What is ECM?
A formal definition of Enterprise Content Management (ECM), as provided by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) is the following:
“Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.”
This definition implies a complex and sophisticated system of tools and processes, which ensures an end-to-end content lifecycle and meets all business and legal requirements of the enterprise. These would include capabilities such as document management, records management, information lifecycle management, and so on.*
What Does KMC Provide?
In contrast to a full-blown ECM solution, the SAP NetWeaver Knowledge Management and Collaboration (KMC) focuses on a subset of functionality, mainly in the document management domain. It provides a set of basic content management services with a little bit of collaboration capabilities that present a nice out-of-the-box offering for companies with a moderate volume document management scenarios, such as a corporate portal for sharing information with the employees. KMC, however, is not designed to cover the end-to-end ECM scenarios that a business might need to support, such as legal requirements for records management, application of business rules and policies to documents of different types, and so on.
Even though the supported scenarios are limited to basic content management services, KMC provides an open architecture that enables customizations and feature enhancements for better fit of the supported use cases to the business processes within the company, if the standard offering is not sophisticated and comprehensive enough. For example, a managed content scenario can be enhanced with various aspects in terms of workflows, notifications, and so on, by additional custom-developed services.
The next sections present a detailed look at the scenarios that KMC supports.
Basic Document Management System (DMS)
The most straightforward scenario that can be implemented with KMC is a basic document management system, where KM serves as a convenient out-of-the-box storage for unstructured, collaboratively created content with very basic content management functions, such as uploading, downloading, editing, and viewing documents.
The solution provides a standard implementation of a document management store (the CM repository), which can run in various persistence modes – either storing the data entirely in the database, or offering a couple of mixed modes for storing content on the file system and metadata in the database. With these options, you can easily implement a simple scenario to store documents from any portal, Java, or even ABAP application into the KM, and display this content in the portal with a minimum integration effort.
KM also offers a set of UIs for navigating and administering content, which can be customized according to the company branding and specific scenario needs. In addition, KMC fully supports the WebDAV protocol and can be accessed via any WebDAV client.
Figure 1: Basic DMS
In this scenario, data growth should be monitored, since it might result in performance deterioration. There is no strict limit that needs to be preserved; however, there are certain recommendations for maintaining your system scalable and well performing. For example, if you are expecting a large number of documents, you should consider mixed persistence mode, such as DBFS for your repositories. In general, it is also good to keep a balanced folder structure, so that you can limit the total number of entities on each level, and avoid long times for rendering due to data retrieval from the DB, permission checks, and so on.*
*Recommended reading: How To… Tune the Performance of Knowledge Management
For a more sophisticated content management scenario, KMC builds on top of the basic DMS functionalities by providing a set of services for enabling basic content lifecycle processes. For example, content publication can go through a simple approval workflow, or be scheduled for a certain validity interval. Subscribed users are then notified upon content modifications by e-mail or in the portal inbox channel – the Universal Worklist.
The web content management capabilities by Web Page Composer add possibilities for distributed content authoring. The tool integrates seamlessly with KM backend, but offers a much more user-friendly interface for business users who need to provide web content. Web Page Composer is used for the creation and publishing of Web sites for a company’s intranet or for an external information portal. The web pages offer the possibility to mix web content with other type of content integrated via iViews.
Figure 2: Managed Content
KMC also supports cross-system content migration by providing transport capabilities. This allows for setting up a landscape with separate staging and production systems for improved content governance model.
What the managed content scenario might not fulfill, however, are certain legal requirements related to records management. While KMC provides basic capabilities to track document changes and manage outdated content, such as versioning, it does not offer a comprehensive audit log for all operations on the resources, or certain business policies for document handling, archiving, and retention. Such capabilities are considered as relevant for a full-blown ECM solution.
In addition, the data volume considerations shall be taken in account in this scenario as well. As content piles up, services such as subscription, and application properties, might get slower, since they rely on data per resource, which grows accordingly as well.
