So in case you’ve missed it, I’ve been talking about how fixation on license fees can have a negative impact on on both the customer relationships and on product development. There has been a reason for this conversation, the need to transform Content Management into a commodity.
This was discussed at the EMC Writer’s Summit event earlier this month. Led by Andrew Chapman, we tried to identify what we could accomplish if Content Management was commoditized and was just there to be used. Johnny Gee followed up this discussion with a post about ECM as a Commodity, sharing some of his thoughts in more detail.
Before talking about the license fee impediment Content Management Commodization, I’m going to touch on the Commodity issue a bit.
Can’t See through the Cloud
While leading the discussion on Content Management as a Commodity at the Summit, Andrew kept harping on us to think outside the box. The problem was that we have been stuffed inside the box so long, we can’t imagine running, we are focused on the concept of just being able to have a good stretch.
Think about scanning. Fifteen years ago, you would sell a scanning solution with a simple repository. The documents would get scanned into the repository and work carried on as before. The difference was that desks and offices weren’t so cluttered.
Then people realized that we could change processes because they had been liberated by paper. Instead of requiring documents to go 5 people successively, it could go to them all at once. Then we realized that it only had to be approved by 1 of 2 people and the other three just wanted to be kept in the loop. It wasn’t until we had been liberated from the pressing weight of paper for years that we could see the extra freedom that going electronic brought to us.
The same thing is happening with the Content Management. If it is a commodity and I don’t have to worry about storage, high availability, upgrades, interoperability, scaling, and all those other “non-core” issues, I can become liberated to focus on solving business problems. Once that process begins, we will all be able to realize that we can not just stretch but we will be able to run.
Of course, we aren’t there yet….
Old Models=No Future
Here is the basic problem. The license fee structure slowly grinds systems down and hurts the customer relationship. It is also preventing from moving to the future.
For Content Management to be a commodity, and not merely inexpensive, it needs to be on-demand and charge me for what I use. I can’t have to worry about how it is implemented behind the scenes. The core engine should just work.
The question is, how can today’s leaders get there? Their entire business model is structured around license fees. They absolutely cannot move to selling a service/subscription without changing how they measure success.
Box has it worked out. They give away basic Content Management. Need more storage or features? They charge you for those. Simple enough. Box just needs more features like Records Mangement and Transformation Services (and CMIS) to truly attack the corporate market.
Why can’t established vendors throw their platform up there and offer the same type of service? Several reasons:
- Architecture: Most live in the confines of a 32-bit world. They aren’t designed to really be that flexible. They definitely can’t live in a simple SaaS provisioning model.
- Interface: Most don’t have simple interfaces that scale readily and that are very simple. There has been improvement of late, across the board, but they aren’t there yet. Mostly because they are still focused on solving the interface problems from five years ago.
- Financial: This is the big one that I have been discussing the past week. Until this is resolved, the Architecture won’t be touched.
The commodization of Content Management is needed. We need to take Content Management from a technical to a business discipline. Consultants like myself need to stop learning the ins-and-outs of an entire technology stack and start focusing on the details of a business problems. I’d love to focus on Correspondence Management or Collaboration-Enterprise 2.0. That would be fun. The thing is, when I do focus on it, I always get yanked into the technology to make sure that the software solution that we are using to solve this problem actually works.
Traditional Content Management companies are in trouble. Not because they aren’t Open Source and not because they are burdened by a ton of legacy code. They are in trouble because they are shackled to the license fee. That prevents them from moving forward to actually solving their clients problems.
Their clients’ biggest problem? They have to keep thinking about solving Content Management!
The future of Content Management is in the Cloud. It isn’t a set of virtual servers, the so-called “private cloud”. It is in the Software as a Service mold of the cloud. Take my pain away. Make me not have to measure storage performance (which I did TODAY!) in order to make sure that my system is delivering on its potential.
Take away my technology! Turn me into a solver of BUSINESS problems! Go ahead, I dare you!
I triple dog dare you!