2011 ECM Prophesies and Trends by Lee Dallas

Seems everybody is writing predictive posts this year. I thought I would take it up a notch and elevate my musings to prophetic status. They won’t be any more accurate but the search engines might bring me a new set of conspiratorial readers and make for more entertaining comments. Besides – 2012 is just around the corner and I might as well get ahead of the crowd by making Mayan calendar record retention references early.

This year I am also stressing the term trends over predictions. Predictions focus on events but apart from acquisitions, releases and earthquakes the more interesting things in ECM evolve over time and don’t respect the significance of January 1st. As always, these are my interpretations of industry trends and events. I talk about specific vendors but I will not directly address my current employer for what should be obvious reasons.

Trend: WikiLeaks Makes ECM Harder

I have already seen “Cablegate” show up in sales pitches related to ECM and all over the globe Powerpoint decks are being revised to include references to the most famous data theft in history. I fear though there is a reaction coming many do not expect. As a result of all the scrutiny ECM will be harder than ever to implement. I have little doubt that private and public data managers alike are looking for software to help them avoid similar appearance on the 24 hour cable news channels and all this attention should be good for business.

Yet the same scrutiny that initiates many efforts will grind those in flight to halt as teams are forced to reevaluate the requirements around security and access controls. Commitment on a purchasing decision, especially in government circles, will be almost impossible to get. So the very thing that could mitigate the risk might never get implemented purely because no one will want to make the mistake of picking the wrong one.

Prophecy: Facebook and the Coming Marketing Crisis

A little known fact is that it was an argument over whether or not Facebook could be considered a content management system that started this blog. These days there are two extremes of thought regarding Facebook and business. One looks for ways it can be exploited, often following absurd tangents from the basics of whatever a particular business is trying to achieve. The other extreme tries to minimize and marginalize Facebook’s impact and suggest it is not good enough for whatever a “real” business might want to do with it. Either the UI is poor or the security model is bad or it isn’t mature enough.

Reality as always is somewhere in the middle. In 2010 the flood gates opened. Not only is your Grandmother on Facebook but so is the corner gas station. There is a logic to it. Advertise where your customers are. The problem is that (brace for it) with Facebook what looks like marketing is too easy.  Many people – in frighteningly high positions of major companies will begin to ask -“why do I need to spend all of this money on marketing when my fourteen year old can create a page for us?”

In marketing terms Facebook is a great equalizer. Joe’s Lawnmover Repair can have a Facebook page just like Coca-Cola. The major difference will be how much somebody gets paid to create and maintain it. You may find this a silly proposition but the phenomena will not manifest itself in the open. It will show up as reduced headcount and funding.  On the other end of the economic scale, SMB’s will logically ask the question – why should I pay a guy $400 for a site design or $100 a month for hosting when FaceBook gets me a basic web presence – as good as Coke’s – for free.

For all the benefits marketing organizations reap in attention from the social media craze – this low-cost backlash is coming. When it does you will have a difficult time proving why you need headcount with a marketing degree when a kid in junior high can generate 10x the number of ‘Likes.’

Trend:Clouds Begin to Rain on Sharepoint’s Parade

Sharepoint 2010 is by almost every measure a great improvement and an incentive to upgrade. It does present one problem though. Like every upgrade it opens old wounds. Every upgrade presents an opportunity to question one’s committment to a given platform. To look outside and ask – can this be done cheaper, better, easier some other way?

The vast majority of SharePoint users are served by on premises installations maintained by internal IT staff. I do not look for this to change in 2011 but a trend will begin to emerge. More customers will begin to ask the question – is this where I want to maintain this information?  When (not if) customers in large numbers begin to move these use cases to the cloud – there is no guarantee that SharePoint in the cloud will be the target platform.

An IT department’s affininty for SharePoint will not translate to the cloud. In the end people don’t pick SharePoint because it is the best tool to do the job. They use it because it is the most palitable for IT staff to deploy and they let the users have it. With the IT operational advantage removed, SharePoint is back to competing on features and ease of use. It will win against some competitors but it will most assuredly loose against others.

Trend: Cases Get Lost in the Cloud

Case management has garnered (and Gartnered if I can make that a verb) a considerable amount of attention in the last eighteen to twenty-four months. This is in large part due to the dominance of SharePoint in content messaging and quite honestly – a lack of anything else interesting for the ECM vendors to talk about. Despite the attention of analysts, vendors, consultants and street side vendors there are not stacks of RFP’s on people’s desks for generic case management platforms. There are a few but it does not dominate conversation at the conference table.

