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Content Oriented Architectures: Putting Content at the Center of CM Projects


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Presented by Joe Gollner at Documentation and Training East, October
The most common mistake found in content management projects is rather
surprising. The reason most CM projects falter is that the project
team, and frequently its stakeholders, become unduly enamored with
some piece of technology and assume, or hope, that one or two
applications will erase all of the challenges surrounding the
creation, management, reuse and delivery of content. When a particular
collection of applications fail to deliver on the expectations, the
usual response is to insert even more applications. With each new
application that is introduced, a number of connectors and patches are
also added so that one tool can work with the others that are already
in place. This continues until, with seeming inevitability, these
projects crumble under the weight of growing system complexity. These
projects fail, in short, because, in becoming fixated on technology,
they essentially forget about their content.

This presentation will use a number of project cases studies, some
older and some exceedingly current, to illustrate the downward path
that most CM projects follow. While this might sound ominous, this
journey will actually arrive at a hopeful conclusion. If CM projects
place content at the center of their solution designs, adopting in
effect a Content Oriented Architecture (COA), it becomes possible for
projects to use technology, even exploit it, in ways that emphasize
helping authors, publishers and content users. Under this model, the
quality and usefulness of the content assets becomes the overriding
focus and where automation is introduced it is to either further
improve the quality of the content or to reduce the cost and effort
needed to achieve the desired results. Examples of successful projects
will be used to prove that Content Oriented Architectures are not
really new and that they do deliver results that endure over time.

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Content Oriented Architectures: Putting Content at the Center of CM Projects

