What is Content? Another one of those words.
Bill Cary - IoT 060001Y279 Visits (1973)
Content seems to be another one of those words who’s meaning has become blurred by our ever evolving technology and the need to define the work we do. The dictionary defines the plural meaning of the word content as “everything that is inside a container – example: the contents of a box”. In loose terms, you might see what we define as content in a similar way but you would have to take that definition pretty broadly. This article provides a description of challenges for content in the data world and introduces our Process Content Packs, which address some of these issues.
So while business process tools deliver all this power, what does it mean for the growing business that may not fully understand industry standard best practices in these processes. What about smaller businesses that need the tools to grow but don’t have large implementation budgets? How is information created to provide demos of functionality, or training, or proof of concepts, or a host of other possible requirements? It may be easy to think about some data as content. Since we think can think of a word document as data we enter, we could enter in a bunch of assets, users, job plans, inventory, and incidents in a similar way and think of that as content. But what about business processes? What about workflows, and security roles, escalations, cron tasks and more functional information. Of course now that we see that it is entered or created in the same way as other data, maybe we could think of it as content but it often gets forgotten because it is thought of as a one-time event to create a business process while actual data that we use to represent things is more of an ongoing process. It is important to recognize that business process configuration is still content. The next hurdle we have in communicating content is understanding how each of us think of content differently.
The SmartCloud Control Desk includes optional “content”, which can be installed at install time but when you load it, it includes some workflows some demo data, some processes but not a lot of it is tied together. And because it is developed as a stand-alone option, much of it is not really usable for production type solutions. Some of it is developed in silos for IT Asset Management or Service Request management or Configuration Management but not as a complete cross product solution. Some of it cannot be migrated from one database to the next to allow for configuration and expansion before moving from development to production. It may be difficult to use in client environments where specific ORG and SITE names or other variables are unique to the client. On the other hand, development content can be shipped with custom classes to change the way business processes function.
In the world of fast deployments, this type of content seems to present more challenges than benefits. To address some of these challenges, Smarter Infrastructure teams are taking a new approach to content where content packs can be loaded by the user instead of the installer, the content packs can focus targeted functionality, and content can use existing database structures around, site, org, and other variables. These new packs are called Process Content Packs (PCPs) and they are loaded through the user interface using the Content Installer application.
A trainer will tend to think of content that helps them teach the types of classes they need to teach. Sales people and internals trying to explain the power of a product will think of content that helps them demo the product. And while you might think that a demo and a proof of concept (POC) is similar, the data required to generate a POC may be quite different than that needed to demo a product. An industry Solution developer may think of content as data that supports the industry they are in. An implementer will think of the content they must create to make the application perform the necessary functions.
Just as I mentioned the smart phone as being sort of a cross-over tool that delivers some function but can be configured to perform more. We can think of configuration content as being sort of cross-over content. If you think of SmartCloud Control Desk as a platform like an iPhone is, loading a pack that configures and enables a service catalog process in that platform is much like an app. The same goes for Maximo, installing a pack that installs all the basic requirements like roles, start centers, workflows etc. required for a Work Management process is really an app for Maximo. PCPs can deliver some regular data/content like failure codes and classifications but also configuration and business process content like workflows, cron tasks, escalations, and all of the things that normally must be done by hand.
Having the ability to create standard/typical implementation content (data and processes) easily, opens many doors. As mentioned above, the small to medium business can now take advantage of the powerful tooling that used to be expensive to implement. Implementers can now quickly do baseline implementation tasks and focus their real effort on more difficult and complex tasks. Product owners can stretch their implementation dollars further knowing that the baseline work will be completed quickly with low risk. Industry best practices can be built into content packs allowing less mature industries to look to the vendor for best practices. Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings can be quickly configured for general business. Implementations become more consistent and supportable. Even Industry Solutions can be expanded through content rather than requiring a new release.
By now, you may have been able to see the value of content and using content packs for functionality sounds very exciting. Imagine the ability to pick and choose from a list of content packs much like you would pick and choose the applications you want on your smart phone. Pipe dream you say? Have a look at the new DeveloperWorks Wiki for Process Content Packs (PCPs). They’re here, they’re free, they are intended for production environments, and they are growing in number. We invite you to participate. Tell us what you think and what content you’d like to see. Keep an eye on this space because there is a lot more to come.
The definition of content is changing and we are embracing that change. http