EMC World 2014 – Post Conference Thoughts

I’ve had a week now to gather my thoughts since EMC World, as well as to catch up on some sleep and get back into the UK timezone! Before the conference I posted about
3 things which I hoped I would find out more about so I’ll address those first:

Syncplicity – Clearly the rising star in the EMC IIG portfolio but the integration of the product into the rest of the brand is not yet there. Whenever Syncplicity was
pitched I still got the feeling its a new shiny product which is very good at what it does but is not fully integrated into the rest of the stack. I know it is
technically integrated but perception is as important as the technical aspects.

InfoArchive – This came across as one of the big plays from IIG, largely due to the compelling business case which can be generated for the product. The success
stories which were quoted were very compelling. The question of Pivotal remains though and while I did see it mentioned a few times as an area to investigate the
answer is not there yet. Having said that the impression which I came away with was that the product is seeing such strong momentum right now that its going to be
around for a few years.

Social and Collaboration – I was surprised to see the eRoom brand on the screen in the keynote, again its not because it is a bad product but more that its been
discussed as potential end of life for 10 years now. Despite a lack of, perceived, investment it remains part of the portfolio. I didn’t hear anything which suggested
that the Social and Collaboration space was an area which EMC would focus on.

So those are the things I was hoping to hear about, what did we actually hear about:

General – The theme of the conference was about how EMC can help customers manage the 2nd platform, bridge the gap to the 3rd platform and ultimately be the
Information ‘Fabric’ for the 3rd platform. Fabric’s my word and wasn’t used by EMC I should add! Pivotal was at the centre of this and in Joe Tucci’s keynote the
Pivotal brand was strong.

xCP – This is a product which I have followed for some time now and the information provided on xCP 2.1 whilst not completely new to me was still interesting and
highlights the advances EMC have made in the platform. At present this remains a 2nd platform play in EMC’s eyes.

InfoArchive – I’ve mentioned this already and this they see as the enabler for the bridge from 2nd to 3rd platform. Helping customers to move from the 2nd platform
through removing the applications but keeping the information.

APaaS – this was the new play from EMC. Well I say new play and a lot of the detail is new but some of the concepts have been kicking around for a while now, Next Generation Informatoin Server was something which was first touted back in Lisbon. Firstly, what is it:

APaaS

The idea is to move Content and Collaborative Apps into a true SaaS platform, with multi-tenancy and exposed on top of similar technology to the Pivotal stack, ultimately helping organisations to bring together their Data and Content Services. The focus is very much on solutions and apps. The strategy from EMC is not to release the platform but to build a number of content based solutions on the platform to help them develop the core services. The first of these is the Supplier Exchange.

This is a big move from EMC and while the people I heard were keen to stress this is not the end of Documentum I would envisage that if they get this right then in the future there will be much fewer customers using the traditional Documentum platform. But this takes time and as I said its been over 3 years since NGIS was first introduced. The tactic of releasing apps based on the platform before the platform itself will give the impression that things are moving quicker which is positive.

APaaS was my biggest takeaway from Momentum 2014 but some of the other snippets I heard/was interested in:

- some frustration and the lack of alignment between D2 and xCP, it would be much better if there was a true single UI;

- continued investment in Captiva and a continued push to get customers to exploit the capability in Captiva including Mobile Capture;

- a desire to move forward solutions on IIG technology which are more innovative, higlighted by the keynote and the impressive demo for Patient Care which was given in the keynote;

- a definite move to align things with Pivotal, APaaS above shows that but I understand there are other moves in place such as how InfoArchive aligns.

So on that last point, and one question which was mooted before the conference, was whether EMC were considering selling off IIG. My take in the short term is no but the alignment with Pivotal is a very strong signal of what might happen. If anything I don’t foresee a selling but a realignment within the EMC Federation which was a very strong message within the overall EMC World conference.

