IBM on Tuesday followed up last year’s acquisition of FileNet with a revamped version of its application suite for content management.

The company said FileNet P8 4.0 would provide better integration with other content repositories and databases, increased adherence to open standards and consistent interoperability with other platforms.

IBM spent US$1.6 billion last August to buy FileNet, a company that started out with a client/sever-based document image processing system in 1982 before expanding into workflow software and later enterprise content management. Early on, it provided its own customized workstations running FileNet DOS (FDOS), but over the last 20 years it had followed the example of other software firms by building its business through acquisition.

Steve Mills, a senior vice-president of Big Blue’s software group, said in a teleconference call that P8 4.0 would provide access to a wide variety of content types, including traditional FileNet files and the kind of documents managed through other IBM tools. 

“We’ll be offering a common view of data dispersed across different file systems,” he said, adding that the software is intended to respond to a common business challenge in the enterprise. “Every company can speak to what they refer as the hidden jewels . . . that are buried in all the data they collect data in and day out.”

IBM’s conference call featured Franklin Alvarez, a manager of applications at New York-based energy supplier Con Edison, which has been a longtime FileNet customer. He said Con Edison, which gets about 30 per cent of its energy from Canada, is in the midst of the biggest construction boom in its more than 100-year history, with about $400 million to $500 million in building activity under way. Con Edison started looking to set up the building blocks of its content management strategy several years ago, he said, and has been using FileNet in conjunction with a number of other tools.

“We didn’t just want a document system per se, we wanted workflow, business process types built in,” he said, adding that content management is closely linked to knowledge transfer at Con Edison. “It’s not uncommon that people are there for 30, 40 years. I’ve been there 13 years, and I’m basically a rookie.”

Enterprise Management Asssociates research analyst Andi Mann said some of P8 4.0’s functionality might be limited by the Information Integration Content Interface IBM has layered on top of it, but otherwise he said it looked like a successful upgrade.

“They’re building good integration and expanding the usability from the end user perspective, rather than going for something a little bit less digestible,” he said. “It’s not too bad. They’ve done okay.”

IBM also introduced what it called a Web 2.0 interface for its Content Manager OnDemand product that allows access to content from any Web browser. Mann, however, said it didn’t necessarily deserve the Web 2.0 moniker as it doesn’t faciliate collaboration to create content. “They’ve overreached by calling it Web 2.0. It’s AJAX,” he said, referring to asynchronous Java and XML.

Mills said IBM was expanding its Global Business Services (GBS) with more than 1,000 representatives offering FileNet consulting services.

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