Looking at the Legacy Content Management Vendors


In my predictions for 2013, I made the following prediction on the future of the traditional “leaders” in the Content Management space.

First Major On-Premises Traditional ECM Vendor will become Obsolete: I know, obvious right? Statistically speaking, one of those vendors will likely still be a market leader in 10 years. In 2013, we’ll see our next elimination for that spot (though they will be in denial). To make this easier to measure, I’ll name the contenders: EMC, IBM, Open Text, and Oracle. Microsoft falls into this category but it won’t be them, at least not in 2013.

Aside from simple statistical probability, I saw a few things this fall that led to this prediction.

  1. Talked to people attending the IBM Information OnDemand while I was in Las Vegas.
  2. Attended the Open Text conference in Orlando.
  3. Watched the news out of Momentum Europe.
  4. Kept my eyes open.

What I’ve seen is a scary amount of consistency among the players.

The Go-To Strategy

When I was at the Open Text conference, I was struck by the similarities in their strategy with several other players in the market. To be honest, I had to make sure I wasn’t at another event, so similar was the strategy. While the details, and progress, of execution varies among all the players, it is pretty consistent.

  • Talk about the Cloud. Explain it. Point to pure cloud solutions within the company, no matter how remote to the Content Management group, to establish credibility.
  • Port your software to a Managed Hosting solution and call it a cloud solution/alternative.
  • Create a file-synching solution to demonstrate feature equivalency with the new challengers.

After those steps, the strategies are held closer to the vest. Some, like EMC, are trying to build pure cloud solutions. Others think that no further steps are needed.

Looking Ahead

Until the future arrives, nobody knows who is playing things correctly. Meanwhile, the challengers are moving forward, slowly eating away at the ground underneath.

What are some things the vendors can do to ward off making my prediction come true?

  • Deploy a true cloud solution, this year. That means scalable, flexible licensing, self-provisioning, and every other SaaS feature.
  • Organizational changes to reflect the transition from large license deals to steady “subscription” deals.
  • Fortitude to deal with the stock market’s reaction to decreasing license revenue as the new financial model takes shape.
  • Willingness to allow the new cloud offering to cannibalize their on-premises product.

HP, and thus Autonomy, is likely toast as a Content Management leader forever. Everyone else is still in play, but for some the odds are long.

Those odds are getting longer everyday.

3 thoughts on “Looking at the Legacy Content Management Vendors

  1. I think your second and third points are the key ones. I’m struggling to think of more than two companies (Adobe & Microsoft) who’ve made that transition successfully (and Adobe’s efforts are less than a year old). “Refactoring” an entrenched sales process is very difficult, IMHO.

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  2. Yes and No!… (ahem… views expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of my employer, blah, blah, blah… usual caveats apply!). I don’t disagree on your points and suggestion on cloud strategy, but I do disagree that this, by itself, can render any of these vendors obsolete. Cloud is an architectural and a procurement concern, not a business one. Yes, it has a key place in a vendor’s strategy, but the investment is driven by market demand. And market demand for cloud-based *Enterprise* ECM is still scatty.

    If you look at vendor strategies holistically (rather than the hype-du-jour that follows the conferences…), a much more important focusing point is on enhancing WHAT organisations do with content, not WHERE they put it. Accessibility, integration with the business, governance, insights, time-to-solution, etc. all have much more lasting implications for organisations than the deployment decisions on the platform, which are guaranteed to be obsolete, and will need refreshing in 2-3 years anyway, when the new fashion comes around.

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    • Your point regarding the focus on WHAT organizations do with content is an important one. The challengers are limited in that scope which limits their ability to take over. They are expanding it.

      The Cloud is more than architecture. The reason is simple, these systems are complex to deploy and maintain. The TCO needs to change dramatically. Sure, a small system is a snap but when you are talking Terabytes of content, things degrade quickly.

      What I expect to see in 5 years is a large number of business-focused solutions that store their content in the cloud. The solutions will be able to scale up or down because they won’t be worrying about the underlying architecture. If we can make some more progress on interoperability, then we’ll really see some progress.

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