At IBM, Content is King

With a term as open to interpretation as "Content Manager," there might be some confusion as to its meaning. What did it mean for the consumer when, in mid-March, IBM announced the launch of Content Manager 6.1 as the latest in its array of e-business solutions?

Let's start with an even more basic question. What is IBM's new Content Manager? It's a cross-platform datastore for all types of content, including scanned business documents, computer generated output, audio, streaming video, images and native PC formats.

Content Manager captures, stores and retrieves all types of information, from digital content to e-content. To do so, it leverages the value of its Enterprise Information Portal (itself a new launch announced last November) and other enterprise applications and tools. Bob Schwartz, manager of IBM’s Content Management Marketing, describes Content Manager as "taking the best elements from several of our products, and significantly enhancing them."

Designed to enhance the EDMSuite Integrated Document Management offering, VisualInfo and the DB2 Digital Library Multimedia Asset Management offering, Content Manager is being positioned as a single tool for a wide array of content-enabled solutions. Those solutions range from complementing vertical line of business applications such as insurance claims processing and mortgage loan origination to e-commerce to corporate communications.

Content Manager is a good deal for both Digital Library and VisualInfo customers. Previously, its Digital Library customer base rested primarily with the richer media, i.e. audio and video. Now, with its latest bevy of upgrades and enhancements, Content Manager has added a more business-oriented spin. Conversely, VisualInfo customers accessing business documents now can utilize the multimedia features of Content Manager.

(I must admit that with "information overload" and constant "term" invention and reinvention, some confusion results. Hopefully this column will clarify much of this for you, the reader, as well as myself!)

In technical terms, the new Content Manager represents a convergence in the marketplace of several key technologies, including Web content management, XML, document management, COLD, imaging and workflow, and multimedia. With that convergence, IBM seeks to corner the market on all forms of office correspondence including customer billing, proof of delivery statements, online catalogs, Web transaction records, and even rights management—the protection of digital intellectual property, including digital watermarking.

Does competition exist in this evolving niche? A bit. Companies such as FileNet and Optika have entered the space, but their products seem more narrowly contained in content management. I see IBM positioning itself as an overall solutions provider, offering data storage, management and distribution, business intelligence and content management capabilities—in other words, management of all digital information using a single repository and a single interface.

Big Blue is also packaging its new product, which was created using Java Bean and C++ interfaces, with an enhanced client tool kit. Good news for the midsize customer who may or may not have a separate IT department standing by.

And here's an eye-opening statistic. According to industry analysts, a full 85 percent of business content lives outside companies' traditional database systems. That means there's a tremendous potential to harness benefits from huge repositories of business-critical information.

Customers can take their most critical corporate data (what some might say is a company's “real knowledge”), integrate it into core processes and applications, and make it electronically available across the Internet, and thereby, across the world. Why do so? To transform information into a competitive asset. Can a stronger argument be made?

The signs so far are positive. IBM's Global Services has been a key supporter of this effort, repositioning its EDMSolutions Group to become the “e-business Content Management Solutions Practice.” And already, more than 25 business partners have signed up, including Vignette, Interwoven, Open Market/Future Tense and Plumtree.

All this represents good news for the EDMSuite or DB2 Digital Library customer, who gains added functionality. I see it as a "super-set of functions" from multiple existing products that support multiple platforms, and that ease access to complementary unstructured information for e-business applications.

So, with corporate data reportedly doubling every six to eight months, are the old silos of corporate information going the way of the mimeograph machine? It would appear so. Such a change is necessary, and it makes sense.

These are logical concepts and I hope I have helped define them. I would be very interested in your reaction and comments about this important end-evolving subject. Let me know your views.

Sam Albert is president of Sam Albert Associates (Scarsdale, N.Y.), a consulting firm specializing in developing strategic corporate relationships.

Related Information:

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