Every now and then, I read a post/article/tweet that makes me slam my head against the nearest hard surface. The culprit this time was an article titled Cloud Content Management to Challenge ECM?
I saw the title and was intrigued. I then read it and realized that the author had started falling for some market speak. I quickly determined that the fault was not completely with the author. Yes, they had fallen under the spell of some marketing and should have been strong enough to resist. The real villian here? Box.
Remove the Cloud
Okay, lets think this through, logically. First, let’s look at Box’s definition of Cloud Content Management. When you look at it, you see them describing a SaaS offering. More importantly, you are seeing them talk about the advantages of hosting it on the internet as opposed to your server room.
What we are seeing is a change in platform, not actually a change in the solution. (Well, they talk about that some, but hold on a second.) When we talk about ECM, we talk about solving problems and making content available throughout the organization. The Enterprise signifies that we are dealing with all of our content, not just images or the content from the finance department.
When you go to the cloud, you remove the firewall headaches and the scaling headaches and make them someone else’s problem. You are still solving the same problem of managing your content. You still have to manage security by creating accounts.
When we started consolidating servers and placing them into server rooms instead of in people’s offices back in the 90s, we didn’t rename anything. The applications and the problems they were solving were exactly the same.
What is changing is the delivery model. SpringCM calls it right when they say they provide a SaaS ECM Platform. PERFECT! A Cloud ECM Platform would also work as a title, though a little less specific than SaaS. You are qualifying ECM, not “Content” or the “Content Management”.
The platform should not be in the description. When was the last time you saw Windows Content Management or UNIX Content Management? How about LAN Content Management or WAN Content Management?
Note that Box is pitching themselves more like Google Docs than SpringCM, but you will notice that Google Docs doesn’t throw hype terms around. (Aside from “Google”) Box’s pitch actually describes Omnipresent Content Management to some degree, though it is a stepping stone due to constraints imposed by technology.
That said, the article itself cared less about the “Cloud” and focused on the interface.
The Cloud Doesn’t Make the Interface
This is where I blame the author of the article. He does makes a very good point about the standard ECM interfaces:
arcane user interfaces and culture of exclusion that’s associated with older software. ECM has this tendency to lock everything away in its place, and the Web is opening up news ways of working with content that allows us to view and interact with it in a collaborative, constantly refreshed context.
The solution isn’t the cloud. The solution is creating new interfaces. It is leveraging Enterprise 2.0 solutions. It is being created by independent vendors that hope to leverage CMIS to create new, powerful, universal clients for ECM systems.
The web is a great proving ground for the interface technology, but it can live outside of the Internet. Just because you have only seen a feature on the web doesn’t mean it can’t be part of a non-Internet solution. That is one thing the ECM industry has to work on. Separate the applications from the platform and allow the interfaces to evolve more rapidly in response to the changing environment.
The interface may be sweet, but it is actually not a feature of cloud computing. It is a result of clever developers and product managers that have either figured-out what users want, or got lucky.
Let’s keep one thing in mind, many organizations like their firewalls right now because security in the wilds of the Internet has too many unknowns. Check-out this summary of some of the current trends on ECM in the Cloud over at CMS Wire.
To Sum Up
I’ll put it simply. Anyone that buys into the term “Cloud Content Management” probably doesn’t know the space. I understand vendors want to create the next catchy term and make a mark. We don’t have to play along.
If you try and use the term in a conversation with me, be prepared for a million questions. You will have to defend that term to the death. I will spare employees of Box that have no choice, but anyone else is fair game.
Box’s offering looks neat. They have a good vision. Just don’t call it Cloud Content Management.