Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Information Architecture Components - Search Systems

In my previous posts on information architecture components, I mentioned that information architecture components can be divided into four categories: organization systems, labeling systems, navigation systems, and search systems. I described organization systems, labeling systems, and navigation systems in my previous posts. In today's post, I am going to describe search systems.

Before creating a search system for your site, consider the following questions:

Does your site have enough content? - Consider the volume of content, balancing the time required to set up and maintain a search system with payoff it will bring to your site users. If your site includes many pages with information, then search probably makes sense.

Will investing in search systems divert resources from navigation systems? - If your navigation systems do not work properly and you are trying to solve this problem, do not implement your search system until you fixed your navigation system's problems.

Do you have the time and know-how to optimize your site's search system? - If you don't plan on putting some significant time into configuring your search engine properly, reconsider your decision to implement it.

Are there better alternatives? - If you don't have a technical expertise or money to configure the search engine, consider creating a site index instead.

Will your site's users bother with search? - for example, users of greeting cards site may prefer to browse thumbnails of cards instead of searching.

Choosing What to Search

Indexing everything does not serve users well. The creation of search zones, pockets of homogeneous content, allows users to focus their searches. For example, users of e-commerce site would be interested to search products. You could later create another search option covering the whole site.

Search zones are subsets of a web site that have been indexed separately from the rest of the site's content. You can create search zones in as many ways as you can logically group them. The decisions you made in selecting your site's organization schemes often helps you to determine search zones as well. Search zones could be: content type, audience, role, subject/topic, geography, chronology, author, department/business unit. Like browsing systems, search zones allow a large body of content to be divided in new ways, providing users with multiple views of the site and its content.

Web sites contain at least two major types of pages: navigation pages and destination pages. Destination pages contain actual information you want from a web site. Navigation pages include main pages, search pages, and pages that help to browse the site. Search should take users to destination pages. Navigation pages should not be included in the search results.

It is valuable to allow users to search specific components of your documents. This would allow users to retrieve more specific, precise results. This can also make search results more meaningful.

Presenting Results

A guideline to display search results is to display less information to users who know what they are looking for (for example, only author and title), and more information to users who are not sure what they looking for (for example, summary, abstract, keywords). You can also provide users with a choice of what to display. Consider your users information needs when making this decision. If in doubt, show more information.

Regardless of how many ways you indicate that there are more results than fit on one screen, many if not all users will not go past that first screen. So, don't provide too much content per result, as the first few results may obscure the rest of the retrieval. However, let users know the total number of retrieved documents so that they have a sense of how many documents remain as they browse through the search results. Also, provide a navigation system to move through these search results.

If there are too many results, provide an option of revising and narrowing search results. Locate "revise search" link next to the number of search results. Too many or to few search results are both good opportunities to allow users to revise their searches. Allow users to modify the search without re-entering it.

There are three methods for the listing search results: sorting, ranking, and clustering.

Retrieval results can be sorted chronologically by date or alphabetically by any content type - title, author, department. Sorting is helpful to those users who are looking to make a decision or to take an action (for example, list of products). Sort option should be the one that would help them to accomplish this task. Chronological sorting is useful if content is time sensitive, for example, press releases. It is very useful for presenting historical data.

Ranking is more useful when there is a need to understand information or learn something. It is typically used to describe retrieved documents' relevance, from most to least. Approach ranking carefully as users will assume that the top results are the best. Retrieval results can be ranked by relevance, by popularity, by users or experts rating, and by pay-for-placement.

Alternative approach to sorting and ranking is clustering retrieved results by some common aspect, for example, by category or by a ranked list. These clusters provide context for search results by providing the folder that seems to fit users' interest best. In addition, they are working with a significantly smaller retrieval set and a set of documents that come from the same topical domain. There are two types of clusters: automatically derived clusters and cluster based on categories created by human "experts".

Explain to users what they did and where results came from. Describe what content was searched, what filters were applied, any current settings, like sort order, etc.

Present users with the ability to save, print or email results. A type of "shopping cart" can be used to store selected search results.

Search Interface

It is best to keep your search interface as simple as possible: present users with a simple search box and search button. A good place to place the search box is next to site-wide navigation system at the top of the page. Be consistent in placing the search box. Determining what your users' assumption are should drive the default settings that you set up when designing the simple search interface.

You may also have advanced search interface. It should allow the manipulation of search results. This interface is typically used by advanced searchers and frustrated searchers.

Search is iterative process. Allow users to move back and forth between browsing and searching.

Adopt a "no dead ends" policy. It means that users always have another option even if they retrieve zero results. The option can consist of means of revising the search, search tips or other advice on ow to improve the search, means for browsing, a human contact of searching and browsing does not work.

Monday, February 27, 2012

SharePoint Architecture

The SharePoint platform is a flexible, n-tier service-oriented architecture (SOA). It can be scaled down to operate entirely from one machine, or scaled up to be managed across hundreds of machines.

There are few parts in SharePoint architecture: farms, web applications, site collections, service applications, administration and security.


A SharePoint farm is a group of SharePoint servers that share common resources. A farm can operate stand-alone or it can also subscribe to functionality from another farm, or provide functionality to another farm. Each farm has its own central configuration database, which is managed through a either a PowerShell interface, or a Central Administration website (which relies partially on PowerShell's infrastructure).

Each server in the farm is able to directly interface with the central configuration database. Servers use this to configure services (e.g. Internet Information Services (IIS), windows features, database connections) to manage the requirements of the farm, and to report server health issues, resource allocation issues, etc.

Web Applications

Web Applications (WAs) are top-level containers for content in a SharePoint farm, and are typically the interface through which a user interacts with SharePoint. A web application is associated with a set of access mappings or URLs which are defined in the SharePoint central management console, then automatically replicated into the IIS configuration of every server configured in the farm. WAs are typically independent of each other, have their own application pools, and can be restarted independently in IIS.

Site Collections

A site collection is used to provide a group of SharePoint Sites. Each web application will typically have at least one site collection. Site collections may be associated with their own content databases, or they may share a content database with other site collections in the same web application.