Search and Integration of Repositories
One of the most powerful use cases for KMC is the possibility to integrate virtually any backend storing documents into the KMC’s Repository Framework, and then browse, index, and search all the content in a unified way. The Repository Framework is the integration layer that offers on one hand-side, the universal API to implement a backend connector, and on the other hand-side the universal API for clients to access those backends.
Using this integration layer, repositories can be crawled and their content can be indexed in the TREX search and classification engine, which is integrated into the infrastructure by a standard Index Management Service in KMC. Indexing covers document content and metadata. In addition, taxonomies can be created based on the content metadata.
Figure 3: Search and Integration of Repositories
In terms of enterprise-wide usage, this scenario faces some limitations when it comes to the supported data volumes. If primarily text files are stored in the repositories and all of them shall be indexed, the use of KMC and TREX shall be considered carefully in case that the expected data volume of text documents to be indexed is above 2 TB (at present or in the near future), and the scenario is not recommended for volumes far beyond this size. This is particularly true when the entire data volume needs to be indexed at once in a single index (for example, if taxonomies shall be used), and when a lot of the content is dynamic and thereby often re-indexed.
The use of taxonomies might not be applicable in all cases as well. If such a business need is identified, there are some points you need to consider. First of all, a taxonomy structure is based on a single index – you cannot build a taxonomy that spans across several indexes. This might be challenging in terms of the data volume limitations explained above. Secondly, use of taxonomies in combination with versioning and approval workflow is not recommended. In case you need to combine all three capabilities, you would need to elaborate a process for creating versioned and approvable content in one folder or repository, and transferring it to a taxonomy-enabled one.
Custom Applications on Top of KM
While KMC offers a basic set of services that can be used out-of-the-box, it also opens a number of APIs to enable customization and adaptation of the above scenarios to the particular business needs of the company. The customization might imply various aspects – from custom repository and security managers, to specific services that replace or extend the ones provided by SAP, to “external” to KM applications that just use the API to store and retrieve data from KM.
Some of the APIs – those of the Repository Framework and the Index Management, are also provided as Web Services, so that remote scenarios can be implemented as well.
On top of the basic document management services, KMC enables team collaboration capabilities – the collaboration rooms. These are workspaces with restricted access for room members only, where you can organize and manage projects by sharing information, organizing meetings, and so on. The collaboration rooms build upon the standard KM functionality to store documents, discussions, and sessions. You can also integrate certain applications by means of iViews. In addition, collaboration rooms provide an open API that enables extending the standard templates by custom room parts and room extensions. For example, you can access data residing in a completely separate system by integrating it as a room part.
Since collaboration rooms are particularly hard to manage in terms of data volume, it is recommended to control the overall number of rooms that are being created in the system. In general, it is not recommended to go beyond 4000-5000 active rooms.
Another aspect you might need to consider is the number of rooms where each user is a member. Since room membership adds new roles to the user management profile, checking them takes up more time when the user logs in to the portal.
Integral KM Usage in Enterprise Portal
A set of functions available in the SAP NetWeaver EP rely on KM as the service provider in the backend. These are the following capabilities:
When a user stores a document or portal page into the Portal Favorites, a link to this resource is stored into the relevant subfolder of the userhome KM repository.
The global search of documents and portal pages is based upon KM’s search infrastructure.
KM in SAP Applicatins
Other SAP solutions also use KM as a document management system. For example, some of the applications from the SAP Business Suite, such as the SAP Learning Solution (LSO) and SAP Project Lifecycle Management (PLM), store documents in KM repositories. The SAP Business Intelligence (BI) solution uses KM in the BI Broadcasting scenario to publish links to BI reports, so that portal users can easily access them. The SAP Business Objects Explorer can also make use of a KM system in a similar way with the Portal Integration Kit that includes a KM repository as well. It enables use of collaborative functions, such as rating and comments to the published reports.
In a nutshell, KMC offers a set of basic content management services, well-integrated into the Enterprise Portal and available out-of-the-box. They support the scenarios described above with certain limitations in terms of data volumes. KMC does not offer a full-fledged ECM solution.