Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blog Pause

There is just so much going on at the moment - finishing report updates - travel - speaking - new reports and research.....etc etc

I just thought it worth a post to say that this blog (obviously) is becoming less and less regular.

I do blog on the cmswatch blog regularly, so please check that out - but personal blogs just don't seem to be forthcoming at the moment - my apologies....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Boom time again in Silicon Valley?

Just back from a week in San Jose, where I was running a conference track at KM World, and a workshop for Enterprise Search West. It was a good week personally and for CMS Watch - with a lot of work done, some great new contacts and conversations - but I left with most was the strong impression that things are reaching simmering point again in the Valley.
It was noticeable, and commented on by others that though not near boom levels, the energy and enthusiasm levels in the Valley were higher than they have been in a very long time. That traffic is getting back to boom level congestion and that local businesses are thriving.

Lunch at the Googleplex was also something I have returned with (not the lunch itself) but rather a thousand conflicting thoughts regarding Google and where it is going. Long term readers of this blog will know that I have at best mixed views on Google. And this visit hosted by a friend of a friend left me with more lingering doubts than I could have imagined. I was deeply uncomfortable there, not sure what it was - but there was something cultish, and elitist that left me wondering what it was all about - I am sure I am not brilliant enough for the likes of Google, but even if I were, I doubt this is a place I would want to work.....

Anyhow enough musings - I am trying to finish off the delayed ECM Suites Report V2 - and prep for a return trip to California in the morning to attend Oracle OpenWorld...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Meridio & Northern Ireland Software

Yesterday I wrote a piece on CMS Watch regarding the acquisition of Meridio by Autonomy. This brought back a bunch of memories from the time that I consulted to Meridio (then Kainos) for Ovum. Traveling out to Belfast was always something to remember - the staggering (and unexpected) beauty of the countryside, the deeply oppressive feeling in the city, the sight of Loyalist and Republican wall murals yards from each other....things are getting better there, and if you live there then of course you see more depth and community than any visitor can imagine. However to the visitor it is a stark place to spend time in - a city that truly carries the weight of its violent past.

Kainos, as they were known then were a funded subsidiary of Fujitsu out of Queens University in Belfast, and when I first consulted they were looking for a strategic direction prior to spinning the EDM (Electronic Document Management) capabilities out to what would become Meridio. At the time they were looking to become a Documentum & FileNet rival competing in the Imaging area, my advice to them was to go more for a niche that they could own - Records Management and Compliancy. Though they took that advice and built on it considerably, I take no credit for their success, other than pointing them in a particular direction, they worked hard and built up a solid business with a global reputation, good people whom I have always liked and respected.
Yet like so many before them they hooked their wagon to Microsoft. This was never a move I feel comfortable with, except in the short term. Microsoft is the best of partners to vendors, until they are not. Then you are out in the cold - Microsoft has a well established and well earned reputation for stringing small vendors along with the carrot of a lucrative acquisition - the acquisition of course seldom ever occurs, and once Microsoft knows all they need to build their own solution you are dropped like a hot potato.
So to see Meridio acquired was bitter sweet news - good to see them find a long term home and make some money in the process ($40 Million US), but I can't help but wonder if they couldn't have gotten to a stage where they themselves were the acquirer.
Finally I will never forget looking out at the Swan and Hunter Shipyard from my Suite at the Belfast Hilton ( I had been upgraded after a previous huge row with the hotel!) - a magnificent contemporary suite that symbolized all the future hopes of Belfast, with a view of an infamous industrial workplace that had been the scene of way too many disturbing news reports on TV whilst I was growing up.
It's good to see something positive coming out of such a traumatized place, Northern Ireland has lost out to a large degree on the growth in Eire - hopefully successes like Meridio will become and inspiration for others to follow.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Documation - London 2007

Last week I was in London to host a couple of panels at the Documation event at Olympia that is hosted alongside Storage Expo.
As the phrase goes it was a 'Curates Egg' - good in parts. The open source panel that pitted Alfresco against Nuxeo was really good - we had a full house and a really good debate. John Newton of Alfresco did a great job as always, but this was my first chance to see Nuxeo in action and I thought they did really well - between the two I think everybody left the room with the impression that open source for ECM was a very viable option.
Much smaller turnout for my other panel that featured The National Archives (UK Gov) and The Scottish Government - yet a really good set of presentations and discussion also.
Where I left the event a little low was in the overall feel of the Documation event - no criticism due of the organizers Reed - just that this felt like every other ECM related event I had been to in the last couple of years - a bit dated.
What a contrast that just through the archway in the much larger exhibition hall was Storage Expo - vibrant, buzzing, busy and happening...all in all it left me with much to ponder.
Doing my expenses today also left me with much to ponder - ouchy! When you convert UK or Euro to Dollar - no matter how many times you have done it, it is a painful experience.....

Deep down in the ECM Suites Report now for the next couple of weeks then KM World, Enterprise Search West and OracleWorld.....

Friday, October 12, 2007

Oracle to acquire BEA?

