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 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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Box v Dropbox v Everyone

While I was at Alfresco, I made a point of ignoring the competition. I always believe that if you can’t win without saying something negative, don’t bother. On the flip side, I didn’t want to draw extra attention to the competition.

Don’t have any of those issues now.

Even though I was quiet, new things still happened. Recently both Box and Dropbox have been making some announcements. While I am not going to go into the details, plenty of people have done that already, I’m going to talk about why any of it matters.

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What Constitutes Industry Leadership?

File:Aston Martin DBS V12 coupé (front left) b-w.jpgOne of the debates that I have often had with other Information Professionals is the question, Who are the “Leaders” in our industry? This was always up for a good debate because we could never agree on the basic ground rules:

  • What role does the technology play?
  • Do you measure by sales or install base?
  • Do we care what Gartner, Forrester, or others say on the topic?
  • What players are even in our industry?

With all these open questions, it is a debate that usually lasts until someone gets fed up and forces a topic change upon the group by asking, Who is buying the next round?

This is a question that is important for me to address and I thought I would open it up for discussion.

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Box Defends Against Office 365

In case you missed it, Box introduced some new pricing last week. While the details are not relevant right now, the key detail was that if you have only 10 people, your price per user is now $5. This is great if you are a small shop because you don’t need as many features and you do need secure sharing.

So why bring Office 365 into this? Because this new price range is same as the Office 365 Small Business tier. Sure you can get more with Office 365, but Box still has that “easy to use” feature going for it.

Still, why Office 365? Because Office 365 is great for small shops. It bundles email with SharePoint and Lync. For a organizations with minimal to no infrastructure, it is a very quick setup and before you know it, you have your basic productivity tools.

I suspect that Box is looking at Microsoft as the big Gorilla in the corner. If they aren’t then they should be doing that. Microsoft has a decent cloud solution and a ton of money. It should be possible to fix SkyDrive, make an interface that works on Apple, and market to the same people that Box targets.

Box used to market against SharePoint to get attention. Now they need to work against them to make sure they stay safe.

2012, The Year that Wasn’t

Photo by laffy4k of FlikrI don’t know if this was a result of leaving the consulting world or a side effect of not having made any predictions for 2012, but this year appeared to be a very non-newsworthy year in Content Management. Oh, things happened, but nothing big.

I didn’t realize it until Ron Miller asked me what I thought the biggest story was this year. I couldn’t think of a story that was “big”. I could wade through a bunch of small stories and pick the “biggest”, but that wasn’t what he was looking to learn.

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Yammer and Microsoft, a Win for Both Sides

There is going to be no shortage of analysis of Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer. I’m not going to take time to parse it all. I do want to share some quick thoughts on the acquisition while everything is still fresh on my mind and the deal seems more likely to be completed.

Yammer Cashing Out

Yammer was one of the pioneers in the the Enterprise 2.0/Social Business space. The issue that over the years as the space has evolved, the amount of evolution coming from Yammer has been limited. Their product has gotten better but they remain, at their core, a micro blogging service.

imageThe space has been moving on though. People have been learning that all these Social Business tools work best when they are part of the business process, not when they are on their own. With Yammer, you may produce less email and generate greater visibility into what people are doing in the organization, but you also have a new inbox to check. It is just one more window to keep open.

Let’s face it. Chatter turned SalesForce into a social platform. Yammer has been stuck in tool mode.

Yammer was facing a stiff uphill battle to remain relevant over the next several years. They seem to have been heading in the right direction, but there were a lot of questions about whether or not they could evolve fast enough to keep up.

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Taking the Measure of Box

A few weeks ago, Box held their first conference, Boxworks, in San Francisco. I was originally planning to attend but events conspired to keep me away. Still, I feel it is a good time to step back and look at where Box is, ask where they are going, and generally see where things stand.

Simply put, Box is doing well. Some felt that the conference served as their coming-out party. Since the conference, Box announced the finalization of a round of funding worth $81 million that they mentioned during the conference and are looking at expansion of their capacity. Box is taking a lot of mindshare and some market share as well.

But is it deserved?

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