A new international standards organization that aims to enable a vast array of enterprise content management systems to interoperate began its first day of business May 16.
The iECM (Interoperable Enterprise Content Management) Consortium, organized by a trade group, the AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) of Silver Spring, Md., was born following a years worth of preparation by individuals from more than 50 major companies and government agencies, an iECM spokesperson said.
The iECM Consortium will become the clearinghouse for the development of the standards needed for the creation of interoperable ECM systems, the spokesperson said.
"The content were talking about is content of all forms—documents, graphics, video, audio, etc.—anything that wont necessarily go into a database," said Eric Stevens, director of outreach of the iECM Consortium. "And its not just a matter of storing everything; its a matter of determining how to find it, also."
Stevens, whose full-time job is as senior director of industry and solutions at Hummingbird in Toronto, said that the iECM at first will be concerned with three major areas of compliance: services, information/metadata models and component descriptions.
Services will address common content management operations, Stevens said, while information/metadata models will address how content metadata can be "ubiquitously utilized, despite potentially differing term sets and vocabularies."
The component descriptions will formally specify all aspects of the information ecosystem, so that information sources may be discovered and automatically made available—without the need for expensive integrations, Stevens said.
Finally, the iECM Consortium will develop a reference model that formally describes how these services, information models, and component descriptions relate to one another to achieve interoperability, Stevens said.
"For example, the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] has to interoperate with the airlines, the Department of Homeland Security, and several layers of government on a daily basis.
"When it wants to share its only copy of an official document over a number of content management systems, thats where the standardization really comes into play," Stevens said.
The iECM Reference Model will be developed independent of any existing standards, technologies or protocols, he said.
However, the iECM Consortium will collaborate with other standards initiatives to ensure that adoption of the iECM standard will be broad and implementation of the standard will be simple for all organizations, he added.
The iECM Consortium intends to publish a draft of the reference model for public revenue before the end of 2006 and provide a draft of the reference model using Web services in the first quarter of 2007, Stevens said.
Betsy Fanning, the AIIMs director of standards and content, said that this kind of content-management standardization is overdue.
"Every major organization that we have talked to worldwide, including government agencies, integrators and vendors, have indicated the need for solutions to the problems of discovering, understanding, obtaining and sharing information across multiple ECMs to get the right information at the right time to those who need it," Fanning said.
"The ever-increasing proliferation of information makes the current problems of getting the needed information from islands of information or content silos even more difficult."
AIIM President John F. Mancini said the decisions made by the new standards group will have global business implications.
"This [the institution of the iECM] will provide a major evolutionary step in the realization of the Information Age," Mancini said.
"Achieving ECM interoperability will result in new sales and services income to vendors and increased profits, savings, and enhanced efficiencies for the businesses using these products.
"Within the next 10 years, the value and relevance to business and government will be based on their ability to seamlessly interoperate with organizational, national and global information flows."
Fanning said that corporations, government agencies, individuals and other organizations interested in joining the iECM Consortium can find information at this site and may register for membership by contacting her at this e-mail address.