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!

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.

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.

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.

General thoughts on (E)CM

Another quiet period of writing, there are a few posts which are itching to get out but they’ll have to wait for another day. I do find though I spend a lot of time just keeping up to date with some of the more prolific bloggers and tweeters in this space such as Pie, Lee and Marko, Ron and Cheryl to name only a few.

Firstly I promise not to break into another post on the E in ECM, there are enough posts and tweets about this in the past to keep you busy but it has been discussed again at length over Twitter.

Three things of interest to me have cropped up in the past couple of weeks which are worth more than a Tweet response:

The Fallout from Info 360 and AIIM in the US

I’m only going on reading what people commented on the event but the things I took from it were:

  • BOX emerging as a viable complementary solution to traditional ECM players. I’ve not completely got my head round the model and implications but the idea of being able to collaborate outside the firewall with other organisations and have that content linked back into your central repository is appealing. That comment is based on talking to customers as well as my own predictions. This is something definitely to look into in more detail.
  • Buzzwords of Cloud, Social and Engagement. (Thanks to @ldallasBMOC for answering my question on what the buzzwords were at the event). Cloud is definitely something I am seeing increasingly as a discussion point, and it is starting to come across more and more in some of the delivery models. Social is something which is ahead of Cloud in its impact on the World Stage but I would suggest behind in the way we are dealing with it in Content Management.
  • An emergence of EMC. Yes the event heralded the departure of Whitney Tidmarsh from EMC but it also saw Jeetu Patel present their vision for the future. This vision was first seen at the Momentum conference in Lisbon last year so this was perhaps the first time it was presented in such a public forum in the US. I was pleased to see this last year and I heard positive vibes from people at Info360 this year. The trick for EMC is now to deliver on that vision and to deliver in a timely fashion or at least to keep the excitement high in the period while we wait, ‘doing a Centerstage’ would be a problem for EMC.

An increase in SharePoint apathy

Now this is only an observation but I am seeing an increase in the number of posts and tweets which are advocating the approach that there is a limit to what should be done with SharePoint. Note the emphasis on should. Most people know how great a product SharePoint is and how it has helped to raise the game of other Content Management players by bringing Content Management more and more to the masses. The big thing though has been an increase in using SharePoint as a solution platform, extending the product to meet much more functionally rich and diverse needs. Now I am not saying this is not possible but there is a point at which you need to start to question whether this is the right thing to do. It is when this line is crossed that complexity and costs rise to a point which is seeing people start to question SharePoint. If you know what you intend to use SharePoint for and are clear on when it should not be used then this apathy can be avoided. This is easily solved through having a very clear roadmap or strategy.

Improved User Experience to be a game changer

This observation is following a post from Brilliant Leap. Now I agree with some of the points in the post about the delays in Centerstage causing EMC to lose market share and also about the consumerization of IT having an impact in the Content Management space. What I don’t agree with though is that this is a Game Changer in the Content Management space. (Note that the post paraphrases this from a presentation at Info360 and is not necessarily claiming it is the Game Changer). Maybe it is a semantic thing on the term User Experience, and maybe I am being a little picky. Why? Well I think if we can remove Content Management from the minds of the people who are creating and managing it and move to a situation where that content is being created and managed for a specific purpose and it is that specific purpose which is driving then we will have a game changer. In fact I had a similar conversation with someone else recently who was focussed on the Content Management solution for an organisation, I argued that Content Management was not a solution but was a layer in the solutions which helped them. With this in mind I really do believe that CMIS, if applied correctly, could be a game changer in the the Content Management world.

Preparing for the EMC IIG Future

Its taken a while but I did say after the event in Lisbon that I would put together some advice for people who are currently skilled in IIG products which will enable them to prepare for the future. In Lisbon a number of major announcements were made on the IIG products which will start to change the products in the next few years, no timescales were given. Some of these changes were:

- the move to the Next Generation Information Server(NGIS) and away fro the Content Server;

- the move away from WDK and towards RCMP for all web clients;

- more cloud enablement of the product stack;

- the introduction of XPlore (technical not announced in Lisbon but the timing of its introduction lets me put it in here!);

So if I was advising a Documentum developer on what to learn what would I advise them to do, in no particular order:

- learn XPlore, depending on what exposure you have to the search components of Documentum most people will need to know the basics of XPlore;

- download, install and try things in Centerstage. Why? Its the first client based on RCMP and if you can start to master development on this platform now you will be well placed when the new clients, such as xCP 2.0, come out. I’d recommend trying with all the facets of it including adding Widgets which could provide integration points with other systems;

- download, install and start to learn xDB. It may take some time for NGIS to be delivered but it will be based on xDB as the database. Learning it now will put you ahead of the game, I would look at starting to build some apps which use the engine for management of structured data which you currently find you need to model in your current Documentum based apps e.g. the POLE model (Person, Object, Location and Event);

- try out the CMIS connectors, a slightly different approach but try different methods of using the CMIS connectors on Documentum. Think of some scenarios where this may be required, e.g. an ERP system which requires to pull documents from multiple content repositories. Try it with multiple Documentum repositories and then throw in a alternative such as Alfresco or SharePoint 2010.

These are just some ideas and they may not get you ahead in the world today, but in the future you’ll be in a strong position.

 

So Who Buys Case Management Anyway?

If there is one term which is creating a buzz in the ECM world, not to mention the BPM world as well, it is Case Management. Lots of different flavours of it, Adaptive Case Management, Advanced Case Management etc…. EMC and IBM are putting their weight behind it as their strategy for the next few years as well as other organisations such as Nuxeo.

So lets go sell and implement Case Management. Who wants to buy one?

Try and get some time with someone from a Financial Services organisation or a Utility company to discuss Case Management and you’re likely to get short shrift. You’ve got an inkling of a chance in places like Legal Firms or in Public Sector, but still the conversation will be short if you’re not willing to talk specifics.

Case Management is not a solution, they tend to be frameworks or platforms upon which solutions can be built. The accelerators (xCelerators in EMC world) tend to lift the platform nearer to business solutions but they still tend to fall short of being the final business solution. So the questions is who will buy one of these frameworks? I cannot see the majority of end users buying such a framework, there is little in the way of ROI which can be identified to justify such a purchase, unless they have the in house capability, and appetite, to take on the establishment and exploitation of such a platform.

Therefore it suggests that the target market for the sale is in fact the implementers, those companies that can build the business solutions on top of these platforms and then sell these on to the end customers. One could argue that this is not too different from previous models for ECM and BPM but I would argue that the increased focus on delivering value in these times of austerity has meant a further move in this direction. The days of selling the platform and then building the solutions are gone; we are now in a time when the first solution to be built on the platform is the one which needs to drive ROI, further exploitation is a nice to have and will no doubt be considered as a factor but if you can deliver a solution and deliver that ROI then you are in pole position.

This is an interesting movement though as it does place more emphasis on the implementers to invest in business solutions, perhaps more so than before. I know of a number of organisations who are going through with this, would be interested to hear if there is an evidence of this model being adopted? Alternatively are you an end user who is looking at evaluating the Case Management platforms which exist? How much time do you spend looking at the platform or is it the solution you buy?

Another interesting consideration from this is the ability of organisations to exploit that platform once the first solution has been deployed. It is possible that the first solution to be deployed on that platform could be architected in such a way which makes it difficult for future solutions to cohabit. Now that may not be good practice but if the customer is buying a solution and not a platform then it should only be expected.

I have said before that it must be easier for ECM solutions to demonstrate business value and this move to solutions will achieve that but it will require some consideration from those involved in the implementation as to whether this is a one off solution or whether this is step 1 in a longer journey.