Why We Have an (Enterprise) Content Management Problem

I started to reply to Pie’s latest post, “Why We Don’t Have an Enterprise Data Management Problem” but it got longer than a paragraph.  So I thought I’d blog instead.   I’m not sure I agree that “The ECM mindset is the broken part.” To focus on the old Highlander rule, “There Can Be Only One” which ECM adopted, I agree is vendor fiction that will never be fully realized.  But ECM needs a single mindset, at least at the industry.

Pie used a great analogy of database.  In the ECM space we have often related ourselves to databases.  I argue that we have never learned from database.  IT “understand” databases. I feel that IT doesn’t understand what “we” do in DM, CM, ECM, (oh, what will we call it this week.)    Enterprises have a general strategy of a single vendor database (Oracle or SQL server).  And yes there is usually exceptions.  And sometimes those fall all the way down to databases being created in spreadsheets.  But there is usually a go to vendor.  And if we look at the retention of data we usually do see a single vendor in a data warehousing strategy.

Bring in ECM, the standard strategy across many enterprises is the network share.  I feel that in ECM the network share is similar to a spreadsheet used as a database.  So I’ve looked to find out “why do enterprises use network shares” and the conclusion is they don’t know we, in ECM, exist.

I see the problem as marketing.  Let’s start in 1998 and move forward.  Document Management was to small minded. Knowledge Management got was confusing. Content Management got the bigger message but wasn’t big enough so let’s call it Enterprise Content Management. Oh wait where the business message, let’s call it Content Enabled Vertical Applications. This space has changed lanes so often no wonder customers don’t understand what we do.  Looking back at databases, it’s still called the same thing as it was in the 80’s at least.

Documentum’s CEO Jeff Miller used to say, “we may not be right but we’re not confused.”  But looking the way ECM changes it “space name” I want to say, “change lanes often enough and a cop’s going to pull you over for being drunk.”

There is an overall need for a content strategy based on a technology and that technology approach may not be a single vendor one.  That answer has used the same technology for years while it’s name has changed.   As we change the name of the space, people loose touch with what they already know.  And that’s what our challenge to overcome.  When IT staff doesn’t see Content Management as a comprehensive message, we vendors are missing the market.

I think it’s time we pick a name, stay in the lane, and become as common place in the enterprise IT as databases are today.  Vendor distinctive industry terminology not included.


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