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Deliberate Disruption April 17, 2014

Posted by Lee Dallas in Content Management, ECM, Technology.
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Last weekend Box CEO Aaron Levie tweeted

“Disruption is the art of identifying which parts of the past are no longer relevant to the future, and exploiting that delta at all costs.”

To which I responded :

“deliberate disruption is extraordinarily rare. So rare that I think you can capitalize on it but never plan for it

I’ve been asking myself this question since. Can disruption ever really be deliberate?

The question conjures up images of team meetings where Dilbert’s pointed haired boss declares, “nobody leaves this room until we innovate!”

It occurs to me that in order to be deliberate, disruption must be an objective not just an outcome. This is a mistake.

Truly disruptive technology sets out to solve a problem first. Disruption is a possible but not guaranteed outcome of innovation introduced into a landscape. That landscape is made up of evolving technology, existing competition, and fluid user expectations all of which can be exploited or encountered as obstacles depending on conditions.

The disruption is a function of the problems the competition face in response to what you are doing. Competitors can easily fall into the trap of thinking that imitating the turmoil with existing portfolios rather than finding new ways to solve problems is the same thing.  It isn’t.

Genuine disruption solves new problems in a landscape, solves old problems in new ways and/or significantly alters cost, value and accessibility to those solutions. It is in the areas of cost and accessibility where we have the ability to interrogate the landscape and potentially predict the degree of disruption introduced. This is that part that can be deliberate.

Cloud and mobile in recent years have provided a method for disruption by making possible the migration of traditionally on/prem problem sets to off/prem. Reseting cost models for both producers and consumers of services and forcing the redefinition of well established roles and funding models.

When those services are not re-imagined in the cloud context and simply ported from old delivery models, there is plenty of turmoil for vendors but they are most likely victims  - not instigators of the disruption.

The challenge for buyers and vendors alike is to understand what combination of forces make up the disruptors and which companies or products are merely caught in the vortex. It is not always easy to tell. Even new businesses can get caught up into a pattern of generating turmoil and lose sight of the real objective.

Solve problems for real people.

That is what we must do at all cost – and occasionally it will be disruptive.

Tom Rouse on “ECM and Cold Pizza In the Fridge” February 25, 2014

Posted by Marko Sillanpää in Content Management, Documentum, ECM.
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It’s crazy how busy we get sometimes, so it’s fun to be able to catch up with people that you haven’t spoken with for a while.  When I heard from Tom Rouse, I took the time to catch up.  I’ve known Tom for over 15 years.  We were both consultants at Documentum at the time.  He’s one of those people that enjoys thinking about ECM and making it relate-able.   When I heard his document cold pizza analogy, I thought this is something I should share.  So I asked if he would write it down so I could share it.

Here’s what Tom said:


Cold pizza is generally a staple of every refrigerator (fridge). It gets tossed in and sometimes forgotten. But there it is…Still tasty and waiting to fulfill its purpose as a snack.  Most Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems today are serving as “refrigerators” for the documents and content in them

Please stay with me on the metaphor. Most clients use the carefully constructed models and user interfaces when they need a “snack”.  The number one reason most clients use the ECM system is to seek out information when they are hungry for it…They just go looking in the fridge for a slice of content!

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ECM Trends 2014 – We Don’t Need Big Content January 19, 2014

Posted by Lee Dallas in cloud, Content Management, ECM, Technology.
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A friendly reminder that all of the opinions expressed here are completely my own and not those of my employer’s.

I am late this year putting together my thoughts around trends for 2014 in ECM. To be frank many of the trends in ECM seem obvious with much already having been written about them.

  • Everyone is moving to cloud and this no longer trend worthy news .
  • There will be a few acquisitions, especially among the mid-tier players to round out capture, workflow and mobile capabilities.
  • IPO’s of a few key players will be frequently discussed but deferred until 2015.
  • DropBox will relaunch it’s business offering AGAIN. Look for them to make acquisitions of overlapping tools to gain this foothold.

I struggled to find something more substantive to cover until I found myself in a  lively discussion on the topic of “Big Content.” 