I just saw that Oracle has made an unsolicited bid to acquire BEA - it's a smart move, though far from unexpected. At Ovum I was the RD (Research Director) covering Oracle and remember when in open court Oracle's acquisition targets were revealed - top of the list BEA..

What makes this interesting is that SAP moved to acquire Business Objects just a few days back for almost exactly the same amount of money $6.7 Billion. SAP has no history of managing large acquisitions and market observers were deeply critical of the move, questioning SAP's ability to manage such a deal.

By moving for BEA, Oracle place SAP in a tough situation - do they counter bid - or watch Oracle move in to a clear lead ahead of them? If they counter bid they will be in a bidding war with Oracle who's pockets are deep, and its ability to absorb acquired assets legendary. If they get into a bidding war, what if Oracle simply walks away when the price get's too high (as they always do) and leave SAP to deal with two highly complex and very expensive acquisitions, that they may stuggle to manage?

If Oracle wins, they become the leading Middleware provider ahead of IBM and Microsoft and leave SAP in it's wake. If others come into the fray and bid against Oracle it could look like a desperate attempt to block Oracle.

Oracle vs SAP is fun and made for spectators....This latest move by Mr Ellison made me smile the second I saw it - they must be cursing him (again) in Germany. It's not the fact that Oracle is moving to acquire BEA it's the precision timing that brings about the smile.

WCM in Roma

I am writing this on a flight back from Rome where I have just led a 2 day seminar on Web Content Management. I had to step in at the last minute to cover for Tony Byrne, so its been a crazy few days.

Crazy but interesting (and Rome is not the worst place to suddenly find yourself!) - the real stress for me was working through 165 slides that I had never seen before, on a topic that I haven't covered closely in quite some time.

Hence it was a relief to find out how little things in the WCM world had changed over the past few years. Not all that surprising I guess - WCM hit the market and exploded around 2000. Seven years on seems about the right time for it to be looking for new horizons - and from what I observed over those few days in Rome, change may be just around the corner.
The major WCM tools are looking dated, and in need of not just a revamp, but a major overhaul in some cases. Though I am not the real expert on this topic (Tony is) my 2 cents is that they (the vendors) are already behind the curve and have a a different set of priorities in mind to their customer base.

Frankly I don't think high value, high end WCM buyers and users care less about ECM - but WCM vendors have been bitten hard by the ECM virus - a virus that can result in a potentially deadly condition that leaves you with delusions of grandeur.

Btw: First time I have changed planes at Madrid Airport - impressive place! Though I do not recommend the potato omelet sandwiches - a little on the heavy side I found.....

Thursday, October 04, 2007

EMC vs FileNet Marketing

I just saw this advert from EMC - how bizzare!

I won't take sides between IBM and EMC - but this advert is surely an error - it seems to have been created a long time ago, yet is running an being promoted on the web today. Doesn't seem to be aware that FileNet were acquired - or that P8 is now well established...

Wonder if it's just something out of the archives, or its a sign of a very slow marketing process!

Is ECM a big fat failure?

It seems like it's time for a rant - everything I post on CMS Watch regarding my work and research into ECM has recently been negative. For some reason - maybe it's the long summer - the solitude - who know's, but I just took a few mins out to analyse what's wrong. Specifically what is wrong with me - why am I so negative about ECM - and frankly what's is going wrong with this industry?

At the end of the day - I think it is simply that the ECM industry has lost it's sense of purpose - we/I can spend all our time plotting the moves and tribulations of the vendors - but ECM is not about vendors - it's about resolving serious business problems - problems that affect nearly every organization. The technology is important yes - but you don't do ECM for ECM's sake, you do it because you are facing a freaking information management nightmare. You can't find anything, your out of compliance, people are accessing incorrect information, you are duplicating tasks and efforts etc etc

Sure, the vendor industry is changing - we have the emergence of true Enterprise ready ECM on the horizon - we have a myriad of niche specialists - blah blah blah - the trouble is (and it's not the vendors fault) businesses and those that advise them just don't have a passion for this stuff.

The idea of bringing order to electronic filing, or routing the right document to the right person every time - is dull. So much more exciting to re-architect your IT system, or debate the need to go the SaaS route - or dream of infinite combinations of web services that can magically construct themselves into business services dynamically.

I am a passionate foodie - I love to cook, eat and even read about food (despite my svelte figure!) - and sure every cook loves to watch the souffle rise, the golden crusts form etc - but if your kitchen is filthy, and your fridge and cuboards unusable - you ain't cooking nothing..

Information management is no different - the dull stuff is vital to success.

But ECM is not just dull stuff - it is a toolset for business change - Information Management in conjunction with BPM and Web Services may well constitute the most powerful set of technologies for business change since the emergence of ERP. For companies looking to move to the next stage of efficiency and move ahead of their competitors no more powerful combination of tools is available.

