What many people don't realize is that I spent my first decade in ECM doing consulting and system admin training for public sector clients. Living and working in Ottawa, Canada, many of my projects involved guiding government employees and the contractors in the use, deployment and customization of document and records management applications. Back in the early 2000s, the Canadian Federal Government was globally recognized as the leader in 'whole of government' approaches to information and content management. In direct response to information management scandals in the 1990s, the government chose to act. By 2002-2004, the story of Canadian Federal was an inspiration to states, provinces, cities and even other national governments world-wide. Shared Services, consistent technology choices, oversight and governance to ensure vendors and contractors delivered as promised - it was a bright light for a moment in time. In 2003, I presented the "RDIMS" (Records, Document and Information Management System) case study and historical roots to the '03 ARMA International event. I've posted a link to the original proceedings paper here.
Spending time in Ottawa last week, I confess to leaving my old home town somewhat disappointed. The bright light is fading. The pace of rollout for enterprise content management has slowed and is fragmented. Even re-siloing. Decision-makers are worrying about trust in vendor roadmaps and licensing headaches rather than solving the persistent problems of information management in busy and resource-challenged public sector.
Every government agency - regardless of nation or region - has unique challenges. But there are enough common, shared goals and mandates where true efficiencies CAN be found. Correspondence control, contracts management, management of grants and funds, issues and agenda management, access to information/Freedom of information, one-stop citizen services portals, archives and records preservation: all of these are challenges common to any public sector organization.
So why the constant re-invention of the wheel? Why not 'truly' explore the concept of shared services? Why not bring a collaboration-centric "2.0" approach to application design and development? Build once, re-use many? Without catching interference or flack from a vendor chasing the ambulance wagon of licenses.
Nuxeo CEO Eric Barroca also built his ECM knowledge in public sector. His session at GOSCON in Portland Oregon last month highlighted many of the trends he's seen in Europe, but have direct relevance in North America as well. As I left my multiple conversations last week - some with information management advocates I've known for 15+ years - I felt a small glimmer of hope despite lamenting the squandered opportunity of 2004.
New generation ECM platforms: built for builders, made for makers. With an open license and development model to let public sector experts control their own ECM roadmap. That's what I want to see next year.