EMC’s Faulty Perception of Content Management


How I Met Your Mother Spit TakeWhile at the Monktoberfest last week, I had the luck to run into some people from EMC.  Not just any folk from EMC, they were from “core”, the storage side of the business. After convincing them that I knew enough about EMC to have a real conversation, we discussed Documentum and the Information Intelligence Group (IIG) where Documentum sits.

The talk quickly turned to why Documentum did not live up to the potential they had when EMC acquired them. While I have many opinions, I thought I’d get their opinion. It was a little surprising.

They didn’t adopt Virtual fast enough.

There have been a lot of missteps over the years, but that wasn’t one of them. I was selling Documentum during the rise of VMWare and I can state this for a fact, I NEVER lost a deal because Documentum didn’t support virtual machines.

In fact, as I tracked the industry, Documentum was one of the first vendors in Content Management when it came to supporting virtual machines, especially VMWare. The Index server, FAST, had an issue, but that never impeded a sale or upgrade. It was clear that FAST was well on its way to being replaced and that EMC was strongly pushing to go completely virtual.

More than that, it shows how out-of-touch core EMC was with the Content Management industry. This led to poor decisions on how Documentum needed to evolve. Some of the basic problems were that EMC:

  • Assumed that Content Management could be sold as a commodity. Most of IIG knew this wasn’t the case. Only very basic products can be sold that way. It is not a good add-on for storage sales, though the reverse can work.
  • Failed to prioritize basic document sharing and collaboration. What does SharePoint do? What does Dropbox do? What do file shares do? Basic document sharing and collaboration! eRoom still sells and is widely used. What if EMC had invested in eRoom over 10 years ago, improving scalability and adding those fancy Enterprise 2.0 objects (blogs, wikis)?Barny from HIMYM faking suicide
  • Fell prey to feature-creep. They kept adding features without concern for usability. Everyone made that mistake. Imagine if they had taken a year, or two, to focus on usability and bug fixes?
  • Said everything was Case Management. Still shaking my head over this mistake. Even if you can conceptualize something as Case Management, if the people working in the system don’t see it that way, it won’t work.
  • Was afraid of creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This killed them with CenterStage, a money pit. This has made their roll-out of a true cloud option, SaaS versus OnDemand, seem to take forever.

Right now, EMC is still a player because every other major vendor has made mistakes of their own. Microsoft is confusing SharePoint customers with their on-premises and cloud offerings. Newcomers like Box and Dropbox are slow in adding the features that Enterprises need before making the switch.

Things won’t stay that way for long.

The biggest reason for EMC’s survival is Enterprise IT. As a whole, they are slow. They don’t want to move everything to the cloud and deploying a new Content Management System (CMS) is a scary proposition regardless of the platform.

EMC still has a shot to be relevant, but not because they’ve done a lot of the right things. EMC still has a shot because the market is almost as imperfect as they are.

Hoping your competitors make as many mistakes as you is not a viable strategy. The clock is running out for Documentum.

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