Something happened recently that doesn’t happen too often. Two ECM vendors posted blog posts on similar topics. It definitely wasn’t intentional and they approached the topic from two different angles. However, it is worth noting and comment. The more interesting post, to me at least, was from EMC.
Mark Lewis and CMA
As I previously noted, Mark Lewis was placed in charge of the Content Management and Archiving business unit (Documentum+) at EMC recently. Well, Chuck Hollis recently posted on the change and began talking about how Mark is the perfect person to lead CMA into the future. What is of interest is how Chuck defined that future.
Enterprise Content Management: From Application to Service is the heading that describes this future vision. Sounds familiar. If you read deeper, you find this paragraph:
Looking forward, it’s clear that content management services will join the SOA stack. Most people can see how transactional services (e.g. databases) will play, but I don’t know if everyone has made the same leap for content services.
This is great stuff. EMC is speaking to a future that I talked about this summer. This thought process isn’t restricted to EMC, but it is nice to know that maybe, just maybe, the Documentum platform will continue to evolve into the open ECM Platform that we need. I’m sure that Chuck wrote his post with Mark’s assistance, so hopefully it will trickle down.
Going Too Far
My fear, as a Documentum practitioner, is simple. What if Documentum becomes all about the platform and neglects the client components? James might get something useful for his Enterprise Architecture, but a lot of end-users will be left out in the cold. As the aforementioned post by Oracle indicates, there is a need for Content Applications.
Oracle’s Billy Stripe writes that many users would be perfectly happy having their ECM platform supporting their other applications. However, sometimes that takes work. An ECM SOA standard may help with that, but right now, there is still benefit to be had by having Content Applications that are business problem focused.
Records Management, Collaboration, Web Content Management, and others center around content, and it makes sense to have versions of those applications that can tightly integrate with an ECM platform. These applications should still be designed to implement an ECM SOA standard that allows them to be connected into other ECM platforms. However, the benefits of a tight integration with an ECM platform is not to be denied.
This is where my concerns surface. EMC’s Documentum message has been subtly changing. Less focus on application-like modules, more focus on toolsets, integration, methodologies, SOA concepts and the like. It hasn’t just shown in the marketing. Several of the Content Applications have been slow to evolve in the last few years. There have been improvements, but many of those coincided with the unification of the product stack. (TaskSpace will be quite nice though, once it is released)
Here is the Catch-22. We need an ECM platform that can easily be plugged into an Enterprise Architecture. On the other hand, we like having good, solid Content Applications from the same vendor. Oh, there are times we want/need to mix and match, but many organizations want to at least be able to consider the applications provided by the ECM vendor. It also shows an understanding of the problems that the ECM Platform needs to support.
This will be a delicate balance and I hope that EMC and others can walk it.