About Lee Smith

Work as an Information Management consultant for Capgemini specialising in Content Management and Portals including Documentum, eRoom, Vignette and Sharepoint.

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– strong integration and portal offering to complement the product but they are hindered by a lack of vision and an outdated UI.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

EMC World 2012

Rather than report back on specific sessions I’m posting an overview of the event, for a number of reasons:

- there are plenty of excellent posts on the sessions already available from the likes of Pie and Alexandra to name but two;

- I didn’t get to go to as many sessions as I would have liked;

- I’ve just got back and have got a few things on in the next 2-3 weeks.

The key messages I picked up from the event were:

- No change in Strategy. This is positive. EMC set a strategy 12 months ago and are now executing on it. The next 12 months will be critical to this execution as they release xCP2.0 and D7 and the D2 client matures further.

- xCP2.0. The more I see and hear of this the more impressed I am. The things I noted were:

  • Improved deployment through xMS;
  • 2.0 is on target for this year, 2.1 will be next year and then 2.2 in 2014;
  • Uses tcServer as the App Server and for 2.1 the OS will be MS only with both Oracle and SQL Server supported as the Database;
  • xCP 2.0 is now feature complete, they are bug fixing and testing;
  • Performance is much better in D7 and xCP2.0, should require much less compute in order to run these products;
  • It looks quick and easy to make changes to applications but I still need to understand how this will work in a true production environment;
  • More to know about some of the details around deploying solutions such as impact on in-flight processes and also amendments to the data model – I suspect the latter will be something which comes when NGIS comes along;

- D2. Unfortunately I did not get anywhere near enough time to look at this produce but what I did see was impressive. I was very interested to hear the story from some colleagues in the US who were very pleased with the product and have implemented a full engineering solution in a matter of weeks including features such as Transmittals and Bulk Uploads.

- Syncplicity. This was the only big new thing of the event and it was clear that it is a deal which has been pushed through at the last minute. Its an intriguing deal and one which I am sure people will be sitting down and working out how to move it forward pretty quickly. Some of the features of Syncplicity looked neat and I believe it will be a welcome addition to the portfolio once they have a fully integrated vision of how it fits with the other products.

- Mobile. This cuts across all three of the above but this is an area where EMC are pushing hard. I’m particularly intrigued as to how xCP will perform on a mobile device, in 2.0 it will be available via Safari on iPads.

It was an interesting experience for me as it my first EMC World, having only attended Momentum’s in Europe before. It is a strange feeling being the small group in such a large conference and I’m sorry but the chance to look at racks of servers is not something which rocks my boat. Nevertheless the IIG people really go out of their way to create a sense of community within the Momentum conference and once I found the calm of the Momentum lounge then things looked up.

Overall then these are exciting times for EMC. 12 months ago everything was paper talk, now we’re seeing things happen. This time next year we will know if the transformation has been successful.I predict the efforts of EMC will lead to a period of growth. What will be interesting is to consider who EMC’s competitors are. Alongside OpenText and Oracle on the ECM play I predict they will start to see themselves come up against SAP and more focussed solutions more.

Information Management Trends

I was asked this question in a meeting the other day and to be honest it caught me on the back foot a little, I’ve probably been too close to detail over the past few months to really take a step back and think. The question was ‘What do you see are the current trends or hot topics in the Information Management world?’. Whilst I gave an answer which I believe was acceptable I decided it was time to take a few moments to reflect on what I am seeing in the market. I’m sure there are other things going on out there but I thought I would share some of my views:

SharePoint 2010 – there is no doubt that this continues to be the product with the biggest influence over the market. More and more customers are starting to explore the features which SP2010 delivers and it is starting to find its home within the overall market. It won’t, in fact can’t, do everything that everyone wants but there is a strong discussion to be had on why not SharePoint!

SharePoint 2010 – this time I am considering the impact the product has had on the other vendors in this space. Whilst I think it is too far to suggest that the likes of OpenText, EMC, Oracle and IBM have given up on their core Document Management solutions they have realised that this is a difficult fight for them if they go toe-to-toe on the basic content services when compared to SharePoint. As a result they are all trying their utmost to find their space in the market. IBM and EMC appear to be placing their bets on the Case Management style solutions and OpenText appear to be focussing on the Social Media and Web 2.0 space.

Convergence of Data and Content – this is happening in so many different ways. Top of the tree is Big Data as more and more people are seeing that Big Data is not just about Big Databases but about the amount of information, structured and unstructured, which is generated. Furthermore we’re seeing an increase in the world of Content Analytics and the desire to look into the unstructured world to get more intelligence from this information. This also leads to a desire to act on this information – moving us to the area of BPM which is embedded into the IM world.

Cloud – well everyone talks about it! Its still early days but we’re starting to see more and more moves towards consuming IT as a service and Content is an obvious choice to play in this space. The big vendors are still getting their heads around this area but as this progresses and the customers start to demand this more and more then we will see a change. Whilst the change will be interesting in itself I also think there will be a future challenge in how customers govern this information.