Yet here is the rub of it - the tools and technologies are very advanced and most work well (though there is always progress to be made) - but very few organizations or consultant's have the skills to use them. They are though exactly the same consulting skills we used in the BPR revolution of the late 80's & 90's - the people who wielded those skills are now the Senior Partners at the consulting firms - where is there passion - why are they not driving the momentum for change?

In a world that is struggling to deal with globalization, outsourcing, impending recession, weaker skill set's, IT bloat and increased apathy in general - many firms are in dire need of organizational change. New models need to emerge quickly - skills need to be honed, experiments undertaken. When that happens, ECM should be in the forefront of the technologies supporting that change.

The ECM industry cannot bring about that change, but it can certainly make an effort to help.....
I promise to do my little bit - through the ECM Suites Report - and by presenting and writing publicly with passion - not resignation.

I will be at Documation in London in a couple of weeks time - be sure to come and kick my butt if I fail to deliver

Steam vented - normal level of frustration and anger resumed.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Gartners EMC Magic Quadrant 2007

Lazy end of the week post :-) Just a link in fact to my post today on CMS Watch regarding the MQ...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Culling Content

It's long been a gripe of mine that ECM systems were designed to reduce the amount of content you needed to manage to essentials. Yet instead they often just manage everything - trash along with diamonds.

It's really not that hard to reduce the volumes of content you manage dramatically - a simple content audit can clear out 70-80% without in anyway impacting your RM policies or frankly even being noticable to the end users. Most everything sitting there anyway is a duplication, is redundant or should never have been there in the first place.

Why bring this old gripe up now ? Well I have spent the past week emersed in the world of eDiscovery. And in some regards that is what eDiscovery is all about - filtering down from the mass to the essentials. It's a big topic in it's own right, and soon an online training course will be launched by AIIM based on the work we have been doing. Thing is, how come all these great filtering technologies (along with long standing de-dupe technology) is virtually never used in the world of ECM? Surely, ongoing culling of redundant information should be a part of your ongoing information management policy!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Back from Malaysia

Well one thing is for sure, Malaysia is a long way from Boston - my journey was 6 hours from Boston to LA, 13 hours to Taiwan, and another 4 1/2 from there to Kuala Lumpur - add in the stop over time and door to door about 34 hours each way...

Was it worth it? Well yes I think so - I learned a lot in a short time about the state of ECM in Malaysia in particular and Asia in general. I enjoyed listening to some outstanding speakers, some of whom I would love to get to events here in the West, ran a pretty intensive day long workshop - and discovered to my surprise that CMS Watch is quite well known in the region!

Highlights? A series of outstanding presentations from day one are worth noting. I can genuinely say that all the speakers were top notch, and all added genuine new thought and insight to the topic of ECM - you can't say that about many conference tracks.

I thought I would just list a few things that left me thinking over a couple of different blog posts.......First up was the presentation by Professor Eric Tsui, Professor of Knowledge Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University:-

  • He stated the challenge for is to only manage critical knowledge/information
  • Pushed the value of the knowledge/content audit (and seemed to have devised a solid methodology for doing so called STOCKS)
  • Emphasised the need to understand that there exist two kinds of Taxonomy (descriptive vs nagivational)
  • Gave me/us tips to both Yahoo Pipes (which I confess to having been ignorant of before) and
  • Recommended that when building filing structures you have a "To be classified" folder - which is better than sticking the content just anywhere and its volume/contents represents a good bellweather as to the validity/success of your taxonomy
Just a bunch of bullet points really ( and some that simply echo my own thinking!) but each worthwhile as tips I think.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

ECM in Malaysia and the next report

Next week the blog will be quiet again - as I am off to Kuala Lumpur on Saturday for an ECM conference and workshop that will run next week on the tuesday and wednesday. I have been reading through the pre conference questionnaires today to get a feel for those who will be attending my workshop next week. What first struck me was the commonality with issues that people are facing there with those of us in the US and Europe - but also the distinct differences.
I plan to blog on this when I get back - as I may be wrong about a couple of things and want to confirm first before presuming too much. Still it looks like a smart bunch planning to attend so I shall have to make sure I am on form :-)

On my return it will be back into the thick of it on V2 of the ECM Suites Report (yes time does fly) - V1 has been a success for sure, and I want to take this next version even further. I will be taking on some of the feedback I have received to date, and looking at some new vendors - as well as some big upgrades to the existing players. always your thoughts much appreciated, such reports are always a group effort, and as we work only for buyers and users of technology, your input is vital. Yes I make my living this way (lucky me) but I hope that our reports and the work/thoughts we publish on the website are a true service and add value.

Areas I would love to get some thoughts around (things I have been noodling for a while) are around Governance for ECM - and how ECM plays in a true SOA environment. Both issues can seem a bit like fighting with fog - so I am trying to formulate better and more concise questions and areas to probe to get to some kind of concusion regarding the individual offerings out there....if you have ideas please share them!

