Addressing Denials by an ECM Disruptee

Lane Severson posted a rebuttal to my statement that Information Management has Failed. My first thought is that he doesn’t see it. That was also my second thought. Then I remembered a truth about disruptions that I shared on Twitter the other day,

The very nature of Disruptions is that those being disrupted live in denial until it is too late.

Lane is caught in the disruption. He works for Doculabs who makes money by being good at helping customers select and implement traditional Content Management systems. A shift to the cloud means a change to the expertise they deliver.

Still, Lane is pretty smart and his points deserved to be addressed.

Breaking it Down

Going to take this point-by-point.

Users have been doing this on shared drives and in Outlook Shared Folders, and in e-mail, and on jump drives, and CDs, and floppies since the beginning of the world.

Good point. One difference is that none of these solutions are in danger of evolving to meet the broader needs. Users use these systems because they are easier than the solutions provided by the Enterprise but they have limited scale. Email, which is the most flexible, has the most sizing limits (quotas). The Cloud doesn’t have these problems and it is evolving to be more capable without any effort by the consumers.

If you wanted to, you could block your employees from accessing BOX just like you could turn off PST files or shut down shared drives.

It doesn’t work. Oh, you can block some services reliably but others you can’t. They can work off of IP addresses, and as they grow, they add more of them to block. Once you block one service you have to worry about another. Lane essentially proposes one of two approaches, either ignore or block the work-arounds that people are using to get their work done.

Neither are successful in the long-term.

IT shops will eventually embrace it as storage costs continue to sky-rocket and they get over their baseless qualms about security. And many of the “failed” IT projects, ECM included, will move to the cloud. (ViewPoint is already beginning to offer FileNet in the cloud.) But not on BOX or any of its peers.

This is making a lot of assumptions on the ability of the existing vendors to move to the cloud. As I’ve stated before, there are a lot of hurdles for making that move, not the least of which is financial. Everyone talks about re-architecting their product for the cloud, but what about the licensing? All the vendors are doing is moving to a hosting model. Sure, EMC is trying to redo the architecture to truly be cloud, but questions remain:

  • How does that change financial reporting now that huge license fees aren’t hitting the books?
  • How do we change the compensation of the sales staff?
  • How do users move their on-premises system up to the cloud?

As for the re-architecture effort, I remember when FileNet/IBM re-architected things to their P8 platform ten years ago. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a smooth transition.

Missing the Point

I think the point that Lane is missing is that the reason these Cloud vendors are disrupting the industry is because the “old” ways have failed. At no point does he address this key issue. People aren’t using these systems to make life difficult for their organizations. They are doing it do make their own lives easier.

People use unauthorized cloud systems because it is easier than working with the tools provided to them by IT.

The first reactions shouldn’t be “no biggie” or “we can block it”. The first reaction is What are we doing wrong that people have to look elsewhere for a solution?


4 thoughts on “Addressing Denials by an ECM Disruptee

  1. One thing that comes to mind is that most organizations have not managed to “manage” their content properly in house, let alone in the cloud. The cloud offers elasticity and universal access, which is great, but if you have not put your house in order it will only be a bigger mess in the cloud. For example if a company uses share drives, and this share drive has been around for 5 or 10 years, who is to say what is there, how to find it and, if sued, what data the opposing party could mine from it. A share drive and un-managed email is legally indefensible for discovery, so you might as well just settle because the e-discovery will cost you more (depending on the size of it). Aside form legal considerations, unmanaged and un-searchable content is “dark content” in other words, from a company view, it is lost and useless.


    • I disagree that it will be a bigger mess in the cloud, especially if you are just comparing to Share Drives and Email. Many cloud services already offer search and more data tracking than either Email or Drives to out-of-the-box. The Cloud is also adding to its feature list while those other two are static.

      To be honest, adding features that support eDiscovery is actually one of those things that should be a slam-dunk with the cloud vendors. Add a little metadata, enable legal holds and mass-disposition by records administrators….life is easier.


  2. An interesting post, Laurence.

    I’d question whether or not tools such as Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive actually qualify as content management. I see them more as file sharing tools. Even offerings from OpenText (Tempo Box) and Alfresco (not 100% cure on this one) which are cloud based are really file sharing plugged in to on-premises or hosted ECM platforms.


    • They are borderline, some tools are on different sides of the border. They all have different trajectories.

      You stirred an interesting thought. What users consider Content Management is different from what orgs consider Content Management. I can readily use Google or Box to manage either my or my team’s content, but it doesn’t meet the needs of the organizations…except maybe the productivity needs. That is the essential disconnect we are facing.


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