The industry in 2010 acknowledged with a nod – yes – most of these applications look like cases. In 2011 the market responds with “so what” and attention turns back to actually talking about answers for business problems instead of the abstract frameworks that support them.

Few of the serious minded strategists I know sincerely promoted cloud as a practical solution for the current budget cycle. That will begin to change in 2011 and armed with something interesting to talk about cloud ECM will begin to overcome case in the hearts and minds of ECM planners.

Prophecy: Acquisitions and Consolidations

Acquisitions are the illicit affairs for our market. Everybody likes to get together and gossip about them but the people involved have to pretend nothing is going on until it is all out in the open. Consequently it may be fun but it is rarely if ever more than a guessing game in the blogosphere. There will be interesting acquisitions in 2011. Here is my list of notable prophetic guesses.

  • Autonomy Looses Itself – Autonomy built up a billion dollar war chest and tipped a pending acquisition with a unamed target but then at the last-minute indicated that something in the landscape had changed and it would not happen this calendar year. This fueled speculation that Autonomy itself was an acquisition target.  The combination of IDOL and Interwoven I think make them attractive to several of the large hardware vendors – notably IBM.
  • Kofax – I am already on record  suggesting that if Autonomy does go shopping then Kofax is a likely target. Someone will make a play for this imaging vendor sooner than later. Microsoft perhaps or would they prefer to go after SharePoint Imaging vendor KnowledgeLake.
  • Symantec – I look for Symantec to continue to expand in other areas and possibly into the content management space. I think they look to strengthen their eDiscovery offerings. Possibly looking at Guidance – makers of enCase.
  • Hyland’s entry into the leader quadrant moves them onto the short list of affordable acquisition targets. 2011 could be the year VC’s cash out.
  • OpenText Stands Alone – I will happily be the contrarian where OpenText is concerned. I think they would sell out as everyone predicts but I just don’t think there is a suitable motivated buyer. Their own acquisitions, product overlap and market cap reduce the list of prospective suitors to a set of companies that are largely uninterested in a pure play content management – at the moment.

Trend: Development Becomes Cheaper than Analysis

The major driver for mobile app developers regardless of whether they are independent or corporate is speed to value. How quickly can you get the app in the hands of the users and how fast can you react to the feedback – not from the lab but from the field. When asked recently how they decide what widgets to build, one company replied – we just build it and see if it works. This is beyond agile. It is anarchy but for many it is working.

The combination of platform, tooling and access to data make it much faster to develop and iterate than to analyze. The fact is – for the size and scope of many mobile app and widget development problems the analysis is too expensive – not in just dollars but in time to market. If you think about it you have missed the opportunity.

Mobile app development drives the breaking down of applications to discreet application activities to deployable units that are smaller and change much faster than many formal IT methodologies can sustain. More IT departments will be forced to rethink change control and its relationship to mobile applications and in the end – it is analysis that will ultimately suffer.

Updated with another trend:

Trend: Mobile and Enterprise Infrastructure Begin to Converge



I use the same disclaimer I did last year: These are my opinions and in no way represent the official position of my employer or anyone else. I am not in a position there to know anything meaningful anyway so enjoy and use this information at your own risk.

Happy New Year

4 thoughts on “2011 ECM Prophesies and Trends by Lee Dallas

  1. Excellent set of comments. I am surprised no one has really spoken up.

    Fully agree Autonomy is the most likely company to see change, either by buying Autonomy, or in turn being bought (by IBM?). IBM sure seems like they are falling farther and farther behind.

    The question I have for you here, is if you have any thoughts around how two other companies will fare: Adobe and Endeca?

    ECM (should I call it ECM 2.0?) seems to be increasingly being driven by search. Adobe with their purchase of Omniture is coming via SEO and authoring while Endeca seems to be trying to expand their CMS capabilities ala IDOL. Both also seem to be likely targets for being acquired in turn.

    1. Endeca is a good call. I’ve theorized before that they were a possible target of SAP – based partially on the fact that SAP’s VC arm has a stake in them.

      We need a new way of addressing finding rather than searching. Fast had some interesting messaging several years ago around building search based transactional systems but that is long gone post MS. Autonomy and IDOL is the closest thing to it but even that still feels like more marketecture than substantive architectural advancement.

      Adobe is one player I trully wish would remain independent. Despite the Microsoft rumors (that I don’t think will pan out) lately I have come to think my greatest fear is that Oracle will buy them.

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