ECM in 2013 – Winds of Change

I am looking forward to 2013 in the ECM market more than in the last five years. The thing that interests me more than anything else is change and this year promises to be anything but dull. The status quo is not just boring – it is dangerous.  What follows are  my thoughts on the major trends in enterprise content management that will affect our careers and choices in the coming year. Standard disclaimer – these are my opinions, observations and speculations not those of my employer.

Winds of Change

The winds of change are blowing in the Enterprise Content Management space. A lot of it has been exactly that in years past. Hot air. 2013 though is a year of reckoning when strategic rhetoric either solidifies into something meaningful for vendors or their ECM platforms fade in earnest.  Dissolved, absorbed and unrecognizable in the surrounding portfolios. For those that do change though, 2013 will transform more than technology but accelerate the shift in business models that began to take shape in 2012.

As you look across the earnings reports for those that release this level of detail, pay special attention to the growth of their cloud initiatives. Additional resources and effort will follow this track and not surprisingly a decreasing attention to legacy offerings. If your vendor is not actively pushing you to move to the cloud in some form they are out of touch. If you are not trying to figure out how to get there yourself then you are.

That is uncharacteristically harsh for me but it is a fact. Just like companies need to change, as IT professionals we have to prepare. Recently I have been in meetings with a number of mid level IT folks from various organizations. A disturbing trend I see is aggressively digging in when the cloud comes up. This is more than a typical allergic reaction to the buzzword. “We will never work that way” is the response in some form or fashion followed by admonitions not to bring it up again in front of the wrong people (users).

The fact is that if you don’t figure out how to move at least part of your work to the cloud your competitors will. On a more personal level your bosses WILL replace you with someone who is willing to figure it out eventually. This is not about technology, compliance, skill set or anything like that. It is economics. Just like off-shoring was economics  ten years ago when many careers were derailed by not adjusting to the new way of doing business in IT.

And before you suggest that somehow you might wait out the backlash consider this. You are absolutely correct that things swing back and forth but global shifts have much longer wavelengths than most careers can ride out. Can your tech career afford to be displaced for a decade?

Yes cloud is a buzzword that is oversimplified, overused and misunderstood but it is a real thing and is not going away.

ECM Trends by Vendor

Back to the point of the post – what might we see from the ECM players I find interesting in 2013.


For EMC I always limit detail because I work there but I will say that the Syncplicity acquisition in particular is a model I expect to see expand. All of the legacy content management players are faced with two changes in the business culture that reached critical mass in 2012.

The first is the mainline acceptance of externally managed cloud solutions  for mission critical systems. That is not to say those haven’t been around but I believe the tipping point has been reached with regard to acceptance of the model by those that manage the risk of IT systems in large organizations.

The second is a swing of the pendulum away from internal IT developed ECM applications towards more turnkey solutions. Put simply, people want to buy the ferris wheel not the erector set. Note that this is a trend and not an event so there will continue to be successful platform strategies for many customers. IIG has recognized the shift and is combining professional services and partner developed solutions to address the prevalence and preference among buyers to focus more on complete solutions.

With the release of xCP2.0 and other developments EMC is well positioned to benefit from the shift as a provider of a stack from which solutions can more easily be constructed and repeated.[end advertisement 🙂 ]


Following the Autonomy debacle I believe HP will enter a death spiral to irrelevance in the content management arena. My opinions around this are too lengthy for this post so you can read that expanded post here.


IBM latched onto the case management story and cobbled together a set of acquisitions some time ago for a fairly coherent story. Since then I believe the market in general has seen less interest in platform oriented case approaches. Signaling perhaps a shift in their own interest, IBM acquired eDiscovery vendor StoreIQ late in 2012 which I think is just the first in another round of box checking. Perhaps they recognize more vulnerability in this segment because of HP/Autonomy’s trouble and people may be rethinking past investments related Interwoven products.

I expect them to continue with acquisitions and in particular I expect a sync & share acquisition in 2013. Who they acquire will say alot about how serious they are in this space as well.


Microsoft committing to the cloud with SharePoint is old news. What will be interesting this year is to observe their adoption trajectory.  During the expansion of SharePoint in the enterprise you could not escape the hype as people scrambled to figure out how to use something they either thought they owned already or was inexpensive to implement. SharePoint in the cloud however will not generate the same degree of excitement in this more mature market. As a feature set it is a known entity now and people understand it is neither as cheap nor easy to make proper use of.

