ECM Industry Goals: Move the ECM Industry Forward


I started this on Monday discussing the importance of goals in general, using the setting of goals for yourself as a starting point.  The same logic applies to a company, and its industry, as well.

Think about it, why is a company in business?  Yes, to make money, but that goal will only get you so far, just ask the gnomes.  You have to have something to offer and the ability to convince your customers that you can deliver and still be around in the future.

So in order to inspire your employees and your customers, you create a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).  For example, maybe you want to create the market leading ECM solution.  Ten years ago, that was a challenge.  No one company had all the capabilities in house and the leadership of the market was in flux.  Now, to hit the same goal, you just take aim at the big boys and go forward.

But what does that really get you?  Are you leading or just following the trail already blazed?

What Do You Give the Person that Have Everything?

Out there in the greater US, there was a newspaper organization that set an impressive BHAG in the 90s.  They wanted to own advertising in their market.  For a large market, that is a heck of a goal, especially with the advent of more national sources moving into the region.

Well, a funny thing happened, they achieved their goal.  It was a most impressive achievement.  The question then became, “What now?”

That is a dilemma that companies face when they become successful, how do you define the next step?  Trying to maintain leadership for the sake of maintaining leadership will only leave you reacting to the competition.  That very process cedes the leadership position to other companies.

If you don’t have a destination, how can you lead anyone anywhere?

What is Next for the ECM Guys?

So the question is, what is next for the large ECM vendors?  They have big honking platforms that can do everything (if you know where to look) and are constantly comparing themselves to each other.

At the same time, they are flirting with Microsoft because they see a product and a company that may not have a vision for the future, but does have a vision for the knowledge worker’s desktop of today.  They are flirting because they are hoping to buy time for SharePoint to become the next Lotus Notes and collapse under its own weight, or become inspired to be the next big thing.

The future is closer than you think.  The industry needs a vision, something to aim for collectively.  This is a call to the vendors to articulate a vision that we can identify with and see progress against.

This is a question for all of the vendors and the industry as a whole.  If you think that any company in the industry is immune from what I am saying here, then share.

People need to know.

After all, if you don’t know what you want to be in 5-10 years that is more than what you are now, are you a company in which I want to invest my company’s future?

Not a rhetorical question.

A Starting Point

We have talked to death about what ECM means.  We are pretty much working on the nitty-gritty details now.  We all know the WHAT.  It is time to look at the HOW.

How should people be interacting with their content in 5-10 years?  We know there will be more content, so let the engineers keep working.  The key is how will workers interact?

I’m telling you that we’ll be using our smart phones and tablets more.  We’ll be wireless and not always on our network.  That is obvious.

Forget the “cloud” and all the hype.  If a vision depends upon a cloud, that is pandering.  The cloud is a tool, a platform.  A vision may leverage the cloud, but it shouldn’t be central.

I wrote about Omnipresent Content Management (OCM) a while back.  The term is a little pretentious, but it had the virtue of being new, unclaimed, and applicable.  We might not be there in 10 years, but pick a point along the way.

The ECM vendors need to think about how to achieve that vision, or create their own vision that has power and evokes a new way of solving problems.  I listed three things, Storage, Identity Management, and Tagging as things needed for that future.  The middle item will not go away, the others will change as the future and visions evolve.

Pick a vision.

Define the vision clearly.

Map a path towards achieving that vision.

Share the vision.

After all of that, start work.  Don’t worry if we are following you.  If it is a good vision, and we believe you can get us there, we’ll follow.

Just lead for a change.

[Note: I said it in the post, this applies to all the vendors.  I’m not just saying that.  Right now, the grass doesn’t look greener on the other side.]

3 thoughts on “ECM Industry Goals: Move the ECM Industry Forward

  1. Marko Sillanpää says:

    Agreed, we need to look towards a vision but we need to look at it from an end user perspective. The problem is that the average end user still doesn’t know what ECM means.

    The one thing I’d love to see from Microsoft is admitting that they don’t understand the real content problem. iTunes lead management of audio and video on the desktop and iLife did the same for photos. But my documents at home are still completely out of control.

    Like many I’ve got a couple of PCs at home with several USB drives, my content problem is HUGE. But what can I manage this problem with? Directory structures and file names.

    Until we come up with a way to easily manage our small collections of content at home, how we manage content at work will always appear to be magic. Until the end user understands the problem, ECM will continue to change directions.

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