See the Value in CEVAs

Two years ago Gartner coined a new acronym CEVA, Content Enabled Vertical Applications, and it created some buzz in the enterprise content management space. Now I get a little lost here and have to think about what a Vertical means in software terms. Imagitek, a proclaimed CEVA, offers case management with specializations in contracts and legal documents. So to me this is a horizontal application with vertical customizations. So isn’t Open Text’s LegalKEY Solutions closer to a real CEVA? Rather than getting stuck on the definition let’s redefine CEVA as Content Enabled Value Application.

CEVA isn’t a new concept. We only need to turn the clock back a few years and look at the ecosystem that had developed on RDBS platforms. PeopleSoft, Siebel, SAP and even Documentum and FileNet were all Value added applications on top of an RDBS. Each of these applications were started by someone who saw that they could bring additional specific business value with a repeatable packaged application rather than writing custom application after custom application. But why hasn’t we seen a repeat of this in ECM?

I remember pitching Documentum as a platform to partners back in early 2000. It seemed odd to me that a company would invest resources in developing a content management platform for their application, rather than use those resources on the Value they were adding for the customer. A few companies like Lionbridge (for translation) and McLaren (for engineering) saw the opportunity and built solutions on top of ECM systems. But many more thought that they could just build their own content management system from scratch, so why bother working with an ECM vendor. But what if an ECM vendor announced that it was building its own RDBS from scratch to use with their next release? We’d think they were crazy.

Then why don’t more vendors follow a path that has had such prior success? It’s the ECM vendor’s fault. For some reason ECM vendors have been afraid of being seen as a platform. But let’s be honest, to solve a business problem every ECM platform requires customizations just like a RDBS. So get over it! ECM systems are platforms. Work with your partners to build CEVA and develop the ecosystem.

And by the way, my gut says it’s only a matter of time before Oracle supports its 19,500 partners to develop CEVA just like they did with applications for the RDBS platform.

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4 thoughts on “See the Value in CEVAs

  1. In my view, it was the fragmented state of the ECM platform market that held back the emergence of CEVAs. With the consolidation we have seen over last couple of years, it has become easier for an aspiring content-centric application developer to pick a winning platform. I wrote about the potential for CEVAs and the parallels between the ECM and RDBMS markets here:

    More than a year since my last blog post – I hope to remedy that in the near future. I’m enjoying your work though – keep it up!

  2. There really is two ways you can look at the consolidation. As a market, I would agree to you that with the smaller ECM companies now a part of larger organizations makes investment in a platform more attractive. But from a development perspective consolidation has not taken the risk away. We still have the same number of major players.

    EMC had no content solution. IBM bought FileNet but kept it and Content Manager on separate product paths. Maybe Oracle is the only one that did some consolidation. Unfortunately there still is no solid leader so anyone aspiring to develop a CEVA will need to place some bet on one (or two) of the vendors.

    I think I have a formula for a low risk way for companies to develop CEVAs. I have a little more research on the subject but I plan to post it in a few weeks.

    btw – I fixed the link to your article, which I enjoyed. Thanks.

  3. Marko,
    If you want to put some research in how to develop CEVAs i would encourage you to discuss with Max J. Pucher Owner and Architect of ISIS Papyrus.

    ECM systems are platforms but ISIS Papyrus is more, it is a Business Information Platform that is build around an Architecture that is made for Content Enabled Business Applications.

    Anchored by their Papyrus WebRepository, the ISIS solution covers the full spectrum of Enterprise Content Management being capturing, archiving, document management, records management, distributed output management, portal and offline working and a full-fledged Automated Document Factory.

    The secret is in the WebRepository, it not only stores instances (whatever content or data) in the ObjectRepository and closing the loop between inbound and outbound. It also stores all class definitions, templates, resources, business rules, process patterns, User Interface definitions and task definitions and put them under version control. The concept of Projects allow the business (without the need for IT) to control release new versions to Test and Production of course with approval workflows. Also the BPM engine is part of the WebRepository. It´s not a conventional limited flow-drawing tool but a Complex Event Processor that acts on state changes in the objectmodel. On top of that we have what we call an User Trained Agent, that can be trained by experts to perform tasks. No programming, just feeding examples as in doing your normal job.

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