Friday, November 16, 2012

Emergence of intelligent content platforms

I have been researching, writing and advising on the topic of ECM for well over 20 years, I have been called a cynic on many occasions (sometimes even to my face) and it is true that I am often dismissive of hot new trends in the marketplace. In my defense though most hot new trends are rehashed old trends under a different banner. They didn't work first time round and have no more chance this time. But over the past year or so a couple of overlapping trends have started to make a really deep and lasting impression on me. The first of these is the importance of Social technologies. On the one hand it is fair to argue that the hype surrounding enterprise Social is ridiculously overblown. There are very few firms that can really build a measurable or worthwhile business case to implement Social technologies. The reason for this is that the terms social and collaboration have become conflated, and are often used interchangeably. They are very different things, for collaboration by definition means that you work together to reach a common goal (writing a report, building a house, settling a legal matter). Whereas social is an activity without a defined end goal, the hope is that something unexpected (yet of value) will emerge from social interactions. What this means in practical terms is that some businesses are interested in investing in collaboration tools that support team and project based working. Why wouldn't they be, after all it helps them become more efficient and fulfill the perennial aim of doing more with less. Social though is a much tougher sell as few people really see the benefits here, how many really want to see a twitter like stream that relates to our colleagues activities?  In fact social technologies generate an awful lot of noise (awful being the operative word), but ironically it is here that the value lies. All that noise/data can be analyzed, processed and ultimately utilized to automate decisions and recommendations. It's early days, but that is where this is all heading. Marry this with sudden arrival of cloud based file sharing and sync services, and we have the emergence of a new and important computing/working environment. Don't be too quick to dismiss the "consumerization" of IT, or systems such as Box, Skydox, Accellion or Citrix ShareFile, in my opinion what they represent now is only the start. For combine what they do today, with the analytical capabilities they will possess in the future (and they all will), and we have the ability to easily build powerful content centric applications, that in turn leverage the promise of intelligent analytics and big data. That's game changing by any standards.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I am back....

Just a quick note to say I will begin posting again here soon.  I am in the process of writing a book on the topic of "Why enterprise IT projects so often fail". Will be sharing thoughts and updates as I research and write. The chapter structure has been built, the publishing proposal drafted and a sample chapter written.  All I need to do is get a publisher, and I am working actively on that right now...

Seven years ago I started this blog as an outlet to pull thoughts together for this book - but life and other writing commitments got in the way in the intervening years. That may happen again, but fingers crossed this time round I will finally get the job done!

Will the CMO really outspend the CIO?

The mantra in the digital marketing world is that in the future the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) will become more important in terms of technology spend than the CIO. Yet try as I might I just struggle to fathom the logic here.  Marketing is a vital function in any company but its structure and role is morphing at a rapid pace. 

Marketing has become a strategic and co-ordination function. Strategic in that the Marketing Director has to manage and execute on campaigns and a consistent vision - co-ordination in that most marketing today is actually done by external agencies and contractors. The other major shift in marketing is that Marketers are ever more being explicitly tasked with generating leads, and broader marketing concerns such as visibility and brand trust have been relegated. Pushing marketing back to its original home as a subset of Sales.

In my experience, CMO's are not technologists, nor do they want to be, as they have better things to do with their time. So though much more money will of course be spent on digital marketing efforts in the future trusted external agencies that will become key stakeholders in any technology decision making process.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

ECM with a purpose?

It's been a long time but for some reason I just wanted to distill some rambling thoughts here on the state of ECM what it might all mean.

IBM, Oracle, EMC, Microsoft & OpenText define the bulk of the market - collectively between them they account for the vast majority of revenue in this space. They have all been at it a long time, and I have spent a career watching and advising them. At various times all of these players have seem lost and without a clear purpose, defaulting into a world of cash cow status. With the exception of Microsoft all of them in the past year seem to have rediscovered their real purpose in life and are trying to get out of comfortable ruts. Documentum seems reinvigorated and has returned quite rightly IMHO to its roots and is making a real fist of sorting out its usability history. IBM is really meshing together the worlds of structured and unstructured, Oracle is truly excited about web experience and the promise of related big data, and OpenText seems to really want to move on from holding company to innovator again. All of these are gargantuan tasks and only time will tell how successful each is - but its good for all of us surely?

