Thursday, November 30, 2006

The downfall of CA's Kumar

A short post on this just to get it out of my system.
Sanjay Kumar has been found guilty of fraud, the former CEO of CA (formerly Computer Associates) cooked the books in a big way and is now facing substantial time in prison.

My personal involvement (if one can call it that) was that I had the temerity to write a largely supportive report of CA's technology and re brand in 2006, with a rider that with (then current) DOJ investigations one should be slightly cautious. I had been (naively) surprised that other analyst firms had said little or nothing about the mounting and clearly very serious legal situations that CA were finding themselves in. Well I found out why that was, as CA launched a vicious and very personal attack on me once the report was published. It was a low point for me, even though I have been around a long time this was particularly nasty and many were intimidated by it.

Nobody came out particularly well from the encounter - and so there is some satisfaction in seeing the man be found guilty, but I hope CA moves on from this tawdry situation. But I still have doubts, the corporate environment under Kumar's predecessor Charles Wang was poisonous, and it should have improved under Kumar (and in all fairness he did some excellent work in re-positioning and re branding) but it remained poisonous and became criminal. That those who worked so diligently to silence critics of the criminal activity are still in Executive positions there certainly gives plenty of room for doubt to remain.

As buyers, users and those tasked with implementing technology know - the software and hardware is important, but so is trust in your supplier....

Trashing Wiki vendors..

On Wednesday this week I was Simon the cruel English judge at the Gilbane Event Wiki Idol.

For a more sober and considered blog on this with fulsome links check out the one I have posted today on CMS Watch...

I was not keen on doing this in the first place, fearing potential stereotyping, and though I am certainly opinionated I am at the end of the day a bit of a softie and really hate to hurt any ones feelings. Hence before the competition began I went up the assembling contestants and apologized in advance for what I was going to do to them. By the way at this point I realized that none of the vendors knew what they were getting themselves into - suffice to say that each vendor made a bit of a mess of their presentation and were verbally slaughtered by the judges. (far far worse than the other CM Idols event I had seen)

Did anything good come of this blood fest - well yes, ironically a lot of good. The next day I know that at least 3 of the vendors had notably increased traffic to their booths. But maybe more importantly we all got to see:

  • The Emperor New Clothes
  • Something cool looking to find its place in the World

Wiki's are I think smoke and mirrors, KM software and WCM software pretending that they are something new and hip. With little understanding in some cases of what real businesses are looking for, and an almost naive innocence that people will buy new 'stuff'. I have been around long enough to know there is a buyer somewhere for anything, but to achieve real market mass - and to cross the chasm, you need to do something that add's value. It was hard to see what value this software would bring. Also interesting was to see how many of these products are targeted at Techie's, and if one takes the Open Source model then one can see how there might be a willing niche audience for this kind of software. Beyond that I think the appeal is very limited.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Reassessing “efficiency”

I guess my major thrust in ECM consulting engagements has been around separating valued information from noise. Maybe we need to do that in a broader fashion also?

I think the next generation of information professionals should be getting back to the basics of true efficiency:

• Identifying repeatable processes and functions that are at the core of our business

• Reducing exceptions as much as possible

• Provide the right platforms to enable high quality work

And taking the kind of tangential leap that only a blog entry can allow – I think we need to be considering BPR 2.0 – smarter re-engineering, drawing from the best of the past and hopefully learning from the sheer disasters that did occur during the last BPR revolution, mistakes made from assumptions such as:

• Overestimating the value and capability of technology solutions

• Underestimating the value of human intelligence and process knowledge

• Recognizing the limitations of the consultants in understanding how businesses tick

One thing that will be of value in this next generation I think will be an honest reassessment of the role and purpose of so called ‘productivity tools’. Has giving everyone Microsoft Office a Cell Phone and a Blackberry really made things more efficient?

At the same time we need to teach people how to communicate effectively – potentially by mirroring successful communicators (thoughtful, deliberate and happy to ignore trivia).

