Mark Lewis at the 2008 EMC Federal Government Forum


When I heard that Mark Lewis was going to be presenting the keynote at the EMC Federal Government Forum, I knew that I had to meet him. After seeing him at EMC World in Vegas this year, I was critical of Mark. I was confused because the impression from watching him speak did not match with what I heard from the people working at EMC.

Yet Another Mark Lewis Keynote

I was unable to track Mark down before his keynote. The keynote was disappointing, but in different ways than at EMC World. The first was that it spent more time talking about EMC as a whole and less on the Content Management and Archiving group. I understand why that decisions was made, and it was probably a good marketing move. My only thought is that when I sit down to listen listen to the head of the CMA group speak, I want to hear about the vision and where things are going within that CMA group. Adding context about how it fits in at EMC is great, but that context shouldn’t be the bulk of the presentation.

I didn’t hear a lot of positives on his presentation skills at the forum. Mark presented better here than at EMC World, and I have a theory as to why. Before I get into that, let’s go over the content.

The Empowerment of Information

That sums up EMC’s vision. Sounds familiar

Enterprise Content Management is the empowerment of all content within an organization. This is accomplished through the centralized management of content, allowing for people and systems to access and manage content from within any business context using platform agnostic standards.

I’m not saying that it was taken. I’m saying that it is a good vision. I think that my proposed ECM definition would be a great vision for how the CMA group is going to contribute to the execution of EMC’s vision. Instead of that though, Mark stayed focus on the word information.

A key point that has been hammered-out by the EMC people recently, including Mark, is Search and the ability to find information. It ties nicely into the buzzword eDiscovery. Search, and its variations, are becoming a common theme that people are starting to address more and more. The concepts aren’t new, just the importance.

Mark finally got to talking about the CMA group. It was very little new information presented since EMC World. It hasn’t been two months yet, so no problems there. The one thing that struck me was Mark’s statement that EMC is not an application company. A poor choice of words perhaps as Documentum is a software application, but I understand his point. Documentum is a platform. Their goal is not to build Content Applications but to make it easy for people to create their own Content Applications through configuration and a minimum of customization.

Mark went over the four areas of the CMA. The only point that I want to really share is that Mark said that Transactional Content Management is what ECM should do best. I disagree. Compliance is what it should do best. It does transactions well because that is what it has been doing for well over a decade. The problem here is that sometimes it makes sense to use outside applications to drive the business, but retention and RM is best applied in the repository directly.

In fact, I think basic retention support should be core to the product. Make basic RPS part of the Content Server and have an additional license for RM. They’ll never do it unless someone else does it first, but RPS is something that needs to become as basic to an ECM offering as full-text search.

Is it just me, but isn’t Magellan and the Interactive Content Management interfaces (WCM and DAM) Content Applications and not platform characteristics? They are important Content Applications for them to offer, but it runs counter to the stated strategy.

Maybe if the strategy was to separate the platform and the Content Applications and just do them both well. Use an ECM SOA standard to connect them and you are done.

At the end, Mark did offer a light vision (only a few minutes). It was the combination of Web 2.0, Mining and Analytics, Virtualization, and SOA with XML holding it together and SaaS as a new, auxiliary component. Hey WAIT!!! Isn’t that the vision from pre-Mark days? Add a little SaaS and good old fashioned XML and you have the “new” vision. There was one thing new, the phrase “Platform as a Service”. Nice concept and spin, but will people like it or take a PaaS? (I apologize to everyone for that.)

Meeting Mark

After Mark’s talk, Whitney led a roundtable. It was entertaining, especially as I knew one of the panel members. I was really waiting for the break to track down Mark. When the end came, I walked up to Mark and introduced myself and even confessed to my previous post, just in case he had missed it.

I confronted him on the lack of the work Content in his talks. He told me that it is a conscious decision that he and Whitney have made. That made me feel a little better. I strongly disagree with that approach, but at least it is a decision and not a deficiency. You have to know your audience, and the audience knows ECM. ECM is part of the Information Management world, but it still has its own identity. When most of the room has Documentum, content is not a dirty word.

I did tell Mark that I like where he seems to be taking the CMA group and that I hear good things from his product people. Mark was very engaging and genuine. I sensed a little awkwardness because of the “Content” issue, but he didn’t try to get away from me quickly.

I think Mark does better the more intimate the discussion. I saw him talking to a group of about 6 people and he was very animated. I’m not sure if it is the group size or the amount of interaction that makes the difference. I think it is the discussion. He seems to thrive on intelligent discourse and it shows. When you put him in front of a crowd, his communication skills seem to degrade.

The next year is key. We need to see the promises in SaaS, Magellan, and DAM delivered. I’d also like to see a keynote at EMC World that is heavy on vision. Something that will make the audience sit up and go Cool. I would like enthusiasm to ooze off of the stage when Mark shares that vision.

I’d also like an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

7 thoughts on “Mark Lewis at the 2008 EMC Federal Government Forum

  1. Chris Campbell says:

    (Yeah, I’m playing catch up with your posts…)

    I’m going to delve into the content vs information debate a bit. I’m going to walk the line for a bit, but as you’ll soon read, I’m going to pick a side.