Service applications

Service Applications (SAs) provide granular pieces of SharePoint functionality to other web and service applications in the farm. Examples of service applications include the User Profile Sync service, and the Search Indexing service. An SA can be turned off, exist on one server, or be load-balanced across many servers in a farm. SAs are designed to be as independent as possible, so depending on the SA, restarting an SA, experiencing an SA failure, or misconfiguring an SA may not necessarily prevent the farm from operating.

Each SA enabled on the farm typically has its own process that requires a certain amount of RAM to operate, and typically also has its own configuration database and Active Directory (AD) service account. SharePoint Server and SharePoint Enterprise include all the SharePoint Foundation SAs, as well as additional SAs.

Administration and security

The modular nature of SharePoint's architecture enables a secure least-privileges execution permission.

SharePoint Central Administration (the CA) is a web application that typically exists on a single server in the farm, however it can also be deployed for redundancy to multiple servers. This application provides a complete centralized management interface for web and service applications in the SharePoint farm, including AD account management for web and service applications.

In the event of the failure of the CA, Windows PowerShell is typically used on the CA server to reconfigure the farm. The structure of the SharePoint platform enables multiple WAs to exist on a single farm. In a shared (cloud) hosting environment, owners of these WAs may require their own management console. The SharePoint Tenant Administration (TA) is an optional web application used by web application owners to manage how their web application interacts with the shared resources in the farm.

In my next post on SharePoint, I am going to describe the SharePoint parts that a user interfaces with: site collections, sites, libraries, lists.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Business Analysis in Content Management

Content management initiative starts with the analysis of the current situation and coming up with a solution and the strategy for this solution. This process is called business analysis. Business analysis can be defined as the discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems.

The usual problem in content management arena is that employees spend a lot of time searching for information, re-creating information and while they are doing it, they are not being efficient and productive, and so the company looses money. Employees also use obsolete documents in their work and so the integrity of work and compliance is at risk.

How is this problem solved? By implementing a content management initiative. The first step of it is business analysis. It involves requirements gathering and development process. During this process you identify the specific needs of the business and then develop and implement the solutions to meet them. This could be for example a new content management system deployment, modification of a current content management system, integrating few content management systems, designing a search solution, etc.

Business analysis techniques are applied to develop an appropriate plan and then put it in to action. One has to take the big picture and break it into smaller parts. Business analysis always focuses upon goals, but in a bi-directional fashion.

Business analysis can be implemented to both set goals, and to achieve them. These goals will cover strategic business practices encompassing IT, business processes, and corporate policies. For example, what support would IT provide to the project and if a CMS is implemented, would IT be able to support it? What vendors should be included in the selection list? What business processes need to be included in the system selection and deployment, and its governance? What corporate policies should be in place? What are legal and compliance policies? and etc.

The Three Phases of Business Analysis

Every time that business analysis techniques are applied, there is a natural three phase progression, which can be explained in this way:

Phase 1 - Why? - This phase is purely about fact finding. Normally, this will involve the formulation of a feasibility study to examine the business case put forward for changes.

Phase 2 - Work - In this phase the business analyst will develop a project or requirements plan, which will need to be agreed with all stakeholders, and then implemented.

Phase 3 - Working? - This is the final phase, where any changes implemented need to be proven as working. Additionally, at this phase the business analyst needs to confirm that all requirements have been met.

Business Analysis Techniques

Depending upon the market sector the enterprise sits within, different business analysis techniques will be applied. Different techniques may also be applied at project level. Some of the most common of these techniques are:

PESTLE - (Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal and Environmental) - it is a technique which is suitable for evaluating external factors and the effects they have upon the business.

SWOT - (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) - it is used to identify possible opportunities and any threats to the business by evaluating its strengths and weaknesses.

MOST - (Mission, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics) - it enables the organization to perform internal analysis and identify the best way to achieve its goals.

CATWOE - (Customers, Actors, Transformation Process, World View, Owner and Environmental Constraints) - it is used to identify the main processes and entities which may be affected by any changes the business makes.

MoSCoW - (Must or Should, Could or Would) - it is used to prioritize both proposed changes and business goals.

Methods used in business analysis are: focus groups, documentation analysis, surveys, user task analysis, process mapping, stakeholders interviews, use cases, user stories, personas, storyboards, etc.

As the result of this business analysis, you would have a clear picture of what your company needs and how to achieve this goal.

Based on gathered requirements, the business analyst would produce a document called either "Business Requirements Document for ABC Project" or "Project Requirements Document". This document should outline the background of the problem and the proposed solution. This document usually is being handed to major project sponsors for approval.

If the project is approved, the document becomes "Functional Specification" and handed to IT for the implementation. If the business analyst is a project manager and content manager, he/she would continue working with IT to put the project into action and complete it.

I will continue this subject in my future posts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

DITA, Metadata, and Taxonomy

Component-oriented content creation enables more efficient content re-use and dynamic publishing at more languages at a lower cost. XML authoring is required for the component content creation.

Research shows that organizations that use XML authoring are more mature than their peers with respect to the adoption of best practices for search and metadata. However, the use of native DITA (the Darwin Information Typing Architecture) metadata capabilities is rare, and many are also missing out on opportunities to use taxonomy for reuse and improved findability.

In this post, I am going to describe metadata capabilities within DITA, discuss two major benefits that can be achieved by using descriptive metadata and taxonomy, and recommend some best practices for getting started with metadata for component-oriented content.

Finding content in your file system or content repository is hard enough when you’ve got simple text documents to deal with. When you are using DITA and other component-oriented XML standards, you increase the difficulty by two or three orders of magnitude, because you’re looking for smaller needles in bigger haystacks. Having thousands of media-independent content objects that can be shared and reused across multiple deliverables allows you to create more sophisticated knowledge products, but it definitely poses a challenge in findability for content authors.

Among its many features for content reuse, DITA provides content creators with a facility for tagging content objects with metadata. Metadata (data about the data) lets content authors and others who manage content describe what the content is about ("descriptive metadata"), as well as assign properties like who created the content, when, in what language, and for which audience ("administrative metadata").