EMC World 2014 Pre Conference Thoughts

I’ve written this post while on the long flight from Manchester to Las Vegas to attend EMC World 2014, and specifically the Momentum conference. This is the second time I will have attended EMC World and I’ve got a much better view of what to expect from Momentum being part of a wider conference. Since the last time I was here, 2 years ago, EMC IIG have executed on their plan. 2 years ago the focus was on business solutions and the new version of xCP. We can see from their products that there has been an increase in the number of business solutions which are available and we have also seen the successful release of xCP 2 which has enabled partners like ourselves to rapidly deploy Case based solutions to out customers. Whilst on the flight though my thoughts have turned to whats next, how do EMC continue to evolve IIG as the market evolves at an increasingly rapid, and sometimes fraught, pace. @BrilliantLeap posted her thoughts last week and they are interesting read. Here’s my take on what I’d like to see come out of the week:

Syncplicity – 2 years ago EMC announced the acquisition of Syncplicity and since then the product has gone from strength to strength, I understand it is one of the fastest growing products in the EMC portfolio. At the moment though I feel it is a product which sits on the side of the EMC IIG portfolio, positioned as a competitor to the likes of Box and DropBox. I’d like to see more of Synplcitiy being brought into the EMC IIG family. What does this mean? Well aside from the true integration into the core Documentum product I’d like to see more than just file synch and share activities being made available. One thing which I know a number of customers struggle with is offline Case Management, from the concept of task creation though to full task management. I’d love to see the product being brought closer into the xCP product and the functional reach being extended to included some of the xCP functionality.

InfoArchive – This is a product which I have been watching closely for the past 2 years. It really does start to bring together the concept of Information Lifecycle Management, combining Data and Content. However there is a cloud on the horizon and one which needs to be addressed. Big Data. Info Archive could be considered the single repository for all ‘old’ data in an organisation while solutions such as the Data Lake form Pivotal are being considered as the single repository for ‘all’ Data in an organisation. Bringing alignment and a single vision to these products would be an interesting play. I do believe that the question of compliance is one which Big Data is even to consider, never mind address. Whilst Pivotal is not necessarily EMC there is a great opportunity to address potential chalenges in this area ahead of any competition.

Social and Collaboration – Putting Syncplicity to one side this is an area of weakness in the EMC product suite. Funnily in the past week I have heard of one organisation who are still using eRoom and one organisation who use Centerstage. Any move EMC make into this market place will be difficult, as a brand they are not associated with these solutions and the likes of SharePoint, Jive and Alfresco have a much better reputation. Are they going to address tihs or are they going to continue to leave this area untouched. The challenge with the latter is where does this leave Syncplicity, which I have already mentioned. If customers are truly embracing Syncplcitiy then there is an opportunity for EMC to use this brand, and the customers who are using it, to improve their offerings in this space.

These are just three ideas which have been giving me food for thought, will be interesting to see what is discussed and disclosed. There has been suggestions that EMC would consider selling the IIG division, if they do then oneplace for them to go would be Pivotal. I can’t see that happening just yet but don’t rule it out!

State of the ECM Market

Feels like an age since I posted a blog post, well it has been an age, and there is nothing like a good prompt than reading Analyst reports on the ECM market. In the past 2 months we have seen a number published with each of the vendors all trying to claim that the result is they are the leaders. These are my musings based on reading 3 of the reports, the ones from Gartner, Forrester and the IDC report. What is interesting about these is IDC was a report on the revenue share and growth of the different vendors in 2012 whereas the Gartner and Forrester reports were focussed on the market position and potential (well thought leadership or vision) of the vendors.

Gartner

Gartner had IBM as the leading vendor with Microsoft not far behind. EMC and OpenText were not far behind and then came Perceptive and Hyland. It was interesting to note that Oracle were slipping, Alfresco were positioned as having a strong vision and Box were not included at all.

