Content Management in Russia, Same Challenges, Different Language


St Basil'sIf you were watching my twitter feed last week, you likely deduced that I spent the week in Russia, specifically Moscow. I was there to participate in the ECM Ecosystem conference being put on by the Russian edition of PC Week.

Before I arrived in Russia, I would have been hard pressed to explain how the Russian market differed from the market in the U.S. and Western Europe. After my visit, one thing is very clear.

They are almost exactly the same.

This isn’t to say that there are not differences. Every country has specific challenges. While I was in Moscow, I spent a lot of time talking to organizations how they could be more successful managing their content. What was most striking was that while I was in the middle of some of these conversations, I realized that I had participated in the same conversations in Chicago, London, Barcelona, and many other cities.

Prior to heading to Russia, PC Week had asked me some interview questions. The published version can be found, in Russian, online. I am going to take one of the questions and expand on my answer now that I have seen the Russian market first hand.

Russia’s Competitive ECM Market

There was one key question about the Russian market.

How do you estimate structure of ECM market in Russia, how dynamic the competitive environment in the region?

I answered,

Like most markets, it is very dynamic and exciting. There is no clear leader among the vendors which leads to a lot of competition and shifting in the market dynamics. The vendors that can quickly innovate and move to meet the evolving needs of the market has a great opportunity to take charge.

What I learned was that the market is very competitive. My Russian name tagI participated in the two vendor panels that day and I have never seen or been part in panels that were as intense. In most panels, vendors highlight their strong points and agree on the basics with their fellow panelists. There is always a sense of friendly competition.

These panels were a lot less friendly. Statements that you expect vendors to say behind closed doors were out in the open. I can only imagine what was being said in private meetings. The panel questions were ignored by some speakers in order to drive home their points.

I quickly had to shift gears. Some of the key points that I tried to focus upon were:

  • Local may not be better.
  • Business solutions first.
  • Flexible solutions are key.

Each of those may become a future post, but for now, it is sufficient to say that the Russian market is very dynamic. Organizations are looking for new approaches. Like companies around the world, they have old, static, and rigid solutions that they cannot leverage readily enough for new projects. They are designing new architectures and looking to the vendors for help. The vendors see weakness in their competitors and are striving to take as much as they can.

The Russian market is a free-for-all that is going to be interesting to watch.

Russian Flavor

One thing that I was asked repeatedly was how the Russian ECM is different from the rest of the world. The general perception among attendees and integrators was that the Russian market was less mature than the West.

Wrong.

Russia is facing the same challenges as the rest of the world. They are bringing the same tools and methodologies to bear to solve these problems. With the exception of a lack of need for Records Management in Russia, the problems faced are the same.

Of course, the regulations are different, but those are minor. The challenges are the same, only the details about how to tackle those challenges are different. Requiring three approvals versus one is readily mapped in any business process engine. The hard part is moving the process into the system in the first place.

The one thing that was more unique is that digital signatures are just now gaining legal acceptance in Russia. There seems to be some education that needs to be done to let people know that they can be used currently, but digital signatures are becoming a reality in Russia. I did see some anger directed at the vendors for it taking so long to gain legal acceptance in Russia.

Maybe that is why Russia feels they are behind the rest of the world. Personally, I think they just have a better handle on the state of ECM in Russia than the rest of the world does in their own countries. When most of the projects fail in the U.S., it is hard to say that we are more successful than Russia. When failure occurs in the West, it feels like the exception, even when it isn’t.

When seen from the outside, the West looks successful and that can be discouraging when you are facing severe challenges.

Rest Assured

I am here to assure Russia and the rest of the world that success is not a given in the West. The number of inflexible Content Management deployments in those regions is staggering.

We all need to work together to change things so that success is the rule. We need to exchange ideas and find success stories where the key success factor wasn’t hard work or a stubborn project manager.

There is a lot we can learn from each other so let’s get busy talking.