A taxonomy is a hierarchical structure that organizes concepts and controls vocabulary. Taxonomies allow organizations to create and centrally manage important terms that can be applied to content as metadata. For example, a telecommunications manufacturer might have a taxonomy that includes concepts such as product categories (Mobile Phones, Wireless Routers, and so on), industries (Healthcare, Utilities, Transportation, and so on), or product models.

Once applied, this metadata and taxonomy can be leveraged by a search application to help users find and use content. Search engines can use taxonomy to organize search results in meaningful ways, such as refining search based upon certain properties ("faceted search") and suggesting related searches based upon relationships between search terms and other concepts in the taxonomy.

It is a natural fit — DITA and taxonomy. DITA creates a multitude of reusable components, and taxonomy helps describe and organize the components so that they may be readily found and reused by content authors and users.

Taxonomies and descriptive metadata is also a natural fit since metadata-based search would improve findability of content objects.

DITA Support for Metadata

Compared to other XML standards, DITA provides a relatively rich and extensible framework for embedding metadata directly within the XML objects themselves. The embedded metadata can be used by processing tools like the publishing tools in the DITA Open Toolkit (DOTK) to conditionally publish content or to create metadata in the final outputs, like HTML.

DITA objects, both topics and maps, have a prolog section in which metadata can be specified. Within the prolog, the metadata section can define metadata about the topic itself such as the intended audience, the platform (for defining the applicability of the topic to specific hardware or operating systems), and so on. This metadata can be used for conditional publishing. For example, you can automate the production of a Linux version of your documentation by only outputting topics and maps that set platform to "Linux" in the metadata.

DITA objects can also embed administrative metadata about the author, copyright holder, source, publisher, and so on. Metadata can also contain descriptive keywords for the topic or map. Keywords or index terms are output to HTML or XHTML as metadata keywords to support search engines. Authors can also define index terms for the generation of back-of-book indices.

DITA also enables users to define custom metadata fields within the "othermeta" element. Like keywords, metadata defined as "othermeta" are output as HTML metadata elements but ignored for other types of output like PDF. Metadata is a powerful tool in helping to manage and publish DITA content.

Dynamic Publishing of Content

A major benefit of DITA is creating content that is media-independent. It also enables content objects to be organized by DITA maps, so that content can be recombined and re-sequenced into different deliverables. DITA maps provide flexibility.

Dynamic publishing lets content be chosen and presented to meet the unique needs of a user or situation. To best illustrate dynamic publishing, let’s compare it with static publishing of a help system.

In a statically published help system, the hierarchy of topics is fixed by the author and the selection of content is limited to what is in the DITA map at publish time. All of the related topics are manually linked. If an author wants to add a related topic, the author needs to manually add the link (or update the related-links table) and republish. The publishing process creates a deliverable that—while interactive—is static with respect to its contents and the relationships among them.

To create the same help system with dynamic publishing, the author would publish his/her content to a server, but he/she would not create the structure and relationships between topics at publish-time. Instead, a taxonomy would specify the relationship between concepts and properties that are defined in metadata. The relationships among topics are generated at run-time, based upon metadata on the topics. The richer the metadata and the more complete the taxonomy, the more sophisticated the user experience.

If you have experienced faceted search on consumer web sites, where we can refine search results by selecting specific values for different attributes, such as the number of megapixels for a camera. This experience is driven by metadata. With rich metadata on DITA content, we can create very sophisticated electronic content browsers, where metadata-based search creates browser-like user experiences.

Best Practices

Start by identifying all your taxonomy use cases. You will be using taxonomy not only for authors to search content objects for reuse but also potentially for serving up content to users dynamically or in a faceted interface. These perspectives will provide you with the framework for your taxonomy.

Reuse existing vocabulary. Many organizations already use controlled vocabularies for some metadata fields such as organization, audience, platform, and product. Look to existing sources for tagging your content such as hierarchical product or system models (from engineering), or hierarchical task models (from instructional/task analysis from the training organization) as places to start building hierarchical descriptive taxonomies.

Authors are the best people to apply descriptive metadata. After all, they do the analysis to determine what content was required in the first place, so they have the best context for classifying it. However, don’t expect authors to tag a lot: automate tagging when possible, especially for administrative metadata (author, organization, creation date, language).

Leverage the technology. Many content management systems can integrate third-party classification servers for automating descriptive metadata. These servers can automatically apply metadata from a taxonomy or controlled vocabulary when content topics are checked-in, then automatically populate subject metadata fields in the CMS. The metadata can in turn be reviewed and manually adjusted by authors. This metadata can be embedded into your DITA content for use in conditional publishing or to generate HTML tags in the final output to support search or dynamic publishing.

The next frontier of DITA adoption is leveraging semantic technologies (taxonomies, ontologies and text analytics) to automate the delivery of targeted content. For example, a service incident from a customer is automatically matched with the appropriate response, which is authored and managed as a DITA topic.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Content Management Systems Reviews - Documentum - eRoom

Collaboration has become very important in a work place. It increases efficiency and productivity of employees. Documentum eRoom is one of collaboration tools available on the market.

It is a web-based shared workspace where team members can store project content, communicate and share ideas, assign task, and manage deliverables using a shared project context. It improves knowledge sharing, decision making, and problem solving.. eRoom integrates well with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project, and other desktop applications. Files can be imported from Microsoft Project into eRoom.

Project Planning

You can kick off a project by selecting people from the enterprise directory and inviting them into the eRoom workspace. eRoom sends an email invitation with the hyperlink to this workspace. Users can leverage the workspace by saving their business files in this workspace for others to view.

eRoom includes project scheduling engine to organize, manage, and report on project tasks and milestones.

eRoom has dashboard feature which provides users the ability to see such information as events, tasks, and status across multiple eRoom workspaces and so to manage and coordinate multiple projects in one place. Users can create personalized views. Within the dashboard, project data can be rolled up from multiple eRoom workspaces, providing detailed real-time visibility into the status of multiple projects at once.

You can create a project plan with tasks and milestones, assign owners and deadlines. You can also view tasks relationships and interdependencies with Gantt chart views and enable project team members to update their own tasks as well as report on the status of task groupings or the entire project.

You can hold real-time on-the-fly meetings to deal with issues, plan, and group edit documents. You can create a discussion to deal with issues. You can use polling to get consensus on open issues.

