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.

Box Just Threw Down the Gauntlet

Clint Eastwood as Dirty HarryLast week, Box held their annual conference. Many announcements were expected and the announcement of Workflow coming to Box in 2015 was quite exciting. If you want a high-level look at everything that happened, check out Chris Walker’s quick thoughts on BoxWorks.

None of that is why I am writing this post.

Buried in the wave of tweets were two game-changing announcements. Box announced Retention Management and Auto-Classification of Content.

That’s right. Information Governance behind the scenes on an application that people actually use AND a way to get content in the right retention bucket without people having to intervene.

All in the cloud.

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Repeating Past Mistakes Won’t Make ECM Work

Stitch banging his head against the wallEvery now and then I read a post that makes me wonder if the older Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors are intentionally trying to keep the industry stagnant. They make a fair penny selling to people who tried their competitor’s solution and failed. Whey not keep it up for another decade?

That was my response when I read How Free Puppy Syndrome Can Ruin Your ECM Strategy. My first thought that this was going to be a generic attack on open source. While I no longer work for an open source vendor, I am still a fan and think that open source solutions provide strong value.

It wasn’t that simple. The article attacked everyone who is trying to take the industry from one of failure to one of universal adoption. I am going to address all the bullet points.

The author meant for each point to be an indicator for failure.

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You Will Never Have One Place for All Your Content

Dr Who in the rainYou read the title correctly. No matter how hard the industry works between now and the time you die, or are simply drooling in a wheelchair, you will never have one place for all of your content. I’m not simply talking the difference between work and personal pieces of information. Whether you are at work or home; on your computer, tablet, or phone; or any combination of those, you will always have content you need to access in multiple systems.

A little depressing isn’t it?

That doesn’t make it less true. If it makes you feel any better, it will not be entirely your fault. The problem is that you and your company do not own all of the content that you use. There is content out there that originates, and lives, in other places.

And there is nothing you can do about it.

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Doom and Gloom for Dropbox and Box?

If you have been anywhere near twitter the past week, you’ve seen the article from ZDNet asking Can Dropbox and Box survive as independent services? The author, Ed Bott, then goes into the pricing competition for storage and how both services are falling way behind the curve to Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

Ed misses the point. This isn’t about storage. Not anymore. It is also about convenience. How well can you synch across all your devices with products from the big three? How well do those products work with other applications on your mobile devices?

Even more importantly, how well do those applications serve the enterprise?

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2001: An Enterprise Odyssey

The Discovery from 2001When I was at the AIIM Conference this year, Thornton May, gave a frenetic keynote address. While I am never quite sure what the key point Thornton is trying to make during his talks, he always makes everyone in the audience think, which is a very good thing.

During his keynote this year, Thornton used the following exercise to get the audience thinking about the future.

Choose movie, show, or work of literature which comes closest to capturing the essence of the external environment facing your enterprise today.

There were a lot of answers, some good, some mired in the past, but it was a very thought provoking discussion. My choice, if you haven’t figured it out by now, was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Content Management Step One, Capture that Information

A Cinnabon treatThere were a lot of disagreements on my view that Box or Dropbox will be a leader in Content Management in five years. Some were willing to concede that in the Small and Medium Business (SMB) market it might be the case but not in larger Enterprises. To anyone relying on that argument, I suggest refreshing yourself on how disruptive technologies attack a market.

I want to take a moment to explain why one of them WILL be a player in the market. It all comes down to one simple point, they capture content.

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Secure the Application, Not the Device

I was reading an article by Patrick Gray, A radical idea for Mobile Device Management: Don’t bother, when I realized that I wasn’t alone in this world. I have long viewed Mobile Device Management (MDM) as a Red Herring and it felt good to find an ally.

For years, people have fought against restrictions on their company computers. This has been part of the spur behind the Bring Your Own Device/App/Cloud (BYOD) movement of the past several years. Do we want to head down that same path with mobile devices where we are dealing with an even wider variety of devices and less inherent control over the operating system than we did before BYOD complicated things?

Let’s think this through.

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Predicting 2014

I know I am a tad late on my prediction post for 2014, but I have had a hard time coming to terms with what will happen this year. At this point, it is easy to predict where things are going overall, but specific events over the next 12 months? Much more challenging.

I learned this by evaluating my 2013 predictions. The ones that didn’t come to fruition are still trending in the right direction. Those predictions just failed to hit that magic event before the end of 2013.

Well, I am going to try again this year. I am going to lean more towards trends and less on specific events. I could predict Open Text is going to make a large acquisition and that SharePoint will be declared dead by {insert large number here} prognosticators this year, but those things happen EVERY year which makes it feel like cheating.

What can we expect in 2013?

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2013: Waiting for the Culmination of Everything

New Picture (2)In 2013, one trend that I had been watching for years finally culminated in the next stage. I got a position with Alfresco that will allow me to make a difference in the future of the industry. While it took longer than I thought it would, the future arrived.

In looking at my Predictions for 2013, I didn’t do well…at all. If it wasn’t for a slam-dunk prediction, I would have failed to even be half right.

Let’s see how poorly I did.

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