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Software // Information Management
03:35 PM

Content Pipeline

When you need to connect disparate content stores, you can use content integration software, federated search, portals or a new option called enterprise information integration. Most firms should use a combinartion of approaches.

Trying to hunt down content integration software users is a frustrating experience as few companies are aware of the technology and fewer still actually use it or see a need for it.

"Right now organizations are trying to develop enterprise content management strategies," says Forrester analyst Connie Moore. "CIOs and information architects are starting ECM projects and looking at lots of issues: governance, architecture, where to start, how to assign metadata, what's the scope, how do they develop requirements across the organization. The next piece behind that is 'how do I integrate my existing systems with the new [systems]?'" Moore predicts content integration will come into its own in 12 to 18 months as companies complete these ECM initiatives.

CMP Media LLC, which publishes Transform along with InformationWeek, Network Computing and 33 other technology and health care magazines, had a content integration challenge. Magazine groups in different locations were using four incompatible content management systems. Editors at the Manhasset headquarters were posting content to their magazines' Web sites via Interwoven; the West Coast-based software development group was using a semi-customized program called Nucleus; the electronics group was using a homegrown system called Mason/CopyDesk; another division was using a program called Continent.

CMP planned to standardize on Interwoven, but "in advance of anything else, we decided to aggregate all the CMP content into one spot and then make it available to each publication and create an archive for CMP, so [we] could search for anything on voiceover IP across the entire organization," says Howard Roth, independent consultant to CMP. " We also wanted [to normalize] content to a common XML scheme, categorize by subject and company we're writing about and capture for each article a secure private link that we could license to customers."

In 2003, the company created an enterprisewide taxonomy and began using a hosted service from Context Media. Once each hour, CMP now feeds new content to the ASP service, which normalizes the XML and applies taxonomy software from Nstein that groups the information into 1,600 categories.

Using CMP-designed XML style sheets, Context Media distributes the content by e-mail, FTP, RSS and the Web. Abstracts or descriptions crafted for magazines sites (sometimes simply the first paragraph of an article) are repurposed in the syndicated offerings.

The content syndication service, called Acumen, was rolled out in May and so far has four corporate customers. Personal subscribers are offered daily customized newsletters called InfoPaks that provide very specific slices of technology coverage, such as all articles on nanotechnology. CMP also sells its feeds to academic libraries.

The virtual archive was recently made available internally and should prove useful to writers who want to know how CMP has covered a subject or organization. With a user name and password, writers can search all CMP articles published in the last three years.

Will RSS eventually compete with such offerings? "The answer is yes, it probably will as it develops," Roth says. "But I use RSS and I'm still pretty unimpressed with the value of the content I wind up getting — it tends to be too broad and has too many errors." CMP does provide an RSS version of its syndicated content.

For now, the company is focusing on new ways of packaging and delivering content over its virtual repository.

For a view of how content looks today, click here. For a view of how content integration will look in the future, click here.

Crawling Content with Federated Search

When you simply need to give people enterprisewide access to information, a search-based "integration" approach may be all you need. The crucial question is, do your users need to edit and update content or bring it into workflows? If not, a search engine can crawl repositories, intranets and the Web and bring your users the content they're after. Federated search presents one interface and acts as an intermediary to different content stores, deploying searches, collecting responses and displaying a single list of results.

The federated search approach was a perfect fit for Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, a law firm with more than 800 lawyers working out of 12 offices in major cities including New York, London, Paris and Rome. Several offices have the same types of practices, so there's a frequent need to share the same content and documents, including precedents and past deal documents.

"It's very common for lawyers in multiple offices to work together on the same matter," says Brent Miller, director of knowledge management. "We have an extensive knowledge management effort to organize and collect useful information that spans across the offices."

The firm stores documents and 20 practice-specific threaded discussion forums in Lotus Notes databases (the forums are tightly integrated with e-mail so the firm's many Blackberry users can participate). Other documents are stored in an Interwoven iManage document management system, within which the firm created a "virtual fileroom" for important e-mail messages.

Searching across the individual iManage libraries in each of the 12 offices was impossible, largely due to network performance issues. In addition, the firm needed to provide easy access to thousands of intranet pages and content on SEC and selected other Web sites.

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