IBM unveils latest content management moves

IBM unveils latest content management moves

IBM announced the first major release of content management software since acquiring FileNet in October

Having previously made major product announcements around data and information management, IBM has focused on the third leg of that strategy, content management, including the vendor's first major release of its acquired FileNet technology.

A year ago, IBM announced it would invest an additional $US1 billion in data management to focus on software and services to help customers better manage and gain insight from their data. The vendor followed that up with the launch of its Information Server software in October based on technology it gained through the $1.1 billion purchase of Ascential in 2005.

Now, it's content management's turn.

FileNet P8 4.0, released on Tuesday, is the first major version of the ECM (enterprise content management) software since IBM bought FileNet in October for $1.6 billion. The software allows users to capture, manage, access and bring together content from across their operations, automating records management and making it easier for companies to meet compliance requirements.

New in the release is a J2EE-based content engine and content federation services for third-party repositories so that a company can carry out functions including search, classification, storage, updating and deletion of content held in data stores from a variety of different software vendors. Federation is vital since it's "impossible" that any enterprise would be able to store all its content in a single repository, senior vice-president of IBM's software group, Steve Mills, said during a conference call.

Some enterprises currently have as many as 20 different content stores, he said.

Manager of computer applications, construction services, at utility company Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Franklin Alvarez, welcomed IBM's purchase of FileNet. His firm has been an IBM customer for more than 35 years and a FileNet user for more than 15 years. "We were very happy to see the two come together," he said. "It gives us real synergies to leverage."

The utility begun deploying FileNet's P8 in late 2004 to automate a large amount of manual functions particularly in the transfer of data back and forth between the company and outside agencies such as the Department of Transportation.

Alvarez's unit is responsible for the excavation work involved in laying new electricity cables or gas pipelines and in repairing existing systems in New York City, all tasks that require continual liaison with multiple New York agencies to obtain work permits. The utility is also keen to put more content, such as layouts of systems and compliance specifications, into the hands of its workforce while they're at excavation sites.

Con Edison also uses the business process management piece of the ECM software to capture knowledge from its aging workforce, Alvarez said. "Our company is cradle to grave," he added. "It's not uncommon for someone to work here for 30 to 40 years."

IBM also debuted a new Web 2.0 interface for its Content Manager OnDemand software so that users can access content held in all the vendor's ECM offerings via a Web browser.

IBM's Mills wouldn't comment on whether the vendor is likely to make more ECM acquisitions. In general, he expects IBM to continue on its current run-rate of acquiring around a dozen companies annually.

In the wake of a recent flurry of announcements from pureplay ECM players targeting the midmarket, IBM will continue to look at how best to serve the content management needs of midsize companies. "We're already reaching into the middle and have some skinnyed-down products," Mills said.

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