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ECM vendors should look to Oracle as a guide

It’s nice to get back into a good conversation over the direction of Enterprise Content Management (ECM).  This time around it’s platform verses solution.  I brought up that ECM Is Not a Solution, It’s A Platform a few weeks back and last week Pie also stated that Content Management is a Platform.   While we share a current view of ECM, we differ on ECM’s future or do we?  We both suggest to look at Oracle. In short, what I realized was that we were both right.

ECM the product is a platform that is sold by ECM vendors.  In the past, the product was a solution to manage electronic content.  As more customer solutions were built on it, that solution has evolved into a platform.  While it’s not bad to be a platform, to stay competitive ECM vendors must address solutions too.

I feel it’s time to dust off a quote I started using in 1999.  Walter Gretzky taught his son “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky.

“Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

For the longer explanation … please continue.

Oracle as a Model for ECM

The only way to clear this riddle is to make a substitution for Oracle.  From this point on Oracle the company will be known as “Company”.  The company’s product Oracle will be known as “Database.”

Oracle, the company, was founded in 1977.  In 1978, the Company released Oracle 1.0, its database product.   At that time the Database was a solution for organizations to manage large collections of data.  Before the Database, data was stored in hierarchal database.  Sorting that data was a process of reading the file, performing computation, and writing it back to disk in another file.  So when new relational databases emerged they were “solutions” to a major business problem.

Through the 80’s, integrators and other vendors were building solutions on the Database to do anything from accounting to simple document indexing.  The Company was competing with Ingress, dBase, Sybase and DB2.  The Company also built its first solution on the Database for accounting as part of its Application division.  This was great for organizations that didn’t want to build their own custom accounting packages.  Still the Database was a solution for many different organizational processes.

Fast forward to 2004, the Company has a thriving application division but hard competition from vendors who built solutions on their Database.  The Company buys PeopleSoft for $10.3B.  A year later it buys Siebel for $5.8B.  The cash for these acquisitions came from sales of the Database which was now evolving from solution to platform for a majority of its users.

At the close of fiscal year 2012, the Company’s application revenue was $8.1B and its database revenue was $17.9B.  Almost a third of the Company’s revenue came from applications.  Each of those dollars also drove additional dollars in Database revenue.    After 2013 actual numbers aren’t available because the Company started reporting a detailed split of On Premise and Saas.

It took 27 years for Oracle’s database to evolve into a platform.  It’s interesting if you use Documentum’s start date of 1990, we should see its ECM evolve into a platform by 2017.  Of course that’s slow these days.  Salesforce went from solution to platform in only nine years.  It took a backwards approach, launching Salesforce solution in 1999 and platform in 2008.

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