Silicon Valley’s War on the Enterprise


There is a war being waged in organizations across the world. What started off as simple attempts to make things easier for mobile users has escalated into a full-fledge attack on the Enterprise.

New Picture (1)Silicon Valley has declared war.

Oh, they haven’t made such a bold declaration. Well, not most of them. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a war taking place. It also doesn’t mean that the war is such a bad thing. After all, it was Thomas Jefferson who said,

Every generation needs a new Revolution.

If you ask anyone in the Valley, they’ll say that they only mean to help. They believe it when they say that they come in peace.

Which they don’t.

They mean to take almost everything we’ve done the last couple of decades, throw it out, and “install” their vision of the future.

Don’t get me wrong, they have the same desire to improve things as Steve Jobs, their idol, did last decade for consumer electronics. Unfortunately for the Enterprise, replacing your Content Management System (CMS) is slightly more complicated than changing phones.

Especially when the new CMS doesn’t deliver the 9x improvement we’ve come to expect from the consumer revolution.

Ripe for Conquest

Let’s face some hard truths. Enterprise software, especially Content Management, hasn’t exactly been a slam dunk success. Many IT projects fail and they still take too long to finish, even when executed properly.

The reason is that they are complex. The systems insert themselves into the workday and don’t always deliver enough new functionality to justify the added burden. Do not forget that it often appears that “User Experience” seems to be a foreign concept to many vendors.

To be fair, the complexity doesn’t start with the vendors. Have you seen some of the Record Plans out there? They aren’t quick reads. When buying CMSs with Records Management (RM) features, or a stand-alone RM system, that complexity is forced upon the vendors.

I cannot tell you how many organizations I have been to with STRICT Records Management requirements that barely have basic Content Management under control. I’m not talking years ago, I’m talking recently.

There are real issues out there, making Enterprise IT ripe for attack.

Complexity through Simplicity

This opportunity has been targeted by Silicon Valley. Their approach is simple. They allow users to do basic business activities, without complexity. Soon, a significant portion of your staff are using this software. Like a good espionage unit, agents from the Valley are in your organization laying the groundwork for a revolution.

There isn’t only one cloud vendor infiltrating your organization. This is leading to the first problem, which is “cloud sprawl”. Remember when every office had its own systems? Now imagine every user or project using their own system. Chaos.

Once your organization is ripe for takeover, the cloud vendors swoop in and promise everything will be better if you just commit and make the switch.  At this point, you just want only one of these cloud vendors creating chaos, not 3-4 of them. You sign the contract, embracing the chaos.

Then things start to get more complicated. Remember all those complex requirements to meet your legal requirements? Those needs have to met in other systems because the cloud providers can’t support those features and they cannot be customized to implement them.

Now there are redundant systems that are in place strictly to meet those requirements. Want them to talk to each other, good luck. The cloud vendors may love creating APIs for you to use but they don’t seem to care about support the industry interoperability standards. You can make the systems work together, but you have to do the work and maintain the code.

Have fun.

A Truce?

We need a truce in this war. Silicon Valley and the Enterprise need to work together. Things are broken but the systems can’t just be bulldozed to make way for a new world. There is a middle ground and both sides acknowledge it.

If you are going to the AIIM Conference in March, you can hear me talk more about the war during my keynote. This war is going to define IT in 2013 and I’m hoping we can negotiate a truce.

9 thoughts on “Silicon Valley’s War on the Enterprise

  1. I could not agree more. In fact that is exactly how Sharepoint was introduced and now mobile apps are coming. I am not sure that there can be a truce as these vendors continue to churn new ideas and creep into verticals.

    It is very complex but not because of the technology so much as the business itself. A workflow to produce and approve an RFP, gather responses, present them for review, selection, approval, contracts, and records declaration touches a lot of business units. It is for example, far more complex than driving across town to meet for coffee. However, when you think of exact verbal instructions required to get your car there virtually things get very-very complicated. Enterprise IM initiatives need to expect the complexity but few decision makers understand it. One of the major roadblocks to decisions which are inclusive of the complexity is the pressure on quarterly results in corporations which forces snap point solutions without an enterprise view.

    The challenge is to make enterprise complexity easy.

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    • Peter, Alfresco is not a native cloud vendor. They are a not start-up a few years old that has decided that the Enterprise would make a nice target.

      Alfresco started in the Enterprise. They are not the subject of this post. So yes, Alfresco is CMIS compliant but they are not a cloud vendor.

      Alfresco is a Content Management vendor that has a cloud offering.

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      • Most of the ECM vendors have some degree of both CMIS and cloud offerings. EMC is about to blow the lid off the cloud ECM offerings as you may have heard. Can’t wait till May. Alfresco is probably the most CMIS compatible but standards driven systems are tougher to implement that it would seem as they all seem to have their own way of doing things. We have a migration tool with and integration layer architecture and you would think we could just do one CMIS interface and be done with it. Not the case though. If you want performance and compatibility it needs to be written for each ECM offering, except maybe Alfresco and a handful of others.

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      • akismet-6d9a0872001c580c11d6e0fe15ddde10 says:

        Indeed Alfresco is an ECM vendor first, an next step from the concepts implemented in Documentum years before.

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