Rebooting Enterprise Content Management

For the last year I’ve been a lurker in the ECM landscape.  Mainly I’ve not been sure what to say.  I’ve written a few post and responded to a few others.  But I haven’t felt ready to take a position.  Recently I’ve had a few gentle pushes that have me thinking it’s time to say something.  To talk about what has changed in my approach.

My tipping point was a visit to the Crown Partners website.  From Momentum’s past, people will remember their Documentum Viper and two Documentum Hummers.  Today Documentum is nowhere to be found in their partner list.  Crown has moved on, successfully, to become a web experience company.  It leaves me to ask, is the ECM problem … changing?

That last word was hard to write, as there as many options with much stronger word option.  But ECM is changing.  It’s not evolving.  It’s not becoming “Records Management” or “Information Management” or yet another iteration of “Knowledge Management”.  It’s not dying.  This vendor or that vendor is not on their last legs.  It’s definitely not expanding.  There are no new content types being managed.  But ECM is changing.  And if you look in the right places it’s growing.  Customers are taking on the ECM challenge on their own.  But how have we missed this change?  I think we’ve been too focused.

Enterprise Content Management (1999)

What I fear has happened is that as we have continued to analyze the landscape that we say surrounds ECM, we’ve forgotten the customer.  I go back to 1998; I had a manager who one day called me into his office.  He said approximately, “Gather up a small team of three and focus on the intranet stuff while the rest of us will work on the real stuff.”  That manager missed the boat feeling that the intranet was a distraction.  The internet was a change in our customers thinking.  One that Geoffrey Moore said put us Inside the Tornado.

Look back vendors were distraction by how we defined the landscape Enterprise Document Management Systems and Web Content Management could not coexist.  Documentum, PC Docs and OpenText do EDMS while Interwoven and Broadvision do WCM.  Vendors were not listing to their customers.  It was the customer that dragged EDMS vendors to do WCM.  “You do SGML why can’t you do HTML?”  It was the customers that evolved Electronic Document Management into Enterprise Content Management.  Once we listened, EDMS evolved into ECM.

Enterprise Content Management (2014)

I believe we’re in this distraction zone again today.  Preachers are so focused on what this vendor or that vendor is doing.  Many vendors do not realize that the customer has already started heading into new territories “for them”.  These territories are not new to vendors; they just have never been sexy.

Sure a digitized aircraft manual is an incredible ECM accomplishment.  The three volume of paper that was held for each airplane was crazy.  Even crazier was how to move the owners copy as planes were sold.  But what about: the purchase orders, invoices, bills of lading for each part in that plane;  the employee applications, annual reviews, and paystubs for each employee building the plane; and the contracts with vendors and suppliers for the plane.  How much space do those take up?  It’s said that if you printed out the 777 manual and put it inside the plane it could never take off.  I would argue that if you printed out all the supporting documents, it would never fit into the plane.

Vendors have been missing the mundane.  But the customer, the day-to-day end user, has not.  Need proof look inside any organization at the sheer volumes of content store in shared disk spaces.

This Time Volume Matters

ECM big (size) document problems are being replaced with big (volume) document problems.  Look inside every organization and there’s still a big paper problem.  Iron Mountain, literally a hole in the ground for paper, is still worth $6.78 billion dollars.  Last year I talked about cutting paper but there are few companies that have actually done so.  Paper takes up space and it slows processes.   Therefore paper is a problem.

Star Trek, Star Wars, Spider-Man, and even the Fantastic Four franchises are going through reboots.  I think that is what going to happen to ECM.  ECM it’s time for a reboot.

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