There are instant notifications and alerts to keep users updated. Users can access project information remotely and work on it offline.

Users Interface

Users can see their tasks list on the left side of screen while working on a task detail in the main window. User interface can be customized. There is a real-time summary view across multiple eRooms of project milestones, issue resolution, or project status information. There is top-down visibility into a larger portfolio of connected project records.

There is full-text search with relevance ranking to locate and re-use documents and data. This search can performed no matter where users are within the larger site environment. Users can initiate full-text search for content within eRooms to which they have access.

There is version tracking to maintain a history of changes for each document without losing iterative versions. The multi-step approval process can be configured to get sign-off on documents and deliverables.

Items can be copied and pasted or dragged and dropped from any eRoom to any other eRoom within the same community. Database templates can also be copied and pasted from any eRoom to any other eRoom.

There are standard templates to create new workspaces. Existing workspaces can also be used to create new workspaces. You can leverage saved repository of plans, procedures, discussions, and solutions.

Files can be downloaded and shared via email or portable media like a CD or USB drive.

Documents can also be expired to make sure that the most current version of documents is available for use.

My eRoom feature provides users with the single interface where they can visit all their accessed in the past rooms. Users can access it from any location.


eRoom has robust security. Every item has its own access control which includes an ability to restrict control who may open it, edit, or view it. For example, a discussion thread about a new product under development could be hidden from everyone on a team except those who need to see it.

Security can be integrated with the third-party authentication products.

Information Rights Management

Information Rights Management is included to these security controls. Users can prohibit printing a document, disable copy/paste, prevent screen capture, and watermark pages if printing privileges are granted. The security is enforced if the file is accessed while the user is offline.

A copy of the document inherits the permissions of the original document. It is very useful in a situation when an access to the document needs to be revoked, the access permissions of that document can be modified and enforced on all copies no matter where they are located. There is also a complete audit trail that reflects all activity on protected documents.

The IRM server uses cryptography with symmetric ciphers. With a symmetric cipher the same key used to encrypt information is also used to decrypt it. After a user connects to the server and selects desired security parameters, the IRM server generates a random encryption key for each page of content, records a local copy of the keys and policies, and sends these keys to the user. They user encrypts the content using these keys.

The system ensures that even authorized users cannot get direct access to encryption keys. Keys and policies are kept only on the server to prevent offline security breach. All time-based decisions are made based on the server clock and not on a user’s clock which could be a subject to unauthorized users.

User Management

User selection within a large list of users can be managed in a tabbed, alphabetically sorted selection interface. This reduces the number of clicks needed to select users for addition to eRoom members lists, access control lists, notification alerts, and other areas.

It is a full-feature collaboration solution and is the foundation of eRoom Enterprise, a companion product integrated with Documentum Content Management Platform.

eRoom Enterprise

eRoom Enterprise integrates collaboration and content management features. Teams can work on projects, resolve issues, make decisions, and engage external participants. At the same time, the content is stored in the enterprise repository which allows team members to search for, reference, re-use or publish information.

eRoom Enterprise provides an environment in which people from different organizations and different time zones can work together on projects, programs, and processing while managing content which is generated during this process as an end result.

eRoom Enterprise provides enterprise repository across collaborative workspaces. It includes content management features such as library services, life cycles, renditions, virtual documents, workflows, records policy management, retention, etc.

Discussions, data tables, notes, and calendars are available throughout the repository. In this way, they can be tracked, audited, and archived. This is especially important as companies look to ensure that content created by teams is managed within corporate governance guidelines.

Users can leverage this framework to securely interact with external participants while protecting internal content from unauthorized access.

It includes the support for the classification of collaborative content according to corporate taxonomies and categorization strategies. Companies that have developed custom content properties based on document types or other criteria can use these properties in eRoom Enterprise, enforcing classification of content according to corporate standards.

Centrally managed content can be delivered to multiple applications and projects. Collaborative content, including file templates, can be shared across multiple eRoom workspaces without duplication, reducing human errors, and eliminating time spent searching for or recreating existing information.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Content Management Systems Reviews - Documentum - Content Transformation Services

In my last post on Documentum, I described Digital Asset Manager and mentioned that Content Transformation Services product of Documentum is very useful in conjunction with Digital Asset Manager. Content Transformation Services product of Documentum is useful also for other content management goals. In this post, I am going to describe Documentum Content Transformation Services (CTS).

Content is typically authored in one formal (such as Microsoft Word) then converted or transformed into a different format (such as HTML or PDF) that is more appropriate for the content reuse. This is a slow process and requires specialized knowledge not possessed by every user. Documentum CTS automates the creation of re-use ready content through pre-defined format transformations that can occur on demand or systematically.

The CTS suite enhances these processes and improves efficiencies by providing additional content intelligence, such as thumbnail and storyboard support, while shielding business users from the technical complexities of converting files from one format to another.

The full CTS suite includes:
  • Document Transformation Services (DTS) 
  • Advanced Document Transformation Services (ADTS) 
  • Media Transformation Services (MTS) 
  • Audio Video Transformation Services (AVTS) 
  • XML Transformation Services (XTS) 

Document Transformation Services (DTS)  includes the following features:
  • HTML support: automatically renders HTML from formats including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Corel WordPerfect, and Adobe PDF. 
  • PDF support: generates PDF format for documents, providing access to engineering and architectural drawings, graphics, and publishing files. 
  • Rendition management: links PDF or HTML versions to the original document so that changes automatically update the web-ready version. 
  • Extensibility/configurability: adds server-side support for additional transformations and property extraction for any document format. 

Advanced Document Transformation Services (ADTS)

Advanced Document Transformation Services (ADTS) extends the capabilities of DTS by providing additional PDF rendering for multi-page TIFF, AutoCAD, Microsoft Visio, and Microsoft Project. ADTS also provides additional format and metadata extraction support, a necessity for content authors who use advanced features such as template styles, hyperlinks, and URLs in their source documents and wish to preserve these features in their PDF documents.

ADTS also provides support for the electronic common technical document (eCTD) specification submission process.

