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.