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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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