Thursday, February 02, 2006

The E in ECM...thoughts from New York


Last night I was the guest speaker at a CIO Roundtable event in New York. It was an interesting and quite glamorous occasion (venue Le Bernadin), but with some very solid and down to earth discussions taking place.

At the end of the evening I did wonder if the days of big number licence deals for ECM are numbered. Big Dollar deals though are clearly in vogue, and will continue to be so for some time....

To put it another way, the E in ECM seems to be taking on two different (though compatible) meanings:-

  • Enterprise definition A - High level across the breadth of the Enterprise

  • Enterprise definition B - Involving everyone in the enteprise

In the current market we are seeing the likes of IBM, Filenet and Documentum negotiating some of the biggest deals of their history.With the aim of taking their intense, heavy duty document and content management capabilities across the whole enterprise.

Yet a slightly closer look at these deals reveals something a little different. In most cases the big deals are in fact consolidation exercise, with the bonus of an upgrade in technology. Most of the big deals are focused on knitting together various reposititories (mainly second tier vendors such as Hummingbird, OpenText, Vignette etc) into a standard architecture or centralized repository. This is ECM that uses definition of Enterprise number 1.

The second thing we are starting to see emerge is organic growth in content management capabilities, outside the control of IT, driven by local users own needs to bring some affordable organization to their content. This is most clearly illustrated by the viral growth in Sharepoint deployments. But also in the success of the likes of Xerox Docushare and 80:20. In one instance I know of, there are upward of 1500 Sharepoint instances within a single enterprise!

In the industry the current buzzword is co-existance, and its a buzzword that is probably right on the money. Because from what I can see now, the likelihood is that we will start to see more hybrid deals being done with one vendor selected for the high end needs of ECM, and a standard (Microsoft or Oracle for example) being imposed for the rest of the needs of the organisation (the bulk, but not the mission critical).

That seems like a good model to adopt, but before we really get there I think we are going to see some difficult times ahead. For there is no doubt we are at in inflection point. Enterprises are now opening their wallets and prioritizing ECM projects. These are ambitious projects and many vendors are going to have their technology tested to breaking point for the first time. I suspect some will regret their boastful claims and end up licking their wounds. Whatever happens the landscape will change. Basically we are coming to the realization that not all content is equal, but it all at least needs to be organized and accessible.

What I think we will start to see is the emergence of vendors focusing on basic but widescale content organization vs lumping themselves with heavy duty ECM activities....

1 comment:

apoorv said...

Some product vendors use ECM in a different sense as you have mentioned in your post on Alfresco. When their product does slightly more than one thing, they call it an ECM product. So when a WCM product adds features for imaging or scanning, it "graduates" to an ECM product offering :)