Syncplicity – Sync Now,Integrate Later

[A friendly remember. I work for EMC but this is my own opinion and not reviewed or approved by the company.]

I have been spending a lot of time with Syncplicity getting used to the tool and understanding where it fits in my personal technology ecosystem. As I play with it I am finding that it really is the simplest of things that have the biggest impact on my productivity.

A few years ago I wrote a series on the evolution of ECM where I examined the nature of disruption introduced by SharePoint. The crux of the argument was that SharePoint’s success was due in large part to the fact that it addressed the most pervasive problem first – not the most complex.

In SharePoint’s case the pervasive problem targeted was the need in for work group file management. All other “ECMish” features were secondary and even though professional ECM practitioners argued that SharePoint was not a full fledged ECM, they failed to see it was enough of one to satisfy the broadest swath of the market. (Read ‘How SharePoint Captured ECM’ here)

The question for us now is – what is that next feature that is sufficiently pervasive, under-served, and tragically overcomplicated by current offerings? I have come to believe that sync not share is it.

All About Access

While the term Sync & Share has the marketing types giddy with alliterative glee I would argue that the share half of the equation is secondary to getting the value. You must realize that sharing necessarily drags a list of more complex features along. Everyone that does business using more than one device (smartphone, laptop, tablet, desktop) over the course of the day has a need for sync. I want my data to be available wherever I am without having to think about it.(read: What The Cloud Means to Real People)

Sharing on the other hand is more complex and more idiosyncratic. It is most always deliberate and dependent on the capabilities of the audience.  The feature is important and supported in some way across the solutions in the space but following the principle of “solving the most pervasive problem first” sync not share is the linchpin.

Dropbox understood this well and did a good job getting everyone used to the idea of sync and even coming to depend on it. What they failed to anticipate is the needs of the collective buyer (i.e. IT) over the individual in the enterprise. More to the point I am not certain they expected a need to sell to businesses when they started. Corporate security requirements are very difficult to address architecturally after the fact. Concerns linger that it is not secure enough for business despite recently added stop gaps.

So what are we waiting for?

Laurence Hart has written an excellent post on the integration possibilities with Syncplicty and the rest of the EMC IIG portfolio. I do not have any issues with the ideas but personally I think we run the risk of waiting too long for an integration of the product into something that looks more like what we think content management is and missing the opportunity staring us in the face.

Syncplicity delivers something that companies can use right now by itself and add tremendous value. IT shops that have been forced through security or other concerns to block Dropbox or Box now have an alternative backed by EMC that is secure, simple and more important – is what the users are asking for instead of what we “professionals” have been trying to convince them they need for more than a decade.

In much the same way that ECM practitioners and vendors tried to make the argument that SharePoint wasn’t an ECM we may look at what Syncplicity does without any integration and be tempted to make the claim that it needs complex features to be “interesting” to us. This is completely wrongheaded thinking.

Sync is not about management. It is about access. It is not about metadata. It is about flexibility. Other tools may offer sync but where they do offer IT controls knowingly or not they require that you buy into their interpretation of ECM.(taxonomy, system of record, location on your filesystem, etc.) Time and experience has taught us most rational people don’t really want ECM.

ECM is essential in certain cases but real people just want ubiquitous access to their data. The vast majority of that data is outside formal management and there is often no business case to justify changing it. Syncplicity offers a straightforward implementation of secure sync (with share too) across the mobile ecosystem without encumbering it with more ECM than is needed to solve the most pervasive use cases.

The potential for integration is enormous. There is already a rich RESTfull API that we have done some interesting things with but my recommendation is that you do not need that to justify the product in any organization. Sync is the pervasive problem on the table. Go solve it with Syncplicty and the other features will follow when and if they are worth it on their own.

2 thoughts on “Syncplicity – Sync Now,Integrate Later

  1. One of the problems with box, syncplicity, and dropbox is that they do not have metadata attributes (they have tags and folder structure, but that isn’t the same). I would like to be able to not only sync the content, but also metadata (department, product, author, etc). Have you seen this requirement?

  2. sorry for not responding sooner-day job impacting my blogging;)

    I agree that metadata is lacking in most of the solutions in the category. What I believe it comes down to is the ability of the target device to consume that metadata – possibly through very different applications and for different purposes.

    Focusing on the “least common denominator” for metada is where most end up – that being filesystem relevant properties like date created,modified, etc. These are universal.

    What would be interesting and certainly where Syncplicity is capable of going with the new Documentum relationship is a callback model to a repository of record. Don’t assume that all clients and syncpoints need it but provide a restful API to retrieve that full metadata profile from the managed store on demand.

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