Content management systems, and ultimately the initiatives they enable, fail over time. But why? In a word… Trust. Once someone loses trust in the system, they begin to work “around” the system or revert to old behaviors, such as using old content buried on their local drive, raiding past projects for content or searching and downloading content from the internet. A root cause analysis will often lead to two inherent problems. First, you begin losing trust if the information you’re looking for in the content management system isn’t there, but you know (or suspect) it exists. Second, when you use a system (or process) infrequently you become frustrated with each interaction as you’re basically having to re-learn each time you use the system. AVAIL is strategically addressing both of these issues.
The number one challenge with any content management system is keeping the information current. Since the inception of AVAIL we have stated a goal of automating as much of the publishing process as possible. We believe this is critical to success and why we introduced AVAIL Stream. The goal of Stream has been to “point and forget”. It was designed to make the presence of a file on a File System the only signal needed to make that content available in AVAIL. Nobody has to remember to put something in AVAIL. Stream accomplishes this by intelligently watching the File System for changes and then, based on a set of rules we call Stream Definitions, automates the publishing of that content in AVAIL. We have some customers who rely on Stream for 100% of the content that is accessed through AVAIL.
We recently released the second generation of our Stream technology that, among other things, added support for File Systems using the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. Besides standard Windows File Systems this added capability provides AVAIL support of popular network storage solutions such as Panzura, Nasuni, Net App, Morro as well as more common cloud solutions such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox and even Autodesk BIM 360 through their respective “connectors”. What this means for AVAIL customers is any information that is being stored in those solutions can now be “streamed” into AVAIL!
The other primary contributor to system and process failure is related to frequency. When someone has to learn something new there’s an inherent curve to adoption. Like all systems, if it’s not exercised or stressed frequently it will fail. Now think about that in terms of any software solution you implement. If it’s used daily it becomes second nature making even poorly designed software tolerable. Now think about the solutions you use infrequently. The ones you only have to touch once a month or every few months. You face the inherent learning curve every time you use the solution. That’s frustrating and why you dread or quit using those systems. Now think about every website you frequent for information as well as all the places you have to navigate to find information “inside” your company. Each of those has some form of content management interface that you must learn to navigate. Is it any wonder we ever get anything built in the AEC industry?
The frequency of use dilemma is why we’ve adopted a “horizontal” strategy for managing content with AVAIL. We refer to the multitude of systems being used to manage files within an organization as “information silos”. The Revit content is managed here, the visualization assets are managed there, the company photos are managed in that system, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. When information becomes siloed you lose value. You also lose users because of the intermittent use factor. With this in mind we believe the more information that can be accessed through AVAIL the more frequently someone will use the software and thus the less frustrated they’ll be having to jump to another solution to access information. So we’ve been busy not only leveraging Stream to connect to disparate file systems but beginning work on what we call Connectors to directly access frequently used information from 3rd party providers.
Changing human behavior is difficult, if not futile. We’ve adopted a never ending quest to simplify AVAIL on behalf of the sanity of our customers. AVAIL Stream for automatic publishing and the AVAIL Desktop interface as the primary means of accessing content and information on a daily basis are cornerstone features and form the basis of an overall philosophy that lead to adoption and use.
I used to say that “people are lazy” when it came to spending time learning a new piece of software. I had a friend correct me stating that “people conserve energy”. I like that better. It’s biological. Why fight it. The more we can automate, the happier we’ll be.
Randall Stevens, CEO