If you read a Gartner MQ you do need to read the comments that go with the charts though and here is a summary of the different vendors:

IBM – moved to a single UI and simplified deployment has strengthened the product. The strategy includes Defensible Disposal and Analytics which is broader than most. There is a lack of a cloud strategy and some confusion persists on some of the different products.

EMC – have focussed on reducing the costs in the product, both deployment as well as product, and are increasingly looking at how they supply customer value with a solutions approach.

Microsoft – continue to push SharePoint strong and it continues to be deployed by customers but more and more are now starting to struggle with the value they get from the deployment. Plus there is a lack of embedded tools to help with the deployment but plenty of 3rd party products.

OpenText – very broad range of products and strong alignment with SAP help position them but there is confusion over their strategy on some of their acquisitions, e.g. BPM.

Oracle – strong integration and portal offering to complement the product but they are hindered by a lack of vision and an outdated UI.

Forrester

This report was interesting as it raised a number of points about the market as a whole which I strongly agree with and which will shape the next few years:

  • Companies are moving away from a single platform to do all their Content Management, something which I touched upon over 3 years ago;
  • Companies are struggling with the ability to really quantify the benefits of ECM;
  • Systems of engagement are becoming increasingly disruptive, as are the new kids on the block who provide simple capabilities but which consumers are turning to (e.g. Box and DropBox);
  • Mobile is becoming increasingly important;
  • The UI and how users interact with content is becoming increasingly important;
  • More and more vendors are placing their bets on vertical solutions;
  • Cloud is on the rise.

In terms of the vendors they had IBM, EMC and OpenText as the leaders. Interestingly they had Oracle as having a strong vision but then Oracle did not participate in the report. The lack of imaging and content focussed apps meant SharePoint was slightly lagging.

IDC

The report highlighted 5.7% growth in 2012 with the main areas of deployment being compliance, putting content to work, case management and an increased focus on business solutions. Note WCM was a strong area of growth, I think the presence of WCM in this market is becoming increasingly dubious but thats another post on the way!

The IDC report big winners were IBM with both a large market share but also an increasing share. The two who looked to be on their heels a little were OpenText and EMC who both showed up as having a reduced share. With WCM being a growth area I can understand the EMC statement but with OpenText this seemed to stick out a little. There was big growth for Adobe, no doubt spurred on by their Digital Marketing platform and other notable increases for Box and Acquia.

What does it mean?

So I’m not going to just summarise and paraphrase the reports but here are my opinions on what all this means for the market, potentially an early candidate for trends in 2014:

  1. There are new kids on the block and they are going to disrupt the market. The rise of consumerisation aligned with maturing offers from the likes of Box will continue to see them grow. Some vendors have recognised this already and made moves to react;
  2. Business Value is the absolute key phrase, gone are the days of large ECM implementations for the sake of managing documents better. Customers expect things to be done quicker and better, and usually for it to be better aligned with a business imperative;
  3. No pun intended but content is no longer in a box called the Enterprise, either that or the Enterprise as we knew it no longer exists. The content, or information, has a value chain which cross multiple boundaries. There are risks to that but for now the risks are being put to one side in an attempt to improve visibility and productivity;
  4. This one needs a bigger post but I do think the old traditional definition of WCM as part of ECM is fading away. WCM, or CXM or WEM, is now very firmly rooted in Digital Channels. Its no longer a case of someone writing a piece of content which is approved and then published to be consumed, its a much more fast paced world which needs to react to real time analytics and also be available to multiple channels.
  5. Final word for Oracle. I’m picking them out as they are the ones who do not have the strongest message according to the reports and if you look at one of their most recent campaigns, to displace Documentum, it was very negative in style. I do think there is an opportunity for Oracle. Their Applications business is strong, they have a strategy on Cloud and they have solutions for Big Data. They also have a leading product for WEM in the old Fatwire product. There could be a compelling story in there, they have the components, not all in the best condition, they just need a real shake and a vision for how these components together can be of value.

