Momentum 2016

Last week I attended EMC ECD’s Momentum conference, my 5th Momentum conference in Europe but the first time it has been in Europe for a number of years. It was also a conference which went ahead with the looming take over of EMC ECD by OpenText. It was an enjoyable few days and a chance for me to get closer to some of the tech than I typically get in the day to day routine. What were my takeaways:

  1. Stating the obvious but the OpenText deal is not yet done. As a result there was nothing which ECD could say about the roadmap of the products assuming the acquisition does go ahead.
  2. Nevertheless there was a lot of commentary on the deal and what came across strongly was a focus on the ways the two products complement each other rather than overlap. OpenText were represented by Vincenzo Nigrelli and Muhi Majzoub who were consistent in their message and praise for:
    1. ECD’s strong partner culture
    2. The strength of the InfoArchive product
    3. The vertical positioning which ECD have in sectors such as Life Sciences and Energy and Engineering
    4. The innovation being driven through the LEAP platform
  3. Clearly though there is overlap in the two sets of products and we will just have to wait until the deal is closed, likely to be January, to find out what the intent is for some of the core products. What I would say is that I do not see OpenText retiring any of the core products in the near future, there is too strong a revenue stream for this to happen. There may be more investment in some areas than others, see above, but the immediate future will see little change in my view.
  4. LEAP is the rising star in the platform based on attendance at sessions and the Hands On Labs. I took some time in the Hands On Labs and found a product which is easy to use and looks really neat. In the sessions I also liked the way the product had been architected although we didn’t get into a huge amount of detail. For me though there needs to be a lot more investment in the product, it looks neat and works well but there now needs to be some more investment along the lines of the Supplier Exchange product which is built on LEAP. Clearly ECD see this as something which their partners will do and hence the release of the Platform API but they also need to ramp up investment to deliver some business solutions.
  5. InfoArchive is where the money is. Whilst LEAP is new and shiny InfoArchive seems to be where ECD are making their money. It really is a compelling business case for customers and should in theory be an easy decision for businesses to make to invest in this space. Having played with the technology it comes across as straightforward to use but I also came away thinking that there needs to be some serious thought to topics such as Information Design.

So in summary a positive conference despite the elephant which lurked in the corner, and sometimes jumped on to stage to wave at the attendees! The ECD execs who spoke publicly (Rohit Ghai, Jason Capitel and Jim Nelson) did so with excitement and not apprehension and while clearly there will be some big changes to come I would predict that when the deal closes there will be an increased investment in some of the stars of the ECD portfolio which has probably been lacking in the past few years under EMC.

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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.

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.

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.

More on SharePoint and Documentum

One of the reasons why I have not posted something lately is that I wanted to allow the experiences of a SharePoint/Documentum integration project to really settle in before publishing it. Plus I had the opportunity to see where the integration products were heading.

So what has been learned from the experience?

1. Understand why you are integrating the two products! I know this is stating the bleeding obvious but it should be 100% clear from day 1 why you are looking to integrate Documentum and SharePoint. What will the business gain from having this integration? What are they looking to achieve? Is there a specific pain which has been caused which an integration can resolve? I’m a bit fearful at the moment that companies will go down this integration route because it is seen as the thing to do and it will improve their management of content by having an integrated approach. Actually an even better improvement could be settling on one product or the other.

2. Understand the limitations of the integration products. We have used the EMC Documentum Repository Services for SharePoint AND the MyDocumentum for SharePoint products. Using both products is not something which I would usually advocate but the specific needs of the customer required this, and the solution does meet their needs. However you should understand that there are weaknesses to each of the products. Do not expect MyDocumentum to allow you to do all the things you do in a WDK environment through SharePoint. MyDocumentum provides you with a fairly basic UI through which you can view and manage documents in Documentum through a SharePoint user interface. If you have deployed functionality within the WDK layer then it is likely it is impossible to recreate this functionality in the MyDocumentum product. As such do not expect 100% of your users to switch to using the SharePoint user interface. With the EDRSS component you should have a very good understanding of the way content is journalled through to the Documentum repository. Do not expect that this content is fully available through a Documentum and SharePoint interface once it is journalled through. The journalling is enough to reduce the impact on SharePoint storage constraints but does not provide a fully integrated environment.  e.g, the metadata which is journalled through to Documentum is stored within Documentum as an XML rendition of the content.

