Vision, Strategy, Tactics…1 Out of 3 for EMC

I came to EMC World with a few goals, foremost of which was to see if EMC had a vision for Content Management.  Ten years ago, the vision was ECM.  That vision drove the industry for a decade.  Now people are looking around and asking what is next.  They are looking to the leaders in the industry for answers.

EMC had no answers to give, at least publicly.

I talked to a LOT of people all week.  I talked to customers, partners, and employees of EMC.  I bounced ideas, I listened to impressions, and I sought to make sure that what I saw, or thought I saw, wasn’t just me…

…and it wasn’t.  Not by a long-shot.

I apologize for the length of this post, but it all needs to be presented together.

The Mark Lewis Keynote

This was the beginning of getting an answer, of sorts.  It was also the low point.  If you haven’t read them, read my notes and/or my article for CMS Wire.  While I tried to keep those writings impartial, they will convey the facts of what was presented.

What was presented was a new name and a new way to organize the products.  It was all logical and well thought out.  Agree or not on the new name, Information Intelligence Group (IIG) the old name had to go as it was too narrow in scope.  There were two issues, well three, issues with the keynote.

The first is the same complaint as in the past.  No vision.  How can you lead an industry somewhere when you can’t express what the destination looks like?  Not what you will be delivering to clients in a year, but where you, and the industry, will be in five or more.

Without a destination, how do you know that as you move if you are going forwards or backwards?

To be honest, I am fairly used to not seeing a vision in the keynote.  When people told me that they were shocked, I asked why they thought this year would be any different from past years.

Now for the new concerns….

The shocking bit, issue 2, was where the Content Server, the core platform, was placed in the scheme of things.  It was part of the Intelligent Case Management (xCP) product family.  Let me get this straight, the Content Server exists to serve Case Management?

The message that I, and others, heard as the rationalization for this move is that while you, the EMC customer base, have been doing ECM, what you have really been building is Case Management.

Maybe if there was a solid DAM, WCM, or Collaboration solution from EMC, then we would have been doing more.  I can tell you that while my first ECM project EVER was a Case Management solution, I spent most of the last decade doing content solutions that were not Case Management.

Is EMC selling Enterprise Case Management or Enterprise Content Management?

I’ll come back to that question later.

As for the third issue, Mark had one thing to say about the public cloud, “We’re working on it.”  Not that we are dedicated, investing in, prioritizing, or anything stating that it is in anyway important.  As someone pointed out to me, it seemed to be mentioned as an afterthought.

I’ve never said great things about Mark’s ability to convey excitement regarding ECM.  Mark is much better in a one-on-one conversation…hands-down.

What I learned later is that the message was not just a result of Mark’s communication skills.  It goes deeper…

The Mad Scramble

So, I and a few others tweeted a few thoughts on the keynote, and it caught the attention of the powers that be in the new Information Intelligence Group.  That was perfect as I wanted to talk to them anyway.  I wasn’t going to depend on Mark’s keynote to get the information I wanted.  I gave them the rest of the day to talk me off the ledge, which they did.

I was told repeatedly that Content Management was still important to EMC.  Some implied that I didn’t understand Case Management.  I didn’t take it personally as many don’t know my background.  For a lot of them, I have only existed for 3 years.  That is fine and not an issue.  They also know better now.

I see the value of Case Management.  It is an important solution that can generate a lot of revenue for a company that can deliver.  Deliver is an important word.  That is not a word that you will see in the same sentence as CenterStage, but that is another post.

Let’s assume for a moment that they can deliver.  I saw evidence this week that it is possible, so let’s make that assumption for now.

I was convinced that evening talking to the senior management that xCP and Case Management might not be the whole enchilada and that Content Management was still important.  It was agreed that we would talk more during the week and that I would hold off until posting anything until Thursday.

I wasn’t sold, but I was willingly to give them time in order to learn more.  I had encountered passion for Content Management, and that gave me hope.  Some took it personally that I had taken away the impression that Case Management was being built at the expense of Content Management.

A Step Back

I talked to Ron Miller briefly on Tuesday before heading to the Rick Devenuti’s keynote/talk.  (Rick is the COO of IIG) To be honest, my notes say it all, but before I go into detail, read Ron’s article.  After he talked to me, attended Rick’s speech, and then met with Mark he wrote this article. It is an interesting read.