Also having built the new BPM training course for AIIM - I want to think more around the relationship here with ECM. Regular readers of this blog will know that this is a topic I am very interested in - but its a truly messy one. Both sets of vendors just don't want to see the others perspective - but I wonder if (as in so many other areas) BPM and ECM may get slammed together by the MOI (Microsoft, IBM and Oracle) regardless? What differentiates true Enterprise ECM or BPM players from the rest - again I have my thoughts but would love to hear yours also.

My iPod is loaded, laptop charged and sunglasses at the ready - Air Malaysia here I come....

Where does ECM go from here...

An odd week or two - separate questions asked of me by three or four unrelated (but all highly respected industry figures) that I thought worth sharing (whilst still respecting confidentiality)

Response to generic question one:

Should ECM be bundled together with Storage?

There is a relationship between ECM and Storage but it is not as close as EMC or IBM (for example) would like to imagine. ECM is about managing/controlling active content - who sees it, who doesn't, its security, its location, its attendant processes. Storage is a part of that, but only a small part. The relationship between Records Management and Storage is closer - cos here we are dealing with the long term future of particular items of business value.

The fundamental issues at a vendor level are that ECM is all about only managing the minimum you need - no redundancy/waste or duplication - this flies in the face of storage salesman's goals - sell more storage. It also conflicts as storage deals are huge in comparison to ECM deals (which in themselves are not cheap) - so the storage vendors see ECM as a feed to storage. ECM vendors see storage technology as simply another piece of infrastructure that they require - same as databases and application servers.

Answer to generic second question:

Should we continue to have a separate ECM practice within our SI firm? Or should it just be a subset of the Information Management Practice?

You should continue to separate the practices for the time being - as the worlds of structured and unstructured data remain way apart - however in time you will find the overlap's increasing and you may want to revisit that situation in a few years time.

The key drivers are now the infrastructure players IBM, Oracle and Microsoft (all big in Information Management) and arguably also EMC. If you take out EMC from the equation then you can argue that the market is being driven by the 'database' vendors. Hence they see this as repository management and content control. In larger enterprises ECM will become the repository layer in an Enterprise Architecture. But if you agree that this is likely, then by default you end up with ECM and Enterprise 2.0 or SOA (whatever we will call it then) and as such you can take your pick of BPM layer providers and Security etc etc

So I think ECM will become part of a broader information management sector, and I think that's where it belongs. In the process it becomes a little more narrow in definition terms (good case for dropping DAM, WCM, eMail Management etc) but may also take on board some new areas in the process - for example Archiving and maybe just maybe BPM (currently BPM in ECM is application specific in the main - not BPM for the enterprise).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Measuring the success of ECM

When it comes to measurements, industry is full of them - but IT is not. Or rather it is at a very technical level, but not at the business level.

For ECM implementations in particular, the nearest we usually get to measurements are in dodgy ROI calculations that are appended to even more dubious business cases. There should be much more granular measurements undertaken to justify and to hone ECM technology into the machine for change that it can and should be.

What I mean by this is that to run an ECM system effectively we should be constantly monitoring:
  • The processes that the ECM system drives
  • Systems usage
  • Time taken to search and access
  • Time taken from check out to check in again
  • Who is using the system and when (and in some cases why)
  • Which files are used, and which sit dormant
It's all data that is available within the system, yet few (very few) make use of it - it would be good if ECM vendors could learn from business application vendors - and provide simple dashboards and metrics templates.

Why? Why bother with all this? Because then we have control of the ECM system, and we can measure expected and required usage, against actual. Allowing us to modify and continually improve the system over time. Rather than allowing it to become an expensive online storage system - with mountains of redudancy, duplication and waste that so many become.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Centralized or Distributed?

I was trawling through some old presentations the other day - when I came across a couple that were given at crisis points in major ECM implementations. What struck me about these was the focus on the architecture of the ECM system. In particular whether it should be centralized or distributed (most of my clients have been very large and often global in nature). The pro's and con's of federated ECM - the issues of replication etc are well understood. But what I think is less understood is the impact that this architectural approach has on ECM as a practice.

By default centralizing or conversely distributing the content management impacts the way that the content is managed - for example if we centralize then we see the following common attributes:

  • Centrally controlled and organized
  • Complex and far reaching processes across the organization
  • Sequential activities
  • Explicit and definitive content/records
  • System managed by an expert
  • Performance may be slow
  • Reliance on corporate (HQ) expertise
Whereas when we distribute the content in a federated architecture we see:

  • Control at local level
  • Simple processes optimized for local needs
  • Parallel activities
  • Distributed and fragmented content/records
  • Various levels of expertise
  • Fast performance at local instances
  • Local understanding of local needs
The decision to distribute or centralize ECM though (in my experience) is almost always decided based on two criteria - technical considerations and distrust/trust.

The technical considerations are obvious really - sometimes federating just doesn't work or becomes too costly to support - likewise centralizing can impact performance etc - but the trust/distrust thing is usually dependent simply on the culture of the firm.

In the new BPM course we stress the need to undertake full As Is and model thoroughly the To Be situations. Looking back on many of my past consulting engagements it has been all too obvious that insufficient study of needs and potential solutions was undertaken, and in nearly every case way too little understanding of the current situation was grasped.

