A few weeks ago, I talked about the Future of Content Management and then a week ago I talked about What ECM Needs to be Today. I wanted to continue the thought process and talk about what clients need from their ECM vendors today. It isn’t just new features or learning how awesome they are compared to other vendors. What most clients need is help getting the most from their system, today. The twist is, the systems out there are almost never the latest version.
I’m going to use EMC and their Documentum suite as an example. The needs of the users are the same across all products, so don’t assume that these needs are specific to EMC.
A Well Timed Lunch
I met with a long-time Documentum professional for lunch last week. Kevin has been working with Documentum as an implementer since the old EDMS 98 days. Like Johnny and myself, he has seen the product, and the community, evolve quite a bit. For the most part, the changes have been for the best, but with change comes a problem…upgrading.
This was at the heart of our conversation.
I live in the Washington, DC area. It goes without saying that a large number of my clients over the years have been government clients. Most of them have two things in common, a rigorous project methodology and a need for Records Management. There are several impacts to the average project because of this:
- Hot Fixes Don’t Get Deployed: For many systems, it is too much work to do a release for a hot fix. With components for a release being locked down a months before deployment, there isn’t a lot of flexibility for last minute changes. Work-arounds are how you survive until a proper release can be put together.
- Always a Version Behind: My two longest running projects are using versions 5.3sp5 and 6.0sp1. Why? Because those were the latest releases that we could get into the development cycle in time to adequately test and document everything. One project has been on a baseline freeze for over a year and since I always wait for one service pack before going live, it is sitting at 5.3.
- Can’t Upgrade Without the Certification: Necessary or not, federal agencies using RM won’t upgrade their Documentum version until the newer version has the DoD 5015.02 certification. Until the scheduled tests in October, Documentum platforms will be sitting on version 6.0.
- Sell the Upgrade: Many clients won’t let you upgrade their system unless you can make a sound business argument as to why they should upgrade. They know that upgrades entail risk, so they what to be sold on the upgrade.
New rollouts occur on the newer versions of a product, but upgrades are hard to come by for the application. This is true in some large commercial clients that I have had as well. All those customizations to be re-tested and a new architecture needs to be learned…it is a lot of work when you are also trying to roll-out new business applications.
Think about this for a second. I know all the bonuses of moving to 6.5 and am a proponent of staying current, yet I haven’t gotten any clients to upgrade yet because of the non-technical effort involved. My only 6.5 clients are those with new installations.
Bring Back the User Presentation
Back to Kevin. I was talking to him about the different EMC events that we attend. It seems that all of the presentations that we see talk about the new, or upcoming, capabilities. These are important, but not what is needed for the day-to-day job with which most of us are dealing.
Here is what the users, including myself, need from our vendors from an educational standpoint:
- Single Day/Single Track User Group Meetings
- One presentation on a new product
- Maybe one presentation/keynote on company/product direction.
- Two or more presentations from clients/partners talking about something they did and how they did it.
- Multi Day/Multi Track Conference (Momentum/EMC World)
- A keynote sharing the vision of the product direction and ECM industry
- One presentation per product-line outlining the new and upcoming features (booths can handle the details)
- One presentation per new product/acquisition introducing the product. Once again the booths can supplement the information
- How-to presentations from the vendor and partners (Like Mike’s and Ed’s presentations)
- Case studies given by clients sharing the challenges and, more importantly, how those challenges were overcome
The community needs to see what people are doing and have done. That is what is really missing these days. In a comment addressing this topic in regards to the last EMC World, Whitney Tidmarsh said…
We’ve heard our customers and partners ask for better content and more inside information; plus survey ratings for customer sessions has been surprisingly low.
Why are those ratings low? Most likely because the client representatives may not be the best presenters. Pair them up with someone from EMC to help with the material and to work with them before they give the presentation.
There is a lot that can be done. Hopefully we’ll see some it in the near future.