ECM is Missing out on Technology Partner Ecosystem

I got my start in software with a leading enterprise content management (ECM) software vendor and I learned the value of a solid partner network early on.  Over the last 20 years I have been in the ECM industry working for various types of organizations and continue to embrace the value of partners in the ecosystem.  Looking at other enterprise software solutions, like Salesforce and SAP, we see examples of this.  So I decided to do some research.

I compiled a list of organizations in the ECM space.  I looked at both ECM vendors and their partners, which I call document technology vendors.   I also considered both Cloud Content Services (CCS) and Document Management System (DMS) vendors as ECM vendors.  In addition to creating a list of these vendors, I also identified partner relationships.   I was a surprised to see what’s happening within the technology partner ecosystems in the Enterprise Content Management, or Content Services Platforms, today.


The Largest ECM Vendors Have the Biggest Ecosystems but …

The top ten percent of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) have fourteen or more partners.  In fact, the top four have twenty or more partners.  The platforms with the largest partner ecosystem are SharePoint, Documentum, Box and Alfresco.   However, when one looks at the other end of the platform vendor spectrum, it’s a different story.

Twenty-four percent of ECM vendors identified have no partners.  Granted many of these are very small organizations, with a hundred or fewer employees, but none are of the “Two Guys and a Computer” variety.   These platforms’ capabilities and its customers’ needs must be in tight alignment if only the vendor and customer support it.

Nineteen percent of ECM vendors have only one partner and in almost every case it is a capture vendor.  These were also small vendors so it’s not a surprise to see the partnership.  ECM and capture are very different technologies which only overlap on the storage of documents.  Still the reverse does not hold true.  Half of the capture vendors have two or more partners.

Over a Third of Document Technology Vendors Work Alone

It’s surprising to see that many document technology (DT) vendors ignore working directly with platform vendors.  Thirty-four percent of DT vendors do not partner with any ECM vendor.  Instead the DT vendors focus on the file system and network share.

Twenty-three percent of DT vendors work with a single platform.  Half of these are partnering with Microsoft SharePoint, while the other half work with a variety of different vendors.  They have tied their organization’s fate to a single platform.

Thirty-six percent of document technology vendors have diversified their solution and work with two to four partners.  They are less at risk to market conditions that might affect one platform vendor or another.  Seven percent have diversified partner strategies that work with five or more platforms.

Why the Data is Concerning

A diverse partner ecosystem is valuable to both document technology vendors as well as document platform vendors.  Partners decreases risk by expanding opportunity across various channels usually with existing resources.  It allows larger platform vendors to move into less established markets without focusing its own energies on the effort involved to support new functionality.  It allows document technology vendors to leverage existing integrated technology with new platform vendors.

It is hard to expect that any one platform can deliver on every possible customer requirement therefore a good partner network is a must. Yet we do not see vast partner networks in the ECM space.  I think that’s a mistake and stronger partner networks are needed.  What do you think?

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