Opinions and discussion on content management and document management by two of the biggest guys in the business. *Measured by combined weight

Sorry Gartner, but the Magic’s Gone

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The opinions shared here represent those of the contributor themselves and not those of their employers nor that of Big Men On Content as a whole.

In a few months the 2009 Gartner Magic Quadrant will magically appear. Vendors in the ECM space will proclaim their leadership positions and many a potential customer will make their enterprise decisions based on this outdated concept.  Yes I said outdated.   For years I would wait to see what they thought of the vendor landscape.  It would help validate my own opions and show me a few new ideas.  Maybe I’m finicky and I take peoples’ statements too literally but hey they’re the ones that say it.

Content management is a critical technology that helps organizations manage important documents and other unstructured information, such as photographs, XML components, video clips, podcasts and e-mail messages. Content management vendors address a range of user needs and offer a range of functionality, with some focusing on process-centric applications and others on basic content services (BCS). Enterprise content management (ECM) represents a vision and a framework for implementing a broad range of content management technologies and for extracting higher value from disparate content formats throughout an enterprise. Business planners and IT architects must understand the changing market dynamics and vendor landscape for ECM. ECM vendors must offer a wide range of capabilities that interoperate, but which may also be sold and used as separate products if needed.

Note what I highlighted.  Not to live in absolutes, but misinterpreting this note can cost a company millions.

So How Was I Supposed to Phrase My Question?
A few years back I found myself leading a really fun project.  I even thought that this was “the project” I had been preparing for my entire career.  I was asked to perform an ECM vendor evaluation for a retailer’s enterprise strategy.  I had years of experience and thought I knew where each product met their limits but I still new I would learn a few new things.  But one vendor ignored my boastful introduction as to my pedigree.

In round one, with my client in the room, I let my questions get answered in “marketing terms”.  But in round two, I put on my laser focus.  You see I did my research and like many of the ECM vendors, this one had more than one platform.  And while “yes the company supported feature A”, it was in platform 1 not in platform 2.  And then “yes the company supported B”, it was in platform 2 not in platform 1.  So while yes the company supported both features, you would have to choose one feature over another or implement two completely separate platforms.

Do Multiple Platforms Rule?
I really don’t get this idea that ECM systems don’t need to integrate.  But I think I’ve fallen into believing that ECM is much like DBMS.  And for those of us that have been around, consolidation was the story in DBMS in the 90’s.  And this wasn’t vendor consolidation, like with ECM today, it was consolidation by the clients.  Why have administrators, maintenance contracts, upgrades, etc with Oracle, Sybase, and Informix?

But here we are and EC-ehM vendors think that people don’t mind having several platforms in house.  These vendors think it’s not a problem to have a whole bunch of administrators for unstructured content.  They haven’t been listening to the client because their opinion is the complete opposite.  Do you really need an admin for each your WCM, EDMS, and Imaging platforms?  No.

So What is Your Opinion, Big Man?
I won’t do Gartner’s job for them, today.  So I’ll only hit the highlights and focus on Leaders, Visionaries, and Challengers.  I’ll follow Gartner’s own rules and look at formats, interoperability, and separation.  But I will also go ONE step further and recognize that there are PLATFORMS.


Looking at the above the above and focusing on “capabilities that interoperate”.  A typical ECM vendor today supports Document Management, Web Content Management, and XML in a single or interoperable platform.  IBM Content Manager, EMC Documentum, Oracle Universal Content Management (formerly Stellent), Open Text Vignette, and Autonomy Interwoven all support this standard base level of format interoperability.  Of these, Only EMC Documentum has the vision to also look at Digital Asset Management, Images, and eMail in a single platform.  IBM FileNet also needs to be considered for its support of DM, WCM and Images in a single platform.  That really just leave Microsoft and Hyland trailing the pack.  Of course looking at platforms they are not alone.

If I were breaking up the categories.  Here’s what I would do:


IBM FileNet
Open Text Document Management
Microsoft SharePoint

IBM Lotus


EMC Documentum

Autonomy Interwoven
IBM Content Manager
Open Text Vignette
Oracle Universal Content Management


EMC Captiva
Hyland OnBase
Open Text Digital Media
Open Text Captaris Alchemy
Open Text eDOCS
Open Text IXOS
Open Text Web Solutions
Symantec Enterprise Vault *


EMC SourceOne *

Of course to do this right, you need to look at vendor viability, customer satisfaction, and specific features of each platform.  For instance that we all know that Open Text LiveLink has much better office document support over Open Text Vignette.

