Content Management, the Cloud, and Disruptions

Not too long ago, I made a snarky comment about the cloud on twitter. I don’t know why anyone noticed as I make snarky comments all the time. This time, someone did notice and asked me if “cloud” was my least favorite word of all time. I gave both a snarky and serious response. The short version is that I don’t hate the word, just the overuse of the word.

I recently talked to a vendor that had started recently with the word “Cloud” in their name. After seeing their product, I realized that their product as cloud specific as Linux or Windows. They just used the term because it started meetings. I could have made use of their tool on multiple projects over my career, before the cloud.

So let’s look at the reason I made my snarky comment. It all started with an article, and like my best snarky comments of late, it involved Box….

Cloud, the Internet Evolved

Fortune published an article by Aaron Levie, the CEO and co-founder Box, that asked the question, Is the cloud the ultimate disruptive innovation? It is an excellent article but my answer is no. The Internet has been the disruptive innovation. My tweeted response to the question was:

Cloud isn’t the great disruptor of tech. Internet is. Cloud concept is the beginning of the realization of Internet’s potential

Most Cloud concepts are not new. Managed hosting, Application Service Providers (ASPs), and your basic data center have been around since the 90s. What has changed is that the technology is better and easier. It has evolved.

The most beautiful part of the cloud concept is that as the cloud matures up the stack, businesses will be freed from having to deal with the guts of the business applications. IT, and the businesses they support, can finally focus on how best to use the technology to work smarter.

That is the culmination of the disruptive force that is the Internet. A world where we no longer worry about the location of a service, we just use it.

Software-as-a-Service, the Great Disruptor

What is disrupting the Content Management market? The evolved Internet service/cloud layer Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Why, because that is where it is at for the future. The current providers currently aren’t there yet with their functionality, but it doesn’t matter yet.

If you check Clayton Christiansen’s writing, the Innovator’s Dilemma, the disrupting technologies almost never match the reliability or functionality (i.e. quality) of the leaders in the market they are disrupting. The disrupters are cheaper, usually are easier to produce, and/or more flexible.  As the disruptors mature, they slowly start to close the gap with the established vendors until they are good enough for clients to start implementing.

Right now, we are watching the Content Management SaaS vendors climb that maturation curve. As they add capabilities, more companies will take the jump and sign up. Each success story becomes a springboard for continued adoption.

This leaves the established guys, (EMC, IBM, Open Text, Oracle, Microsoft….) scrambling to own the high-end market. Their only other option is to find a way to compete in the new world, which is historically very rare.

Read the book and you will be shocked at how much the examples can be directly applied to what we are watching every day in the Content Management industry.

This is why I am intrigued by Box. They own one of those disrupting technologies and they have set their sights on the established vendors. They may never have all the features that the old-school companies boast, but most organizations don’t need those features. SharePoint proves that on a regular basis.

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