Ada Lovelace Day 2015

What I wouldn't give to have a conversation with Ada LovelaceAda Lovelace Day snuck up on me this year. While I had thought-out topics the last two years, making events more welcoming to women and sharing about tech women in my family, I hadn’t planned anything out for this year. Part of that is on me but the rest seems to reflect a malaise I have seen of late.

While I have continued to see people working to improve the diversity in technology, I have seen a lot less fervor in the past few months. It is as if people have put efforts in cruise control. I know that many things happen outside of my awareness but in the world that I observe there has been less discussion of getting more women into technology.

Even if this is because people sense progress, we are are far from done. Sure, Stanford has a lot of women enrolling on Computer Science. The questions are:

  • Will they be mentored and thrive?
  • What will life be like for those women when they get out into the tech world?
  • How many of them will still be in technology in 5 years? 10 years?

I’m posting today not because I have a well considered addition to the conversation. I am posting because we have a long way to go to make women in technology a given and not something that we marvel at. I am posting because every thing that can be done to draw attention to this issue is important. Fixing the pipeline is great but we need to make sure that they can not only get positions in good environments. Women need to be able to grow within their chosen field without worrying about what might happen to them if they venture outside their normal routine.

The problem is not fixed. Things are not better. We must be diligent. I will keep listening and trying to amplify women, of all races, that are trying to make this world a better, safer, and equal place.

Final Story

I was thinking as I drove my car on an errand this morning about the women I’ve hired in tech. I could not think of one hire that I regretted. Do not get me wrong, I’ve worked with some women who could not do the job. I just wasn’t the one who hired them. When I tell stories over beverages of complete chaos and incompetence the ’star’ is always a man.


This is not to say that you should only hire women. I am simply saying that if you think a woman can do the job during the interview process then maybe you should hire her. Sure, that man over there might seem more impressive but it could be a façade. I’ve hired many men that I have later regretted bringing to my team.

In the future I need to make sure that I hire some women to help me winnow out those men and make hiring decisions that helps my team get things done.

Dell, EMC, and Poor Documentum

Even with our fights, I never wanted it to come to thisI haven’t blogged in a while for various reasons that I won’t get into in this post but recent news demands that I share some thoughts. It seems that barring a better offer, Dell is going to buy EMC for a LOT of money.

Now the numbers don’t really matter to me as I don’t hold stock in any of the players except perhaps in some retirement mutual fund to which I never really pay attention. What I care about is the fate of the Enterprise Content Division (ECD), the home of Documentum.

This Matters Why?

I’ve been advising a lot of companies about how to implement various Enterprise Content Management (ECM) platforms of late. None of them have been Documentum. This is likely as much a bit of chance mixed in with the software many of my consulting partners tend to sell. I have been coming in post-sale to help companies make sure that they don’t go through this same process in 3-4 years.

If Documentum vanished it wouldn’t hurt my income but it would hurt me. I poured a lot of years into the ecosystem as a Documentum partner and rabble-rouser. When I saw the deal leaking into the news last week I paid attention. Now that something is definitely happening I can stay silent no longer.

Different World

When EMC bought Documentum it was the biggest ECM buy by an IT shop ever. IT bought all this ECM software and then couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t just taking off. EMC eventually understood that it was the nature of the technology and not Documentum specific so they didn’t keep buying more content management vendors.

In this environment Documentum languished. It was at times ignored, yelled at, and written off. There were times that they tried to bring Documentum into the bigger EMC picture but it never really worked.

This time EMC is being bought by Dell who wants to strengthen its storage and security offerings. EMC is perfect for Dell with a strong storage portfolio and RSA to secure it all. Virginia Backaitis offers an interesting take on the combined analytics assets that show a potential future for Pivotal. Documentum is nowhere to be seen on any analyst’s radar as a positive component of the deal.

As a result, this is either the best or worst thing that could ever happen to Documentum.

Scenario 1: Salvation

Dell doesn’t care about the ECD. Documentum is likely something that was mentioned in a laundry list of Wait, that’s not all!’ items that Dell doesn’t care about. As each item was listed they were probably asking themselves how they could turn those assets into cash as a chunk of this deal was financed with new debt. That debt will likely want to be dealt with quickly to provide more flexibility for Dell in the future.

An easy way to raise some money is to sell of parts of EMC that aren’t desired anymore. One of those parts is likely the ECD. Documentum could be sold to private investors who actually want to invest what is necessary to right the ship. The crew at Documentum have been trying to move to the cloud for years, ever since the Next Generations Information Server (NGIS) was announced years ago. While that effort has not seemed to bear fruit there are continuing efforts to move to the cloud.

New ownership with a priority to get this done would enable Documentum to at least complete the transition. Whether or not it is too late to successfully compete is up to the market. It isn’t dominated by a set of players yet but there are a lot of biases built into the market at this point that would work against Documentum. A strong engineering push coupled with a solid marketing effort could be enough but the margin of error is small and shrinking every day.

But if it worked…

Scenario 2: Death Spiral

The other scenario is where either Dell or someone to whom they sell the ECD decides it is time to milk the customer base for revenue. This would trim overhead and focus on keeping customers on the platform to maximize cash-flow. If Dell keeps the ECD, this is the most likely reason.

If you see Open Text or CA buy the ECD, start lighting the funeral pyres because Documentum would be officially brain dead and waiting for the machines to be turned off.

What Will It Be?

If Dell decides they need cash quickly, expect them to line-up a deal that they will execute as soon as the deal is finalized. It may even happen before the deal is finalized if there is high-confidence that the last hurdles to the deal have been cleared .

