So the other evening, I was out at a Web Content Mavens gathering, and someone asked me what I meant when I talked about ECM. This person had years of experience in Web Content Management and a few years working with a leading ECM provider before returning to their roots in WCM. His basic premise was that ECM was a marketing ploy cooked up by the vendors, analysts, and consultants out there and that there is no rational reason to force them all into one system.
This was, at the same time, one of the best, and most painful, conversations I have had in quite a while. On the one hand, it is good to have to occasional defend your convictions in order to make sure that they are still on solid ground. On the other hand, sometimes you want to hit your head into a wall when someone doesn’t get it. However, I can see why that opinion exists. The vendors and analysts are to blame.
For years, ECM has been defined as a strategic framework and technical architecture that supports all content types and formats over the entire content life cycle. See Gartner. To accomplish this, would-be ECM vendors bought missing Content Applications, built them, or both. This has led to many problems:
- Disparate Systems: One vendor can solve all your problems, if they can ever pick which acquired solution, or in OpenText’s case..solutions, best fits the clients need. All ECM vendors are guilty, including EMC with core Documentum and eRoom.
- Deteriorating Functionality: Over time, those acquired, or built, solutions fail to evolve at a comparable rate with the pure-play vendors. This is most likely due to a number of factors. One is from the inability of R&D dollars to keep up with the increasing number of solutions. Another is managing of platform changes required for one solution so that the other solutions aren’t adversely affected. eRoom, once a leader in collaboration, is stagnating. I still like it better than SharePoint, especially after recent travails (Don’t ask).
- Lack of Performance: Try as they might, the hardware and software haven’t been able to effectively scale fast enough. This problem is going away as computers get faster, but it isn’t gone. The problem can’t be solved like in the Data side of the world with a Data Warehouse. We have to actually design better, more efficient software.
No vendor can deliver top-notch solutions in every area, yet. There are a few that can deliver from good to excellent in every category, but that isn’t consistent with the best-of-breed approach. This was the point my opponent was trying to make. My contention was that just because no one single vendor could do it all that it wasn’t something of value to strive for attaining.
ECM + SOA = ECM 2.0
In my discussion, I was trying to explain the need for RM, BPM, Collaboration, DM, and WCM to all sit on the same platform. As I have discussed previously, the Content Applications should not be tied to an ECM platform. EMC is starting to take this approach with their Content Services for SharePoint. They’ll sell the platform and the integration to SharePoint, but not any end-user application.
Mark Lewis recently shared a new approach at this year’s Momentum Europe by developing frameworks for partners to build Content-Enabled Solutions upon. This has led to some mixed reviews. The gang over at BrilliantLeap even went so far as to wonder if this is the Emasculation of Documentum.
I don’t think it is, if EMC invests wisely. They are spending money on the platform and I feel that they are making solid progress in that direction. They are turning their existing Content Services products into DFS based interfaces. What they need to do is turn all of their interfaces into DFS based interfaces. They also need to work to get an ECM SOA standard in place in order to make sure that the DFS is aligned properly.
The platform feeds Content into the SOA world. The Content Applications reach into the SOA environment and pull the content out that they need. The vendors should be independent. ECM may not have been real, but ECM 2.0 has a chance to be everything that we need.
One last thing for EMC to do, invest in the solutions!!! Spend money to make eRoom part of the Web 2.0 world. Bring WCM and their publishing up-to-speed. Integrate X-Hive sooner, not later. EMC needs to go look at every solution’s visionary leaders and build to that. They need to do it yesterday.
If they don’t, someone else will.