Open Source ECM is Dead

imageIt finally happened. An acquisition in the ECM space that was so newsworthy I had to write about it. One so big that it is going to fundamentally change the market.

Hyland just announced that they are acquiring Nuxeo.

I never thought that an acquisition involving these two firms would be so newsworthy. However, this is the second acquisition of a major open source ECM vendor in the past year by Hyland. And that is the problem.

There were only two major open source ECM vendors in the market.

That’s right. A single vendor, who was not in the open source market before they bought Alfresco, has acquired both major players. While this may not spell the end of open source in the ECM space, it does mean the end of true choice.

And only with one choice, you do not have a competitive ecosystem.

The Coexistence of Alfresco and Nuxeo

Let’s look at the practicalities of the acquisition, putting aside the open source nature of both Alfresco and Nuxeo. Alfresco was a good fit. They had a larger footprint with “enterprise” customers and their content services architecture was more cloud ready. There was a little bit of overlap but there were lot of reasons to not worry.

Nuxeo overlaps with Alfresco quite a bit. It has a stronger digital asset management (DAM) offering and a more advanced technical architecture. It is lacking in records management features, though that can be compensated by leveraging a tool with federated records management capabilities, like the one within Alfresco.

Alfresco was liked by enterprise buyers. Nuxeo was liked by the technical geeks. However, as Alan Pelz-Sharpe points out, there was no love lost between the vendors because they saw each other, rightly so in my opinion, as each others main competitor.

Future of Content Services

Right now, Hyland is a big unknown. Will they provide information governance capabilities for Nuxeo and use that as their cloud baseline? Will they take Nuxeo’s DAM and engineers but ditch the rest? Whatever the direction, it will take time to get everything structured at Hyland and moving in the right direction.

Meanwhile, Microsoft 365 and Open Text have to be a little concerned. If Hyland does things correctly, Hyland is going to be a strong competitor. Best case scenario, they can leverage the uncertainty for the next year to retain customers thinking of leaving and to win a few more deals before Hyland comes out swinging.

The biggest winner, and likely the only one in both the short-term and the long-term, is Box. They have benefited by the on-premises ECM industry failing to successfully attack the cloud. They just got one more chance to “win” the industry, just when they might need it.

What Is Next?

It is hard to say. There is clearly an opportunity for some vendor to step-up and become a significant player. Perhaps one of the headless CMS (content management systems) players that are making a splash in the web content management (WCM) space.

To be honest, I half expected Amazon to buy Nuxeo and turn them into an AWS offering. If Amazon created an ECM offering, perhaps with Textract tied-in, that could be formidable. Microsoft may also decide to move past checkbox content services and turn SharePoint into a real platform.

A lot could happen. For the next few months, everything should be status quo. If I was a cloud native vendor, I’d be closing my gaps and getting ready to pounce on the clients being left behind. Right now, Box is likely the best positioned. Their largest weak spot, from a content services perspective, is their lethargic content modeling.

And that can be compensated for if necessary.

Content Services Made Possible With AWS

[Originally written for the TeraThink blog. Additional edits have been to clarify context.]

We’ve shared a bit about how we’ve setup a working infrastructure for content services at USCIS. While it hasn’t always been easy, there have been a few key takeaways that have made TeraThink’s efforts successful.

  1. Define business-centric APIs. We currently use Mule as it makes the basics easy and allows for complexity.
  2. Understand, capture, and fully execute the non-functional requirements. User experience drives adoption. Non-functional requirements drives management support and avoids messy incidents.
  3. Architect for, and deploy in, the cloud.

Designing for the cloud seems obvious in today’s IT world. However, I cannot stress how much time and effort has been saved by keeping this in the forefront of our efforts. I’ve been doing enterprise content management (ECM) for decades and I can tell you that using the different cloud capabilities of Amazon Web Services (AWS) has made a huge, positive impact.

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ECM, Content Services, or Just Doing It?

"It's deja-vu all, all over again." - Yogi BerraRecently, Gartner issued a note announcing The Death of ECM and Birth of Content Services. This has been met with several, mixed responses. Many pointed out to Gartner that many of us have been talking about this for years. I wrote a post on Content Services, Not ECM back in 2013. Going even further back, the concept of Content Services is core to Content Management Interoperability Services. In 2009 I outlined the three fundamental use cases for CMIS, or any content service.

I could spend all day linking to old posts but I want to take some time to bring something new to the discussion. A lot has changed over the years and perspectives have been refined. The last few days have seen my mind wandering and debating this whole topic in my spare, and not so spare, time.

