Documentum – One year after Dave

Like a lot of folks, Dave DeWalt’s departure from EMC took me by surprise.  I met Dave his first week on the job.  At the time I was a technical partner manager with a passion for web content management.  Dave asked me if I wanted to have a front seat to turning the company around, and that started my best four years of my professional career.  When Dave joined Documentum we had reached our lowest point and within six months the company had turned around, better yet we were getting traction.   

It has now been one year since Dave moved on from his role leading Documentum within EMC and became CEO and President of McAfee.  After recently reading John Newton’s post “The Departed – Dave DeWalt and Documentum” which answered the questions of why he thought Dave left, I thought it would be interesting to look and see what has happened in the last year of his departure. 

Dave’s exit last year was not the only change in the Documentum leadership team; there were a couple of others departures that were not public.  Mike DeCesare, former VP of Sales, and Joe Gabbert, former VP of HR, both left EMC following Dave to McAfee and so too did David Milam, former Chief Marketing Officer, after a brief stop at Zantaz.  While these names may not be familiar to you, if you think back to the music videos or motorbike racing clips at Momentum, these were Dave’s top lieutenants.  It was their passion that inspired those reporting to them to put their heart and soul into the company.   

But gone is the passion and energy Dave and his team brought to content management.  While some may disagree with the idea that content management is cool, I doubt few felt that way after seeing Dave’s keynotes.  Rappelling from the ceiling or entry on motorcycles or horseback (even with diapers) woke you up in the morning and got you listening to the rest of the presentation, no matter how late you stayed at the table in Vegas.  You could really see the difference between the west coast software and the east coast hardware marketing.  On the west coast, we know you need a powerful delivery to get people’s attention.  Just look at Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison.

By summer you could already see the people in the trenches losing heart.  People I had worked with for years were considering other opportunities.  I would attend conferences and bump into some wearing new polo shirts, some of those now with the enemy.  It should have been expected with such a series of high level departures.  Documentum had been a tight knit family.  But fortunately, mid-year Howard Shao came out of retirement to hold the family together.  It was disappointing though that while he left with a roar there was not even a peep when he returned.  Howard’s return did what it intended.  It settled folks down and even brought a few people back. 

At the same time, Dave’s replacement took on the reigns of CM&A.  Mark Lewis had held several roles inside EMC, including CTO.  Granted he’s only been in the role for six months so not much can be expected but EMC World is coming up.  We’ll see if this long time EMC leader finally looks across all of the EMC products?  It still baffles me that after three years few of the product lines talk to each other (EMC’s Newest Competitor EMC?).  The other question, can he motivate the troops?

I’m optimistic, even though rumor has it out of Momentum Europe 2007 are that eRoom 8 is on hold and announcements that EMC is embracing SharePoint.  I’m having flashbacks to Documentum’s 1998 partnership with Interwoven.  Say it ain’t so Joe?  But hopefully they’ll learn from their acquired past. 

But what about McAfee?  Other than being a customer of theirs for ten years I never really took notice, but I do now.  But I’ll let Dave tell you about how McAfee’s results were the best in three years with three consecutive quarters of growth.  Those of us that know him knew it was inevitable that he would find a home in another company looking to make a major change.  That was his passion and that fire can now be seen in McAfee.  I flew into the Bay Area to visit old friends in January and without even leaving the Oakland Airport I see my first red McAfee billboard, “Hackers are bad.  We’re Bad Ass!”  

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