3. The technology alone is part of the solution. If you look at the last point on metadata and the way it is journalled then consider the following scenario. Typically in SharePoint there is less governance around document types and these tend to be of a greater variety. Documentum implementations however tend to have much more control over document types. Do not expect that there will be a match between the types in two, and if you want to achieve this alignment expect a whole host of pain on the way. The current users of SharePoint are likely to be unhappy at having their freedom restricted, or the alternative approach could be complex to achieve through the Documentum products.

Does this all mean that I think integrating SharePoint and Documentum is the wrong thing to do? Absolutely not, but doing it for doings sake is. However I can think of many Use Cases where this is an applicable and appropriate approach. As I mentioned at the start I have seen some of the improvements which are in the later versions of the integration products, some to highlight include:

  • The ability to add custom menus in MyDocumentum. Whilst this won’t replicate the WDK experience in SharePoint (which should not be a desired route anyway) this will help to fill in some of the functionality gaps which you may experience;
  • The addition of a Subscriptions Web Part; interestingly we found the users were really interested in having this so was a big plus for them when we discussed the future functionality;
  • Metadata based journalling rules in EDRSS. I can see this helping organisations achieve what I have seen as the vision of using SharePoint for ‘collaborative’ content in SharePoint but managing the more compliant content in Documentum. Will still need some thinking but could be a step in the right direction;
  • Content Migration. On our implementation we were faced with migrating a lot of content from SharePoint through to Documentum using the EDRSS component. The method in 6.5 was fairly crude and involved a back-up and restore of the content, with a quick configuration switch in the middle. Now though there is a much improved solution which allows you to schedule and throttle this migration very easily;

This is a subject which has been talked about a lot in the past 12 months, I expect the next 12 months will see the market really understanding how they can use the two technologies together and whether they should. As I say I think there is a place for this but I think we should all be conscious of what we are really trying to achieve!

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.

Pie’s Application Separation

Interestingly when I first read Pie’s tweet to advertise this post I thought it was going to be focussed on Content Enabling applications. I suppose it is but some of the applications he talks about content enabling are very close to the platform services being provided, e.g. WebPublisher and Centerstage. Does this mean I think it is wrong? No, not at all. Pie has exposed a model which is very interesting. With the Core Server customers would buy the platform and a way to interact with the basic services the platform provides, it would be interesting to understand where the line is drawn on Basic Content Services…e.g. is MOSS in this group?

For Applications Pie adds the likes of WebPublisher and Centerstage, the Documentum apps. In this space I see some separation between these style of products and the more vertically focussed implementations. Something more akin to:

– Extended Content Applications – those applications which are still focussed on providing horizontal content solutions but with enriched services focussed on a specific ECM Use Case such as Web Content Managment or Digital Asset Management;

– Business Solution Content Applications – those applications which are taking a specific business solution where there is a need to interact with unstructured content and providing the application to perform these tasks;

It is the latter which I am becoming increasingly interested in, I’m making some notes on a post about Case Management which I hope to post this side of Christmas.

So will Pie’s model work? Yes. Do I think the market is ready for this? Not yet, and I think it is the vendors who are the farthest away from this concept although CMIS should provide a vehicle for them to provide this. Take Documentum for example, with their CMIS release they have some very basic content services which they can expose…the decision they need to make now is which services form the rest of the platform services and how can they expose these in a way which enables CMIS to develop.

There is also a certain amount of kudos which is taken from having your app used by customers at the front end, moving ECM closer to being an infrastructure may not be something the vendors will necessarily embrace. But then how many times will you hear people say things such as “Documentum is a really annoying product” (Quote taken from a quick search of Twitter for Documentum)? The answer is quite high, and this is something which creates a poor reflection on Documentum as the users are typically complaining about the way they interact with the services and not necessarily the services themselves.

Any vendor that can shape themselves to providing the most scalable, performant, secure and compliant unstructured store which provides a rich set of services which can be used will be one step to establishing a differentiator for themselves. The second step will be to get a strong strategy of working with partners to use those services in business focussed applications such as Contract Management, Case Management and Purchase to Pay applications.