  1. 1. Content Oriented Architectures Putting Content at the Center Joe Gollner of CM Projects / Vice President, Enterprise Solutions Stilo International
  2. 2. Deer in the “Application” Headlights Problem 1: Implementation of repository Problem 2: & authoring tool made Processing of instances content reuse difficult exceeded the capacity of publishing tools Product Data Management Repository Structured Authoring (Book Orientation)
  3. 3. Topics The Perils of Application Orientation Case Study: An Unhappy Tale The Attractions of Application Orientation A Tale of Three Projects Saved from Destruction Content Oriented Architectures
  4. 4. The Perils of Application Orientation Application Application Authoring Printing Application Each application introduces constraints on Printing the content inputs / outputs and these are frequently incompatible with each other Application Application Application Importing Indexing Viewing
  5. 5. The Nature of Software Applications Software Applications Applications are tools share a number of traits that amplify the skills of people to Developed to address a enhance performance Purpose specific purpose Predicated on data inputs Application with predictable structures and values Purpose Guided by “definitive” algorithms through which a result can be determined or Applications depend on Strict control Conditions Satisfied Fixed scope Limited timeframe
  6. 6. The Limits of Integration Application Application Application Viewing Web Publishing PDF Publishing Application Application Failure Threshold Application Authoring Importing Indexing Application Application Application Exporting Loading Storing
  7. 7. Case Study: Electronic Regulatory Filing National Energy Board (NEB) of Canada Regulatory Agency governing the Canadian Energy Industry “Court of Record” (Convenes Hearings & Makes Judgments) 1993 – Vision articulated of an electronic regulatory filing process Based on Open Standards Put in place a solution To be shared across the industry Management repository Publishing services Authoring tools Validation & interchange tools
  8. 8. ERF Content Model The ERF Content Model proved to be substantially more complex than could be realistically used
  9. 9. Electronic Regulatory Application Architecture Recipe for Disaster: - Complex DTD - Customized authoring tools - WordPerfect - XMetal - MS Excel - Over-burdened repository - Astoria - Over-burdened publishing tool - FrameMaker
  10. 10. Project Outcomes & Lessons Learned Project was a Complete Failure Project Managers ignored early warnings The solution was too complex to be feasible Technology architecture was fundamentally flawed Application components were pushed beyond their capabilities Application components were heavily customized Version upgrades in platforms had to be avoided for: Content repository, publishing engine, authoring tools Practical constraints on content markup became outrageous Standardized formatting was not acceptable to stakeholders $10 Million investment was lost when the project was cancelled by executive management after 10 years
  11. 11. The Attraction of Applications Applications hold great attraction Especially for management Not entirely unreasonable as they: Make specific knowledge executable & efficient to leverage Provide repeatable benefits Offer the potential to “scale” Application Investments Tend to have a mixed implementation track record Tend to have a relatively short lifespan Underlying knowledge is invalidated or superseded Changing business environment reduces effectiveness Inflexibility leads to “barnaclization” of application investment
  12. 12. A Tale of Three Projects Saved from Destruction Software Engineering Solution Scenario: Metropolitan Area Network equipment supplier finds its core business strategy threatened by application limitations. Global Case Management System Scenario: Massive project to integrate a variety of content services into a global CRM platform threatened to become an even bigger project due to fundamental application incompatibilities. Multi-national Defense System Project Scenario: Large system acquisition project threatened to be halted due to the cost and complexity of the application integration tasks, made more challenging by extremely onerous security requirements.
  13. 13. Software Engineering Solution Situation Optical Networking venture building a new product suite Distributed, multinational development team Speed of software adaptation core to their “value” Needed to wholly control and own their work environment Existing CASE application could not meet these goals Solution Required a complete Software Engineering Platform Core System: design environment and code generation system Supplemented the original CASE tool with an extensibility layer Permitted all stakeholders to participate in the design process Delivered enhanced quality, improved productivity & contextualization of the output software components Delivered dramatically improved system documentation
  14. 14. Software Engineering Solution Key Points: Exposing design content in an “intermediate” XML format permitted a variety of “content processes” to be run that extended the core system behavior by enhancing: - Quality control - Online collaboration - High precision content publishing
  15. 15. Global Case Management System Situation Large-scale solution for an Immigration and Citizenship Case Management system supporting global user community Content Management dimension of the requirements were both very challenging and absolutely essential Initial concept was to integrate a COTS DM / CMS into the enterprise CRM package and to deploy a hybrid environment Forecasted cost of this integration ran to over $50 Million and serious integration & deployment risks were identified Solution Rigorous requirements discovery & distillation effort undertaken Numerous alternative architectures were evaluated By focusing on the core requirements, introducing a content specification governing interfaces & adding effective content processes – the $50 Million budget was effectively eliminated
  16. 16. Global Case Management System Key Points: Addressing the integration challenges using an extensibility model addressed all of the core needs and permitted a wide range of parallel requirements to be accommodated at no additional cost. The solution embedded content intelligence into the underlying database and network layers that allowed sophisticated content services to be delivered using existing commercial applications.
  17. 17. Multi-National Defense System Project Situation Very large NATO Defense System Project Design & development work to be performed across 13 countries Original Collaboration environment depended on a large investment in security applications to facilitate direct access to PDM environment Expenses, incompatibilities between different PDM platforms, and security concerns all became an issue Solution Content architecture established for content interchange Simple CMS developed to act as a “master repository” Content exported from source PDM to repository Interchange protocols / collaboration processes put in place Multi-level security including content-based measures
  18. 18. Multi-National Defense System Project Key Points: Content exported from Product Data Management system and an interim master repository established for working content. Multiple strategies leveraged to enhance security levels. Stakeholders Master Repository Secure PDM
  19. 19. Secrets of Success In each of these three cases: A workable solution emerged by exposing the content being managed and processed within applications A workable solution emerged by exposing the system logic governing the applications as content that could be highly parameterized Supplemental components processed the exposed content and effectively bridged the gap between different applications and between applications and requirements The end solutions were very simple to implement and maintain, and provided for ongoing adaptation to address other needs
  20. 20. The Common Ingredient Content Integration Exposing the “content” is analogous to reverting to first principles or finding the common denominator when solving a problem Any impedance between the paradigms governing applications can be addressed by analyzing and processing the exposed content and logic The content integration interfaces become independent components that can be used to address parallel requirements as they emerge The common form used to expose all content – informative and processable XML
  21. 21. Content Oriented Architectures Plug & Service Play Service Application Array Service Service Service Service Dynamic Content Services Business Domain Content Store Content Domain Independent Open Representation Standards Application Domain Multiple Application Sources
  22. 22. The Benefits of Content Oriented Architectures Application Filter Application Indexing Simplify Markup Importing Validator Application Filter Application Validation Viewing Filter Update Metadata Exporting Application Achieving application Filter Content independence, increased system flexibility, improved usability, ... Authoring …by exposing content & adding transformation filters & validators that solve incompatibilities
  23. 23. Enterprise Content Oriented Architecture Controls Specialized Models Integrate Rules
  24. 24. Conclusions There are many reasons to look more closely at content technologies One of these is to find better ways to integrate & leverage application investments … this can save precious time & money for both people & organizations Parting Thought It’s not so much about managing content with technology as it is about managing technology with content