Changing Landscape for Online Commerce

Those of you who are more aware may have noticed the shameless plug on this blog for Angel Gift Company. Its now about time I wrote a little more about this. But now it is not a shameless plug but my observations on how running an online business has changed in the past 5/6 years.

The business started as my wife’s idea about 7 years ago. To begin with it was a simple concept, the genesis of which was born at the same time as the first of our children, and at the same time friends of ours had children. At the time my wife found she struggled to buy gifts for friends, and set about selling baby gift boxes online. Once she had the various products sourced the next challenge was to get a website. This is where I came in and in my spare time I taught myself ASP .Net and built a site which gave her some ability to add products, customise content and for customers to purchase products. I used Netcetera for the hosting and Protx, now SagePay, for financial transactions. All hunkydory, I taught myself some technical stuff and Mrs Smith had an online store.

Its fair to say business was slow to middling for a few years, nothing near a monthly wage but enough for a bit of pocket money. As time progressed online channels changed, we’ve seen Facebook and Twitter emerge since then. Also I became much busier at work and at home, going from 0 kids to 3 in 9 years has seen that spare time disappear!

With a creaking website and no-one to make changes Mrs Smith looked at options to change the business. Firstly she found an online product which she could easily configure to deploy a new site, and its much better than the one we had originally! Secondly she diversified to sell more than just baby gifts, selling gifts for Weddings and Engagements and more recently selling Frame Prints. Finally, and this is the most interesting bit for me, she started to use some of the new channels to promote and sell her products. She set up a Facebook page and got people to like it, and also used it to sell products, using Paypal to take payments. She exploited eBay much more as well as a channel to sell products. The result has been a big increase in sales as she has found a much wider community to more readily engage. Feedback has, on the whole, been much more positive. The website itself produces a similar number sales but the online presence is still important. Mrs Smith now spends a lot more time on Facebook, but not to post what she had for Breakfast, she’s using it as a commercial tool and is now making money from it.

Now everyone, and their dog, and their cat and their goldfish, is talking about Digital in one way or another. Is this Digital? Probably. Its using new technologies which were not available. On a recent journey to see friends she spent an hour on her phone raising invoices and answering queries, not something which would have happened 5 years ago. Either way its interesting how Social tools can evolve to help people make money on a smaller scale as well as a large corporate scale. Lets hope it carries on and maybe I can become a professional Facebook user, is Facebook Channel Manager a title anyone has ever heard of?

Smart Process Apps

So I missed the document last year from Forrester titled “Smart Process Applications Fill A Big Business Gap” but I have just read the Forrester Wave for Smart Process Apps. My overriding impression is one of the creation of another solution paradigm to confuse an already crowded marketplace. It is not that long ago that I blogged about the difference between ACM and DCM, just over two years to be precise, and the interesting thing is that the technology world in this space has evolved a little during that time but there certainly has not been change enough to warrant the creation of yet another term. I will go back to the document from August 2012 which passed me by but some of the content is reproduced in the Wave and I want to focus on the Key Attributes of a Smart Process App:

1. Imported or embedded awareness of data relevant to the business activity. So what we are saying here is that there must be data associated with the business activity which is captured at some stage of the business process, right? Anything new here?

2. Document capture, document output, and document management. So these are the basic capture, manage and output stages of Document Management.

3. Embedded analytical tools designed for the business activity. So this will provide the reporting and data analytics on the specific business activity which has been created.

4. A collaboration platform for people to create content needed for the activity. An interesting pattern here as it deviates a little from the first three which are slightly more prescriptive. This is much less predictable and much more aligned with the Adaptive Case Management pattern which I have previously described. A good example of a solution incorporating a collaboration platform could be Grants Management where the Grant application would be subjected to a number of reviews where the reviewers provide a number of comments and share opinions on the Grant application.

5. BPM tools for executing the steps involved in the activity. This would involve classic BPM including workflow, tasking and potentially a rules engine.

