The Fallout from EMC World

I’ve had a bit of time now to chew over some of the output from EMC World, and time to get these thoughts down. First things first, I was not in Boston so much of what I know is taken from people who were there rather than my own experience.

There were a number of announcements, directions given last week in Boston and the one which had the biggest reaction was Mark Lewis’ keynote. A number of people have already reflected on it including Pie and MacGirlSweden.

It wasn’t the rename of the group which has stoked the fires but the alignment of the core Documentum Content Server. It would appear that there is an absolute focus on Case Management through the xCP product range and that the Content Server is now within this family.

Its important to understand why this move has happened and there are a number of factors which lead to one. The emergence and growth of SharePoint 2010 and the emergence of open source Content Management are two key ones. I also think there is need to mention Google Apps and the probable increased usage of these in the near future. These have led to the commoditisation of Content Management and have removed a number of barriers to entry level content management. This makes it hard for a heavyweight product set to play in this space; lets not beat about the bush, implementing Documentum can be complex, just installation alone is not straightforward compared to the likes of SharePoint and this is one factor causing people to ask the question why.

There is no doubt Documentum needed to do something to set themselves apart, to really highlight the added value which the products they have can bring. In the past 18-24 months I have spent a bit of time looking at the OpenText product as a result of some growth we have had with that product in our company. The one thing which this has come across from this is the number of vertical solutions which the product is used in, just have a look at their website and you will see they advertise solutions for Plant and Facilities Management, Contracts Management, Accounts Payable etc… These solutions sell much easier than a strong Content Management platform. These solutions deliver value to organisations which is much more recognisable to the business, they want to buy a solution such as Capital Projects in Construction. EMC touched on these but they were never core to their business; they needed to change to bring this value into their product portfolio and to enable their sales people and their partners to sell solutions and not products.

So how have they done this, they have aligned very strongly behind Case Management and it would appear at the detriment of the core product. This is so wrong, for a number of reasons:

1. Case Management are not the only solutions which can be built on Documentum. Just looking at the ones above there is an argument for Accounts Payable and Contracts Management but is Plant and Facilities Management a type of Case Management solution;

2. Don’t forget the platform. Whilst the solutions are important it should not be at the detriment of your core. Talk it up, talk about the fantastic features which can be verticalised through the xCP platform…or which may not be. Documentum is a fantastic ECM platform and whilst it is not easy to sell such a thing there are still customers out there who want it;

So what does this mean for us the partners and for customers? I think for partners it will mean more work, more work to sell those non-case related solutions which can be built from Documentum and more work to sell the platform. Admittedly there will be some instances when it is easier to sell those case related solutions. For existing customers I think this means a worrying time as they grasp how non-xCP solutions will continue; having said that the customers should note that xCP as it is now is a collection of existing products and not much new so this may not be a worry. For new customers, well for some new customers this is a positive move as I can see a rise in business solutions which they can see the value in much easier. However for a large chunk of customers I think this could potentially alienate them, does it become so simple that if you’re not after Case Management you shouldn’t be looking at Documentum? I hope not as the product is too powerful for that.

So another worrying output from EMC World was the interview which Mark Lewis gave and which has been posted on Fierce Content Management. Whilst I fully agree with a lot of what Mark says, particularly about ECM becoming a capability such as databases, I have a couple of gripes:

1. It would appear that EMC have given up on those solutions which require Basic Content Services, the quote is “Our job should be not to win a race with Microsoft with entry-level features”. Fine and yes this is a hard battle to win, but what about those customers who want to go on a journey from basic featured to advanced. Do these customers not matter to EMC anymore? Getting a basic platform in and then exploiting it through product enrichment could be such a valuable revenue stream to EMC both now and in the future.

2. Cloud. Mark suggests this is not an area where EMC want to play. Sorry but for an organisation which is part of the VCE coalition this is remiss to say the least.  With the combination of VCE, RSA and Documentum, EMC have a platform which could have huge potential in the future. Okay so the article talks about this for Basic Content Services again but once customers have this content in the repository the opportunity to exploit it becomes so much clearer.

On the positive side from EMC World was the announcement on the tie up with Informatica. It may be early days here but I think there is a lot of potential in bringing the structured and unstructured world together. Ironically one of my concerns about using Documentum for Investigative Case Management is the need for a large degree of structured data, i.e. the POLE model (Person, Object, Location, Event). An innovative solution in the partnership with Informatica could really bring value here. Also on a positive note was the possibility of replacing the database which supports the Content Server with XDB, bringing the overall solution closer together under one vendor would no doubt drive down costs and complexity. Wonder if there is anything they could do around application servers?

As with people like Pie and Alexandra (macgirlsweden) I believe in the Documentum products. I think they have an excellent product suite and given the right direction it can continue to be so. As I say above a change was needed to try and demonstrate real business value to customers but this could be done a different way. Drop the Case Management message and promote xCP as configurable solutions, align these as either horizontal (i.e. cross industry) or vertical (industry specific). Push the value that these can bring to organisations and also reinforce that these solutions are built on an industrial strength ECM solution which can be leveraged in its own right.

Is the E good?

Once we’ve got over the extremely poor pun on the Shamen single from way back I’ve finally got round to catching up following an extremely busy period at work. Its only fair that I give an account to see how I got to where I am now.

1. I was interested in doing some research on what people out there are doing on Content Management Strategy, note the E is not good here, so I did a search on Google. The results were dominated by articles and sites which were really WCM but promoted as CM. I made a comment on this through Twitter and got a response back from Cheryl Mckinnon. If you don’t follow her I would recommend it.

2. Something reminded me that during the past few weeks there had been a discussion on ECM and CM, and Pie had been involved. I was right and I read Pie’s post about it.

3. This in turn led me to Peter’s post on the Case for Killing “ECM”. I posted a quick comment and Peter has asked for a clarification of why I think the E is needed.

So here I am, and the answer is in point 1. For too many people CM = WCM, they only consider the Web as part of their Content Management approach. We need something which gives a strong differential between WCM and its superset and I am afraid CM just does not work. I think it could have done but the misunderstanding is too ingrained into the minds of the industry that a re-education to help people think wider than WCM would not work.

So what should we use then? Well I don’t see harm in using Enterprise but there are disadvantages to it too, notably the Enterprise then restricts the view of content to that Enterprise…unless you can successfully define the Enterprise in which the Content is to be created/captured/managed/stored/archived. If someone can come up with a better alternative then post here but for me dropping the E is not good. CM on its own and leads to too much misunderstanding.