My point (if I have one) is that when making major architectural decisions - we should always be cognizant of the business and cultural aspects that these decisions will impact..........

Friday, August 17, 2007

A day without Skype

You don't know what you've got till it's gone - as the song goes. And I for one truly missed Skype this past day or so. At CMS Watch we use Skype a lot - in fact judging by the shakes we all experienced when Skype was down, we have become pretty dependent on it.

Sure you get cheap/free phone calls - and that's nice - but its the IM we use the most.

I resisted IM for a long time - figuring it was a passing fad (show's what I know) but it's our typical way of communicating between our different work locations, and now I use it every day.

I think the appeal of IM though is not just in the ease of use to chat - but in the fact that you can see who is online and their status. Actually I think that is what I missed the most - not feeling a connection between my colleagues and myself. As a homeworker that's important - and frankly I find it comforting just to know people are there and busy - maybe I am terminally insecure, but I do think that IM's success is as much to do with bringing a human touch (I know you are there) to computing.

My little Skype list of friends and colleagues with green status saying they are on line tells me that all is well, and I missed it very much...

I'm back....

It's been a while.....not sure why really - but wasn't really sure of the relevance of the blog anymore - and I have been blogging a lot at the CMS Watch site - but there is so much going on in the industry in general I thought it was time for a return :-)

I have said it so many times its become a mantra - but ECM without BPM is a lame duck. Of course the counter is not I have said it so many times its becoming a mantra - that ECM demands BPM - without it ECMnecessarily the case - BPM can happily exist without ECM - but viewing the process as central to the project is the issue. Sadly few consider the process to be the central concern in an ECM project - result, lots of nice technology running on servers - nobody using it.

So - BPM (always my pet topic) - the training course is nearing completion and is now officially launched. A couple of weeks back I ran a train the trainer session in Washington and it gave me a chance to see the course in it's entirety (seeing the wood from the trees and all that) - I think I can honestly say we have done a great job. The course for those interested is designed for the consultants (internal or external) that will work on business change projects (for example any ECM project) - its highly practical and covers a lot of ground - students are going to have a tough but worthwhile time! The online version is pretty smooth, but if you want the message from the horses mouth then you need to sign up for one of the classroom sessions.

Secondly I am off to Kuala Lumpur to speak and run a workshop at the ECM Event there in a week or so's time. I'm really looking forward to this for a number of reasons:-

1: I always love to find out what ECM means in a new country - how it is interpreted and used there - teaching is as much a learning experience for me in these situations as it is for the attendees. I will be blogging about that at a later point.

2: Running workshops is a great opportunity for me to interact with users and buyers of technology.

3: I have never been to Malaysia before - but love the far east region

If you are in the region take a look at the conference and as always say hello (to repeat I am not as unapproachable as I look.....)

Work is starting soon on V2 of the ECM Suites Report - feedback from V1 most welcome - we got some wonderful testimonials from readers of V1 but there is always room for improvement - what worked for you and what didn't??

Longer - more focused blog entries in the coming week or so - but for now ciao :-)

Monday, May 21, 2007

BPM and ECM again.....

Its now sort of official so I can talk about it here - I am currently developing a training scheme on the topic of BPM (Business Process Management). Business Process change and workflow have long been my first love (work wise at least!) and so this is something I am enjoying very much.

It is in the handling of business processes - that ECM projects stand or fall. As I have said often, the failure rate for ECM is staggeringly high - and the reasons for this are manifold. Poor selection techniques, under budgeting etc etc - but at core its the business processes. ECM exists to help you manage information and information is always related to a business process. Yet as we know all too often ECM systems often become expensive static vaults.

In researching for the training course, I am frankly shocked at the level of consulting and analysis skills in the marketplace. When I myself was doing this kind of work in the mid to late 90's every business analyst knew how to accurately capture requirements, model processes etc etc. But so many of those skills seem to have fallen into redundancy in the past 10 years.

My hope is that this course in some small way can provide some hardcore skills training to the marketplace - and though its certainly important to talk about BPM technologies (and the course does) its more important ultimately to talk about the skills to manage processes - these are as much ECM as BPM in nature.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Buzzing UK event

I have just returned for a short but very intense visit to London. I was there primarily to speak at Internet World, but had the good fortune to see a lot of things at the show, and talk to many people.
I am writing this up whilst its still fresh in my mind (on the plane) and this trip has left me full of somewhat conflicting thoughts. Top of mind was the conclusion (not just based on this quick visit) that the UK is currently in the early throws of a technology boom, and it looks set to last. What European people were taking for granted at the show, struck me as a level of buzz, interest, excitement and confidence that I have not seen in a long while. And frankly it was in stark contrast to what I have been seeing in the US over the past couple of years.....
Another observation was that the UK tech start up's are looking to expand into Europe and Asia (and in that order) - yet just a few years back the US would have been the first place outside of home that they would have targeted.
Yet another sideways observation was the level of interest in the vibrant and open French Presidential debate held this week - Brits interested in French politics ?!?! - First time in my lifetime for sure...
I am English and live in and love the US. So I am happy to see such vibrancy and Joie de Vivre in Europe, yet equally pained to exchange my lowly Dollar for strong Sterling.
Its not based on much but there seems to be a growing distance between Europe and the US, and it is to the US's detriment - the Europe I see a few times each year, just gets stronger and more vital each time - a long way from the 'Old Europe' I hear described to me by others.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The ECM Twilight Zone

This industry just gets stranger:

Any ideas what the heck this is - and why I play third base (Tony tells me I must have a strong right arm).....??

