EMC and Mark Lewis’ Focus on Return on Information


In my previous post, I shared a copy of Mark Lewis’ CMA keynote presentation from EMC World 2009. It made me realize that I needed to crank out this post on EMC’s vision and Mark Lewis’ delivery of that vision. This is going to be a little devoid of facts for a couple of reasons.  One is that the raw facts are captured in the presentation, SlideShare and YouTube, and in my notes. The second is that no vision was delivered at EMC World!!!

The Missing Vision

This was a problem last year, but when you went to a lot of sessions, you started to get a feel for where things were headed.  This year, no such luck.  Every presentation went very vague when talking about dates and features after 2009.  D7 was pushed out to 2010 and everyone tossed in a few extra qualifiers when talking about the future.

One comment I heard was that customers had pushed-back on the rapid version releases and low service pack count.  D6 only had one service pack before D6.5 was released. I concur with that feedback to some extent as I won’t let my clients deploy until that first service pack hits, and I know practioners that prefer to wait until the second service pack.  D6.5 felt more like a service pack than a major release from a functionality/architecture stability standpoint.  Yes, they added High-Volume Server, but that could easily just been labeled sp2.

Of course lots of releases also means lots of certifications to be renewed with each new release of the product. That is no small matter.

It felt bigger than that.  It was as if the Documentum ocean liner was changing course and they weren’t sure of their final direction. Rather than guess, they told you about the great shuffleboard tournament on the Aloha deck. I hate shuffleboard.

Marks’s focus was Return on Information.  It was a five-prong approach focusing on Compliance, Composition (Configure not Code), Customer-Centric Applications, Collaboration, and Cloud Computing. You can refer to my notes or to my article, Field Notes: EMC World 2009 in Summary, that I wrote for CMS Wire for more details. The point was getting return on your investment/information today, not what you can do in a year.  It was a shuffleboard tourney.

There was ONE nugget of future information in the presentation, and that was the Master Content Management item on slide 26. It is in the part where Mark is talking about Virtual Information Management. It sounded a little like Skynet to me and was just mentioned, not elaborated upon. Sounds like EMC wants to rule all the content, even if it doesn’t control all of it in Documentum.  That might have been a vision, but it was just three words.

Candy and Aspirin

I was talking to Cheryl McKinnon of Open Text about a month ago.  She was telling me about their Enterprise 2.0 strategy that is marketed under the name Bloom.  It is a good concept, nothing super innovative yet as the key components aren’t due for release for another month, but it was a refreshing message to hear from an ECM vendor.

The key concept we discussed was Candy and Aspirin.  Her colleague, Bill Forquer, described it best as, that balance of the attractive things that people want, with the necessary risk reducers that they need.

Cheryl told me how Open Text had all the Aspirin products that people need ready to deliver (like EMC), but was making a point to talk about and develop the Candy that people want. The recession won’t last forever and the market will shift.  Those that have their Candy dishes full will be in good shape.

I think I’d like to know that there was some Candy on the way from EMC.  The Aspirin is there, with more on the way as the SourceOne suite grows.  CenterStage is nice, but it is taking a long time so my excitement dwindles with every passing month.  The potential of a mobile CenterStage is also nice, but like the core product, it doesn’t feel real and it isn’t the primary message from EMC. Oh, Mark talked about it in his keynote, but it was about delivery, not about being social.

A Note to Mark Lewis

The deficit of strategy aside, I do want to say that Mark Lewis gave the best presentation I had ever seen him give. I’ve been critical in the past of his delivery.  Maybe he was off his game before or maybe he has gotten better. Regardless, given the material he was presenting, I was surprisingly engaged for most of the presentation.  I wasn’t excited or sucked into the presentation, but that was the material’s fault, not Mark’s.

I’m not sure if I specifically said this to Mark when I spoke to him later, but I will now…

Mark, thank you for making your keynote enjoyable and please keep doing whatever it is that you did to improve your style, even if it was just getting more sleep.  Your joke delivery needs work, or maybe the jokes themselves, but that isn’t something I expect from you. I expect you to make me excited to be there, to be working in our industry, and to be using your product. Given the message that was being delivered, you did an admirable job.

Now, about that message…

…Maybe EMC should just buy Jive and give us Candy from their dish.

14 thoughts on “EMC and Mark Lewis’ Focus on Return on Information

  1. From my perspective I am a bit more positive. I think it is more than just CenterStage that is on the positive side. On the client side both TaskSpace and MediaWorkSpace are modern and cool clients. Sure MediaWorkSpace isn’t really useful until the next SP but TaskSpace is there already with integrated Flex-based BAM dashboards. I have no personal experience from the WCM-side but to me it has also got a much needed overhaul with new easier-to-use clients. I happen to think that EMC is doing most of the things right although a bit late. Their XML technologies is both powerful and also has a lot of new things coming with XProc Engine, Xproc designer, XML Diff, Forms Engine etc. Finally they have lifted the lid off their search technologies and that appraoch is just right from a technology perspective but is also linked to actually improving the user experience through search features in CenterStage.