If you look at the notes, they list 10 items that Gartner says is important for the ECM marketplace.  EMC said they are focusing on items 1 , 4, 6, 7, and 9 (SharePoint), though Rick listed SharePoint as a non-Gartner motivated investment area.

What about items 2 and 3? Well, the third item is Enterprise Information Management which seems to being addressed with the upcoming Informatica partnership, some of the work around xDB,  and the addition of Information into the group name.  While not strong, EIM is present.  As for item number 2, Cloud-based CM, not a word was uttered.

I didn’t think it was possible to go to a tech keynote in 2010 without talking about the cloud.  Even Mark said that they were “working on it”.

I then went to IIG’s “Cloud Computing Roundtable” that afternoon during the last session.  It was a collection of senior Product Line Managers, those managing those cool new product families, talking about the plans for the cloud.  The notes are interesting and set the foundation for the discussion that was truly enlightening.

One important tidbit from the discussion was the following observation, IIG’s current clients are interested in the cloud but they aren’t planning on moving there yet.

Do you want to know why the current clients say that? Simple…because clients that are planning on it are either leaving IIG, I’ve met one myself.  I’ve also met companies that won’t become a client because there is no cloud play and that is part of their long-term strategy.

It is obvious from the “vision” that is presented that Documentum isn’t in the cloud and that it isn’t a priority.  As a result, EMC isn’t even invited to participate in these opportunities, sending another potential client out the door to a company with a story to tell.

Did you know that there is a company out there offering eRoom as a SaaS offering (missed the name)?  Did you know that the panelists were surprised?


They have not even asked themselves what being the first ECM platform running in the cloud with a DoD 5015.2 RM certification might mean to the federal market.  I can tell you.  It means money.  Lot’s of it.

Making an Effort

I will say this, there was a sincere effort to engage with me.  Whitney Tidmarsh, the CMO, took a lot of time to try and understand the concerns that I have raised here.  She explained the why of the messaging.  She actually conceded several points.  Some points are still being discussed, and I’ll cover those in the future as we either reach resolution or agree to disagree.

I talked to them about the lack of vision. I talked about how the goals and moves that had been announced were nice, but they were tactical goals, not a vision.  I asked where did they see themselves in 5 years?  This is a critical question for any company to answer.  There was no good answer.

We discussed how to change the messaging to convey what they were actually trying to communicate.  I lot of good ideas were exchanged.  Of course, until we all see it in writing and hear it from EMC directly and publicly, it is just an exchange of ideas.

There seemed to be an underlying fear of publicly reaching too far or reaching too early.

If there is a good vision, share it. Make everyone follow and play catch-up.  Let people see you make progress to your vision.  Commit so we know you mean it.

Why do I say there is no Strategy?  Simple…a Strategy is designed to help you accomplish your vision/ultimate goal.  Without a Vision, your only strategy is to react, increase revenue, and compete.

That isn’t how you lead.

There Is Hope

So what do I do now?  Well I’m not giving up on EMC…yet.  During all of this, I met with a LOT of EMC employees at all levels that have passion and care about the future of the product.  Many have a vision for Content Management and have some great thoughts on how to get it there.  There have been some losses at EMC in the past year, but there are a lot of smart, dedicated, people left that can make it work if they are allowed to do it.

They can’t get it done without you and me.  What can we do?  There is a lot that we can do to help.  That is a post for next week, but we will need to work together.

I will answer one thing right now…why do I care?

I’m not a customer.  I have no migration project facing me if I abandon EMC.  My ECM industry reputation, while centered on Documentum, is not dependent on me ever working with Documentum again.  My company, while an EMC partner, is not dependent on Documentum for survival, or even success.  The people that work for me have skills beyond Documentum.

I care because I have invested my time and energy in the product and the company as a partner over the past 10+ years.  I care because I want my clients, past and present, to succeed.  I care because I hate to see potential wasted.

Ask anyone that talked to me this week.  This week was a tough one on me. I probably care too much about this.  I could walk away and be fine.

I just can’t.