I would love to know!

Friday, April 20, 2007

ECM for Re-Engineering - AIIM Expo 2007

Back in my office after a week at AIIM I am exhausted but elated. We had a great week there, launched the ECM Report, ran a pre-conference workshop, panel discussion etc. We also published a press release on the market turbulence that caused some ire with the vendors. Lots to do then, but so much also to learn.

On the one hand, it would have been easy to take a swipe at the AIIM conference and Expo - as some observed there was no wow factor, no new funky technology. But from my perspective there was a lot of new things (we already have more than enough technology) - there were new thoughts around:

  • ECM SasS models
  • Skills shortages and the training required to fill them
  • More OpenSource ECM options in the pipeline
  • The re-discovery of the importance of business process management in ECM
  • The recognition that paper is not going away and the ECM systems need to work holistically in that hard copy environment
  • More recognition of the difficulty (impossibility) of long term electronic archiving

For me the most important thing maybe is the reawaking of ECM tools as tools of change. ECM should be a toolset to re-engineer your business, and discussions at AIIM this past week brought me to the conclusion that organizations small and large are recognizing this fact. The idea that people will spend huge sums of money on ECM to meet compliancy needs or simply to provide an electronic filing capability is being debunked, and we are getting back to the core value set of ECM (and DM & Workflow) before it - changing the way we do business.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I'm back!

I am back - reviewed the draft final for the ECM Report - 378 pages! It's looking good - and what a painful but wonderful experience this has been. Hopefully you will all rush out and buy it now, and make the effort worthwhile :-)


I am running a half day workshop at AIIM next monday on how to procure an ECM system - if you are planning to be at AIIM please come along, it should be fun - and I think/hope of value whether you be a buyer, an SI, a consultant or a vendor.

Also at AIIM I am hosting a panel on when E means Enormous - and I have some great panelists lined up - so that should also be a fun and thought provoking session.

In May I will be keynoting the wednesday ECM session at Internet World in London - again as always come up and say hello - my stern and mean demeanor is all a front, I am a softy underneath :-)

We have some big announcements at AIIM regarding some new work we are undertaking - work that I am very excited about......

Also, check out my blog post (will be there today or tomorrow) on CMS Watch - regarding - one I will be looking into much more over the coming months as that evolves into a true ECM product.

Lot's to write about - lot's to share - a busy year ahead. I'm back - and just wanted to say I have been amazed at the traffic to this blog, even though I have had to neglect it recently. Stay tuned, I have some stuff to annoy, amuse and argue with you about :-)

Monday, March 26, 2007

International ECM

The thick of finishing The ECM Report is probably not the best time to muse over its findings, best to really wait till its out there in peoples hands and in use, but what the heck - here's a thought for now...

One of the (many) things that has really surprised and excited me in doing this work over the past months has been the vibrancy and strength of regional ECM vendors. We are almost brainwashed by journalist and analyst blanket coverage of major US vendors such as EMC Documentum and IBM Filenet, that it can come as a rude awakening to find out that they have serious competition outside of their home market.

And I am not just talking about the Australian vendors Tower and Objective (as Australia is English speaking they tend to get 'token' international status coverage), I am also interested in the vibrancy of the French market (see EVER and Nuxeo), Saperion in Germany, NewGen in India etc

Not to say that these are the best of the local options - there are so many to chose from.....and though I think we have done a good job over covering ECM from a truly international perspective in the report, it's something we certainly want to work on further in future!

There's a big world out there :-)

Friday, March 09, 2007

The ECM Report is official !

Today at CMS Watch Tony B announced the following:-

Announcing a new report


In a little more than a month (April 16th, to be exact), we will publish our ECM technology evaluation research, which has been directed by CMS Watch principal, Alan Pelz-Sharpe. The ECM Suites Report will closely examine 10 major suite vendors (Alfresco, EMC|Documentum, Hyland, IBM/FileNet, Interwoven, Microsoft, Open Text/Hummingbird, Oracle/Stellent, Vignette, and Xerox), plus include shorter profiles of 20 other offering (e.g., CA/MDY, Docubase, Nuxeo, Saperion, TOWER, Xythos, and more). You can pre-order the report at a 10% discount. The results of our customer-driven research almost always surprise me, and this case is no different. As usual we'll make a free sample chapter available. Can't wait to share our findings...

