Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The last 10 years in ECM

I have been tidying up my home office in prep for an extended home working schedule, and came across two publications that took me back in time. Ovum Evaluates: Document Management (published in 1998) and the AIIM Expo 1998 Guide. The Ovum report in particular brought back many memories as I wrote the follow up to this "Ovum Evaluates: Integrated Document Management".

(ECM was for a brief while IDM, then it became KM, then back to EDM, then ECM...........)

It is quite amazing to see the changes that our industry have been through in the past 10 years, how many faces and names are long since gone, and what has remained fundamental and unchanged throughout that time.

The list of those once prominent but now gone include:

  • Eastman
  • Feith
  • Keymage
  • Lava Systems
  • SiDoc
  • Teamware
  • NetRight
  • Texcel
Others are also gone, but still around under different guises:

  • Lotus (now IBM)
  • PC Docs (now OpenText previously Hummingbird)
  • FileNet (now IBM)
  • Documentum (now EMC)
  • Altris (now Spescom)
Interestingly the one unchanged player that I came across was EVER - a firm who only this year got themselves added to the Gartner Magic Quadrant. A testament to just how US centric we can all be at times. Indeed European firms often have great difficulty getting proper analyst and press coverage, this was certainly the case for SER and iXOS in their heyday, and remains the case for EVER and Nuxeo I think.

A brief look through the fundamental chapters of the Ovum report, and the AIIM guide to the working sessions at the Expo reveals that little in essence (other than the players names) has changed. The same problems that businesses face persist, and in the main the pretty much the same solutions are being offered.

We have moved from client server to web ubiquity, we talk about Web Services and 2.0 - but at the end of the day we still scan, capture, ingest, manage, deliver, publish and archive. In other words the code has become a little slicker as have the UI's, but at core its still document management and workflow :-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

No news is good news....

Apologies for the dearth of postings recently, but I have a lot going on at present - good stuff in the main (though I did strain my back travelling to Europe week or two back)...

Was contemplating writing something about the acquistion of Ovum by Datamonitor, but despite the fact that I will make a little money out of it, its just too sad to talk about.

Currently working on my keynote for the CMF2006 in Aarhus and a presentation on ECM/KM in the Oil & Gas sector - and amazingly finding the former harder than the latter! Defining and explaining the Content Management market is hard, and getting harder by the day I think....

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that WCM & ECM are convenient myths created by vendors and analysts that have little relevance in the real world....these buckets made much more sense to me when I was an analyst, than they do now as a consultant/strategist....worrying isn't it?

Will post again soon - hopefully with the Keynote done and ready to share.....

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Strategy for ECM ?

I was very kindly invited by ECM guru Erik Hartman to give the closing speech at his ECM Plaza conference at the World Trade Center in Rotterdam this past week. My brief from Erik was to close the day out with something of a summary, highlighting some key points and to leave people with something provocative to think about. In short other than a bunch of stock slides on my laptop I had prepared nothing in advance. My plan (I have done this quite successfuly before) was to sit in on the key sessions, write my notes up - pull some obligitory slides together and go for it.

Anybody spot the error above? The conference was in Rotterdam, which is in the The Netherlands and the sessions were of course......mainly in Dutch...My grasp of the Dutch language goes no further than the names of various cheeses (Gouda etc), and an uncanny ability to mimic the sound of the dutch speaking when I have drunk too much wine. Neither of these came in particularly handy.
So what I actually delivered was more based on individual conversations throughout the day, and a couple of english language sessions....maybe next time I should have a plan B?

For me the highlight of the event (though there were other good sessions including Theresa stepping in for Tony at CMSWatch on the topic of RM & ECM) was meeting James Robertson the writer and listening to his lunchtime keynote session. James is a really nice guy who really knows his stuff - yet I disagreed with almost everything he said!
Disagreed is maybe the wrong word, maybe I just have a completely different perspective on things - for everything he said made perfect sense, it's just that if talking about the same topics I would be on a totally different track from James. This intrigues me, and I will certainly be making the effort to read more of James work. For there is a world of difference between somebody that I think is simply wrong - (vendors at conferences sometimes have that effect on me - I know they are wrong, they know they are wrong - but if they tell the truth unadulterated then they won't sell their product).
Take the issue of the need for Strategy in an ECM deployment (James by the way spend much of his time ridiculing strategy). Yet strategy was top of my mind for my team and I had worked on a webinar for AIIM that was broadcast live this past week on the topic of a Total Document Strategy - how to prioritize and structure what can be a bewildering array of demands and requirements within an enterprise for ECM related services. And it is at the word Enterprise that I think the differences first emerge between James and my persepctives...
For nearly 20 years now I have been working in one form or another in document, record and web management - as consultant or analyst etc. In that time virtually all my work has been with Enterprises - and lets remember here that enterprises are large companies (that is what the word means) I cannot remember the last firm I advised who employed less than 10,000 employees for example. In the world of Enterprises, the failure rate of ECM is shockingly high. For all the wonderful case studies on the websites of the leading ECM players, a closer look at those firms almost always reveals a different picture. Good intentions, a large budget, purchase of lots of licenses, then after a few small deployments things tail off into failure and disinterest. Frankly there are very very few exceptions - and there are many hundreds of thousands of licenses for ECM systems out there that still sit in their shrink wrap years after being bought. The reasons why these grand ECM plans invariably fail is I believe due to a lack of strategic planning, and in parrallel a lack of skills available to do the work.

