Wanted to take a quick break to comment on a post I read on Big Men On Content. This is a blog I have recently added to my regular read list, such as I read any blog “regularly” these days given my recent workload. It mentions into the perils of ECM vendors hitching their wagon to SharePoint with the observation that Microsoft doesn’t need them. They are right and they are wrong. Where they are wrong is slight and the whole concept is worth exploring.
The Cloudy Future
Right now ECM vendors are trying to make their more scalable platforms and plug them into the back of SharePoint. When properly done, this can really make SharePoint quite a useful and powerful solution. There are a lot of ways to get them to work together, as Andrew has pointed out in his Seven Reference Architectures for SharePoint and ECM.
The basic problem for ECM vendors that Lee Dallas at BMOC correctly observes is that Microsoft is going to fix their scalability limits. I think it may take a little time as the amount of content that an organization needs to store is growing as well. I believe that Microsoft will increase their scalability on a sharper curve than the market requires, but it will most likely take two releases for them to completely catch the curve.
Of course, they could do it on their next release if they invest heavily. One never knows. Even if Microsoft doesn’t, if SharePoint can handle 80% of the Fortune 500 with their next release, that’ll put pain on the current ECM vendors.
What’s a Vendor to do?
SharePoint is a Collaborative Content Application. That is the key concept. SharePoint should be where people go to work together to create content and knowledge. The ECM vendors need to focus on the other, non-”enterprise”, reasons for putting their applications in the back-end. They need to focus on fact that SharePoint isn’t for WCM or for well-defined or high-volume business processes or for Records, though Microsoft is likely to strengthen those features.
In a few years, when SharePoint throws our their next version, ECM vendors need to have already shown their value beyond simple scalability. They need to show how they can work to make SharePoint a part of the ECM environment and the larger world of Information Management.
The trick is to do all of this in a standard way so that the ECM system can support SharePoint and portals such as Vignette without having to create and maintain a separate product. That requires more investment than a single, standards-based solution.
Hmmm, a way to save money by using standards. I wonder if it will stick?