That said, I’m not going to bet my career, or my company’s future, on EMC finally figuring things two years too late. My clients want a Content Management system/platform. I need partners that can provide me with a Content Management platform on which I can build solutions, of all types.

I’m going to fight to save IIG from itself, but only because it isn’t too late.

That said, the window is closing.  The jackals are closer than IIG thinks.  The new players are young, hungry, and most importantly, they have a vision.

17 thoughts on “Vision, Strategy, Tactics…1 Out of 3 for EMC

  1. Lee Smith says:

    I’ll need to post a longer response but my experience leads me to agree with a lot of point, I believe I know the reason why this shift to a vertical focus but the platform should remain as a revenue stream.

    Thanks for all the posts from Boston, would be great if you could get to Lisbon, I’ll be there I expect.


  2. Thank you for your insight and passion for ECM. I am in the scary position as a Documentum customer. I can’t seem to get answers on CenterStage. It seems to have potential but they seem to be at a loss what to do with it or even to say what it is.
    I look forrward to what happens over the next several months. If I can help in any way, I would be happy to.


  3. I share the same thoughts and somehow I’ glad to see that are indeed validated in various “geographies”. It would be crazy to give up my 6 years of dctm yet, I’m trying to add my value to what we have but not assume we will have much more to build on. Thanks for the post!


  4. Well written as ever sir ! I hope they take some notice of your polite, and yet plainly spoken message.

    Keep up the good working, keeping them on the straight and narrow.


  5. Chris Campbell says:

    I can speak as a customer, from my own little myopic viewpoint. Laurence and I talked at the conference about this topic (among other things). I have a slightly different take on the vision than he does. Where I work in the financial world, things haven’t been quite so rosy the past 18 months. My company is doing just fine, but just like everyone in the sector has done, we’ve been more cautious and looking at everything a bit closer than we did before.

    There has always been a cyclical trend of self-reinvestment in every industry and it’s my opinion that many companies are looking for ways to reduce spending and use their existing resources in new or more efficient ways. The focus on Case Management is a logical and meaningful extension that has impact on those companies looking for ways to leverage their existing investments in Documentum.

    That doesn’t always translate to everyone; especially if their sector isn’t being impacted currently like everyone else. Governments and Pharma aren’t feeling the same effects from the recession that the Financial and Industrial sectors are having. So I can see how Case Management can speak to me (“Yes! I can take this back and streamline 10 processes!”) and how this could puzzle others. (“Uh… how does help me with my content already in the system?”)

    So the message isn’t being delivered effectively as it could. Case Management is really a really neat layer on top of the repository. It’s the icing on top of and inside a large multi-layered cake. If anything, EMC needs to reassure customers that the repository hasn’t been forgotten. Anyone attending Victor’s Architecture Session would have seen that there is still development going on under the hood.

    My main critique regarding vision is that it was pretty much the same as it was last year. I expected more. I like past keynotes when Mark would pass it off to Whitney and she would pump us up with new product highlights. Next year, why not go back to that format? I know that Mark gets critiqued for his presentation style (I don’t mind) so why not pass it off to a product manager to quickly highlight the top three coolest features coming soon? Pump up the crowd a little, give me a taste of the upcoming sessions that will have me pulling my hair on deciding which one to attend. I don’t think anyone is looking for a Steve Jobs “One More Thing” or a Ballmer “Developers developers developers” monkey dance. You at least want that crowd you’re addressing to leave excited.

    I’ll go on record as saying that I like Case Management as a marketing platform as long as it’s presented as an extension of the core platform. In other words, because EMC has the best Content Management system, they can also deliver a first-class Case Management platform. Unless you stress that you have the fundamental core in place, potential customers will not realize the full picture. Capgemini had it right in their presentation that showed that SharePoint was developed UI backwards to the core, while Documentum was built from the core upwards. That’s a huge advantage and why so few people seem to realize that is befuddling. (I’ve got a rant on this subject that I just need to sit down and write out.)

    Let me wrap up by saying that the question of “vision” wouldn’t be a problem if a few things were addressed:
    1) I think the vision is fine; just work on the delivery
    2) Continue to build the Momentum Community. Make sure they understand the vision so they can communicate to the world-at-large for you. And for free!
    3) Don’t forget your strengths! The repository structure and the BPM engine is so good compared to the competition. Use them to bolster the larger vision.