The New User – As per a recent post from Pie I don’t think this is Mobile but I also don’t think it is BYOD as we’re not seeing that happen widely enough…just yet! But there is an increased expectation from users on the IT service they receive, the way they interact with IT and the devices on which they can do this.

Demise of Portals – Strong and I don’t mean all Portals but the traditional JSR Portals are on the way out. They’re either being replace by SharePoint, see above, or more flexible architecture models. I’ve delivered a couple of programmes using the JSR Portals and they can work but its just too hard.

BPM/ACM/DCM – I don’t care what you call it but its out there. I’m of the opinion that the process is not so important but the information is the key. The need to use information to make decisions, the creation of information during the life of a ‘Case’ and the dissemination or retention of information once the process or case has been completed (I’m sure Max would say this is when the Goal(s) has been reached). The way people access, create or process this information will change but the information itself will typically remain the constant. Their is a bit of tension between the pure BPM camps and the ECM camps but we’re also seeing convergence, e.g. Kofax purchasing Singularity.

Changes in WCM – This has been coming for a while and I think the change has happened. Not so long ago the traditional ECM vendors tried to do WCM as well, the best example being EMC. Their product was suitable for only a small number of WCM Use Cases. We’re now seeing the specialist products take a firm hold in the market such as SDL, CQ5 and Fatwire. Interestingly two of those have been acquired in the past 2 years. Adobe have made a big bet on CQ5, it will be interesting to see what Oracle do with Fatwire, I would recommend keeping it separate from their UCM products.

I’m sure there are more, these are just my personal views but it just shows what happens when you take that step back to look at what is going on. There’s lots going on and the pace of change is quick.

Oracle and Documentum Part 2

I did say in my previous post that if Oracle posted a recording of their webinar I would add some further comments as I did not get to hear all of the live webcast. Well they have.

The bits I did not get first time round:

3 Reasons to Move

  • Brain Drain. Yes there has been a big change in the leadership of EMC IIG, as it is now known, since EMC bought Documentum and I do think they are still to really make a mark so this is a fair point.
  • Slow Product Releases. Yes, Centerstage was delayed a long time and there is a long wait for D7 and xCP 2.0.
  • Rising Maintenance Fees. I’ve not seen this myself.
There was also a slide on the comparison of the two architectures which highlighted that a Documentum architecture will require a number of 3rd Party Products, such as Oracle as the Database of Weblogic as the Apps Server. This is definitely correct and is one of the reasons why Documentum is a complicated and costly implementation. There are plans to change this but the simplicity of a Single Vendor solution is appealing.
The only other bit I missed was around the reduction in cost. Generally the points here were made well, License costs will be much of a muchness and Documentum will require 3rd Party Licenses. The big thing though was the size of the Admin team. The webinar claimed that on a sample implementation they found a team of 20 Administrators for Documentum which could be reduced to 4 for Oracle. This one I find hard to agree with!
So overall it did not make a big impact on my original view of the Webinar but it did point out some of the reasons why Oracle could be less expensive to implement, some which I would agree with and some which I would not.
I’ll be interested to find out if EMC respond to this during their Momentum conference this week.

Oracle and Documentum

This evening I attended a webinar on the subject of the recent offer from Oracle to existing Documentum customers to trade in their Documentum licenses for Oracle Webcenter licenses. Apart from the shock factor of such an offer I am genuinely interested as Oracle has been something of a sleeping giant when it comes to Content Management. They have bought a vast number of companies but the message has, for some reason, failed to really take off.

Before I go into my observations I must say that I was late for the start of the webinar and my internet connection was very intermittent so whilst I saw the majority of the slides it was clear that a lot of the value came from the voice overs. I’m hoping there will be a recording to watch later on and if there is I will add an updated post if there is something I have missed. I must also say that I have knowledge of the Oracle solutions but I have experience of the Documentum solutions; I don’t favour one or the other by default but my greater experience of the Documentum products enable me to have a better appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve put down what I understood to be the reasons for moving from Documentum to Oracle below:

- Lower labour costs. Oracle are claiming that labour costs will reduce by 93% by moving from Documentum to Oracle. If this is true then it gets my attention immediately. However I do have big reservations on this number, both in its specifics (who can really give evidence of a 93% reduction) and also in its magnitude (just consider that 93% is slightly more than reducing a 10 man team to a 1 man ‘team’).

- Better Web Experience Management. Yes, I get this. With the purchase of Fatwire Oracle have definitely stolen a march on Documentum. Remember EMC originally looked to Fatwire as a partner and potential acquisition target. Documentum does not do WEM or WCM well, end of. If all you are using Documentum for is WEM or WCM then I’d suggest a move.

- Savings on costs relating to Search. It was discussed on the webinar the new Documentum search tool xPlore and the costs involved in upgrading to this. Yes this will be something which Documentum customers will need to face in the near future but its not a compelling reason to move in my view. Interestingly it was also discussed that the Oracle solution enables search of other repositories…well the same goes for Documentum so not an advantage there.

