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EMC Shifts to Web Experience Management with Fatwire

EMC Documentum is announcing a new reseller relationship with Fatwire that will fundamentally change the way it competes in the web content management market. For those that are familiar with Documentum’s history in the web content management space this announcement will cause mixed reactions. Many forget that Documentum was actually one of the very first of the major content management vendors to take WCM on. Over the years the entire community has struggled with the stark reality that the offerings were less than what we hoped they would be.  As implementers and strategists we struggled with balancing the often disappointing user experience with the desire to maximize the return on investment on license purchases not to mention the advantages common content architectures promised.

It was a long held belief by some familiar with WebPublisher and related products that  “WCM is just different.” So long as the product line was constrained to the rest of the stack (Content Server, WDK, etc.)  it just could not keep pace with the rapid evolution and expectations of the users.  Pagebuilder promised to fix some of the experience but in the end it was only an incremental change. Release after release the ability of the product to compete head to head with others focused on the space diminished. While WebPublisher have continued to be used in some remarkable ways, the practicalities of competition eventually led to the conclusion that something drastic needed to be done.

Drastic in engineering terms equals expensive and the prospect of bringing the stack up to par with the market was beyond daunting. It was for all intents and purposes impossible – But what if there is someone already doing what you want? With that in mind EMC has inked a new reseller  relationship with Fatwire – a recognized leader in Web Experience Management. There is a lot in that statement. Some important things to point out.

  1. This was not an acquisition – Despite the rumors of an out right acquisition, EMC is only taking an equity stake in the company. This brought to mind one very obvious question – Why not buy the whole thing?  If you look at this market historically, acquisitions of WCM product lines lead to a loss of focus. Open Text’s solution to this acquisition entropy is apparently to buy another company in the same space every couple of years. EMC’s approach is different. Their customers gain access to a best in class web content solution but the engineering and product marketing retain the agility that comes from  being a smaller company.
  2. Web Experience Management is more than WCM – There has been considerable debate on twitter and the blogosphere about whether or not the term WCM needs to be replaced. EMC (following Fatwire’s lead) is shifting to Web Experience Management. This includes crucial components  like analytics, feedback and in memory caching for extreme high volume consumption. None of these features have ever been a product offering from EMC Documentum. I believe this will open doors for both companies and promise to revitalize the position and reputation of EMC in this market segment. The loose coupling of content creation and consumption has fewer and fewer meaningful applications in the 2.0 world and a serious platform must provide support for understanding how content is consumed to be taken seriously.
  3. This represents a change in philosophy –  It only takes about 10 seconds on Fatwire’s site to realize there is a fundamental idealogical conflict with past positions on WCM. Fatwire has it’s own product called Content Server. There is a productized integration to the Documentum repository available but that is intended only for what I will term as released assets. Heretofore it would have been heretical to consider that the Fatwire content server would remain a permanent part of the solution. That is precisely the case however. There is considerable long term precedent (eRoom anyone?) but the engineering perspective was always to replace the back end with the Documentum content server. No doubt there will be architectural zealots (like me) that argue this is a violation of a core principle of Documentum philosophy but as I have to remind people (and myself) – we are in business not religion. I must concede that for the vast majority of WCM use cases there is no business need or mandate to serve all content from an architectural monolith. In the end – it is not a moral imperative that all content live in the repository.
  4. Fatwire will resell EMC Documentum DAM – Fatwire will be able to resell the recently revamped MediaSpace application stack for digital asset management. This is of great interest to their sales force as it expands their reach into the rich media market.

There will be many more questions and debates around the ramifications of this shift in strategy but I am reassured by one fact. Rather than become an industry also ran EMC did something about it.  This may on the surface look like a short-cut but you should not dismiss that there is a distinct change in the company’s willingness to take extraordinary means to solve a long standing product deficiency.   This doesn’t make me like WCM but thanks to my own company one of my own 2010 predictions (#6) has been proven wrong already. This change is anything but boring.

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