Content management platforms can unlock the full value of digital assets

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Content management platforms can unlock the full value of digital assets

Government agencies are experiencing digital culture shock as the rate of technology change accelerates.  That is a key observation from the Accenture Technology Vision 2016 report, which details five technology trends that determine whether agencies achieve ‘digital success.’

One of the trends Accenture describes is the ‘platform economy’ in which business leaders leverage disruptive, cloud-based platforms to transition to new business models. Agencies are starting to move to a digital-centric platform as they catch up with a world in which their workforce is already using social media, mobile apps and cloud in their personal lives. 

As agencies transition to a digital platform, managing  assets and information in an efficient, secure and productive way is essential.  Agencies are finding their legacy enterprise content management systems cannot handle the scale of digital assets, the complexity of workflows, the military-grade security demands and the variety of content delivery channels.

One agency that is successfully transitioning to this data-driven world is the Navy. 

The Navy needed a new enterprise platform that could provide a broad range of content management services for teams and end users. Search and scalability had become pain points with the existing document management system. The digital assets managed by the new application would be in a centralized repository that other applications could access; therefore, ease of integration and flexibility were important considerations in the choice of technology.  Additionally single sign-on with the military common access card (CAC) was mandatory for the new application.

The Navy replaced its legacy document management system with a flexible, scalable content management platform that serves numerous end user needs. The new application manages all digital assets and seamlessly integrates with current existing information management systems. The Navy is currently transitioning key user-facing applications over to the new content management platform.

The Navy deployment illustrates the complex content management requirements agencies face as digital assets proliferate.  A content management solution that provides the flexibility, advanced technology and security agencies need to optimize use of digital assets should address these five considerations:

Scalability. Scalability and performance are at the forefront of agency content management challenges. SQL or NoSQL databases are options for storage back ends. A NoSQL database may be required to handle extremely large, fast-growing content and/or audit logging storage.  With MongoDB, for example, agencies can take advantage of features such as replication, zero downtime and multimaster writes.  They can also build content management applications to execute big, complex, evolving data models.

Interoperability. Government agencies must transition to a new platform without interrupting workflow.  One approach to integration is a document-oriented REST application programming interface that integrates portals, workflow engines, enterprise service buses and custom applications so work can continue without loss of productivity. Agencies may also want to consider using a REST API to build custom applications and to create new commands without breaking the compatibility of existing clients.

Complex workflows. Agencies today are functioning in a far different environment than when they first installed enterprise content management systems.  Content is now made up of complex objects, not flat metadata sets, and the variety of content types and delivery channels is increasing exponentially.  Content is now a magnitude larger in size and throughput.  Agencies also want efficiency so they must move from a traditional content repository model in which document types, metadata, properties and attributes must be defined in advance to a client-driven metadata model that delivers only the metadata required for a particular application.  The adaptable REST API enables improved network efficiency by allowing developers to retrieve just those data fields needed for a given application instead of the entire object.

Advanced search.  Finding information assets is a major pain point for agencies.  The inability to quickly find the right content often causes poor user experience, decreased productivity and duplicated files across departments. Elasticsearch, an open-source REST API query engine, is a popular search solution for agencies and developers who can build their own applications with it on top of Apache Lucene, a high-performance information retrieval library written in Java. This next-gen index and search technology gives agencies the tools they need for advanced search and real-time advanced data analytics for fast decision making.

Military-grade security.  A new content management platform must have improved security controls in place. Multiple delivery channels, many types of assets and more complex content – all these are ripe opportunities for security breaches. One important concept is ‘contextual security’ in which any permission relates to a content object such as a folder, workspace or domain. This is part of the larger access control list that regulates access at each step in a workflow. Agencies can take this to yet another level by security policy architecture that goes beyond standard ACLs. For instance, the architecture can be used to define permissions according to the document metadata, or information about the logged in user.  Another essential control is advanced audit logging that continuously monitors activities performed on content by the system or user.

Integration with single sign-on capability is also a must-have in many new content management platforms. In the Navy's case, the new platform had to support single sign-on via the CAC technology that grants users access to computer networks and systems. 

IT managers searching for a content management platform that can support an environment of highly complex digital assets should use these five considerations as a starting point. Integration with existing applications and being able to scale easily are key factors. With open source technology such as Elasticsearch, agencies can also fine-tune their search process by developing custom applications.  Add to that single sign-on and a full complement of access controls, and agencies on their way to a platform that can stand up to the unceasing flow of digital assets.

About the Author

Eric Barroca is CEO of Nuxeo.

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