ADTS includes the following features:
  • Document thumbnail and storyboard support: automatically generates thumbnails and storyboards for popular document formats. 
  • Hyperlink and bookmark support: leverages the styles, bookmarks, and hyperlinks contained in files such as Microsoft Word to create bookmarks within the PDF output. It automatically converts ail URL text to clickable links, including internal cross-references within the document. 
  • XMP round-tripping: allows the extraction of Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) attributes on import into the Documentum repository and indexes them for searching and categorization. When content is exported from the repository, the content and metadata stay together. 
  • PDF assembly: merges multiple files into a single PDF with the ability to auto generate a table of contents. Watermarks and overlays: applies a watermark content overlay when transforming content to PDF. 
  • Header and footer support: automatically adds header and footer information such as date, filename, or object metadata values when performing PDF transformations. 
  • PDF manipulation: enables you to modify the security settings, add watermarks, or web optimize existing PDF content with predefined and configurable transformations. 
  • E-mail to PDF support: transforms MSG and EML files to PDF and RTF formats. 
  • Embedded PDF attachments: embeds PDF transformations as attachments (visible in the "attachments" tab of Acrobat Reader). 
  • CAD support: supports DWG, DWF, and DXF CAD formats. 

Media Transformation Services (MTS) delivers transformation and analysis for rich media content such as photographs, presentations, and graphics and includes the following features:
  • file transformation: transforms media automaticity when adding it to the repository, on demand, or through workflow. PowerPoint assembly: saves time by dynamically creating new Microsoft PowerPoint presentations using individual slides from existing files.
  • rich media attribution: quickly locates content that has been checked into the Documentum repository by searching for media properties.
  • thumbnail/storyboard support: automatically generates low resolution thumbnails and storyboards. XMP round-tripping: extracts extensible metadata platform (XMP) attributes on check-in and indexes them for searching and categorization.
  • server-side support: adds server-side support for thumbnails, transformations, and property extraction for any document format.

Audio Video Transformation Services (AVTS) is an add-on tool to Media Transformation Services. It delivers enhanced support for audio, video, and Flash content and includes the following features:
  • format transformations: easily converts popular audio and video formats through a web browser, without any additional applications, eliminating the need to download audio and video to the desktop.
  • dlosed caption extraction: automaticity extracts closed caption text and associates it with the content in the Documentum repository.
  • streaming server support: integrates with popular streaming servers providing support for all of the major audio and video file formats.
  • thumbnail support: provides frame-by-frame viewing of low resolution video so that you don’t need to export your files.
  • storyboard support: automatically extracts storyboard frames based on scene changes or at specified intervals.
  • flash support: allows you to thumbnail and storyboard SWF files and convert them to other web-ready video formats using built-in Flash transformation capabilities.

XML Transformation Services (XTS)

XTS is built for customers who would like to leverage the power behind authoring and managing their content in XML. It transforms and renders XML documents into a variety of formats. It includes an eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformations (XSLT) engine, a style sheet tool kit and the following features:
  • extensive format transformations: easily converts XML content into popular web formats, mobile formats, PDF, help file formats, Rich Text Format (RTF), and Postscript.
  • XSLT engine: leverages the eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformation (XSLT) engine with full extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting objects (XSL FO) support.
  • stylesheet toolkit: supports Darwin information Typing Architecture (DITA) and DocBook standards.
  • XML schema transformation support: Converts XML from one schema to another and involves these transformations via workflows, lifecycles, user-based actions, and other applications.

More Documentum products descriptions are coming up.

Friday, February 17, 2012

SharePoint - Wiki Sites

In addition to document management features, SharePoint has collaboration features. One of them is the ability to create wiki pages. This is how it looks:
Word "wiki" comes from Hawaiian word "wiki wiki" which means “fast”. A wiki is a site that is designed for groups of people to quickly capture and share ideas by creating simple pages and linking them together. After someone creates a page, another team member can add more content, edit the content, or add supporting links.

Because team members can edit wiki pages without any special editing tools, wikis are a good tool for brainstorming and collecting information from several people. Team members can easily create links to pages for someone to finish creating later, or link to existing pages, without having to struggle with long Web addresses.

Creating a wiki site is similar to creating any other type of site. You specify the site name, choose a wiki as the type of site, and then specify who will have access to your site.

Creating a wiki site is the same as creating any other type of site. You specify the site name, choose a wiki as the type of site, and then specify who will have access to this site. Before creating this site, be sure that you are at the location where you want this site to be located.

Then under "Site Actions", choose "Sites and Workspaces", and then "Create". After this you would select "Enterprise Wiki" and proceed entering the data for your new wiki site just like you would do for a regular site:
To edit any wiki page, click "Edit" on the page, proceed editing the page, and click "save" when you are done.

You can create links from one page to another to pages. To do this, click "edit", go to the place where you would like to have this link, and insert the name of the page, surrounded by double square brackets: [[Page Name]]. For example, to insert a link to a page called "Planner Demos," type [[Planner Demos]]. The link will be created when you save the page:
You can also create links pages that don't exist yet. This will be just a placeholer link and will look like [...] Later on, you can click on dots and create a new page and then enter text instead of dots.

You can add other items to a wiki site, such as a tasks list to track action items or tasks related to the wiki. You can choose whether or not the list or library appears on the Quick Launch for the wiki.

As you can see, a wiki site is a really good tool for brainstorming, like a white board, where team members can write their ideas.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Information Architecture Components - Navigation Systems

In my previous posts on information architecture components, I mentioned that information architecture components can be divided into four categories: organization systems, labeling systems, navigation systems, and search systems. I described organization systems and labeling systems in my previous posts. In today's post, I am going to describe navigation systems.

Getting lost is associated with confusion and frustration. While getting lost on a web site is not a life or death situation, it is confusing and frustrating for users when they can't find what they are looking for. Navigation systems support browsing. When users are not sure what they are looking for, they are not going to use search, they are going to browse.

Navigation systems can be divided into two main sub-systems: embedded navigation systems and supplemental navigation systems.

Embedded Navigation Systems

Embedded navigation systems include global navigation systems, local navigation systems, and contextual navigation systems. Global navigation systems and local navigation systems are also called structural navigation.

