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If you talk to anyone from many of the various ECM vendors about mashups their eyes will start to get sparkly and they will get noticeably excited. The whole notion of jumping on and riding bareback on one of software’s current fast-paced technology thouroughbreds gives ECM product teams something to look forward to. Certainly the notion of taking data from your ECM repository and combining it with a Google map or some other such widget sounds like it could have a kazillion uses. The problem is that ECM vendors, to this day, are having trouble coming up with even a few dozen unique uses that are going to stick.

The truth is that while there indeed are great use cases where ECM and mashups can be successfully applied I have yet to see one that is a) unique to mashups and/or b) would justify the cost of putting the mashup infrastructure into place. (I would include licensing and maintenance in this equation)

In the case of a) I would call this the “killer app” factor. That is to say that no widespread case has yet emerged which would point to ECM and mashups as uniquely able to provide a solution. Of course there are some niche scenarios but these are not what is going to drive usage.

At this point it seems that adoption of mashups into ECM solutions are going to be incrementally driven by the ECM vendors themselves. Instead of putting R&D into developing newer interfaces some ECM vendors, such as IBM, are developing application widgets to fit into portal frameworks (e.g. BusinessSpace as one example). These are fairly limited in functionality and are being positioned as a “quick and dirty” UI. As these ECM widgets slowly gain feature parity with their counterpart interfaces customers may slowly migrate over. I am certainly not holding my breath as the key word here is SLOWLY. Slowly as in early adopters will likely be the only customers for the next few years. It is only when a true “killer app” emerges or widget functionality begins to exceed that of ECM legacy applications that adoption should substantially increase.

One possible accelerator may be found within CMIS–Content Management Interoperability Services. CMIS is an open standards (web services-based) API. This standard is meant to give ECM repositories of all vendors, sizes and flavours the means to communicate with each other. (I plan on writing more about CMIS in the future) As I was thinking this through the other day it occured to me that a CMIS widget could be used to provide a sovereign interface across a landscape of multiple repositories. Not a stretch of an idea but it does have certain implications. For example, this could be key for many large organizations with a plethora of repositories. As many of us know every large org has acquired over time a number of different ECM platforms. While a CMIS widget wouldn’t necessarily displace a heavyweight content federation application it would certainly give knowledge workers a simple way of mixing the content from multiple key repositories into a single view. The dynamic nature of mashups means that these views can be quickly modified to respond to changing needs.

There is no doubt that mashup technology belongs in the ECM toolkit but to what extent of its use remains to be seen. This early in the cycle things are too fluid to make a determination. Then again that right there is the true spirit of mashups.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Column 2 : links for 2010-03-05 on 05 Mar 2010 at 7:03 pm

    […] Mashups and ECM – Still looking For The Killer App « ECM Missives Is CMIS the killer app for mashups and ECM? Or are ECM mashup widgets just a way for vendors to create some eye candy to hold customers' attention while they rework their old user interfaces? (tags: ecm mashups) […]

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