Connections Content Manager: Social document management in IBM Connections

One of the more exciting announcements at IBM Connect 2013 to me was, without doubt, the announcement of the enhanced CCM (IBM Connections Content Manager) edition. “Exciting?” you ask? Yes exciting but apparently not to all as I was amazed to find it got quite a lukewarm response from a lot of others around me. Ok, yes, I know, Document Management is my main area of interest so of course it would get me excited but I think a lot of people really didn’t grasp what it meant and what impact it can have and I can’t blame them as it is a difficult topic.

To be honest even I am still struggling to get all the details so to clarify it a bit I made a list of the things I got from all the announcements, sessions and discussions I had in the labs. Hopefully this will help others to better grasp why this is exciting and why it’s worth taking a good look at.

CCM, what is it?

  • CCM integrates Libraries with document management capabilities (Filenet) right into IBM Connections Communities by provisioning them directly from IBM Connections itself;
  • Provisioned libraries don’t have to be pre-created in a separate system but are in fact created right from the community itself when the Community manager (not necessarily an admin!) adds a Library widget, making it as simple as adding a wiki or blog to the community;
  • Security on the library is taken from the community (and updated on change!);
  • Community managers can create not just one but multiple libraries per community;
  • Community managers can set a name and document type to be used for that library (either one specific document type or all available) from the settings section within Connections;
  • Community managers can also set a parallel approval cycle on documents and determine whether users can add approvers to individual documents or not and determine if all or only one needs to approve;
  • Options to edit/add documents on the libraries/folders within the libraries can be restricted (community members will however always have at least read access to released documents);
  • There will be a special licensing model for Connections Content Manager edition (exact numbers haven’t been mentioned yet but indications are that pricing would be comparable to the current IBM Connections + Quickr model)

But what does this mean to the users?

  • Created libraries can hold nested folder structures which means we get actual and functional folders (and sub-folders!) with folder security in communities;
  • Meta data on the documents (determined by the document type) is visible and editable through the connections environment;
  • Check-in and Check-out & robust versioning guarantee single point of truth;
  • Better life-cycle management as authors can limit access to draft documents to themselves and any other editors they would like to include while released documents become available to all;
  • Automatic approval cycles on documents with the option of adding more approvers to individual documents on top of the ones set by the community owner;
  • Full social capabilities on the library documents (e.g. Likes, comments, following, download count, etc);
  • Full activity stream integration so updates and approval actions become visible in the streams as well;
  • Full and integrated Text & Meta-data search from within IBM Connections with the option to refine on Document types and meta-data fields across the community.

Ok. Nice… “but what is the difference between this and what was already there with the linked Library option we had for Filenet?

  • The Library components can now be installed right from the Connections Installer (it’s literally an option in the installer app). They can be added to the existing Connections Websphere Cell or to a separate one. Alternatively an existing Filenet environment can be used to provision the new libraries (teamspaces) but in general you don’t need full Filenet knowledge anymore to set it up;
  • Previously used Linked libraries had to be created and set up in Filenet first and required administrative involvement, the new Libraries don’t. Community managers can set them up and manage them independently. the only administration needed is to initially set up the document types to be used;
  • Multiple libraries can now be added to a single community to address different types of documents;
  • Administration of the new library (name, library/folder/document security, approval workflow settings, etc) are all set and managed from a settings configuration within IBM Connections, limiting the administrative load on the library depository side and allowing Community managers to manage their libraries themselves;
  • The documents in the libraries are fully indexed for searching from IBM Connections, including filtering on document types and meta data, making it a seamless integration instead of a separate container;
  • The library documents get the full social components from IBM Connections;
  • Out-of-the-box and seamless activity stream integration is included so reviews and updates appear in the users activity stream.

But what about….