Submitted by Tony Byrne, Analyst

Its been a long time coming and I think it will have been worth the wait - at least I hope so! We have gone into depth on the major players of course, but have also taken a look at regional and open source options, and of course Microsoft. Its a critical report, scathing at times - but written just for buyers and users.

Its the reason this blog has been fairly quiet of late :-)

There is a pretty good discount for pre-orders available - and I will speaking about the findings at AIIM in April, in fact I will be running a half day workshop on how to buy ECM systems...

At the end of this exercise (if there is an end) our hope is that buyers in a confused market will be better informed enabling them to make smarter decisions.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Canada - Outsourcing - Missed Opportunity?

I spent last weekend in Canada visiting with family, and on the drive back got to thinking again about the tragic lost opportunity that is Canada as an Outsourcing destination.
Of course people do outsource to Canada, and the Waterloo/Kitchener triangle, along with some more remote regions such as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have done ok in the past in attracting work. But overall, and particularly in terms of scale, I can't help but believe that Canada has missed out big time on an economy changing opportunity.
Consider the selling points :-

-Geographically its one huge North of the US location
-It covers 4 USA Time Zones
-Canadian have similar accents to midwesterners (sorry but it's true)
-Canadians are highly aware of US cultural norms and activities
-Skilled labor is typically cheaper in Canada than the US
-The Canadian Gov is typically generous with tax breaks and incentives
-Educational standards are high

Need I go on? With so much in its favour why then does proportionatly so little outsourcing business go there? Well I think one of the key reasons is that Canada is trying to do it alone. That they honestly believe (or believed) that they could compete on a global scale and win (look again at the many selling points). But the truth is they lost the battle long ago to India, and in the long term will lose again to China - there are some battles not worth fighting, and there are others that are long over.

Personally I think all the advantages of Canada remain, but that now is the time to partner up....

For what Canada has India does not. In fact the only general areas India (and China for that matter) is have an advantage over are cost and scale. I know from my time at Wipro that some nascent steps are being made to build bridges with Indian outsourcing giants, but surely its time for more?

I think the politicians in Canada still don't fully grasp outsourcing, and that they need to drop the idea that this is in some way eating scraps from rich peoples tables. It is not, it is called the new World Economy - and Canada could still become a strategic winner from this. But it will take serious committment, investment, resources and a sense of urgency to make it happen. Canada can't afford to miss the boat twice.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ECM the next ERP?

I am convinced that in market terms ECM is the next ERP - look at it this way, when ERP came along it just seemed like a collection of mainframe processes layered by workflow. And it was, I used to say that SAP was the worlds largest workflow vendor....

But what ERP recognized was that data centric processes were repeatable, that they were often inefficient and that many manual processes could be streamlined and automated. ERP and BPR went hand in hand.

ECM and the emergence of CEVA's (content enabled vertical applications) are really no different. In its early days, ECM was really just repository management, then structured content management, then it was repository management with a bit of compliance thrown in, and now increasingly it is process centric. It was the process centricity of ERP that lifted it, and it will be the process centricity (if such a word exists) of ECM that does the same for it.

Where the difference will come is in scale, ECM will on the one hand ultimately dwarf ERP - simply in terms of data volumes (unstructured data volumes are rising at an order of magnitude higher than structured data volumes), but it will be less visible to the user - as in many respects ECM will simply take ERP and Business Apps in general to the next generation of sophistication, rather than displace them.

My research and writing for the forthcoming ECM Report makes me believe this more so by the day, for I have the priviledge of studying the players, products and the industry full time. And what I can say for sure is that peaking under the covers at IBM, Oracle and Microsoft for an old timer like me, shows me an ECM world I have not seen before. The sheer scale of the operations, the resources and the perspectives differ radically from the industry just so recently dominated by smaller and mid tier software vendors.

Who will be the winners and losers I don't know - I like many others still speculate on SAP's ultimate moves in this area. Will it be a swift and dramatic acquistion of technologies, will they try to do it themselves, or will they remain on the sidelines and miscalculate?

What is for sure is that nothing is sure, remember DEC and NetScape? Things change and the unleashing of rich unstructured content into the business will be a turning point for many...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Playing fair with software vendors

An RFI is issued then a competitive RFP process - 3 or more vendors invest time and money to work their way though long processes and presentations.

But in fact the buyer was only getting the vendors to jump through these expensive hoops, to keep the procurement or legal team happy. The buyer had already decided at the get go who they were buying from. It's so common that it's now expected - so increasingly many vendors refuse to go along for the charade and won't bid as they know full well they have no hope of winning, regardless of how good their solution. It's a rotten situation - unethical and damaging to the industry as a whole.

Smarter buyers recognize the value of standardization, but keep the incumbent on their feet by regularly awarding contracts to competing vendors. They also don't issue long check lists of pointless RFP questions, instead they ask vendors how they would solve their particular problems, and make full use of bake off sessions, where finalists come into demo on a pre-identified area. Result? More innovation, more chance of choosing the best fit, and healthier more ethical business relationships all round.

