Happy New Year Everyone! It has been a while since my last post. Things have been returning to normal and I took some time off during the holiday season to hang out with my wife and boys. Upon returning to work, there was the normal small post-holiday backlog accompanied by the chaos that is the Presidential Inauguration. I understand that it is an important event in American history, but the loss in productivity for what is essentially Obama’s first day of work is staggering.
Maybe I should request a parade on my first day of work the next time I decide to start interviewing for a job.
In the midst of all this, on Wednesday evening I had quite an enjoyable evening at the monthly Web Content Mavens event here in DC. It was, as always, a fun time talking to various people about their challenges implementing WCM and ECM systems. I even ran into a few Documentum people. The highlight of the night was listening to, and talking with, Tony Byrne, founder of CMS Watch.
I like Tony, and not just because he has bought me a beverage or two in the past. Tony doesn’t mince words. He tells his honest opinion in his drive to educate people on the world of ECM. Previously, he had spoken to the Mavens on Social Media, but tonight was focused on the Web Content Management (WCM) marketplace as it stands right now.
Picking on the Big Guys
Tony is an equal opportunity critic. After giving a quick breakdown of the market players, he talked briefly about the big WCM players, including EMC. He didn’t focus on many of the positive things, but you can go to their individual web sites for that information.
- EMC: Documentum’s WCM product has suffered for years from their lack of understanding of the WCM market. I think they are improving and have some nice features for Web 2.0 support, but time will tell. I have never been really impressed by the system in the past.
- Interwoven: They deliver great features but at their core is some really old technology.
- Vignette: A decent solution that I have used a few times. I see them entering a death spiral now though. Tony described them as that really old guy on life support that has enough money to live forever. Of course, they just may get bought at the rate that their stock price is dropping.
- IBM: Tony doesn’t think that IBM has any faith in their solution, Lotus WCM. To be honest with you, I think understanding anything IBM does in the ECM space is a challenge and the effort may not even be worthwhile.
- Open Text: Tony’s discussion about RedDot was one of the most entertaining parts of the evening. He likened Open Text’s products to the Brady Bunch, with RedDot being the surly kid in the basement. It is as if they don’t know what to do with them. Tony wouldn’t be surprised if they bought a WCM vendor. Considering their track record, I wouldn’t surprised if they bought one or two with a social media company thrown in for good measure.
- Microsoft: SharePoint??? Tony calls it a mid-market solution and an after-thought. I’m there with him.
To be fair, Tony believes that every solution is perfect for some organization. He even said later that years from now, Vignette will still be out there, regardless of what this years brings for them. It isn’t about which WCM system is the best overall, but the one that is right for YOU. When Tony points out a flaw in a product, that doesn’t mean that it is a bad product or that there are no happy customers. It just means that it isn’t perfect.
Of course, there is always the question of how long a system has to go to become perfect, but that is something for another day.
What WCM Needs to be Doing and What It Sucks At
This is a quick little list of things that WCM systems need to be doing these days. If your system isn’t doing this, they are falling behind.
- Friendly URLs: This doesn’t mean short, thought it doesn’t rule it out. This means readable. The names should be automatically generated base upon properties.
- Repository Search: This is a no-brainer to me, but not to all of the smaller vendors. This isn’t just full-text, but meta-data as well, if not primarily.
- Dependency Tracking: If you change one component of a website, how widespread is the change? What is the impact? What will it look like?
- Better System Management: Need to be able to effectively manage the WCM system. This doesn’t mean 10 million options. Over-engineering can be just as bad if users can’t use the system.
- Better Management Metrics: Reports should tell you how the system is being used. The data is usually there, but it should be surfaced for the non-IT people.
The more entertaining list was what most vendors still suck at. One is the user interface. Tony believes the interface should be configurable. Nobody is going to design a system that will work for the Web people at a bank, a non-profit, and a retail chain. They think differently and being able to modify the UI to fit how the users think is useful. Tony then got into a point that I think is valid, but maybe a little over stressed judging by the crowd’s reaction. Java and the newer Flex UI’s are useful and powerful. They are also locked-down and don’t have all of the accessibility you want in a WCM system. Tony doesn’t like them for that reason.
I’m torn on the UI question. I like the look of some of the Flex interfaces. Of course, I’ve suffered through a few bad interfaces over the years and I’ve probably set the bar far too low. I’m torn on the issue at this point, so chime in if you have an opinion.
Open Source and Cannibalization
These are two random things that were discussed that I wanted to share as they really made me think.
Tony spent a fair amount of time on the question of Open Source. He said some nice things as a whole. He commented that it isn’t free, just a different business model. In fact, he has observed that the Open Source products are starting to have the same spectrum of vendors/products as their commercial counterparts. Tony thinks that soon that Open Source will cease to be its own category in the WCM world, if not already.
With money getting tighter this year from this recession thing that people are talking about, Vendors are looking to tighten their belts. Tony thinks that the WCM space will have a decent year. I think that all ECM solutions should weather things well as the ROI, at least the perceived ones, are well discussed. Unfortunately, our opinions on this don’t matter as we aren’t the vendors, or stockholders, that want better balance sheets. Tony predicts that the WCM vendors (and through extrapolation, most IT vendors) will start to cannibalize their partner channel.
What does that mean?
It means that they may try and do more of the services themselves. This may mean cutting the partners out of the process. It may also mean that they will start hiring good consultants, even the ones their partner’s payroll. It won’t apply to all vendors, but it bears watching so nobody is taken by surprise.