Laurence Hart responded to a conversation with a few people on his blog about strategic direction as it relates to Documentum. I don’t typically respond to such critiques but in this case I make an exception. Mainly because I think the market implications are interesting to talk about. I wont deal with every point in this post but please keep in mind the following is NOT in any way an official position – just my 2 cents. That said, read his post first.
The Race is Far From Over
Evaluating an entire corporate mindset based on a couple of guys opinion in a bar is more than a little myopic. The “didn’t virtualize fast enough” argument probably came from a guy that was once or is currently compensated on virutalization. How everyone makes a living tends to color the way you see the world. More to the point – success in ECM from a business perspective is a relay not a marathon.
Pie’s rebuttal is accurate. Saying that lack of growth was the result of not virtualizing the product honestly is an ignorant position. The implication however that the broader community does not have a good grasp on the value proposition is sadly often the case. Where I work is a big place that sells a lot of disks and frankly not everybody cares about content management. To be honest – I don’t care that they don’t care. There really is nothing wrong with it. That comes as a shock to ECM people like us who are exceptionally needy and constantly looking for validation. It is fair to say that we have not optimized that message and depending on where and who you talk to, there are reasons to do it and just as many to justify not bothering with it.
It is overly naive to think that selling ECM simply as a means of driving storage sales is ever a sufficient justification for any acquisition. A broader view of the world is that software is in the end more important than the physical infrastructure it runs on. This idea is centerpiece of an ever evolving strategic view of the world.
There are market forces beyond the technology that change strategies and decisions on positioning and investment. For example, back in the day SaaS was largely thought of as somebody running your servers for you with on premise licenses models. Today it has a very different meaning. Funding patterns have shifted from capital to operational. This drives a desire for subscription and consumption based pricing over seat or core based and the accompanying accounting advantages. Should this and every company have pivoted faster on this point? probably.
The world keeps turning and the landscape continues to change after any acquisition. Saying Documentum is finished is overly simplistic or better said just plain wrong. You have to look at where it is here today in context. Right now, not 2004. From that viewpoint what is the best way forward for customers and shareholders. Not analysts. The path may not line up with any given consultant or pundits current knowledge base. I personally think though this path includes continued moderate evolution of an on premise content server but with an all out commitment to be the best in delivering SaaS content capability. The two are not mutually exclusive but more important they are also not necessarily tightly coupled either.
You should not assume a migration of systems, brands or all content to the cloud. That path will include archives, purges, bridges and hybrids. Some content will never leave the ground. Logistics and mindsets about data security and residency demand these options. Some may argue that if a brand or code line does not directly evolve to a cloud delivery model it is somehow a failure. This too is overly simplistic. I don’t need to have Documentum content server in a cloud to say EMC is successful in cloud ECM. Product sold by EMC used by millions of users as part of their daily job to control content is that measure.
Ultimately I am more interested in delivering exceptional content management product(s) that people love to use and businesses demand and drives the market. I really don’t care what you call it but it is far too early to declare winners or losers.