Commercialization of value extraction from the enormous amounts of unstructured data being generated today is the next major focus for advancement in the ECM industry. Going beyond improving transactional throughput and accuracy and into understanding. It may be ironic since I am one of the “Big Men On Content” but I do not like the term “Big Content”. This term perpetuates outdated stereotypes and division at a time when technologies should be coming together

To understand what is meant by this term I did what anyone else would do. I went to bigcontent.com. Surely the genius that had the foresight to grab the URL could tell me if it really is separate from big data. I was disappointed. A marketing firm jumped on the term and is using it in a completely different context. Good for them but it is perhaps a missed opportunity from an ECM perspective.

Big Content as it relates to ECM seems to be the content management industry’s attempt to ride the coattails of Big Data marketing. A never ending quest to be appreciated as much as the more popular sibling, structured data. 

So what do we mean by Big Content. Is it a subset, a superset or something altogether different from what we are now calling Big Data? EMC’s Dave Dietrich wrote this piece on Big Data misconceptions and  takes the position that unstructured data that rises to Big dimensions is a subset.

To be “big” in this context Dietrich argues the data in question must have great volume yes but also must have both variety and velocity. Certainly some unstructured data has these characteristics. He goes so far as to say most Big Data problems are grounded in the unstructured citing last year’s IDC’s Digital Universe study.

Gartner’s Darin Stewart seems to agree that Big Content is a subset of big data. He goes on to posit  that slow uptake of interest in the unstructured aspect is because of a lack of “comfort” in dealing with documents as opposed to databases on the part of IT. He touches on what I feel is the crux of the issue but I don’t think it has anything at all to do with the comfort itself. I think it is the utter lack of an integrated tooling approach across the industry.

All silos begin as words.

If you make it a separate category you may one day have tools that let you do meaningful things but without a common analytical approach it will perpetuate the integration burden the structured and unstructured worlds deal with today. Deriving value from structured data will always be easier and as separate solutions structured data applications will continue to maintain the attention of the buyers.

The very things long term ECM proponents hope to achieve by trumpeting Big Content will continue the technological isolation and lack of innovation that the industry has struggled with for a decade. What is needed is a coordinated drive to raise the expectations of the emerging structured analytical tools to demand search, content analytics, sentiment, etc. Some offerings, particularly those tailored to social media analytics began this work but we must continue to push beyond 140 characters to more valuable and information rich content.

We do not need a category for Big Content tooling, marketing and expertise. We already have one. It is called Big Data. And it is very nice:

Investment in this is happening whether you call it Big Content or not. IBM’s billion dollar investment in Watson is the best example. From a user perspective, Watson does not make a distinction between structured and unstructured sources as part of the question when presented. Likewise as we begin to think about other analytical frameworks from a user’s point of view,  the difference in the structure of the data sources should make less difference over time and disappear altogether eventually.

One might ask, isn’t this just the same content and semantic analytics that we have been talking about for years. The answer is “sort-of.” You will be hard pressed to find any of the lofty promises of those initiatives fulfilled. It is my contention that this tooling needs to scale and be formally folded in to the analytical tool set of big data. The correlated structured data provides context for the extracted unstructured. At some level this is happening but as an industry I think we derail this motion when we attempt to create differentiation in categories.

This convergence of structured and unstructured analysis will be hampered if we spend overt mental and marketing energy today perpetuating a separation of the disciplines simply to defend the value of our current expertise.

The trend has begun. We need to help it along or get out of the way.

Advice for 2014 – Give and Take January 2, 2014

Posted by Lee Dallas in Collaboration, Consulting.
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If you hit this sign, you will hit that bridge.

I thought I would begin 2014 with a few thoughts on how to give and take advice. This picture is from my home town. The utter practicality of it says a lot about the place.

We spend a great deal of energy, mental and otherwise trying to figure out how to create cultures of innovation. We are on a mission it seems to kill the way we used to do everything. There are times though when listening to the advice of someone that has been down a road before is a good idea.

The thing I like about this picture is it doesn’t say “don’t go this way.” There are no hyperbolic predictions of disaster. There are no numbers telling you exactly how high your vehicle must be to clear the overpass. Nothing to process. Nothing to analyze.