- Better integration points. This homed in on integration with the core Oracle Apps such as E-Business suite. This is definitely an area which I would expect Oracle to have an advantage over Documentum on but its not an area where they have an exclusive advantage. There are third party products available to enable this integration and with the advent of CMIS I would expect this advantage to be marginalised to a degree. Having said that there was no mention of SAP customers, maybe they should just go for OpenText ;-).

- Better Social and Innovation Capabilities. I’d probably agree here. Documentum’s attempts here, Centerstage, have missed the mark for one reason or another and if you’re using Documentum purely for this then you’re probably not on the right platform, although there are other alternatives to Oracle if you do look around.

- Documentum has limited Use Cases. Took me back a little this one, there is being bold and then there is being bold. With any ECM product you can do just about anything, whether you should do just about everything is a different matter but my experience with Documentum is that it is a very flexible platform, in fact I would say at times its disadvantage is its flexibility as it can become an issue as people try to create a silver bullet with it. I’d be surprised if Oracle is any different, from my knowledge it may have integrations with other Oracle products but it lacks some of the flexibility of an xCP style implementation.

What came out in the Q&A session is that the offer is purely for the Content Server licenses. I don’t know of many customers who just use Content Server and do not extend it with something like xCP or Records Manager so there is an interesting challenge to be addressed there.

So where does this leave me?

To be honest I was disappointed. I expected a compelling reason to come out which would help me understand why I can approach Documentum customers and tell them they should move to Oracle. That didn’t come out. There are some situations when a move would make sense and some when it would not and for anyone out there who either has Documentum or is looking at buying it you need to do the right research for your situation. Nothing new there, you don’t invest in a new ECM, either in a greenfield situation or as a replacement, without a high level of due-diligence.

Oracle remains a strong product in this space and to be honest I think they will continue to strengthen in this space, especially with the acquisitions of Fatwire and Endeca. If you’re looking for a new ECM product then it should be one of the ones you look at but make sure you know the capabilities you want from your ECM and map these against the product capabilities.

Final Point

Just a final point on the timing of this offer. Next week is the EMC Documentum conference Momentum. At last year’s conference EMC started to talk about their Next Generation Information Server (NGIS). This will be a big change in the product platform and one of the big advantages is that customers will no longer need a 3rd Party database to support their Documentum implementation as they will bundle everything together with their XML Database xDB. What is the relevance of this? The vast majority of Documentum implementations I have seen use Oracle as the back end database. In the future these will not be required. Food for thought.

The Twitter Effect on ECM

There is no doubt that Twitter has taken the world by storm. A huge number of people use it from people in the IT industry like myself through to Political Activists and Celebrities. I was starting to consider the impact this has had on the world of ECM and two things struck me.

1. Metadata

Most people who have implemented ECM solutions will know that one of the challenges in an implementation is the level of Metadata which is used to describe the content and the challenge in getting users to complete it. I’ve lost count of the number of times when discussions have gone to the nth level of detail on whether metadata should be Optional or Mandatory and even when the discussion is closed and the solution is implemented you can do some Analysis of Metadata and you’ll find a high percentage of it is of little use.

Now Twitter has introduced the # (hashtag). Nearly all users of Twitter will tag their Tweets with one or two hashtags to help describe their Tweets. Just looking at my Twitter feed now and I can see people like Robbie Savage, Rio Ferdinand and Stephen Fry using hashtags to describe their Tweets.

Hashtags are Metadata, just in a slightly more informal manner. But still they are a way for people to describe their content. People are starting to learn how to use Metadata as they use a Social Media tool. This discipline will soon find a way into the workplace, my company use Yammer internally and hashtags are used here as well. This understanding of the benefits will soon feed its way into the ECM solutions we deploy as more of the users of ECM tools are users of Twitter. This should reduce the challenge we have traditionally faced in the design of the Metadata in these solutions. However it will also introduce a new challenge as the informal manner of hashtags will increase the appetite for similar solutions in ECM deployments and we will need to find a way to harness this appetite.

2. Ease of Use

One of the things behind the success of Twitter is it so easy to use and there are so many different clients which can be used to post this content. People contribute because it is quick and easy and the feedback is immediate. Again this usage will start to feed its way into the working environment, Yammer being one of the most obvious ways in which this is happening. Whilst there will always be a place for documents to be written we will increasingly see that solutions need to be implemented which are in tune with this new way of working. We’ve talked about Mash Ups for a long time as a way of deploying solutions, I predict we will start see Content being produced as Mash Ups more and more as the content is taken from a mix of sources and, typically, in smaller chunks. This content will still need to be managed for a variety of reasons including Compliance and the ECM solutions will need to cater for this.

So whilst Twitter has had some pretty big impacts in recent years on major World events such as the Arab Spring and riots in London I also expect it to have an impact on the way in which ECM solutions are used and the way in which we, as ECM professionals, need to approach the way we deploy them.