If sold then it will depend on the intent on the buyer. Private equity is the best bet and I’d keep an eye out for activity along those fronts.

Given that the deal may not be finalized for over 6 months I wouldn’t dismiss the cash cow option, especially if interest in buying doesn’t happen quickly. Converting into a more steady revenue stream is something that could be done quickly and would generate cash in the short-term and increase the value for any company that wanted to buy Documentum for the revenue.

This is a wait-and-see game but if I was a betting man I’d start looking for wood to use to build that pyre.

Making the Digital Workplace Work

Armless Black Knight kicking King ArthurI recently wrote an article at CMS Wire about how Intranets have been eclipsed by the advent of new tools like enterprise social networks (ESNs). Like the old web, Intranets, and the portals that were often created in their name, didn’t really serve much of a purpose outside a large bulletin board. Efforts were made to make them more useful but without addressing a real need, those efforts often came to naught.

The concept of an ESN works better because it is a place where people can come together and work. I’m not talking Facebook in the office. That is crazy. I am talking something more akin to Yammer. I am talking about taking the break room and moving it online for organizations that are collaborative in nature but may not be co-located.

My good friend Jed Cawthorne took exception to my article. He said Forget ESN’s, Give me a Digital Workplace.

ESN, More than the Sum

Jed rips into me for using the term ESN. I agree, it is a cruddy term but the industry seems  to like their three letter acronyms (TLAs). Part of the reason is that a TLA is more than the sum of its parts. It is multiplicative in nature, not additive.

  • Enterprise: Jed restricts this to being within the organization. It is bigger than that. The scope is everything in and related to the organization. Enterprise can scale to include partners and systems.
  • Social: Jed and I agree, people. People need to work together. Without them we can just go home. This qualifier is more about the approach to putting the system together. It has to support how people work together.
  • Network: The connections between people and information. This is pulling everything in the enterprise scope into one place.

Just as Jed took me to task for being restrictive on the definition of an Intranet, I think Jed should ease up on the definition of an ESN. Semantics do matter but to focus on the the term more than the concept can lead to a lot of tangents.

The Digital Workplace is Good

I’m happy with Jed’s vision. It is the vision I had, just different labels. As an industry we have evolved so far past the original Intranet that I feel we need a new term to describe what we do. Digital Workplace is a solid term. It describes what we are trying to accomplish in the same manner that ESN focuses on the how.

My proposal to Jed, let’s kill the terms Intranet and ESN. Digital Workplace is solid. The tools that make up the Digital Workplace will depend upon the mission, structure, and culture of an organization. Map those out and a useful Digital Workplace can be created for any organization.

Box Makes a Huge Leap in Security

The Keymaster and Gatekeeper from GhostbustersI saw the Box’s announcement of their Enterprise Key Management (EKM) feature yesterday. This is a big jump forward for Box and puts them well in the front lines for cloud security among vendors with traction. Matt Weinberger had a good write-up about how Box’s EKM works complete with a Ghostbuster reference.

Chris Walker wrote about Box’s EKM announcement and quoted a tweet I made. The tweet follows but I encourage you to go read his post as it is a good one.

I wanted to expand on the quote up above in a comment on Chris’s post then I couldn’t stop typing. I decided to write it here.

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Sony, Information Governance, and the Quest for Relevancy

Movie: The InterviewPeople have been writing for months about what could have prevented or lessened the impact the Sony hack. I’ve talked to many people in the information governance industry on this very topic. I’m a firm believer that even with proper information governance policies that were properly followed, the impact of the Sony hacks would be the same.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Lubor Ptacek asked if enterprise content management (ECM) could have prevented the hack. While his answer was not a definitive ‘Yes’, it did fall strongly on the side that it would have made a significant difference.

Lubor is a smart person so I’ve decided to visit his points in this post.  Before I start going point-by-point…

You Can’t Govern Stupid

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Stop Talking about Backups Tapes!!!

Bookshelf of backup tapesThis isn’t a rant against backup tapes in IT infrastructure. This isn’t a rant about how backup strategies need to change. It is a rant about all the people that depend on backups for managing information.

Stop it!

Backup tapes are to restore your system when things go wrong. Period. If you have to keep something, don’t use tapes. There are other ways. There are several archive vendors out there that will gladly take your phone calls.

Tapes are even worse for this than other backup methods. Tapes degrade. Tapes become corrupted. Tapes are easy to lose. Tapes get out of order. Tapes take up space that we are trying to save by going digital.

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Reports from the Content Management Frontier

The following are excerpts from an explorer hiking the Gartner Hype Cycle for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technologies.

Day 1, Reached the Peak

Today we finally reached the Peak of Inflated Expectations. The view is simply amazing. This technology is going to revolutionize everything. Everyone is excited and  teaming up with their friends. Documentum just got some great new equipment from EMC. I suspect that those two will be very happy together for a long time.

Life is good.

Day 2, Getting Crowded

Apparently everyone is excited and more and more people are joining us on the Peak. While the view is still lovely, they ground is starting to get muddy from all the people trampling everywhere.

Stellent showed up with their new pal Oracle. Everyone thinks they are a bunch of posers but they are mostly keeping quiet because Oracle has a bit of a temper.

There seems to be a new noise. I’m going to go check it out.

Day 4, Ooops

That noise from the other day? That was the beginning of an avalanche that carried the entire group off of the Peak. According to our maps we are in the Trough of Disillusionment. It is hard to validate because nobody can get a clear signal anymore. It is a bit gloomy but some people seem to think we can get out.

OMG! Open Text ate Hummingbird while we were sleeping! They must be panicking already.

Tensions are very high.

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