It is not even a warning. Just a simple statement of fact.

If this then that. Now it is up to you.

There is a lesson here for both those giving and taking advice this year.

Be simple and clear when giving. Do not be dismissive of the practical when taking – even if you are “innovating.”

Best wishes to all of you for a prosperous 2014.

What’s Your Cloud Exit Strategy? December 3, 2013

Posted by Marko Sillanpää in cloud.
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I’ve had a draft of this article for over two years but I didn’t want you to think I’ve gone completely mad.   Yes, the cloud offers many advantages. But, what if the cloud you choose ends up not fitting your needs.  What is your exit strategy? Cloud vendors make it easy to hop-on with data migration tools and the like.  But what about when it’s time to leave the cloud? Don’t think this is an issue?  What if you had been a user of Nirvanix, who in October filed Chapter 11.  Nirvanix gave it’s customer 15 days to get their content before shutting down.

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Surprise – Your Project is a Failure December 2, 2013

Posted by Lee Dallas in Consulting, Technology.
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I have been thinking about project failure for the last several days. Perhaps because of the healthcare.gov problems or maybe because I put up Christmas lights that failed to entice even a single passing aircraft to attempt landing on my lawn. In a word – disappointing. Expectations were not met. It seems every project that fails in large organizations does so in plain sight but to the utter shock and dismay of the constituents.

After watching IT projects, product launches and government programs go badly over the years I notice five things that conspire to create disappointment. I am sure there are others we could cite but these are the most frequent offenders in my experience. (more…)

Finland Re-enters the Mobile Phone Market November 27, 2013

Posted by Marko Sillanpää in mobile content.
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After Nokia sold the rights to its mobile phone division to Microsoft, I was left wondering, “What Next?”  Being Finnish, it was tough loosing such a huge part of national heritage, a pulp and paper mill from the 1800’s that became a mobile phone giant.  After the acquisition we were left with “Angry Birds.”  But today Finland re-entered the mobile market with Jolla. (more…)

Why We Have an (Enterprise) Content Management Problem November 27, 2013

Posted by Marko Sillanpää in Alfresco, Content Management, Documentum, ECM, FileNet, Hyland, IBM, Open Text.
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I started to reply to Pie’s latest post, “Why We Don’t Have an Enterprise Data Management Problem” but it got longer than a paragraph.  So I thought I’d blog instead.   I’m not sure I agree that “The ECM mindset is the broken part.” To focus on the old Highlander rule, “There Can Be Only One” which ECM adopted, I agree is vendor fiction that will never be fully realized.  But ECM needs a single mindset, at least at the industry. (more…)

ECM, “Reports of my death are premature.” November 21, 2013

Posted by Marko Sillanpää in Content Management, ECM.
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For a while I’ve seen the various posts of the death of ECM. What has happen is that “enterprise” has become an adjective rather than a noun. Often, as vendors, we think enterprise means a big deal size rather than a wide venture. Enterprise solutions have come to mean solutions to large problem encountered often by a small audience. ECM sales were often made as enterprise-deal but the solutions rarely left the large complex problems they were envisioned to solve.

I believe that ECM is about to have a revolution, a revolution towards EwCM (Enterprise-wide Content Management).  That revolution is being lead by the customer. (more…)

Cutting Paper Cold Turkey November 19, 2013

Posted by Marko Sillanpää in Consulting, Content Management.
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Hello, my name is Marko and I used to have a pack a month habit.  Sorry I meant to say ream a month habit.  But this summer two events merged and I found myself quitting paper cold turkey.  First my home office shrank and then I joined Hyland.  Hyland was my tipping point.  You see hyland is a paper-free office.  Well not exactly, as in my building we do have a printer shared by over 300 people.  I found the one on the first floor, prominently positioned in the middle of the office so everyone can see your walk of shame to collect your print job.  Honest it was just a boarding pass.  My airline is not ticketless.   (I’m glad I’ve never needed to copy something, as rumors are the one copier in the building is in front of the CEO’s office.)  So began my journey to paperless.

(more…)

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