We probably need to get away from the anally retentive IT mentality we currently embrace of storing everything, and bring some discipline back into information management. For unless we do so we will continue to stumble from one expensive and under-performing deployment to the next. For let’s be honest, many of today’s expensive new technology deployments are being undertaken to fix the mistakes of the last expensive technology deployment.

Nitin Sawhney’s ‘Street Guru’ said…”I think there is going to be a backlash against technology…….”. If not a true backlash, there is cynicism at many levels, and it’s got to be time for a rethink. The industry is obsessed with Web 2.0, and to many it is all about Mashups and Ajax, but I think if it is to have any real impact, it needs to be about much more fundamental issues.

Slaves to technology

Those who know me well know that I take my music (particularly Electronica/Dance) very seriously. My iPod is playing a bunch of recent downloads and top amongst them are some albums by Nitin Sawhney. One of the tracks (on his Prophesy Album) that I have listened to many times is 'Street Guru'. It’s a track that samples heavily from a conversation with a US city Cab Driver, the driver muses on the fact that people have become slaves to time and technology…

Development has pushed us away from other people

A lot of times people are mad because they want immediate access, immediate information, but sometimes you just gotta wait and let things happen

People get in the cab & I say it will take 5 minutes and they say “it should only take 3”….nobody is going to put on your tombstone, I got here in 5 minutes instead of 7..

Technology has made us slaves to time

These are thoughts that clearly resonate with me, possibly from a different context and perspective but resonating nonetheless. The world of document/content management and workflow (you knew there was a connection coming up!) was constructed solely for the purpose of automating manual tasks and delivering and moving information at ever faster speeds. All with the intension of increasing efficiency, but efficiency isn’t simply about doing things faster…

ECM technologies are (I believe) essential in any enterprise to save them from drowning in a sea of irrelevant information. The mass of information facing people in their working life is real, and has reached a critical status – yet as I often pointed out, most of the information (documents) are irrelevant and wasteful.

Indeed it sometimes seems as if we spend our lives responding to irrelevancies, we keep busy, but don’t achieve all that much.

At the time of originally writing this post (long hand in my B&W A4 hardback notebook) I am sitting next to a man on an aeroplane who keeps sneakily responding to emails on his Blackberry mid flight to Seattle. I myself at Chicago airport earlier this morning opened my email account to see 10 emails relating to the same topic, a simple phone call to one person would have done the trick, but instead I have 10 emails with 5 people copied on each. And here is the rub, everyone wants immediate action, yet they don’t tend to see the major contradiction between these 50 emails (which would go onto to spurn yet others) that had brought closure to nothing.

Everyone wants immediate responses, to issues that may in their totality be important but are not particularly urgent. In our haste to respond, we fire off ill thought out responses that trigger yet more interactions…..”technology has made us slaves to time

CMF2006 Aarhus Denmark

I am writing this on the flight back to Boston after having spending a couple of very enjoyable days in Aarhus, Denmark at the CMF2006 event. This was (unusually for me) a positive experience both personally and professionally. I was there ostensibly to provide the closing keynote, but I also enjoyed the company of industry peers such as Lisa Welchman, Erik Hartman, Stephen Arnold, my new boss to be Tony Byrne, my good friends at Wipro Apoorv Dhurga and Kashyap Kompella, Pranshu Jain and of course the event host Janus Boye. A veritable smorgasbord of web content expertise, all people whom even a brief and humorous chat over a cup of tea, leave you better informed, and I suspect a better person ☺

My speech was quite different from that at ECM Plaza (I think) a few weeks ago, in that I focused on understanding (or trying to understand) the content management market. I used my Cow metaphor again, though being in Denmark she should really have transformed into a pig, for I discovered that 100,000 pigs a week are slaughtered at the nearby slaughterhouse, a fact given me by a friendly taxi driver (the kind of information I don’t need) who also gave me an overview of the much loved Royal Family (though I suspected from his comments that the French born Crown Prince could a little more to endear himself), the joys of hunting, his 10 days driving a truck in England (including accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road and going under a bridge that was not tall enough for the truck (again information I didn’t need). Amazingly I booked the same driver to take me back this morning!