So I Don’t Use the Magic Quadrant?
No, you still look at the Magic Quadrant.   The way Gartner looks inside the feature functionality of each vendor is still very in depth, even thought they do ignore the multi-platform issue.  Maybe some customers are still willing to go the overhead route of multiple platforms.  For them, I say beware and be prepared to buy additional platforms as needed.  Then again maybe Gartner’s listening and we’ll see a deeper analysis.  It’s not only software that upgrade over time.

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Categorised in: Content Management, Documentum, EMC, Enterprise Content Management, IBM, Oracle, SharePoint

11 Responses »

  1. Hi Marko,

    One additional point I would like to make about EMC Documentum, even though they support the various solutions on a single platform, the customization/development strategy has diverged. I believe most of the hardcode DCTM developers would say even though WDK was not the best technology for all their products, it was universal. If somone was familiar with Webtop, learning how to customize DAM was not too much more to learn. With D6, you started to see a shift in the customization/development model. Taskspace was designed to be more a configurable app – similar to Visual Basic. Then came Media Workspace, which is based on Flex. Center Stage came out, which will have its own APIs and is more oriented towards extended javascript. More recently, with the release of CMIS spec, you need to know DFS as well. I realize that the product managers picked the best technology to satisfy the requirements of their user base, but having to learn all these different kind of technologies diminishes the value of single platform.

    • Hey Johnny,

      I agree that one area missing in the report is customizability. Rarely are content management platforms deployed “out of the box”. So from a costs perspective it means additional dollars spent. As you point out, with several customization strategies you need different skill sets in your development team. So it does effect the interoperability. I still think the fact that you need several differant platforms with some vendors that is the real big problem.

      If you have different platforms by default you have different customization and development strategies. Worse still is that you have different administration frameworks. This includes at a minimum different attribute models and access controls. At worse this includes different user and group administration, if it’s not coming from an LDAP server. I really think that in proper vendor assessments you need to ask “which product” from these multiplatform vendors.

      By the way, it was not my intent to place one platform over another. More to the point to highlight these vast differences in approach by vendors that diverges from a standard defined that itself diverges from its own definition.

  2. I assume this is Gartner’s matrix, but I question its accuracy. Oracle UCM most certainly supports images and has, admittedly rudimentary, DAM capabilities. Are there certain benchmark capabilities that must be met in order to qualify the product to receive a bullet in particular categories?

    None of this is to suggest that I think Oracle UCM is a wonderful product or even better than most of its competitors from what I know. I happen to believe that choosing a UCM is much like choosing a college. Almost any one may be the best choice in a particular situation depending upon functional requirements, budgets, technological capabilities, etc. I agree that this casts doubt in general on the whole notion of a “Magic Quadrant” for this category. It’s a lot like the U.S. News rankings of colleges. They can be totally misguided depending on what your needs are.

    • No it’s my matrix. I think most every platform can store and version any binary file format but to do DAM (or WCM) there are specific components that those solutions have beyond library services. For instance most DAM solutions offer the ability to transform not only formats but sizing, they also include GUI’s that support thumbnail. Neither of which (correct me please) are supported by Oracle UCM.

      And it’s not only Gartner to whom I’m pointing. The vendors themselves often hide the fact that a deployment may require two or more platforms from them. With little public evidence the customers can miss this fact.

      • Actually, Oracle has UCM DAM, which does exactly the things you mention and much more. Oracle has pretty nice DAM support, though I don’t know how well it compares to other products.

  3. The problem to me is less with the methodology than with the term ECM itself. It has become too broad and diffuse to be usable in a practical sense and the issue you describe may just be a symptom. There are certainly other categories where the ranking is more informative.

    • I think that ECM will continue to grow but more in content types not business services. In my opinion calling collaboration ECM does no one justice. For instance, Microsoft SharePoint is a great collaboration platform but terrible at ECM.

      But back on point, the real question is should one really expect to manage documents and video together? A video of a keynote with the PowerPoint presentation from the keynote. One repository or two?

  4. The New version SharePoint 2010 has changed the landscape and it makes the above matrix outdated..

  5. quite right – many changes in the last year and a half


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