    One way to frame the debate is equate content with compliance and information with transactions. Compliance, for the most part, is static and represents a moment in time where data existed in this specific state and format. For many industries, failure to maintain a state of compliance results in wated resources, costly fines, lawsuits and possibly even shutter the company. Management takes different attitudes towards compliance. Some see it as a cost, others as insurance.

    Information, on the other hand, is this nebulous thing. What is it? What do you do with it? Not all information is needed for compliance. Information by itself (and there tends to be a lot of it) doesn’t really do anything other than sit there. What is needed is something to transform or shape it into something that makes sense. Similar to content, information can be sorted and organized into neat little rows and columns. The power in information lies in the way that it can interact with each other. When you combine bits and pieces of information with each other, you suddenly have a new object with different abilities. It might be able to tell you of future trends or strategic gaps. The downside is that if not assembled properly, the new object could be misleading or misinterpreted.

    One key facet to information is that it also represents opportunity. In business, opportunity means money. It doesn’t mean that opportunity is a sure thing, but it does tend to be a bit more positive from the glass-half-full view.

    Now I happen to work in the financial industry. Compliance is very important. There’s lots of rules and regulations that we need to follow and keep up with. It’s a great feeling when regulators come in for their scheduled visit and you’re able to hand them whatever they need quickly and efficiently. Content Management swoops in and saves the day.

    As a business, we want to grow, as all businesses want to do. Content Management doesn’t necessarily contribute to growth, but it certainly stops the company from going backward or stumbling. We’ve got the means to store information in our Content Management system, but how do you take it to the next step? How do you use it to grow the company?

    That’s where information and transaction content comes in. Perhaps EMC isn’t quite making the message clear on the focus on information rather than content. For the most part, the Compliance, Archiving and Retention portions of Documention are in place and are on solid ground. Sure, there’s some gaps and improvements to be made. That’s always going to be true. What is needed, and what EMC looks to be going towards is taking the extra bits of information and doing something with it.

    Information is easily translated to the upper manager into income. It’s easy to sell a product that will sift through all your information and come up with new fantastic ways to sell your widget or come up with new products. “Buy our TCM and it will pay for itself hundreds of times over!” With compliance it’s always the line “Can you afford not to have it?”

    EMC is going with “information” because it fits with the new message: Web 2.0 is here! Now here’s the part where I come down on a side (if you haven’t already guessed already). I’m on the information side of the fence because I think it represents the next step beyond just Content Management. I’m not saying it’s not needed or less important. I’m saying the *focus* on information rather than content is actually a good thing.

    Let’s face it, often Content Management is a thankless job that the accountants think of as a necessary evil. Getting some new tools to play with the information, tinker with it and be able to come up with fresh data is pretty exciting. It’s like going “Green” with your Content you already have. It’s the little things that eventually add up with TCM. When a customer buys a widget, you can use TCM to look up past purchases and suggest the customer also buy a sprocket. Automate form processing and your 5 day process now just takes 5 hours. There were several examples of this at the keynote.

    The thing that I love about all this, is that effectively using TCM to your advantage generates some great metrics. It’s extremely easy to quantify the results into something you can show to your boss and get that pat on the back and hopefully a fat bonus.

    That’s at least how I’m seeing things. Whenever I talk to others about our Documentum strategy, I focus on the opportunity to not just store away our content, but what could we with it to help the company — and not just the bottom line. I’m also looking to help co-workers make their lives easier. (Helping them ends up helping myself in the long run.) Mark may need to articulate the message better into “The Vision”. The new Flex UI is already going to make the audience sit up and go “Cool”, but I’d love something next year to be shown that goes through our existing information shows us a new revenue stream. That would make me stand up and and say, “Damn!”

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  2. Not sure I agree. In fact, I am pretty sure I don’t. I need to let it simmer though. I will say that you have the makings of a good blogger though. 🙂

    -Pie

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  3. Dave has a mildly interesting post there. I’m sharing because I’ll let people judge for themselves, but he is talking more about categories of applications, not so much on information v. content.

    I do like the marketing spin that Dave employs. It is his job however, so it doesn’t bother me much. I tend to read everything with a critical eye in that regard.

    -Pie

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  4. sinnema313 says:

    I was referring to the following:
    “The word “information” is increasingly being used as a unifying term to describe both data and content (aka, unstructured data)”.

    I haven’t talked to Mark Lewis about this (or ever, for that matter), but it is conceivable that Mark uses the word ‘information’ instead of ‘content’ because he also wants to include (semi-) structured data. With Documentum becoming ever more XML friendly, that’s not too far fetched, I guess.

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  5. I talked to him about it and he does it for that reason, and because it ties into the the whole EMC strategy.

    My major issue with Mark’s approach is that when I, and most people, go to see Mark talk, we are mostly focused on traditional content. It doesn’t mean we don’t deal with structured data, I know I do, but that I want to know how Documentum is going to be helping with all that unstructured stuff.

    -Pie

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  6. janiceenberg says:

    I’m new here on the forum, found it by searching google. I look forward to chatting about various topics with all of you.

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