    My feeling around D7 is the same as yous…that would have been nice to see in Q4. On the other hand I feel that from a number of products a number of good new features will be delivered through SP2 and SP3 which is in the same time frame as the orginal D7 schedule.

    So I think that EMC is actually putting up more candy than anyone could have forseen when I went to my first EMC World in 2006.

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  2. EMC user interfaces look cool but are hardcoded in FLEX. That means a lot of unmanageable customization coming your way. XML does not do much practical for a user so it does not impress me. What makes sense is the merging of Inbound, Process, Outbound domains but they are still different technologies under the cover and hard to handle. Basically EMC does now what we did in 2001 with Papyrus.

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    • Chris Campbell says:

      Good to see a post offering a different viewpoint. I disagree with some points, but somewhat agree on the processing thought.

      First, not all the user interfaces are built in FLEX, but there is a movement towards using it as a “standard”. To say that they are hardcoded, suggesting it is in”FLEX”able is a misnomer. I’ll agree that WDK is an unmanageable mess. That’s just my opinion. However, since the FLEX UI is based on leveraging DFS to handle all the content server talk, making your own FLEX based application would be fairly easy to do. If it is unmanageable, then that’s your fault for not knowing how to code properly. It’s a bit early though since officially only MWS is using FLEX as a released product, so let’s reserve judgement on that front. Besides, WDK is still going to be around for a bit longer and is going to be supported.

      I do have a question about your XML statement that it “does not do much practical for a user”. If I’m the end user staring at a web page with a form on it, I could see your point. I’m not seeing any obvious XML code staring at me, it’s all behind the scenes so why should I care from the user stand-point? XML in all of it’s practical uses in various technologies is a fantasic format especially when trying to make a document more universal.

      I completely agree with your statement on the underlying communication between the various products. I think most of that originates from EMC’s past buying sprees and how slow they have been to unify the product line. Part of it also has to do with changing technology and just plain not keeping up with everyone else. I’ve seen improvements in this area, but wish that progress was faster.

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  3. What I meant was simply that from my perspective EMC is doing this right both on the client side and on the repository/infrastructure side. It used to be only on the repository side.

    The clients are not all based in FLEX. MediaWorkSpace, TaskSpace and WebPubliser is. Centerstage is based on ExtJS instead. In addition to that there are My Documentum for the Desktop (old FileSharing Services and MyDocumentum Off-line which I think are great complements to web-based clients. That also resembles what Alfresco has in terms of light-weight access to the repository through Windows Explorer/Mac Finder although the EMC one requires a small installer.

    MediaWorkSpace will have it is own SDK called MediaWorkSpace Action Framework coming soon in CR and GA Q4 2009. That allows you to to pre- and post processing, extend MWS logic as well as add or change UI components in MWS. All of that is done on top of a service-oriented architecture where you have access to core Documentum Foundation Services (DFS) the one done for the default MWS called MWS Services and abiity to create your own services.

    I realise that it does not support the same way of customisations as in WDK but going for “configure more – code less” isn’t that bad I think. CenterStage is designed the same way but there you have widgets to control which then also relies on services specific to the CenterStage while also utilising DFS. Customisations work the same in the BOF layer so all that power remains, To me this leads to growing set of services that you can either use to extend existing clients or rather easy crate new composite ones. Unless you have millions invested in WDK customisation this has be a good thing. On the other hand sooner or later all clients need a rewrite and more and more companies will see a need to go towards more moderna clients to increase productivity and to be able to attract younger people who expect nice RIA interfaces.

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  4. On the references to WCM, and caveated that this is second hand info, some old colleagues of mine just had an EMC supported bake off between WebPublisher and the open source CMS Drupal for an ‘intranet’ scenario. Drupal won. The EMC (pre-sales) tech guy was apparently very good, and showed how some simple customisation could make things much easier for end users to submit content, but it still required something like six steps even with these customisations (or maybe they were configurations of the WebPublisher interfaces ?) In the end when an organisation that has made a massive investment in Documentum and eRoom Enteprise, for everyting from DAM, to BPM etc, if it even feels it has to look else where for an intranet CMS, hasn’t WebPublisher failed miserably ?

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  5. I don’t want to end up substituting EMC Marketing here 🙂 but I want to keep the discussion for the sake of my own personal learning…

    Having said that I think the whole thing is just a matter of approach. We all know that there are now silver bullets for anything particular let alone the overall solution. Still from my Knowledge Management-perspective I like the ECM approach where all parts of our system can be integrated (and has been done somewhere on the planet already). That often means that individual pieces are more complicated and less aligned to supporting a particular need “best in the market”. I agree that Documentum has never been the coolest and most flexible way to deploy a CMS for a website or an intranet – its strenght has been in the architecture below. This is also seen in Gartner (and other) reports about WCM where there are other agile systems often written in PHP or other scripting languages that provide a fast way to set up your website. However, I think the WebPublsher product has been redesigned in a good way and is something different from a few years ago. Add the XML-architecture and Dynamic Delivery Services and the solutions is quite compelling I think.

