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.

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

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.

ACM or DCM?

Well I started writing a post on Dynamic Case Management about a week ago and I have to admit after a bit of research I found some of the ideas were not strong enough for it to be published. However the research I did opened a few other avenues of interest. Not least prompted by an excellent series of articles written by Joe Shepley on his research into Adaptive Case Management.

The first question I had is around the definition of Adaptive Case Management, and specifically in relation to the Forrester Wave which has been published on Dynamic Case Management. There is quite a lot of interest and information on the web about ACM, most notably led by the likes of Sandy Kemsley and Max J. Pucher, so it is interesting that one of the leading Analyst firms have chosen a different term for their recent Wave report. Having said that one of the authors is quoted in the this article on ACM. Now I am not saying one term is more correct than the other but the differences highlight the immaturity in this space, something which I will come back to. We can also throw into the pot the term Advanced Case Management, but this is more of a product name for the IBM products. Interestingly I think there is an important difference to be made in the term Advanced compared to Adaptive and Dynamic, both of these suggest a strong element of change. Max also wrote an excellent article about the difference between ACM and DCM, however I wonder if the statement below from the Forrester report blurs the differences which Max identifies?

It was the Forrester Wave which prompted the interest in the first place, and more specifically the products which they had chosen to appear in the report. When you read through Joe’s posts, and I would recommend them as an excellent way to get an understanding of this space from an abstract perspective, you get a picture of a paradigm which does indeed allow for the user driven change in activities which achieve the business goal. Reading the Forrester report I got the same ideas, in fact one of the four tenets of DCM as suggested by Forrester is:

Accessible mechanisms that allow end users to handle variation

One of the reasons for my initial interest was my scepticism of the ability of products to handle this level of variation; how many of us have been part of a project that seeks to define the business process to the nth degree as part of the implementation of a solution only to find some time later that the process has changed and that change requires a technical change to the solution?

My scepticism remains and I know some of the products in the Forrester report would either require this change to be implemented as a technical solution or would require the level of flexibility to be built into the solution from the start (of course the main problem is no-one knew this flexibility would be required when the solution was built!). However there are products in the report who claim to contain the ability to handle variation. When I say claim I am not saying they do not, all I am saying is that I like to see how this feature has been implemented as I have seen it promised before and it has meant the end users having to use the process definition tools of the product which in turn requires a technical deployment.

I really need to dig deeper into these products to see how they would allow for this, and in fact I think it would be a natural extension for the posts from Joe. I am sure many of us who have implemented ECM/BPM/ACM/DCM solutions have set out to achieve this flexibility but when the crunch has come we have been disappointed with the detail in which this flexibility is achieved. Going back to Max’s post there is a very clear difference between Goal orientation and Process centric solutions, it seems a shame that the Forrester Report does not really help with this distinction.

Such an exercise may take some time and is, in all honesty, probably not something I am going to actually get done so if you have experience in delivering ACM solutions then I would love to hear your thoughts on how the products get going when the going gets tough. Any time I do get to spend looking at how products provide these features will be discussed.

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.

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.

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!

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.

One interface to rule them all?

There were a number of comments to my last post about whether an organisation can really attain the common goal of having a single ECM repository. Ultimately I do not believe many organisations will be able to reach this, and there are situations when they should not aim for this. One comment pointed out that a single interface is really the goal of an organisation, users do not care where the information is stored but they do want to know how to get access to it.

I then read Pie’s post on how CMIS is already affecting the market and how one organisation in particular have developed a solution which shows accessing multiple repositories through a single interface.

This is exactly where I see the market going, although I think this is a first step. Being able to search for and view all unstructured content is extremely powerful and Pie comments that the first to market is not usually the one who prevails over time, they will though get some traction in the market. Now start to expand this view, bringing structured information into this view as well. I’ve had a look at Palantir recently and this is very interesting technology, imagine the power of a solution which combines some of the visualisation of Palantir with the ability to add content to your collection. Being able to Tweet, or more likely Yam, on a suspect in a criminal case, or on a new drug development. Adding a drawing which shows how a certain part of an Energy plant works in the same view as looking at the organisational structure of that plant. Eventually people will stop accessing information through hierarchies and start to get access to information through subjects or topics, SharePoint is making a strong move in this direction in 2010. In this view of the world the Content Management platform becomes much more of an infrastructure commodity.

It would be interesting to hypothesize how this change would affect the way in which SharePoint has taken the ECM market. Whilst it is true that the UI is not the main reason why SharePoint has made this move it is still important and is a very convincing reason why people love SharePoint so much. Perhaps the power of SharePoint’s Portal approach, in my view not great but still an advantage over most ECM players, could be a compelling argument for SharePoint to continue to grow.

This may make life harder for end customers but there is every possibility that the vendor with the best, and most usable, interface, will not have the best content repository. However it will drive a lot of competition in the market and really get people thinking both about how they store their content and how they want to interact with it as well as interacting with other information sources.