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.

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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.

OpenText and Global 360

The recently announced acquisition of Global 360 by OpenText has raised a number of eyebrows and prompted quite a reaction in the blogosphere. I tweeted that I would be worried as a customer of both, especially given the acquisition of Metastorm. However to put this all into perspective I thought I would post an article which put down 3 potential positives from the deal and 3 potential negatives.

On the Plus Side

  1. By purchasing Metastorm and Global 360 OpenText are making a major play into the BPM part of the SharePoint world. This could be viewed as a disruptive or defensive tactic. It is well known that one of the weaknesses of the SharePoint platform is its BPM capability. By purchasing two of the leading BPM vendors who integrate well with SharePoint OpenText could be seen to be putting down a marker to defend their market which is being moved onto the SharePoint platform. Either of the two companies were potential targets for Microsoft themselves so OpenText have moved to stop this.
  2. Both Metastorm and Global 360 are leading BPM technologies, albeit with overlapping capabilities. If OpenText can take the best bits of both and incorporate them into a Case Management Framework with their LiveLink repository as the back-end document store then it could be a very compelling proposition.
  3. OpenText already have a strong relationship and this could strengthen that relationship and move OpenText away from being an ECM player to being the BPM product vendor of choice for SharePoint, given the weakness of SharePoint in this space it could be a very shrewd move for OpenText to diversify from their traditional ECM roots.

Looking for the negatives

  1. OpenText have not traditionally been good at integrating new products into their stack. The typical approach is to rebrand the product as an OpenText product. If this is the case then why would they continue to invest in two overlapping products, it would make financial sense for them to move customers of one on to the other at some stage. Even if they do try and integrate then there will be a need for customers to move to the new solution at some stage in the future.
  2. The timing of the acquisition is strange given the recent Metastorm acquisition. Its hard enough integrating one fundamental component into an existing technology stack, taking on two will be an interesting experience.
  3. Whilst Point 1 of my positives could be seen as a positive for OpenText as they cling on to defend their market share I cannot really justify it as a positive for either Metastorm or Global 360 customers. If it is a defensive or disruptive move then it does not exactly promote OpenText’s willingness for long term investment in the two products. At some stage Microsoft will plug the gap in SharePoint on BPM so this possible tactic would only act to delay this.

Summary

All of the above is pure speculation and I would say even OpenText are probably a little unsure of what the future holds. There is the possibility they could make an excellent move into the Case Management market through a fully integrated solution but on past experience this is not how they have operated. The speculation is fun, watching what happens next will be interesting.