Friday, January 19, 2007

ECM vendor lock in challenged....

It wasn't long ago that Documentum was the only choice for pharmaceutical, Interwoven for legal, FileNet for insurance etc. Each vendor had a stanglehold on one or two industry sectors, and over the years locked in key clients. But with the commoditization of some elements of ECM, more use of open standards, the emergence of service oriented architectures and challengers coming from the open source community, those locked in positions will increasingly come under question.

Buyers who have long used a particular vendor as the corporate standard, should look again at the changes in the market, and what they will find might suprise them. Because until recently many vendors refused to bid or only did so half heartedly in many large accounts, knowing that it was 'owned' by a rival vendor. But now that new players are coming in and rocking the boat, there is more openess to potential new suppliers, and concern with over dependence on particular vendors. What this means is that this is a good time to be a buyer - you can make your complacent installed vendor dance for their supper again, you can negotiate from a position of strength and you can spread your bets a little wider. Vive la change!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

5 Things Game

I have been Tagged by Russ Stalters - to share five things that you probably don't know about me.... It's a game that has been going around the blogsphere (and I too will tag some others at the end). Anyway I am game, so here goes:-

1: Before getting into the sexy and glamorous world of document management, I was a writer and artist. I had some success as an artist (photography - new topographic influenced) in the UK and Europe (most notably in Russia and The Netherlands) - and interviewed many of the most famous jazz musicians of the day (Chucho Valdez was my favorite)

2: I coined the phrase Acid Jazz. This happened in a recording studio in London's Soho when we were working on a proposed TV program that focused on the emerging Jazz dance and Latin Jazz scene in London clubs. (note that Gilles Peterson the famous DJ and Producer also has some claim to this as he was working with me that day in the studio)

3: I did not drive a car till I was in my thirties and failed my driving test twice before passing (its much harder to pass the test in the UK - honest)

4: I am in my early to mid forties but have been married for 25 years this March

5: I designed the car parking system for Glastonbury Festival (Europe and I think the World's largest rock/music festival). I did this after spending 2 hours in cold rain trying to find my car in various farmers fields. The organizer Michael Evis loved my plan (color and zone coded), thanked me personally and have used it ever since - and I never even got a free ticket for the next years festival.......

Thought I might take this tag to new waters (India and AR) so:

Apoorv Durgha , Duncan Chappel , Barbara French , Duncan Brown and Pranshu Jain - you are it!

Link to Technorati Tag Page

Friday, January 12, 2007

Storage vendors and ECM

I was told recently that it is not uncommon in enterprises to see 7-10% growth in structured data, and 200% growth in unstructured data. Though I don't actually believe this, I think the sentiment is probably correct and that for sure in most instances unstructured data is growing at an order of magnitude plus, that of structured.

Assuming this to be the case then, why is it that storage vendors have little to say about this?
Even EMC who bought Documentum a few years back still have a very fuzzy and muddled story around ILM (information lifecycle management) and as for NetApp, Hitachi, HP etc they don't really have much of a story at all.

Surely that has to change, for at the moment if you look at a typical ECM stack the layer that has the least lock in is the storage layer. Indeed it is not uncommon for buyers to demand that the new ECM platform architecture be storage agnostic. A move I applaud, but potentially bad news for storage vendors.

Surely at least one of the storage vendors could start to think about this intelligently, and come up with a half decent story as to the added value they might bring to the archive, retention management aspects of unstructured data, with full acknowledgement to the ECM management layers above?

It will be no big surprise if someone like HP buys and ECM vendor - the bigger surprise will be if a more sophisticated and useful discussion around the full lifecycle of a document starts to emerge.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ethics, Charity and IT Analysis

Just a quick (yet rambling) blog to start 2007 - Ethics, Charity and IT Analysis is something of an oxymoron, and that frankly is a very sad state of affairs. Over the next few weeks I hope to post a bit more on Analyst Ethics, as its an area that we don't like to talk about too much, but really should.

This is prompted by a triage of signals, from James' blog (mentioned in previous post), an article in my much loved Economist on Ethics, and the storm in a teacup regarding Microsoft offer of laptops to certain bloggers. Plus some other stuff it's best not to discuss in writing for fear of a lawsuit..

Ethics - we should have a code of Ethics for Analysts. Journalist have them (at least reputable ones), Financial Analyst have them too - and so should we. First question of 2007 then is how!

Charity is a somewhat different topic and I don't intend to discuss this too much on this blog, James again (turning out to be my nemisis) wants us to give space to that. Well I shall brief space to this link that has inspired me, I warn you in advance that this is not pretty reading so please click with caution (seriously): Link

If you think you can help me to help support the Crawfords in their work drop me a note. Other than that I will keep charitable things to the side bar.

But in moving forward in 2007, I would like to expand my horizons a little, work ethically and in line with my beliefs - I do hope that all we give value to buyers and vendors alike - for at some ends of the 'analyst' world value is little more than protection money, and I hope that in 2007 we can all as an industry start to address these issues a little.