This turnaround in the past year reminded me why I got hooked on this industry in the first place. I fell from a burgeoning career in TV (researching/writing) into document management/control to pay the bills, and then found I was fascinated at the beauty and complexity of information management. Over time I grew more and more attached to this unloved discipline, and passionate about its value to society. Over the years I have personally been involved and seen it deliver incredible returns in joined up justice (police through prisons to probation), averting oil spills in the North Sea, saving lives in healthcare, targeting the right bad guys and gals in intelligence and defense etc. I have also seen sloppy information management do the opposite with disastrous results. In a world of spectacular waste and irrelevance, a world of economic and humanitarian crisis, a world driven by technology, data & content - doing IT and information management badly has real world consequences. This belief is what gives purpose to my work.

But the same thing applies to large organizations - they are no different really to individuals. Without a purpose they drift or expend their energies in pointless and ever more lackluster directions. With a common purpose they are energized, focused and make a difference. I don't care about ECM firms making money (that's for them to worry about) but I do care about them driving innovation and providing the right tools to manage information efficiently and accurately at such a critical juncture in our history.

Friday, September 30, 2011

ECM In India - Again


I am recently back from a pretty remarkable week working out of our Delhi office with my colleagues Apoorv and Sanjeev. Remarkable in that though I have been to India many times before, there is clearly a groundswell of change underway, and its major change at that. Hence I am excited that we are investing in our business there, and am looking forward to working more directly with buyers of technology in the future.

So what is this change? Well it comes in a number of different ways, firstly India is in and of itself an emerging market for content technologies, and one that in some regards is jumping ahead of western countries, by passing the PC and Laptop world and leaping straight to the mobile handset. The mobile consumer market is frankly years ahead of anything one sees in the US. In the enterprise the change is equally revolutionary but maybe less sexy and obvious. India is, if nothing else a huge bureaucracy on a scale and complexity that would have stumped Kafka. It's not just Government and the public sector, but it spreads to corporate organizations and is in large part a result of both embedded cultural and historical factors, important to note is that much if not most of this huge bureaucracy is paper based.

Yet a strengthening middle class, and an influx of former ex-pats from the UK and US are driving change. You can see it in the US style shopping malls that seem to be popping up on every corner, and the impatience of folk of doing things the 'traditional' way. To highlight all this, during the past week I was privileged to watch and experience the Anna Hazare led protest against corruption, a protest that though focused on rampant and often blatant corruption, goes deeper. It is not for me to take sides (though hopefully we are all against corruption) but I can be a casual observer. It goes to the heart of the problem in India, that old institutions and ways of working, simply don't work any longer, and people are impatient for change.

In my own remit of research (Document Management) it was confirmed to me that imaging and capture along with associated business process management (including Case Management) are hot topics and look certain to grow substantially. This is a trend that is not limited to India, but the potential for growth is more likely more extreme there. Furthermore I have little doubt that in such a rich media savvy nation that the demand for DAM (Digital Asset Management) will also grow substantially there over the next couple of years.

However, tied to all this potential is the very real problem of immature and overly burdensome procurement practices for IT. Though India is surging ahead in some areas of technology and there is surely an appetite to do so more in future. Plus there is the dominance of Indian system integrators such as TCS, Sapient, and Infosys in the world of IT,there can be no doubt that India has a surfeit of tech skills and knowledge. But in terms of thorough product selection and buyer driven procurement processes I don't think India is there yet, nor it should be said in many cases are firms in the US or Europe. Yet my hope is that Real Story Group can in some small way help contribute to this situation in the coming years.

To the visitor India seems to change slowly, you see visuals from the car and street that look unchanged in millennia, yet at the same time India seldom does things by halves and I think buyers there are going to take content technologies in some new, dramatic and exciting directions over the next few years, going from laggard to cutting edge in the blink of an eye.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sybase acquired by SAP


Another blast from my past as SAP announced that it is acquiring Sybase. I remember Sybase as much for their lavish AR (Analyst Relations) than anything else. I attended quite a few of their events, most memorable of which was held at the NYSE - with lunch in the Boardroom, and this not that long after 9/11. How they pulled it off I have no idea, but it was an amazing and quite surreal experience.
Long dismissed as has beens Sybase (though I never truly understood their business), recognized that they had lost the database battle long back, and very smartly and quietly consolidated their business in high finance, and in Asia - whilst making serious investments in the mobile world. From a skunkworks set up in Canada its the mobile infrastructure piece of the pie that has added to their spectacular price paid by SAP - $5.8 Billion - a lot of money for a company written off by most everyone.

I chose the image above, as I still have sitting on my desk a rather lovely brass Kaleidoscope given to me as a gift by Sybase AR in 2002 - that has Mardi Gras (AR event clashed with the start of Lent) beads in it.....