Future of ECM

John Newton recently blogged on the future of ECM and gave his predictions on what will happen to the ECM market. I think there is little doubt in his statement that MOSS will be the biggest single disruptive influence on the ECM market in the coming months/years. He also made a statement about the expansion of Alfresco as being another disruptive influence on the market and then went on to discuss the Alfresco strategy of meeting the needs of Web 2.0 and exceeding the likes of Sharepoint. This is an interesting note and one which is something I believe is the omission from his list of predictions: 

          the emergence of Web 2.0 and the ensuing battle between the browser and the desktop Microsoft have made a dramatic incursion into the market with their MOSS release and to the average end user of ECM they are in pole position to become the leading product in this space; after all these users are familiar with the Office products and are somewhat ignorant to the merits of the other approaches. This is in no way a criticism of the users, they have a product which meets their needs as they are now and is something they have become familiar with over a period of time. 

However it is up to us in the IT community to ensure that end users are aware of what alternative approaches may bring them, or even their IT departments if the advantage is not necessarily functional. Note that this does not mean technology led projects which I strongly disagree with, a successful architect should be able to introduce new technology to users which not only meets their obvious requirements but highlights other possible gains….the former remains the priority.  Back to the point though and if we see a surge in the browser as the desktop, as oft quoted in our community, I do not expect Microsoft to be in a great position to exploit this. Of the big players in the market I expect EMC/Documentum to be in the best position to exploit this as they now have a reasonably mature product and have already spent time looking into this. IBM/FileNET will continue to struggle with how to integrate their products. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on Alfresco and how they develop in this space. For the time being though Sharepoint will be on the minds of most CIOs seeking an ECM solution, it is still unproven but as a Collaborative product would be high on my list of recommendations. If however more structured Document Management is required I’d be looking to ensure my customer does not tie themselves into a product which does not have a roadmap for how to react to the future direction we may see.

Portal Thoughts

The current project I am working on is deliverying a Portal Framework for a public sector organisation in the UK. Previous to this I worked on a project delivering an B2E Portal for a Pharma company.

On the current project we have a number of debates between some of the techies about the value of Portals and whether we are using the product in the correct manner.

What we are doing to start with is to deliver a single Portal application and the surrounding framework. Without question if this app was all we were delivering then Portal would be the sledgehammer for the nut. This is very much a functional Portal and would possibly have been better built as a simple app for an app server. However the strategy is to supplement this with other Portals Applications which will mix content and functionality such that the Portal as a whole becomes the definitive workspace for the user population. I believe we are doing the right thing by using Portal and the debate we have had tend to get down to the gritty subject of granularity of Portlets, how do you decide when to develop the app as a single Portlet and when as a collection? We have no doubt been impacted by the immaturity of JSR 168, roll on JSR 268, but I believe we have struck a fine balance between too many Portlets with complex relationships and the snigle Portlet which would not allow users to, in the future, develop a dashboard of their ‘favourite’ Portlets.

 The dashboard concept is new to the user population and is something we need to start to address as new Portal Apps are developed…I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.