    And I might as well put my wish list here…
    1) One day my BPM bugs will get fixed. (i.e. the concept of how packages and attachments work was lost)
    2) Product and licensing consolidation. We talk of the xCP platform, but it’s really fractured into many, many pieces when you get to the Production level. Features I saw in Composer 6.7/7.0 is a step forward, but it’s often hard to tell product features apart or understand why they aren’t packaged together in the first place. (i.e. Process Engine and Process Integration should just be bundled with Content Server; do we really need three or four different Transformation Services?)
    3) Be offered well-paid EMC Documentum Evangelist position leverages my charm and personality; giving me power and prestige to go along with my good looks.
    4) Have all the children of the world hold hands and sing a song of peace and harmony.

    I can’t get all my wishes, but I’d settle for number 3.


    • Chris, thanks for the perspective. I agree with you on most of your points. The number of absolutes is an issue. I don’t think they wanted to convey absolutes. In their zeal to convey how important Case Management is to their current plans, it came out that way.

      That said, the recent interview Mark gave Fierce Content Management does little to temper my opinions.


      • Chris Campbell says:

        Oh boy. The tone and phrasing he used in a one place caused me concern. He said “Our job should be not to win a race with Microsoft with entry-level features, but to continue to evolve the product to have more advanced features.”
        For existing or large customers, this statement looks fairly bold. If you work for a small company, whose execs are easily distracted by shiny objects such as SharePoint, that statement alienates me. You can’t forget about the little guy. Let me share a quick story.

        Microsoft for years let Windows be pirated in India and China. At first, investors didn’t pay it any attention since at the time they were small markets and little profit to be gained. People couldn’t afford buying legit versions of Windows. Microsoft turned a blind eye to the practice… on purpose.

        It was a brilliant strategy in the long run. Piracy ended up being very rampant and the OS was used by many major companies. Once enough companies were entrenched into using the product, Microsoft flexed their muscle with the WTO and went after the largest offenders. Either pay up immediately or be shut down. Offenders couldn’t switch to a different OS (i.e. open source) fast enough so they ended up paying.

        In the end, Microsoft was the big winner. If they enforced copyright right away, they would have scared off users into using cheaper alternatives. (Linux).

        Microsoft is absolutely *brilliant* when it comes to their marketing machine. They are the drug dealer of software. “Hey, try this SharePoint. Everyone is doing it. It’s on the house.” Next thing you know, you’re hooked and you’re forking out thousands on consultants and add-ons for the things “missing” in SharePoint. It works so well and will continue to do so.

        Here’s the point: you can’t neglect small or emerging markets. The small guys can’t afford or need all the features in Documentum… at least not yet. I love the fact that High-Volume Content Server is a separate SKU. However, not all the product lines (or pricing) is geared toward folks who aren’t at the level of a GM or BoA. Being an elite vendor doesn’t require the appearance of being elitist towards your customers.

        Ah, to go back in time and wordsmith that statement. Maybe something along the lines of “We take a cradle-to-grave approach with customers. We already provide all the entry level features needed and can handle the largest customers with our proven advanced level technology.” Or something like that.


  6. deepsa says:

    I am an EMC customer and a long time Documentum user and lead developer for a large firm . I am almost on the verge of giving up on the Documentum Titanic not necessarily because the products are not good but rather due to inability to penetrate the Sales and Marketing “firewall” and get an understanding of the new product offerings.

    I was looking for some answers on Centerstage and I was unable to get the communication lines started on Centerstage usage and customization points.

    My firm deals with complex XML content and I had similiar issues with getting a POC done for xDB – in fact the Marketing Engineer could not distinguish between “Media Transformation” and “XML Content Transformation” and had least interest in following up .

    A customer chasing a product vendor sales does not bode well for the vendor!!.

    In the meantime the other you know who and hardcore XML Engine Developer from California came in , aggressively marketed their product, even helped out in a POC. Which one would I go with? It is a no brainer.

    I have dealt with similar other issues with Documentum Sales and Marketing over and over for different products especially over the last couple of years which has ended up in EMC losing big orders.

    It is time to pick up the Alfresco books.


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