Global (site-wide) Navigation Systems

Global navigation system is present on every page throughout a site. It is usually a navigation bar at the top of each page. Most global navigation bars provide a link to the home page. Many provide a link to the search function. These site-wide navigation systems allow direct access to key areas and functions of the site, no matter where the user travels in the site. This system has a huge impact on usability of the site. They should be the subject to iterative user-side testing.

Local Navigation Systems

Local navigation systems allow users to explore the immediate area. These navigation systems provide access to the content on a specific page of the site. They are aligned with the local content. They are usually placed on the left hand-side of a page.

Contextual Navigation Systems

Contextual navigation systems provide links specific to a particular page, document, or object. They can be represented as "see also" links which connect users to related products, services, articles, topics, etc. These systems are also called associative navigation. They answer questions such as "how do I?", "what is next?", "what else have you got?" Moderation is the primary rule for creating these links. Used in access, they can add clutter and confusion.

Implementing Embedded Navigation

The main challenge is to balance the flexibility of movement with the danger of overwhelming the user with too many options. Key to success is to recognize that global, local, and contextual navigation exists together on most pages. So, they they are integrated effectively, they complement each other. When they are present together on one page they should not overwhelm the user and drown out the content.

Supplemental Navigation Systems

Supplemental navigation systems include site maps, indexes, and guides. They are external to the basic hierarchy of a web site and provide complementary ways of finding content. Search also belongs to this category but it is so important subject that I will cover it in a separate post. These systems are also called utility navigation as they connect pages and features that help users to use the site itself. They can also include sign-in pages, profile pages, credit card information, etc.

Site Maps

Site Maps provide a broad view of the content in the web site and facilitates random access to segmented portions of that content. They can use text-based links to provide the user with direct access to pages of the site.

A site map is most suitable for web sites that have very good hierarchical organization. If the architecture is not strongly hierarchical, and index or alternative visual representation might be better. For a small site with only few pages, a site-map is not necessary.

Rules for creating site maps:

  • reinforce the information hierarchy so the user becomes increasingly familiar with how the content is organized;
  • facilitate fast, direct access to the content of the site for those users who know what they want;
  • avoid overwhelming the user with too much information.

Site Indexes

Site index presents keywords or phrases alphabetically without representing the hierarchy. They work well for users who already know the name of the item they are looking for.

Large, complex web sites often require both a site map and a site index. The site map reinforces the hierarchy and encourages the exploration, while the site index bypasses the hierarchy and facilitates known item finding. For small sites, a side index alone may be sufficient.

A major challenge in indexing a web site is the level of granularity. Do you index each page or set of pages? The answer depends on what users are looking for. You need to know your audience and understand their needs. You can analyze search logs to see what users are searching for.


Guides include guided tours, tutorials, micro-portals focused around a specific audience, topic, or task. Guides supplement the existing means of navigating and understanding site content. They often serve as tool for introducing new users to the content and functionality of the site. They can also serve as marketing tools for restricted access sites.

Guides usually feature linear navigation but hypertextual navigation should also be available to provide additional flexibility.

Rules for creating guides:

  • the guide should be short; 
  • at any point, the user should be able to exit the guide.;
  • navigation should be located in the same spot on every page so that users can easily step back and forth through the guide;
  • the guide should be designed to answer questions;
  • screenshots should be crisp, clear, and optimized, with enlarged details of key features;
  • if the guide includes more than a few pages, it may need its own table of contents.

Advanced Navigation

Personalization involves serving up tailored pages to the user based upon a model of the behavior, needs, or preferences of that user. It is used as an example in human resources systems involving giving a user options to view his/her options in compensation or benefits.

Customization involves giving the user direct control over some combination of presentation, navigation, and content options. Yahoo is a good example of customization. It allows user to customize their pages.

Personalization and customization can be used to refine existing navigation systems.

Main Considerations for Designing Navigation Systems

When designing a navigation system, it is important to consider the environment the site will exist in. You always need to consider the context.

The navigation system should present the structure of the hierarchy in a clear, consistent manner, and indicate the user current location which usually is fulfilled through the use of a breadcrumb. Make sure it is correct.

User should be able to easily move between pages. However, balance the advantages of flexibility with the danger of clutter.

Navigation systems should be designed with care to complement and reinforce the hierarchy by providing added context and flexibility.

And finally, here is the "stress test" of your navigation system:

1. Ignore the home page and jump directly into the middle of the site.

2. For each random page, can you figure out where you are in relation to the rest of the site? What major section are you in? What is the parent page?

3. Can you tell where the page will lead you next? Are the links descriptive enough to give you a clue what each is about? Are the links different enough to help you choose one over another, depending on what you want to do?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Change Control in the Regulated Industries

In my last post, I described change control process in general and I mentioned that in the regulated industries, manufactures are required to use a change control procedures I am going to describe this change control procedure in this post.

A change control procedure is usually one of standard operating procedures (SOP's). It usually includes a change control form. Some companies also use change request forms for suggested changes. This procedure usually includes the following components:


The identification of the changed device, assembly, component, labeling, packaging, software, process, procedure, manufacturing material, and any other related item or document. The change control form has blank spaces for recording this data.

Effective Date

The effective date of the change which is usually a completion date, or an action to be performed when a specific event occurs, such as "implement the change when the new part is installed, validated, and operational." The blank on the change control form for recording the effective date should not be left empty.


The change procedure should state which department or designee is responsible for each function to be performed.

Revision Number

The change procedure should describe the way the revision level is to be incremented. It is common practice to use sequential numbers for revisions.


The change procedure should describe the communication of changes to all affected parties such as production, purchasing, contractors, suppliers, etc. As appropriate, the document might include activities that apply to internal operations. Examples are employee training, rework, or disposition of in-process assemblies, use of revised drawings and/or procedures, and disposition of old documents.

Updating Documentation

The change procedure should cover updating of primary and secondary documentation such as instruction manuals. Usually there are no problems with updating or revising primary documentation -- in fact, that is a major reason the given change order is being processed. In contrast, it is rather easy to forget that related secondary documents such as component drawings, instruction manuals or packaging require revision if affected by a given change. The use of a good change control form can alleviate this problem.