    So what EMC needs to do is be show how customers can leverage the Documentum platform to also to corporate intranets as well as other solutions represented by CenterStage, TaskSpace, MediaWorkSpace and other client technologies focused on supporting different use cases. I hope we can try IDSx/DDS in our upcoming project…I am happy to share our experiences from that…

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    • Alexandra, I think you hit the nail on the head. Documentum as a WCM system doesn’t hit its value prop until you start dealing with scale and the interactivity of the content. Even then, using a combination of Site Caching Services and Web Services, you can push content to a specialized WCM system.

      For my company, Documentum is not feasible as a WCM system. For some of my clients, it is feasible. It all depends on the complexity and scaling. EMC could do a better job of selling this and demonstrating this, but they will never beat the smaller, more flexible WCM systems, in a lot of environments.

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    • Chris Campbell says:

      This is a reply both to your comment and Jed’s above. To Jed, my reply is that I feel your pain overall, but would be curious as to precisly when this “head-to-head” took place. Last year? Last month? This is mostly to gauge what feature sets in each product were run against each other. Also, if such a test was run in-house is actually a good sign. It means that they are looking at competitor’s products and doing some gap analysis. If true, let’s hope the team does something with that information.

      To AL and PIE: I feel like I’m in Bizzaro World, because I left the conference feeling more down on CenterStage and a lot more positive on Web Publisher and MWS. Personally, I think CenterStage development is taking much, much too long and for my own personal needs, is going to lack some needed functionality in the first release. Conversely, the Interactive Products are really starting to take off and to me the most exciting news (which to most people is boring but has the largest implications) is the rebuilt Site Caching Services now known as IDS. That is a monumental improvement. (Oh, if you only knew the threading concurrency issues that I have in SCS…)

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      • Hmm…interesting…when I think about it I do agree. There seemed to much more happening with MWS and Web Publisher (+Contributor) than on CenterStage which should have been released in 1.0 by know. Especially what I saw i MWS made it much more of an DAM Light than I had expected. Sure the roadmap for CenterStage looks real nice but some of these scheduled features would actually make sense to have in ver 1.0 or 1.1. Good to know hear about IDS…even though I have never used the product before it look way different than people had described SCS to me before…

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  6. Chris Campbell says:

    Finally, a few quick comments to the original blog posting. I got a totally different view point on the keynote speech. Instead of the metaphor of having a ship not knowing where to steer, I saw it more of as a “fireside chat”. There are a lot of companies that are confused and don’t know what direction they want to take themselves. Rather than adding to the cacophony of product announcements and new directions, Mark took a more calming approach. It’s if he said, “Look, it’s a mess out there and the last thing you need is Yet Another Whizbang Solution. You don’t have the money to spend for it anyway, so instead here’s what we’re doing to improve what you already have and assure you that your investment in us wasn’t wasted.”

    I would have been concerned, perhaps a little miffed, if a bunch of new product announcements had been made. Releases have already slipped on products announced last year, so it’s good that they didn’t add to the mess. Personally, I need them to focus on improving what’s already out there and improving on release times.

    Last thing: service packs. In the days of 4.x and prior to 5.3 SP4, I waited until I was absolutely sure the SP would work. It seemed like for every two bugs fixed, something else would break because of the fix. Since since SP5, I’ve noticed a huge quality improvement. They could always slip and go back to their old ways, but when 6.5 SP2 comes out, I expect to put it into production within a month or two.

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    • Chris, I think I am more on your side in terms of the feeling after the keynote. Besides the fact that Mark was more engaging than I have ever seen him I like most of the message coming out of EMC CMA now.

      When I comes to services packs I tend to agree, Our last upgrade to D6.5 went rather seamless and I hope our upcoming upgrade (next week) to SP1 will go just fine.

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    • I’m glad to hear that you find recent service packs to have the quality you’ve expected all along, Chris. We’re proud of the forthcoming SP2 for 6.5, and there are plans to rev the developer edition for SP2, too. (Still trying to add Linux to the mix, there.)

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    • I’m mixed here. I expect the “all is well” part of a keynote. That was great. I just like to know where they are going. I don’t always expect product announcements, but would like to hear what EMC’s vision is for where things are going. I want to know that they are looking ahead and that in two years, we won’t be looking around wondering what happened.

      Not saying that it will occur, just want to that things are moving towards a direction and not just forward. My ship changing course metaphor is more of what I derive during the rest of the conference and “explains” why there was no vision in the keynote.

      The alternative, that there is no vision, is not a good one.

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