I look back at the posts on ACM and DCM, which were already addressing a confused market and review the features above and there is very little difference. In fact some of the products which address the DCM or ACM market will be the same for the Smart Process Apps, typically the likes of EMC, OpenText, Kofax and IBM.

One of the comments in a previous post was:

My advice, don’t implement based on the label. Understand what you’re trying to achieve and assess the solutions and options which are available to you. Its not rocket science!

I don’t see any difference here. You need to understand the core business and technical capabilities which you need to address and evaluate the products which can help you achieve those. It is true that it is not rocket science but the sheer number of players in this space means it is getting harder as there is convergence. Two years ago we would not have been comparing Salesforce.com and EMC as players in this space but the products are moving closer. The one thing I would recommend, and it is something I will comment on more, is the growth of already built applications or accelerators within the products. Companies such as IBM and EMC are adding an increasing number of solutions to their portfolio, addressing problem domains in multiple industries such as Life Sciences and Energy and Utilities. These solutions provide much more predictable results for customers and the solution providers themselves.

So while there is a lot in the report which is confusing and repeated from previous reports there is an underlying message which is important and which is driving change in this area of technology. Solutions and Solution Accelerators are increasing, call them Case Management or Smart Process Apps, and there is an increasing amount of choice in the market. Ultimately this can only be a good thing for consumers and we should see an increase in successful projects based on these technologies as a result.

Doing it the right way

This post has been prompted by a couple of discussions with some colleagues recently, and its all about doing things the right way with SharePoint. As most people know SharePoint can be many things, it can be a Collaboration tool, a WCM platform, an Application platform, a Document Management system or many, many others. This can cause a bit of confusion around the skills required to implement SharePoint successfully.

Recently I’ve seen implementations where it has been clear that the primary skill of the team implementing has been Development or Engineering. Why do I say it was clear? Because of the focus of the implementation. There was little consideration for the Information Architecture and not enough thought paid to the primary asset in the solution, the content.

Ultimately SharePoint is a Content and Information platform, designed as a repository and an interface for people to create, manage and share their content and information. There are ways to optimise the way people perform these tasks through some development but the Information and Content is the primary asset in the implementation. A Microsoft developer will be able to help in the implementation but it is an Information or Content professional who will be best placed to shape and lead the implementation. 

I would go further and suggest that increasingly we are seeing organisations who have SharePoint and AN Other Content Management System. The approach to the Information Architecture is even more important in situations like this as organisations strive to find the right tool for the right job.

Have I got any evidence to support the above? Well one anecdote is that I have seen two Document Management solutions deployed in Local Government in the UK recently. Both were led by an Information focussed agenda and in fact the people leading the implementations were interchangeable as it was the knowledge of the business and the information required to support that business which made the implementations successful. One was SharePoint and one was Alfresco.

Digital Schmigital

Reading the paper on the plane last week and there was a little nugget in amongst a rather cutting article about the relationship between Civil Servants and Politicians in the UK. In it there was criticism from a former politician of the “paper-based” nature of government in the Digital Age. He quoted two examples:

- printed documents which are given to ministers purposefully have a space of 1cm for them to  record comments;

- he had asked for documents to be given electronically to him so he could just carry them round on his iPad but was told no due to security reasons;

To those of us who work in the Content Management space our minds will be whirring with the thoughts of opportunity here. Clearly there can be huge benefits from putting in place tools and processes which make the sharing of information easier. Regarding the point on Security it really frustrates me when people use this to block progress instead of thinking more logically about the needs and potential solution. Paper is not, by default, any more secure than digital content, it’s just a different set of issues which need to be addressed.

There is lots of talk of Digital in the IT world right now and sometimes it feels as though its just another buzzword but for changes to be made to the degree above organisations do need to undergo a true Transformation and to embrace the possibilities which are available to them instead of the safe approach which people cling to.