This blog entry is about to what extent the usage of Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) is advantageous within the field of Enterprise Content Management (ECM).
The advantages of Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) can be divided into two business cases, which are geared to IT infrastructure and business processes. By integration, reusability and standardization Service Oriented Architectures afford the increase of productivity of IT systems and users, as well as the consolidation within the IT organization and increase of quality within the IT infrastructure. From business process perspective Service Oriented Architectures provide an improved flexibility and process automation. This in particular has an impact on the corporate strategy. Reorganizations and Changes in a company affect as a driving force for the adoption of SOA. Hence crises additionally force it. Also changing forms of competition including a bigger part of collaboration, as well as a growing number of mobile employees lead to the adoption of Service Oriented Architectures.
The topic of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) enfolds the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. Content here means not only electronic documents, but also their metadata as well as pericopes, templates and further forms of electronically stored knowledge. Amongst others ECM deals with the question of how electronic documents in the company may be managed in terms of content. The goal is always to use the content as efficiently as possible within the whole company. Typical challenges in the field of Enterprise Content Management are the Integration of different systems or the consolidation of content. A particular challenge is the procurement of all content in one central point, while the producers of the content, meaning the companies employees, tend to store their documents locally.
In contrary to other ECM vendors, SAP has not yet an all-in-one solution in its product portfolio, which would cover all areas of ECM. Nevertheless, SAP has many applications and systems in its product portfolio, which are each used for specific tasks and in cooperation can build an ECM landscape. The classical ECM products of SAP include SAP Document Management (SAP DMS) and SAP Records Management (SAP RM).
Enterprise Content Management always deals with the question of how to build up the IT Landscape within a company, in particular those parts of IT, which are needed to reach content, save content or to permanently store content. Above all, the integration between ECM relevant Systems plays a role here. Service Oriented Architectures may increase the integration between them. However it depends on a concrete use case scenario, which legitimates the focusing on Service Oriented Architectures.
In cooperation with customers and partners from the German SAP User Group (DSAG), we could elaborate a scenario, which describes a concrete use case scenario for Service Oriented Architectures in the field of Enterprise Content Management. This scenario has been realized as a project solution, which is built on services.
The use case scenario comes into operation when the SAP DMS is used as the central repository for documents and the SAP Portal shall establish itself as the central point of entry to the corporate knowledge for employees and partners. The enterprises interested in this scenario have often segmented divisions and thus heterogeneous system landscapes, but need at the same time, however, a knowledge basis in the form of content for a high number of employees. Some of the requirements that these enterprises place to an ECM solution, are: Process support, realization of corporate-wide scenarios, Web ability and integration ability (e.g. with author systems), as well as user assistance embracing preferably all employees. In particular the integration ability and the user friendliness are criticized in existing All-in-One ECM solutions.
On the basis of many small encapsulated services, applications and systems can be constructed which are more flexible compared to centralistic Enterprise Content Management systems and particularly enable a higher integration in heterogeneous system landscapes. The advantages of service-oriented architectures for the Enterprise Content Management are predominantly in their network-oriented approach. In particular in the Enterprise Content Management it is important to include all users around an enterprise to support an enterprise-far knowledge management. Therefore a stronger adjustment to different groups of users is necessary. Thus an increased expenditure for the implementation of redundant functionality appears along with that. By standardisation and reusability, Service Oriented Architectures therefore offer a strategic advantage, which makes it possible to keep the implementation expenditure small with redundantly necessary functionality.
This Blog is part of a blog series written by the SOA Champions Group in PLM and SCM consulting fields. Also have a look at the other blogs at the SOA Champions Blog Collection