Documentation Distribution

Revised documentation should be distributed to persons responsible for the operations affected by the change and old documents removed and filed or discarded, as appropriate. After updated documents have been approved, these documents have to be made available at all locations for which they are designated, used, or otherwise necessary, and all obsolete documents have to be promptly removed from all points of use or otherwise prevented from unintended use.

Remedial Actions

Certain changes may require remedial action. Changes of this nature should be addressed in the change control procedure.

Regulatory Submissions

There may be changes may that require a regulatory submission. The change control procedure should specify if regulatory submissions should be considered when making a change.

Business Factors

The change procedure should also cover other factors such as financial impact, modification of sales literature, update of products in commercial distribution, etc.

Quality Assurance Review

The change procedure should cover if the quality assurance review is required for the change.

This change control procedure is also used for document control.

Changes to documents have to be reviewed and approved by an individual(s) in the same function or organization that performed the original review and approval of these documents unless there is a specific designation that states otherwise. These approved changes have to be communicated to the appropriate personnel in a timely manner. A company has to maintain records of changes to documents.

Change control for documents should include:
  • identification of the affected documents;
  • a description of the change;
  • revision number
  • the signature of the approving individual(s);
  • the approval date;
  • the date when the change becomes effective.
In a case of the regulatory agencies inspection, the change control procedure is usually audited.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Change Control

Change control within quality management systems (QMS) and information technology (IT) systems is a formal process used to ensure that changes to a product or system are introduced in a controlled and coordinated manner. It reduces the possibility that unnecessary changes will be introduced to a system without analysis, introducing faults into the system or undoing changes made by other users of software.

The goals of a change control procedure include minimal disruption to services, reduction in back-out activities, and cost-effective utilization of resources involved in implementing a change.

Change control is used in a wide variety of products and systems. For Information Technology (IT), it is a major aspect of the broader discipline of change management. Typical examples from the computer and network environments are patches to software products, installation of new operating systems, upgrades to network routing tables, or changes to the electrical power systems supporting such infrastructure.

Change control process can be described as the sequence of of six steps: record/classify, assess, plan, build/test, implement, close/gain acceptance.


A user initiates a change by making a formal request for something to be changed. The change control team then records and categorizes that request. This categorization would include estimates of importance, impact, and complexity.


Change control team makes an assessment typically by answering a set of questions concerning risk, both to the business and to the process, and follow this by making a judgment on who should carry out the change. If the change requires more than one type of assessment, the head of the change control team will consolidate them. Everyone with a stake in the change then meet to determine whether there is a business or technical justification for the change. The change is then sent to the delivery team for planning.


Management will assign the change to a specific delivery team, usually one with the specific role of carrying out this particular type of change. The team's first job is to plan the change in detail as well as construct a regression plan in case the change needs to be backed out.


If all stakeholders agree with the plan, the delivery team will build the solution, which will then be tested. They will then seek approval and request a time and date to carry out the implementation phase.


All stakeholders must agree to a time, date and cost of the implementation of the change. Following the implementation, it is usual to carry out a post-implementation review which would take place at another stakeholders meeting.

Close/gain acceptance

When the user agrees that the change was implemented correctly, the change can be closed.

Change Control in a Regulatory Environment

In a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) or ISO 9001 regulated environment, change control activities and procedures apply to software, labeling and packaging, device manufacturing processes, production equipment, manufacturing materials, and all associated documentation such as quality system procedures, standard operating procedures, quality acceptance procedures, data forms, and product-specific documentation. Change control is also applied to any production aids such as photographs and models or samples of assemblies and finished devices.

Any regulated industry has a compilation of documents containing the procedures and specifications for a finished product. It includes specifications and all other documentation required to procure components and produce, label, test, package, install, and service a finished product. Manufacturers are to prepare, control changes to, and maintain these documents using change control procedure which is in fact the document control procedure.

In my next post, I will describe the change control procedure as it applies to documentation in a regulated industry.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Content Management Systems Reviews - Documentum - Digital Asset Manager

I started to describe Documentum in my last post. I described Enterprise Content Management Platform and Documentum Webtop. The subject of my today's post is Documentum Digital Asset Manager.

Documentum Digital Asset Manager (DAM) allows to manage all digital assets, rich media, and traditional documents in one interface. It provides enhanced capabilities to effectively manage rich media in addition to the complete set of enterprise content management capabilities.

DAM is a part of a total Documentum Enterprise Content Management Platform. It can be used to:
  • implement rapid changes to digital assets while maintaining consistency and control; 
  • repurpose rich media regardless of platform or file format; 
  • perform fast search, retrieval, and delivery of digital assets; 
  • deliver enhanced media handling capabilities to your organization.

DAM provides easy to use, web-based interface to the unified Documentum content management platform. When enhanced with EMC Documentum Content Transformation Services (CTS) products, Documentum enables the same automation, control, and availability for images, audio, and video that it provides for traditional enterprise content.

DAM allows user to access it from any Windows or Macintosh browser. Users with appropriate permissions can also access administrative controls from DAM interface.

Digital Asset Manager has the following capabilities:

Content Management Functions - provides essential content management services such as:
  • Workflow: View inbox, view and initiate workflows, and route documents. 
  • Lifecycle: assign lifecycle stage to any object created within DAM. 
  • Search: search the entire Documentum repository using keywords and other metadata. 
  • "Quick Search" feature is always available without launching the full search dialog. 
  • Version Control: manage and access the versions of any rich media asset or document in the repository. 
  • Security: control the set of users, groups or roles that can access content within the repository. 
  •  Rendition Management: import, view, and create new renditions such as low resolution JPEG or web-ready GIF. 
  • Relation Browsing: user can detect and navigate the relationships between assets. 
Loupe Display: zoomed view of each asset by rolling a mouse over the top of thumbnail.

Multi-size Thumbnail Display: view the contents of any folder or the results of any search as select a thumbnails size – small, medium, large.

Active Preview: view contents of multi-page documents (PDF, Word, PowerPoint) page by page with an optimized, web-based pare preview and storyboard navigation interface.