It is so easy to find a department that could benefit from document, email, digital asset, records, web or whatever management system - and to get that running and show an apparant success is also easy. To sustain that success though is very difficult, and to roll that short term success out across the enterprise almost never happens.

So I am coming to the conclusion that we really need to take a different approach to ECM that is based on a solid and holistic strategy. That strategy needs to recognise that very little content is as specfic to one group or organization than we like to think, that information flows, has lifecycles - and probably the most important thing to consider at the start is, not all content is equal.
In fact I am convinced that well over 80% of the content that you are currently paying major overhead costs to sit on your fileservers, repositories and local drives is redundant. If purged and destroyed tommorow would do nothing other than free up valuable resources and allow to you to identifiy and focus on the content that is of value.

In short identifying your overall goal, prioritizing your processes and needs, and purging your system of junk (and ensuring its remains free of junk through effective lifecycle management of content) is the place to start. The place not to start is with the technology - there is no more of a dread situation than when a client asks us to help them with a new project and mention they already have a shortlist, or worse still a product selected...

This holistic ECM strategy though needs to extend also to the technical layers - repository layers (all content sitting in repositories should be interoperable) - a business process layer - a web services layer etc. This gives us a foundation to plug and play best of breed or even home grown specific tools in where required. It also gives us a layer of uniformity that is critical in managing information - for the reality is that simply purging redundancy out, managing vital information only in a consistent and secure fashion is all the ECM most companies need. 9/10ths of the functionality that firms buy in an ECM 'solution' is never used. That said, in every large organization there will be a small group or two that may have a need for some of those specialist features, but for most users, most of the time - no.

Start strategically, act tactically - prioritize your tasks - think about ECM as a prime element in any SOA or Enteprise Architecture situation - as a layer (or set of layers) that all content most utilize and conform to.

As a blog entry this is becoming too long - and as usual too rambling for comfort :-)

(For more details on what I am talking about and how we at Wipro approach this situation I would counsel anyone interested to listen to the Webinar on TDS that is still available free from the AIIM website and very ably presented by my colleague David Smigiel a fellow ECM veteran, and one with a satisfying MidWest drawl, so much more airwave friendly than my nasally English pitch).

So I shall leave it at that for now, but will when I have thought it through some more also pick up on some thoughts I was left with after chatting with John Newton at the event (founder of Alfresco) and listening to his presentation - particularly his views on Web 2.0.

For those interested, the closing keynote was fine, I think I did most of what Erik was hoping for, though not everyone thought my slide featuring the dutch ECM cow was particularly funny........oooops. Shame as I really liked it and will likely use it again....

Next event I am speaking at will be in Aarhus in Denmark next month at the cmf2006 - a much more Web centric event so with different priorities and areas of focus....anyone who is planning to be there and reads this blog, please do come up and say hello, I am far less intimidating than I look :-) By the way anyone know if the Danes have cows? I have this slide I might use..

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I saw a notice from AIIM yesterday that approaches it had made to ARMA had been rebuffed. Its difficult to know if its news or not - and if its important or not. For frankly no real waves will occur or industry changes emerge as a result, but it does give pause for thought.

On the surface (and probably a bit below) there is a lot of sense in a hook up - even if its only something a little more formal and co-ordinated than the current gap. But the industry is changing fast and neither organization has all the story - and there are worrying overlaps at times between the two. Even in terms of basic positioning there is confusion (I have never been comfortable with ARMA's claim to representing Information Managers for example).

ARMA is clearly member led - and a visit to one of their conferences makes this clear, AIIM (whether for the good or bad) is much more driven by Vendors. Neither fully understands the others world, and worryingly technology buyers and decision makers don't make much of a distinction...as a result we are seeing lots of innapropriate solutions being deployed, and the failure rate for ECM and Document related systems remains very high.

Two good organizations, with very different consituencies but with a need to agree common principals, scope and mission. But from the message out yesterday, a long way of achieving any of these....

DBA's and Content

Data Architects and Admins are moving into Content. Not a big suprise particularly in larger enterprises - with the big DB vendors moving into the space, and the barriers between structured and unstructured data slowly starting to fall, it makes perfect sense.

But for a DBA to pick up Information Architecture skills to equip them in managing unstructured data, its not so easy. There is a dearth of sources - and clearly a need for somebody (individual author - or vendor supported) to start to help bridge this gap. What limited resources there are, are good ones and with thanks to the authors I have listed them here:

Most interested to hear of others!