Personally, I do not believe that return on investment from cost of ownership reductions is enough of an incentive by itself for people to stick with the product when moving to the cloud. Overcoming the inertia of content to move off premises is high even if the target platform is the same. This problem is not limited to MS but because of their broad install base it will be easiest to observe. SkyDrive is a competitive wrinkle in the mix as well and will confuse some with the overlap and I believe dilute SharePoint’s appeal to the workgroup sharing market they dominate.


OpenText has shown some growth in their cloud/hosted offerings from earnings reports but I expect pressure on their valuation to push them to show organic growth in the varied portfolio they’ve acquired. As their new CEO moves into his second year reorganizations will make execution on this difficult and draw attention away from integrating the very many pieces of the puzzle.

OT has enjoyed a cozy relationship with SAP through the XOS product but SAP is another major vendor who coming to terms with the impact of cloud. That will inevitably affect how related content is managed. Once someone has figured out a pure Cloud CM play for SAP systems that has less friction than the default XOS channel then this relationship (and revenues) will suffer. There is certainly no guarantee whose technology that will be. This however is a greater concern for 2014 as SAP to my knowledge has not articulated what their long term plans are in this space and buying cycles will make this an issue for the next budget year.


Oracle had a few decidedly tacky campaigns last year but their lack of investment in certain areas (transactional in particular) I think will make them more vulnerable. Purely from my perspective as an outsider, UCM looks lost in a sea of acronyms and floating a bit directionless in the  middleware category. WCM as a category for Oracle does have more cohesion but we’ll see what happens the farther they get from their Fatwire acquisition.

Clouds Gather

For the pure cloud vendors there are three different trajectories I see emerging.

Platform and General Purpose

Box, Spring and a few others are continue to round out their feature sets to expand and attack broader use cases. The problem  is that file management is easy but ECM is hard. They can make their products simple by limiting capabilities but that comes at a cost when the customer has more sophisticated needs than what you can do with an OOTB SharePoint site.

You will see (as already announced by Box) more leveraging of partner apps but that will not have a significant impact in 2013 across all vendors. Nevertheless this category, while it struggles to deal with more complex scenarious will continue to nibble away market share – especially from SharePoint.


In 2012 i saw more of a specialization of the user experience away from the content itself and more on the container.Whether that be a project, workspace or channel.This category includes Huddle, Jive and even new entrant SambaCloud. I see this space as having greater upside potential than they platform – mainly because it is easier to translate into a quantifiable business value than a generic platform.

So much was made in past years of Web 2.0 features but clearly they were just that – features of a broader toolset not a tool to themselves. What the players in this category understand is that content is most valuable when the system knows what it is for – e.g. project content management. More than a prediction, it is really a hope that there is more traction around this in 2013 as I think there is real value to customers in integrating the organization of projects, process and paper.

Vertical Solutions

Referring back to the ferris wheel over the erector set – vertically purposed content management solutions in the cloud are rapidly coming into their own. There are several examples but I will highlight Veeva in the pharmaceutical space as a model to watch. These are very specialized applications that will likely never cross industries but they are increasingly impactful to buying decisions in the markets where they have developed.

I also tend to put salesforce in this category. When they announced Chatterbox last year I thought it was significant that they were investing in the space but I do not see the content management feature set reaching outside the boundaries of the specific use cases their mainline product supports. Far more relevant content will continue to live outside of it and need to be referenced but we will have to wait and see once the product is actually available.

Don’t Forget the Titans

The nature of these cloud first products is that it is nearly impossible to pursue all three strategies at once. To the contrary each of the legacy vendors has initiatives drawn from acquisitions or evolutions of the existing portfolios. While the mainlines may move more slowly the two camps are converging in all areas. Cloud only product development slows down as their feature set grows. Legacies more quickly become competitive as they often start from a richer feature set.

As a buyer you should not blindly accept the idea promoted by the startups that only they can give you a pure cloud solution. Remember – this is as much about business model as it is technology and the legacy vendors are more aggressively moving to adjust- especially in the vertical solution category.  Do your research and that means more watching a 5 minute video that never even shows you the application.

ECM is Dead, Long Live ECM

Much to the chagrin of people with high balances on their credit cards, the world did not end in December, 2012. And the term Enterprise Content Management did not die either. In 2013, I predict a cloud fueled resurgence of interest in ECM as a strategy. Manifested in a customer selected suites of solutions.

Finally I’d like to wish all of you a happy and successful 2013 and invite you to read my Random Tech Predictions if you have not already.

We just celebrated our fifth anniversary as the Big Men On Content and we are very thankful for all of you that take time to read and comment on what we have to say and we will try to keep it moving forward.  Best wishes to you all in the new year and may all your projects be on time, under budget and fully deployed!

For my more specific tech predictions for 2013 check out this post.

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