Sunday, November 11, 2012

ECM with a purpose?

It's been a long time but for some reason I just wanted to distill some rambling thoughts here on the state of ECM what it might all mean.

IBM, Oracle, EMC, Microsoft & OpenText define the bulk of the market - collectively between them they account for the vast majority of revenue in this space. They have all been at it a long time, and I have spent a career watching and advising them. At various times all of these players have seem lost and without a clear purpose, defaulting into a world of cash cow status. With the exception of Microsoft all of them in the past year seem to have rediscovered their real purpose in life and are trying to get out of comfortable ruts. Documentum seems reinvigorated and has returned quite rightly IMHO to its roots and is making a real fist of sorting out its usability history. IBM is really meshing together the worlds of structured and unstructured, Oracle is truly excited about web experience and the promise of related big data, and OpenText seems to really want to move on from holding company to innovator again. All of these are gargantuan tasks and only time will tell how successful each is - but its good for all of us surely?

This turnaround in the past year reminded me why I got hooked on this industry in the first place. I fell from a burgeoning career in TV (researching/writing) into document management/control to pay the bills, and then found I was fascinated at the beauty and complexity of information management. Over time I grew more and more attached to this unloved discipline, and passionate about its value to society. Over the years I have personally been involved and seen it deliver incredible returns in joined up justice (police through prisons to probation), averting oil spills in the North Sea, saving lives in healthcare, targeting the right bad guys and gals in intelligence and defense etc. I have also seen sloppy information management do the opposite with disastrous results. In a world of spectacular waste and irrelevance, a world of economic and humanitarian crisis, a world driven by technology, data & content - doing IT and information management badly has real world consequences. This belief is what gives purpose to my work.

But the same thing applies to large organizations - they are no different really to individuals. Without a purpose they drift or expend their energies in pointless and ever more lackluster directions. With a common purpose they are energized, focused and make a difference. I don't care about ECM firms making money (that's for them to worry about) but I do care about them driving innovation and providing the right tools to manage information efficiently and accurately at such a critical juncture in our history.

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