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proclaim their leadership positions and many a potential customer will make their enterprise decisions based on this outdated concept. Yes I said outdated.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:
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.