What Users Need from ECM Vendors

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.image

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.

6 thoughts on “What Users Need from ECM Vendors

  1. Brian Jenks says:

    In regards to your comment about having one day/one track events, The EMC CMA organization does sponsor regional user groups. While they are not in every location around North America, let alone the world, many of the major cities in the US are covered and hold 2-4 meetings per year. The user groups typically have 1-2 EMC presenters speak about new products, 1-2 customer presentations & 1-2 partners speak about real world implemented solutions. At the moment there are several scheduled or being planned right now including:

    Twin Cities (Minneapolis) – 17 Sept –

    Mid West (Chicago) – 18 Sept –

    Bay Area (Pleasanton) – 23 Sept –

    Northeast (NYC) – 19 Oct –

    Virginia/Carolinas (Raleigh) – 22 Oct –

    Northeast (Hopkinton) – 27 Oct –

    Southeast (Atlanta) – 29 Oct –

    Mid-Atlantic (Philly) – Dec 1 –

    Buried deep at EMC.com is the User Group web site with more info.


    • Thank you for sharing this information. Many Documentum users will find it quite useful. I wasn’t addressing the user groups in this post because they are as much a factor of the community involvement than anything else.

      I attend the local group, and have attended various other groups as well. They vary in format quite a bit. I can tell you from experience that not all of them follow the format you describe. They are also “run” by users, but in reality the ones I have attended are organized by partners in conjunction with EMC. That is fine, but EMC needs to get their sales staff to reach out to their clients to increase participation, both as presenters and attendees.


  2. Pie,

    In the highly regulated industries like the pharmaceutical industry , an upgrade requires the recertification of the Documentum system as well as all the integration point, this certification process is quite costly and time consuming (according to an old client, it can exceed two Million USD and 8 months), they always demanded “Safe Harbor” release with these customers in mind.

    You can see the Documentum new roll-out schedule that was introduced with D6 is impossible to work for them.



    • Walid, thanks. I remember the Pharma industry also being a tough place to upgrade for that very reason. Thanks for giving the recertification efforts. I had almost blocked that from my mind.


  3. Pie,

    I would agree that getting customers to stay current on upgrades is nearly impossible, especially in more tightly regulated industries, such as Financial Services and Government. We have found that educating our customers better on the operational value and revenue impact associated with new features & functionality has increased their desire to stay current and provided the internal justification for the extra expense.
    Concerning your second point – bringing back the user presentation – we have had great success through both online and in-person peer networking and educational events, such as our Regional User Groups and our Annual User Conference. All our events follow the same format of short intro/key note, user/vendor co-presented material and Q&A followed by networking time. What we have found is that users end up exchanging a lot of best practices/tips & tricks online after getting to know each other at the live events.



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