Traditional, legacy ECM platforms like Documentum, FileNet and OpenText are not ready for this new world. Those technologies were architected in a time when users and content stayed behind the firewall, on servers and PCs.
So starts paragraph two of Alfresco’s whitepaper “Next-Generation ECM”. This, and a recent post by Laurence Hart in which he says “Records Management as we know it is dead and it has dragged Enterprise Content Management (ECM) down with it.”, piqued my interest.
Preceding all this was a promotional email from Alfresco’s Melissa Meinhart: “4 reasons why Traditional ECM is dead“. Her reasons were:
- Users are demanding support for their new tablet and mobile devices, new remote working styles and new cloud apps. You aren’t going to change the users. You must change your approach to ECM.
- It’s not just users who are different today: the enterprise is different, too. A new, more expansive view of the enterprise requires a new approach to ECM… an approach that recognizes that modern enterprises are not bound by the firewall.
- Social content is now also enterprise content. Today’s enterprise content is driven by mobile devices and the fact that photos, videos and comment threads help companies get real work done faster. The context of the content — who posted it, at what time, in what circumstances and their opinion of the content — is now central to that content’s value.
- Traditional ECM vendors are failing at addressing the new realities of the IT infrastructure. ECM technology built for the new enterprise needs to span from traditional on-premise deployments, to virtualized private cloud deployments to full-fledged public-cloud SaaS deployments — and everything in between. And it needs to keep everything, and everyone, secure and in sync — no matter where users or content resides.
This got me thinking… My current role has me working with clients to help them create intranets that are “social”. Ones that foster richer collaboration, and interaction.
Customers are focusing more on this “visible” part of the social collaborative experience, along with the “content management” part that goes with it. In this case, I am talking about the content that is surfaced on the Intranet pages.
Those areas that come under the heading of “Information Management”, such as Records Management, or Enterprise Content Management (ECM), are “roadmap” items. Things that the customer knows are important, but that they also realise, needs more extensive analysis, and planning.
This awareness, by companies, that a well-thought out ECM system is a necessity, is truly excellent. But Alfresco’s white paper raises some good points…users are, more and more, disconnected from the Enterprise. They work anywhere, at any time, on any device. And there are still concerns (rightly, or wrongly) about content “in the cloud”.
Another excellent point that the white paper makes is something that I have had many long discussions on, at my current place of employment (and which is worthy of a separate blog post). This is with regards to the social content, and conversations, that are now trying to be fostered (see the above paragraphs). These often contain valuable tacit knowledge, or are artefacts that companies don’t want to lose.
Traditional ECM is not sufficiently capable of accommodating this new user behaviour, the extended enterprise, or social content. And even Microsoft’s SharePoint, now considered one of the latest members of the “ECM club”, is lacking.
Naturally, Alfresco’s white paper is a pitch for its own product. I do not have a problem with that. They raise some valid points, and their solution looks like it could have potential. I do want to look into it further though, and assess whether their solution is the “one”.
If you want to read about their offering that they claim meets the challenges of the new ways of working, as well as some other great insight to this area by, refer to the links below.
I hope that we’re both right that customers are finally starting to see ECM as a necessity. What I ponder is that there is so much content within an organization, that’s not going away, does everything need to mobile? Is social about new content or new ways that content is created? ECM needs to support the enterprise as it creates content in new content and new ways to access their content and that of business partners and customers.
Thanks for commenting Marko (and I really enjoyed your post on this subject). You definitely ask a good question…does everything need to be mobile? Having said that, traditional legacy ECM, and the traditional “company”, do work on the basis of content being a thing that, generally, exists as an atomic unit (a word document, excel spreadsheet, etc.) that is stored in a central location (or sometimes not) within the firewall. These units are designed to be created, or woked on, from laptops, or PCs, connected to the companies network.
As the whitepaper points out, and as we already know, the “connected” users are now becoming more and more disconnected. It’s an exciting time. If companies can implement an ECM system that works in harmony with their “social business” environments, rather than one that is in contrast to it, then that would be a great thing.
This al reminds me of the bit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail where Pie is saying, “Bring out your dead” and the others are saying, “I’m not dead yet…think I’ll go for a walk now”
I think it was Mark Twain who said that “Rumours of my demise are largely exaggerated”. I find it quite ironic for Alfresco to berate the “Traditional” ECM vendors, when their founder was a chief architect of Documentum. In any case… I totally agree with the view that use cases for content management are evolving, as they have done over the last 20 years or so that this industry is in existence.
What I disagree with, is the naive assumption that “Traditional” ECM vendors live in a bubble, are not aware of this, and that their products somehow fail to meet this demand. You need to consider this in context: For a large bank with 30+ petabytes of content, spread across tier-1 and tier-2 storage, and ingestion rates to the tune of several dozens of million emails auto-classifying daily, cloud deployment or mobile access are “nice to have”, not a primary concern. So, the “traditional” ECM and RM markets are very much alive and thriving.
At the other end of the spectrum, it’s easy to forget the $$$m of R&D and M&A investment, that the large vendors are putting behind ECM development each year. Just because the vendor is large and established, does not mean that their products cannot be cutting edge or that their architecture is static. (The fact that Alfresco keep referring to “FileNet” and “Documentum” instead of IBM and EMC, is a good indication of their lack of understanding of their competitors’ portfolios…). I can’t speak of behalf of EMC or Microsoft or OpenText, but I can assure you that cloud deployments, virtualisation, mobile access (both native app and HTML5), self-provisioning and social collaboration (native or through integration with both SharePoint and Connections), are very much catered for, by “Traditional” ECM. And a lot more besides…
There will always be some new use-cases that are still missing, from every vendor, and these will be added over time. It’s ECM evolution, not revolution, as it has always been.
As I mentioned (possibly in a comment on your post), I have been working with the big ECM systems for a long time, both as an implementer, as well as a client. I’ve worked with the FileNet suite of products, as well as Documentum. I’ve been a bit out of touch over the last year (having stepped into a different career field), so I am not sure what the latest offerings from the Traditional Vendors is. It would be interesting to get an overview of this. I see that IBM employs you. Are you able to elaborate on how IBM is catering for the “new way of working”.
Too much to cover here in a post Mark, and I don’t believe in plugging product on blogs. But suffice it to say that the IBM ECM portfolio extends much beyond just FileNet and the repositories. I mentioned above some of the capabilities that are now covered natively by the platform. Add to those Content Analytics, Case Management, Information Lifecycle Governance and full integration to IBM Connections, and you have a much wider-reaching ECM portfolio than just a repository with library functions. But the issue is not with the technology. Capturing social content and mobile access to the repositories are all there, but they do not add value on their own, unless businesses start changing their overall behaviour to Social Business. That’s when we’ll trully start seeing new use cases and paradigms for ECM. Very very few businesses are there today…
George – your reply contained exactly what I was going to say…big vendors have big customers. The type of customers who can afford the price of the big vendor licences, but also have their structured way of working. These include big finance companies, big pharma companies, big legal companies. Big companies that cannot change because of compliance reasons, or because of the fact that their systems have been in place for many, many years, and there is no compelling business reason to change them. Naturally, if there isn’t the demand, there isn’t the market. Having said that, the times are changing, but as you mentioned, it’s not happening fast.