Content Management and the Cloud
By Gerald Edwards, Director- Content Management, Emblemhealth
Content Management has always been one of those areas that companies have defined and managed to varying degrees based upon their businesses. Most companies started small at the workgroup level and were successful in implementing solutions based around workflows. As comfort levels rose, the applications would expand beyond the workgroup to multi-departmental, and then finally to the enterprise level. A few years ago, that world got turned on its head. Terms like Mobile, Remote, and Cloud worked their way into the lexicon, and the established products and vendors found themselves in the right place, at the right time, but not really equipped to take advantage of the opportunity. Nobody built their tools for the size, scale and breadth that were required to support the new paradigm. These vendors have done a nice job adapting but still face high hurdles. They can leverage their existing customers, but their model is structured for large Enterprise customers that they are not nearly as nimble as they need to be. A recent Gartner survey I read identified customer support as the most recurring complaint, even for the members of their Magic Quadrant. Some vendor business development people admitted that they really didn’t have full functionality when you started talking about the cloud. So what factors have not only changed the game, but re-wrote the rules?
1. Infrastructure – We always knew any CMS was server happy, because it spread wide when new functionality was added. Managing infrastructure required people, process, and space. You need to understand the application to effectively manage the infrastructure. The cloud and virtualization on-demand, has commoditized those functions. Anybody can now provision servers in the cloud. Anybody, anywhere, and any time. Backups, Disaster Recovery, licenses, and monitoring are all baked into the fee for service.
The internet business model is driven by content and transactions involving content
2. Get a document database with low cost of entry – The web is full of scalable document databases with open API’s to act as repositories—Amazon WorkDocs, Google Cloud, Azure DocumentDB, to name a few. More importantly, they can be used with a low cost of entry, scaled as needed, and not licensed based upon where you think the application will grow to up front. This allows costs to scale with revenue which is what always kills CMS systems before they get off the ground.
3. Use Open Source software— I know, I was a non-believer when this movement came about, but I have seen the light. Open Source adoption opens a firm up to entire communities of coders that are globally available. A community like Ruby on Rails offers Modules of code for use that are free. These communities will only get bigger, they will grow into industry specific groupings. I work in Health Care and we all do exactly the same things. What sets us apart are our provider networks, and the costs of benefits we offer. Our processing is the same. Open Source allows for communities to tackle common tasks cheaply because it promotes low cost of entry for coding specialists to become entrepreneurs.
4. API’s – Yes I know, it’s not a new term, but the way it’s being used is. We are truly at an age of atomic, modular, disposable code. Developing ReSTful API’s allows integration across the internet, over widely accepted protocols, with no need to maintain point-point connections. Integration also implicitly prevents bloatware because we’re stitching together functionality, not writing it from scratch. As it matures we will find that virtually every business function can be reduced to its component parts and assembled into an orchestration in much shorter times. This approach promotes the ability to utilize best of breed functionality and not have everything baked into a monolithic implementation, thus allowing inevitable pivots when needed.
5. Analytics – Every cloud platform now has analytics as part of the offering. Analytics will be the driver behind new business functions, sales approaches, budgets, advertising, and marketing. Measure, analyze respond, predict, and iterate—that’s the way decisions are being made. Waiting for the weekly rollup reports from IT is obsolete. These tools are created and managed by the business who can now also try multiple paths in determining what works best.
6. Agility – I would be remiss if I only spoke of tools without process. All of the above has given the business world a new flexibility and an aversion to complexity. Agile processes require a mindset to move quickly, accept that all your requirements won’t be in Rev 1, and the sum is greater than the whole, meaning that adding modular functions now makes the future easier and more responsive.
So where is Content Management in all this? Its right in the middle. The internet business model is driven by content and transactions involving content. Bills, Statements, EOB’s, purchase catalogs, and shopping carts are well established in today’s world. FinTech and IoT are in their infancy. Managing large troves of content, making it searchable, easily retrieved, and having the ability to measurable what people are looking at is imperative. Just accept that it may not take the form of your grandfathers CMS. New tools and methods are reordering the universe. Exciting times lay ahead.