I don’t think I have anything major to share, other than to encourage you to attend this event next year if Web Content Management and it’s variants are important to you. I suspect this is the premier global event of its kind – and provides a very open and hospitable atmosphere for discussion, education and business. In addition it gets you to a part of the world you probably wouldn’t normally see, along with superb hospitality – and good food!

By the way if you do get to Aarhus next year be sure to see the Cathedral (Domkirke) and if you get the chance eat dinner at Globen Flakket (for the food and hyggelig), enjoy breakfasts of incredible Danish bread, eggs (runny and yummy) and cheese at Villa Provence, if Lisa Welchman offers you medical advice ignore it, and thoroughly enjoy CMF2007.

On a separate note…as a reminder, as of next week I shall be officially working for CMS Watch and industry specific blogs will be posted there, I shall use this blog for broader discussions – and intend also to pick up the topic of outsourcing much more, something I have learned a little about in my time at Wipro!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Farewell Wipro - Hello CMS Watch

Well today it became official, I am joining CMS Watch, and as of the middle of next week I will be starting work on a new ECM Report....

Press Release

I will miss Wipro very much - it is a truly wonderful and quirky firm that has been amazingly supportive to me. I hope I have added value in my time here....and also hope to continue working together somehow in the future.

My email will change to

As for this blog, it will remain active and I will continue to use it for my occasional rants and meandering thoughts - but will also now blog on ECM specific topics on CMS Watch.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Oracle acquires Stellent - On balance a good move

Oracle finally acquires an ECM company, after initially passing on Documentum & FileNet (now owned by EMC and IBM respectively). It’s a move that appears to make sense for a number of reasons not least because:

• Oracle is very keen to make headway in the ECM market and their own attempts to date have fallen short.

• Stellent is a well respected players and gives Oracle instant kudos, expertise and visibility in the ECM sector

• At a technical level Stellent is probably the easiest (in relative terms) of the remaining ECM systems in the market to integrate into the Oracle stack

But even if at this high level Stellent appears to be a good fit for Oracle, there is no guarantee that this will be plain sailing.

• For starters even though Stellent may be a key ECM player, they are not very well represented in large enterprises

• They are considerably smaller by any measure than Filenet (IBM), Documentum (EMC) or OpenText

• The corporate culture at Stellent embodies Minnesota nice, mid Western congeniality – Oracle can be brutal

• Stellent is big enough to make integration into Oracle a challenge, but not big enough to be seen by many key execs within Oracle as strategic

On balance Stellent seems like a good move for Oracle but it is not without its challenges. I suspect the Oracle Content DB will largely remain (selling multi thousand seat low price deployments) but the Stellent product set once integrated and rationalized will provide the heavier duty components to qualify Oracle in many competitive situations, and plug specialist gaps.

Though it will not close the gap between Oracle and EMC, IBM and OpenText it does steal a march on arch rivals SAP who’s attempts at ECM related activities have been tepid at best.

For buyers and users of Stellent technologies there should be little to worry about in the short to mid term, but new buyers will need to push Oracle sales staff for clear information on forward direction.

At this rate 2007 is gearing up to be the year of ECM – for with these acquisitions digested there will be a lot of new money for marketing and R&D being pumped in by the majors. Clearly there is now growing pressure for SAP to respond, and though most of the money is on them acquiring OpenText (read iXOS), the plethora of acquired technologies that make up OpenText may present a pandora’s box that historically conservative SAP may not be willing to open.

For maturity in ECM we are almost at 1.0 with the major players owning the vast majority of the market – what they will do, and they will do many things, is still open to debate but ECM 2.0 will emerge.

For a couple of other really good persepctives on this check out:

Ralph Gammon
Tony Byrne