Let me sum it up for you, it is a false dichotomy. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is not a thing you buy. It should not be taken into isolation. Content Services is useless as a replacement as it is completely different.

Let me break this down.

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Making Information Management Work in Our Digital World

[Originally published on the TeraThink blog]

These filing cabinets have a lot of information to digitizeOne of our core solutions at TeraThink is Information Management. It is a term that we, and the industry, use to encompass a large collection of skills and expertise centered around content and information. Information Management is also a critical part of everything organizations do every day.

How do we define that collection of skills? Stated from a high level:

Information Management (IM) is a strategy for the coordinated management of all information throughout an organization, allowing for people and systems to find and use information from within any business context.

The goal is to provide people the right information at the right time and be confident that nothing is being overlooked. We make sure that information flows as needed between every system and process. Whether we are talking about governance, content, or digital transformation, IM is at the heart of every project and sets up long-term success for our clients.

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Revisiting the Content Management Frontier

Scene from the movie Alive, dead bodies in the snowTwo years ago, a journal was discovered while excavating in the Trough of Disillusionment of Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technologies. The journal told a story of fear, distrust, and desperation.

Today another tome was discovered. Written hastily in the margins of an IDOL manual was the following text. It is estimated that this was written two days after the conclusion of the previously discovered journal (which you should read 1st). The author is unknown.

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Saying Goodbye to Documentum

One year ago, when Dell announced it was buying EMC, I wrote,

If you see Open Text or CA buy the ECD, start lighting the funeral pyres because Documentum would be officially brain dead and waiting for the machines to be turned off.

Well, it happened. OpenText acquired Documentum. This brings to end the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) wars that began almost 20 years ago. Back then, the leaders were FileNet, Documentum, Oracle, and OpenText. FileNet is buried at IBM who is flirting with Box. Oracle is struggling to reestablish itself after bringing on former Documentum leaders but they are fading away.

This morning, OpenText announced their acquisition of Documentum. I was hesitant to predict that OpenText was going to buy Documentum. It was the obvious prediction and I knew that it would be a chunk of change. $1.62 billion was the final price which covers the $600 million OpenText raised in May and another billion of debt commitment provided by Barclays for this transaction.

I suspect that nobody else was willing to pay EMC that much.

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Box Makes a Huge Leap in Security

The Keymaster and Gatekeeper from GhostbustersI saw the Box’s announcement of their Enterprise Key Management (EKM) feature yesterday. This is a big jump forward for Box and puts them well in the front lines for cloud security among vendors with traction. Matt Weinberger had a good write-up about how Box’s EKM works complete with a Ghostbuster reference.

Chris Walker wrote about Box’s EKM announcement and quoted a tweet I made. The tweet follows but I encourage you to go read his post as it is a good one.

I wanted to expand on the quote up above in a comment on Chris’s post then I couldn’t stop typing. I decided to write it here.

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Reports from the Content Management Frontier

The following are excerpts from an explorer hiking the Gartner Hype Cycle for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technologies.

Day 1, Reached the Peak

Today we finally reached the Peak of Inflated Expectations. The view is simply amazing. This technology is going to revolutionize everything. Everyone is excited and  teaming up with their friends. Documentum just got some great new equipment from EMC. I suspect that those two will be very happy together for a long time.

Life is good.

Day 2, Getting Crowded

Apparently everyone is excited and more and more people are joining us on the Peak. While the view is still lovely, the ground is starting to get muddy from all the people trampling everywhere.

Stellent showed up with their new pal Oracle. Everyone thinks they are a bunch of posers but they are mostly keeping quiet because Oracle has a bit of a temper.

There seems to be a new noise. I’m going to go check it out.

Day 4, Ooops

That noise from the other day? That was the beginning of an avalanche that carried the entire group off of the Peak. According to our maps we are in the Trough of Disillusionment. It is hard to validate because nobody can get a clear signal anymore. It is a bit gloomy but some people seem to think we can get out.

OMG! Open Text ate Hummingbird while we were sleeping! They must be panicking already.

Tensions are very high.

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Box and Dropbox Race for Long-Term Relevancy

The Spanish InquisitionIn case you missed it, Dropbox has followed the path blazed by Box and has integrated with Microsoft Office. While Box integrated on the desktop, Dropbox is integrating with the Office mobile apps and plans to extend it to the Online Office versions. This is a no-brainer move as anything that simplifies people’s ability to work with content within Dropbox helps keep people using both tools.

On top of all this, Microsoft announced that their Android and iOS versions of Office will now be free. Microsoft is clearly trying to maintain their edge on the office productivity world and Dropbox is aiming to stay in front of people’s eyeballs.

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