on the shortlist of solutions. They do have one very critical characteristic though: management support and the budget that goes with it.

When faced with this situation, experience has taught me to just go with the flow. Make the focus learning about the proposed solution and educating the provider about the realities of the system they are trying to “fix”. What you will learn is that the solution provider doesn’t always want to implement at all costs. Use them to bring your system out of obsolescence and help your users get the most out of their system.

With the above said, eventually you will have to break down and take the replacement route. But remember, there is nothing wrong with making your existing investments sweat a little if they are still solving your business needs.

Oh, and like everything, your mileage may vary.

Search Patterns - New from O'Reilly - Design for Discovery

As we all drown in today's unparalleled access to mostly disorganized information, the holy grail for many has become to perfect search. O'Reilly Media (site) has released a new book to help those following this path.

Search Patterns

The book Search Patterns is designed to help the reader:

  • Discover a search pattern language that embraces user psychology and behavior, information architecture, interaction design and emerging technology
  • Boost enterprise efficiency and e-commerce sales
  • Enable mobile users to achieve goals, complete tasks and find what they need
  • Drive design innovation for search interfaces and applications

Expected pattern design issues such as auto-complete, best first and faceted navigation are included, but the book aims to move past these concepts as well and get you thinking about "the future of discovery."

The Authors

Search Patterns was written by Peter Morville, one of the fathers of the field of Information Architecture, and Jeffery Callender, Vice President and Design Director of Q LTD.

Together, these authors hope to help the search and discovery industry advance faster. "Our understanding of what does and doesn't work is advancing rapidly," says Morville. "Yet we're often forced to use clumsy search interfaces that should never have escaped the 1990s. Users are invited to speak Boolean and then wait patiently for irrelevant results."

Morville states that this problem exists because the expertise required to build truly great search crosses multiple disciplines, and the best design patterns are only the best for their particular context. "Our book," he says, "aims to bridge these gaps and help design teams to make search better through incremental improvement and radical innovation."

HP TRIM 7 Provides Records Management for SharePoint

When HP (site) bought Tower in 2008 the reason they gave for doing so was to extend their reach in the information management market. The recent upgrade of the TRIM document management software to TRIM 7 fulfills that ambition by offering an integrated, full suite of solutions for eDiscovery, compliance, records management and archiving.

In fact with TRIM 7, HP has specifically focused on upgrading the records and archiving elements. In this respect, they have created software that enables organizations transparently manage all of their Microsoft SharePoint Server records in a single environment, regardless of the source of those records.

What this means is that it can now capture Microsoft SharePoint files and even entire SharePoint workspaces. It also comes with full DoD 5015.2 v3 certification, making it particularly attractive across the eDiscovery and compliance markets.

TRIM And SharePoint

That TRIM 7 focuses specifically on integrating its records and archiving abilities with SharePoint is not a surprise.

For those unfamiliar with it, TRIM software is an enterprise document and records management system with the ability to scale across large, distributed environments. It enables users to capture, manage and secure enterprise information, from electronic to physical records and from creation to eventual disposal.

When HP bought Tower and its Total Records Information Management (TRIM) in 2008 one of the features it was buying was TRIM’s SharePoint integration capabilities. Tower’s software was based on Microsoft Technologies and was a Gold Partner for SharePoint before the takeover.

This integration enabled HP to enter into the SharePoint eDiscovery and compliance world as so many organizations with SharePoint now find themselves having to look at compliance issues and SharePoint carefully.

TRIM 7 Modules

With the two new modules, HP TRIM 7 enables users capture, search and manage of all types of physical and electronic business information across Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and the upcoming SharePoint Server 2010.

The two new modules include

  • TRIM Records Management: Provides transparent access to all SharePoint Server content from the SharePoint Server workspace
  • TRIM Archiving: Archives specific list objects in SharePoint Server, or entire SharePoint Server sites, to HP TRIM.

While TRIM’s ability to capture SharePoint records and archive them is not new, up until now the information it could manage was restricted to documents and limited to manual entry.

However, now capture policies can be defined by administrators and can include information that is contained in wikis, blog entries, blog comments, calendar entries and workflow events.

There are other advantages too. They include:

  • Increased compliance and preparation for eDiscovery
  • Apply compliance policy management across the enterprise
  • TRIM can now manage the complete information lifecycle of corporate records
  • Prove the authenticity of information with version control, access control and audit trails
  • Support long-term information access in appropriate formats
  • Support FOI requests by easily finding, redacting and rendering information for secure release
  • Enforce a security structure that governs how information is used
  • Easy-to apply text‑based search capabilities and metadata
  • Apply lifetime policies seamlessly and manage all SharePoint

Given the number of organizations that are now using SharePoint and are considering SharePoint 2010, the new HP TRIM modules are quite timely and probably not the last module we are likely to see for TRIM.

Considering SharePoint does not have DoD 5015 certification for its built in records management capabilities — in SharePoint 2007 or SharePoint 2010 — many organizations using the platform will be looking for an integrated solution such as this one from HP.