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What CMIS Will Do for Content Integration

Will unstructured content be the next frontier for BI? There's hope that Content Management Integration Services (CMIS) will do for content what SQL did for databases.

Given the level of investment enterprises put into their Enterprise Content Management (ECM) platforms, you'd think they'd take every opportunity to extract maximum value. In a recent InformationWeek Analytics/Intelligent Enterprise Enterprise Content Management survey of 276 business IT professionals, 59% of respondents said their ECM systems could play an expanded role in the enterprise -- if they could be more easily integrated with third-party applications.

That's a big if. Linking apps to an ECM platform is expensive, involving extensive internal development or third-party specialists. That limits the number of apps -- and users -- that can take advantage of the content stored in these platforms.

Enter the Content Management Integration Services (CMIS) standard, a Web services specification that lets competing content management systems share information. Backed by leading vendors, including Alfresco, EMC, IBM, Microsoft, Open Text, Oracle and SAP, CMIS aims to pry open proprietary ECM repositories, thus making the content stored in those repositories more available to applications and end users. For instance, enterprise search software or collaboration platforms could use the standard to find and share content. Web 2.0 mashups could be written to pull information from multiple repositories using CMIS as a common interface, instead of creating custom connections.

This article, which is an executive summary of the report "Silo to Gold Mine: What CMIS Can, and Can't, Do for ECM Integration," explores the capabilities CMIS will enable, which capabilities it lacks and what direction it will likely take in subsequent versions. The full report, which is available as a free download, details early vendor CMIS offerings, provides a detailed look at vendor roadmaps on integrating CMIS, and offers charts and more detail on our Enterprise Content Management survey (registration required).

Why We Need to Broaden ECM Use

Traditionally, ECM vendors have built their platforms like walled gardens, with a limited number of applications and users allowed through the gates. Adding applications typically required organizations to build connectors using vendor-provided APIs, or to hire the services arm of the ECM vendor or third-party consultants to create those connections.

On the repository front, organizations are grappling with the expanding cost of storing unstructured data. Enterprises incur both capital expenses to buy storage space for growing volumes of information and operational expenses to manage that additional capacity other files potentially relevant to the case. The more business content that's stored in a well ordered ECM, the more streamlined -- and the less costly -- that process becomes.

On the resource side, ECM platforms hold a potential gold mine of information. If a wide variety of users and business apps could link to these platforms, all kinds of new capabilities open up, from collaboration to business search to composite applications that repurpose data from multiple sources in compelling new ways. Text extraction, text mining and "voice of the customer" applications and technologies, for instance, are being used to detect customer sentiment, up-sell and cross-sell opportunities as well as risks and threats to enterprises.

It's clear that enterprises want these capabilities. So what's stopping them? Our survey respondents say the most challenging aspects of ECM integration are time and cost, but a lack of in-house expertise is also a roadblock. Organizations also struggle with maintaining their existing integrations, and don't have the resources or bandwidth to introduce more. But help is on the way.

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