  • IBM Docs, will it work with that? Well they are looking at that;
  • Document types?: You will still have to set them up through the library repository but once you’ve done that you are free to go and reuse those for any community. It’s just a question of really thinking through your file management requirements and setting it up and you’re all set to go;
  • Windows desktop client / browser plug-in / Microsoft Office plugins? Development of these are in a separate track but already underway. No ETA yet on when though;
  • Offline files like the new option for the personal files? ………. (silence there, still waiting for an answer);
  • Quickr? IBM will provide a migration agent to get documents from Quickr into the new libraries, but keep in mind there are some restrictions on this. I’ll try to write another blog on that;
  • Mobile?? Definitely being worked on and expected not too long after the release of IBM Connections 4.5

So all in all I think there is some neat things in there that are going to help a lot of customers who are currently hitting the limitations of file management in IBM Connections and don’t necessarily require full blown and complex workflow and document management. It brings together both the social as well as basic document management requirements a lot of companies have and in that respect is very exciting news.

It will be intriguing to see how additional requirements like complex workflow or specific meta-data requirements will be met in the future. For now those would still require a separate  license and use of for instance Filenet and the Content Navigator interface but as I understand the open social and CMIS standards that are used throughout Filenet and IBM Connections do mean more integration on these areas could be possible too.

So I’m excited! I can’t wait to get my hands on this and love that this is not something that is far away on some road map but will be released with the IBM Connections 4.5 code stream end of Q1. I think it will be a definite enrichment to IBM Connections and would encourage any customer with file management issues to take a good look at this.


17 thoughts on “Connections Content Manager: Social document management in IBM Connections

  1. We are currently a quickr shop. Looking into this for migration possibilities. Does this mean that quickr users will be entitled to use communities so they can access the file management capabilities?

    1. Exact details on licensing haven’t been announced yet but you will most likely still have to get the Connections licenses to use Communities as that is not a free entitlement (if you don’t have them yet). With your existing Quickr licenses you will then automatically be entitled to the additional licenses needed to implement CCM as far as I understood. But I’m not sure of this so check with your IBM sales as it could be that you are entitled to the full package.
      Is your Quickr environment customized? HTML forms, placebots, etc?

      1. We’re using some of the Snapps Templates, but other than that no its pretty much out of the box. If that is the case and communities licenses will need to be purchased we will probably look around at other products, sad to say but the pricing on quickr factored heavily into our decision. We’ll see when the announcements are made.

        1. Well check with your local sales rep before making the decision, I’m no expert on licensing and it might change. As said, the licensing isn’t definite yet. Also, if IBM Connections isn’t an option, it might be worth it to check out for some of the alternatives they have there or Runs on a Domino server or in the cloud so allows you to reuse your existing environment and is a lot cheaper.

  2. Don’t worry about licenses, let me worry about that. Our goal is to keep you “whole”, so if you want to upgrade to Connections, we’ll help you make it happen.

    1. Thanks Bart, Yes the windows desktop integration client is fantastic and works great with the Community files of Connections! To work from the windows explorer with the new CCM Libraries in communities you currently have a similar connector in the form of the Quickr connectors and as I understand it IBM is also working on including this directly in the IBM Connections windows desktop client itself.

  3. Femke,

    Very well done summary. Thank you! This is exciting indeed and is a strong answer from IBM to customer feedback around Connections 3 and 4.

  4. Would be interesting to see if additional level of possible UI customization based on Document meta data is coming. Also would be great to hear some story of regular Notes Doc Library based application ease of migration into CCM based deployment.

    1. I asked the same question and got the answer that as it is all open it should be possible but we’ll have to wait to see the exact details. Things like field dependencies etc would be very interesting to have!
      In regards to the regular Doc library. They are providing tools to migrate of of Quickr. For Domino document libraries probably not directly but there are enough tools out there that can export data from Notes and as Filenet accepts several import formats that shouldn’t be a problem, just a question of determining the right mappings and tools

  5. Thanks much for summarizing all the details you learned from your many sources. I am just seeing this excellent piece – and it helped fill in several key questions I had about how the whole CCM solution would be put together.

    Looking forward to learning more in the coming weeks ! Thanks again…

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