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Internet World 2007
From e-enabling public services through accessibility, to engaging citizen bloggers in public sector collaborative media, some real benefits for all UK citizens irrespective of status are starting to percolate through in document and content management applications. At public service media organisations such as the BBC, apart from a major relocation of staff and department to Salford, hiring skips to transport Jonathan Ross's pay packet, what else is going on inside Auntie?
One of the key initiatives for public service broadcasters around the world, over recent years, has been the issue of inclusion and level playing fields for all. Accessibility and collaboration are fast becoming key areas for e-enabling, as equality and non-discriminatory practices underpin the entire ethos of open government and corporate social responsibility. In the UK, since the introduction and amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and other moves to include rather than leave behind disabled citizens, things are changing fast.
In December 1996, the Disability Discrimination Act made it unlawful to treat a disabled person less favourably than anyone else. By 2000, the Disability Rights Commission was set up to promote and enforce the DDA.
For digital online content, DRC's Code of Practice refers to online services whereby if website operators do not consider disabled users when creating sites, now constitutes a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. According to the Royal National Institute of the Blind, for example, over 2 million UK people are either registered blind or partially-sighted.
DRC itself has rolled out a new content management system to manage its own web content. The DRC chose Immediacy's content management system to guarantee compliance with industry standards, such as the Worldwide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative.'
Immediacy had already implemented other public sector accessibility projects, such as those at the Equal Opportunities Commission, a range of borough, city and district Councils, as well at within the NHS, primary care trusts, housing associations, police forces and even the BBC. Immediacy's enterprise-class document management system, DMS 2, is .NET 2.0 based, SQL2000/2005.
According to Immediacy's CEO Nigel Jackson, their aim with the BBC project was to reduce complexity, to make it easier for organisations to set up and to be moving quickly without spending a fortune. What's more, it has powerful workflow and is extensible. 'We've succeeded primarily on the basis of providing tools that are easy to use,' said Jackson. We've majored at coming at it from the perspective of the users of the software, rather than primarily from the theoretical or the more system design perspective. Users need to be able to pick up the software and be productive quickly. There's a very important rationale here, rather than just spouting that as a mantra,' he adds. 'If people have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on implementing these systems, and then they train people and they don't use them because they find it too difficult, then you seriously jeopardise the whole investment and the return you get."
Content in public sector broadcasting
The BBC hopes to reach the forefront of content and digital asset distribution and services. Part of their long term infrastructure strategy at BBC Worldwide is using Immediacy's content solutions, as Jackson explains. 'BBC employed one license of ours a year ago and largely got on implemented it themselves. A year later, they invited us back in. They had considered and piloted Documentum and decided it was too complex. They piloted Immediacy for a while afterwards and now use it on over thirty intranet sites at the BBC. Their reasons for choosing Immediacy, they said, were that they felt it was too big a jump for their editors which was mainly FrontPage-based, and that it may be too complex for their users.'
On the current 'psychology of the marketplace', Nigel thinks that size is not everything. 'The may be a problem for competitors in some regards,' he says, 'where end-user customers may think that going for big solutions are too complex and therefore do not want to go in wholesale. New customers may be leaning toward mid-market offerings. What's happening is the big players, there is something about large corporates that want to buy large products from large vendors.'
Jackson thinks this may be a tendency to want to feel a 'sense of security', or a strategic idea, whereby they buy in something dictated by senior management. 'But there are only so many companies in the world that have 20 million plus to roll out on a CMS project,' said Jackson, 'so that when the really big players have soaked up the Fortune 1000 companies, they end up looking at the upper-mid marketplace, which ends up as a very heavily competed area. People have bought into our products tactically, and ended up using them strategically.'
Since its inception, Immediacy has primarily been a Web CMS vendor for the past eight of nine years, but now two other products. 'We've spent two years developing DMS 2, and while DMS 1.0 has been around for about a year, it was a limited pilot release with a small number of customers. However, DMS 2 is where we've really brought it to market much more in earnest,' he says. 'The key things about it are that we've applied the same values to it that we applied to the CMS. We want to reduce complexity, we want to make it easier to deploy, we also want to make it dead easy for users to use so that you hardly have to be aware of it.'
Drag and drop document management
According to Jackson, Immediacy has built a variety of ways of interacting with it. 'Because we use WebDAV technology, you can have a folder in your Windows Explorer and simply drag documents into that folder and they become managed documents in our repository.'
WebDAV is an important technology that allows you to use file type interaction over HTTP. It is an extension to the HTTP protocol which makes very easy file manipulation and handling possible over a web connection. So, literally, within a couple of clicks, users can add a Web folder to Windows Explorer and then drag and drop documents in and out of it and interact with it in exactly the same way as one would with ordinary folders. 'On top of that, there is the ability to work with the management of documents through applications,' says Jackson, 'so you open a document within Word and you can open it either from the file system or the Immediacy DMS, so you can check it in and out within Word.'
DMS 2 also has a web browser-based interface, an Explorer-type web interface which provides access to documents, and one can view them, see the properties, set the properties and it also gives users access to the 'admin' function, so they can set up users, permissions, workflow and so on. According to Jackson, DMS 2 includes a new workflow component which is extremely sophisticated. It allows the creation of extensive, custom workflows and can be programmed to perform almost any workflow operation one might envisage, from documents and files. It supports multiple file types and because it is .NET based, it is compatible with either SQL2000 or SQL 2005 which are the databases we can use as repositories, and .NET 2.0 as the framework architecture. It means you can also customise it.
Currently, BBC Worldwide is building an application on top of it,' adds Jackson, 'so they are actually using the API and creating their own interfaces on top of the application and using it as a repository. So instead of using our own DMS [browser-based] interface, they are building a web application using their own interfaces, which call into our DMS and they're using that as their asset management tool for cataloguing and as an asset library tool for their film clips and programme excerpts.'
Flexibility and ease-of-use
Furthermore, developers can customise Immediacy's interface, creating new views of it, create new components to go in it or use it's customisation capabilities and its APIs. In summary, the key points for DMS 2 according to Immediacy are its ease-of-use, the WebDAV technology making it very straightforward to use interfaces like Windows Explorer; the browser-based interface with very straightforward features; and, the integration of powerful workflow. "Workflow enables things like document lifecycle management and archiving which helps organisations be better organisations and be compliant with requirements to keep track of information," concludes Jackson, including version tracking and audit trails.
Whether it be through e-enabling, social networking, collaborative and interactive media content and rich asset management, e-enabling is, essentially, about providing better service for customers and end-users. At this year's Internet World 2007, there will be a special focus on public sector, local and central government applications for document and content management. Keynote speakers from agencies such as Preston, Mendip councils, government and media agencies will be presenting on how document and content management solutions are being used to provide collaborative services for communities and how to streamline operational processes within organisations.For more information
Internet World 2007, with the co-located Enterprise Content Management Show, is being held at Earl's Court in London from May 1st to May 3rd. For more information and to register, visit www.internetworld.co.uk and see www.ecmshow.co.uk for the conference programme and list of exhibitors. For more on content management, visit Enterprise Content Management 365 at www.ecm365.com , the virtual trade show which runs year round.