File Sharing for Macintosh Users: share Mac-created files with Mac and PC users by stripping the resource fork when a Mac file is checked out to a PC user and maintaining it for Mac users.

Collections: create, share, manage, transform into specific formats or download content that is grouped together to allow users to exchange ideas related to a particular task or project.

Intellectual Property Rights Management: capture and communicate intellectual property rights associated with assets and extend this framework to third-party tools. This feature includes the ability to create customized rights objects, view associated objects under rights management, search on rights metadata, assign rights on import, check-in, and apply existing rights to assets.

Asset Usage Tracking: view the history associated with a particular asset including who, when, where, and why it was used.

Comprehensive File Transformation: repurpose or render existing content into new formats and resolutions with an easy to use wizard that controls the features provided by Documentum Content Transformation Services products. You can transform single or multiple documents automatically or on demand. For example, automatically convert high resolution print images to low resolution JPEGs and turn commercial video into streaming formats.

Media Profile Creation and Modification: an easy to use wizard to create new profiles for Documentum Content Transformation Services products that control what transformation are available and what they do; you can also chain multiple profiles for more advanced media processing.

Transformation Queue Monitoring: you can see what tasks are currently being processed Documentum Content Transformation Services products configured against given repository; you an monitor where specific items are in need of priority.

PowerPoint Assembly: search and review PowerPoint presentations without having to download and open them on your desktop. You can use thumbnails to select, assemble, re-template, and save slides into a new presentation.

Video Details: you can preview video and flash content through enhanced previews such as storyboards using SMPTE time codes, embedded video preview with play-from-frame streaming capabilities, and text-track management.

Authoring Tool Support: configure Digital Asset Manager to tightly interoperate with My Documentum for Desktop, resulting in seamless user experience when working with authoring tools such as Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, and QuarkXPress.

Next post on Documentum: Documentum Content Transformation Services.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Content Management Systems Reviews - Documentum - Content Management Platform

Documentum is a content management system produced by EMC Corporation. It is the unified platform for storing a virtually unlimited range of content types within a shared repository. It allows to manage all types of content including documents, photos, video, images, e-mail, web pages, XML-tagged documents, etc.

The core of Documentum is a repository in which the content is stored securely under compliance rules. This repository appears as a unified environment, although content may reside on multiple servers and physical storage devices within a distributed environment.

Documentum provides a suite of services which include content management, web content management, digital asset management, collaboration, content classification, email management, input management, business solutions (forms, invoices, reports, etc.), Information Rights Management, records management, document control, archiving, etc. It also includes xml content repository component which allows dynamic publishing.

Because Documentum includes so many components, it is impossible for me to describe all of them in one post. I am going to break up the description of Documentum components into few posts. Today, I am going to describe Enterprise Content Management Platform and Documentum Webtop.

Enterprise Content Management Platform

The platform provides a secure, unified environment for storing, accessing, organizing, controlling, and delivering any type of unstructured information.

Repository Architecture

Content files can be stored as a file system, a database, or EMC storage Centera. Metadata and full-text index are stored separately. By supporting all major database platforms, operating systems, browsers, portals, application servers, and development standards, Documentum provides vendor agnostic architecture. This architecture supports flexible deployment.

Repositories can be replicated, federated, and locally cached. Both the content server and the repository scale to accommodate billions of items. There are intelligent backups, clustering, and auto-failover by application which provides high availability and business continuity guarantees in managing mission critical business applications.

Application Development and Deployment

The platform includes EMC Documentum composer which provides Eclipse-based tools to significantly enhance the assembly, configuration, and deployment of Documentum applications. Reusable application elements such as user interface components, lifecycle definitions, security settings, object type definitions, and workflow templates speed up the time of deployment. Additional configuration elements such as role-based user presets, forms, templates, and skins emphasize configuration over coding.

Content Functions

Documentum Foundation Services (DFS) – provides core content services such as basic library services including check-in and check-out, version control, object-level access control, and role-based configurations. It also includes features like automatic metadata analysis and attribution, enhanced preview, rendition modeling, workflow, lifecycle management, and virtual document management.

Content Storage Services - users can define and automate the execution of content storage policies, enabling policy-based information lifecycle management (ILM).

Content Protection

Documentum includes encrypted communications between the repository, clients, and applications, and enables flexible and comprehensive authentication, authorization, as well as audit and access control. It also provides platform extensions such as Documentum Trusted Services, Information Rights Management, Records Management, and Retention Policy Services.

Flexible Client Infrastructure

The platform allows users to use content management functionality across desktop, portal or web-based applications. Platform components maintain consistent look and feel when using common functionality.


The platform integrates well with MS Word, Excel, Outlook, SharePoint and enable content access and process management through familiar applications. It also integrates will portals from IBM, Oracle, and SAP.

Multiple Languages

The platform supports the Unicode universal character set (UTF-16), provides localized UIs, stores, displays, and searches across documents in multiple languages and runs clients on native language browsers and operating systems, all within single repository.

Documentum Webtop

Documentum Webtop is easy to use interface that provides access to repository and content management services via standard web browser rather than having to install a separate client application. It can also be extended to other Documentum services such as collaboration, extended search tools providing a single location to find, update, share, and publish information.

It includes such features as right-mouse click support, auto-completion of fields, ability to perform action on multiple items, enhanced items subscriptions, notifications, and ability to save searches.

Webtop also provides an ability to customize common interface menus and settings based on role, group membership, or location. Departments can include only services they need within Webtop interface and remove those that are not necessary without any IT support. Features and services can be modified as business requirements change over time.

Users can easily add collaboration to their content management applications by implementing Documentum Collaborative Services. When Collaborative Services are enable within a repository, user can create "rooms" with a full set of team collaboration tools. “Rooms” are users managed so team members can be added or removed as necessary.

Webtop includes extended search. It is an advanced search and discovery web client. Within Webtop, users can create a query that would search not only across Documentum system but also across many other information sources within the enterprise and outside the organization.

Webtop delivers results in a dynamically clustered list based on owner, topic, content attributes, and other criteria. Smart navigation features allow users to quickly find relevant information, bypassing irrelevant results on other topics. These queries can be saved as search templates for simplified sharing of commonly searched items.