As I mentioned in my previous post, the writers' summit is one of my favorite events of the year. Not just because we get looked after exceedingly well but because it is a chance to just sit in a room with industry experts and chat without any pending deals, hidden agendas or competitive friction.
The question that I posed was best summed up by Carl Frappaolo our emcee for the day “If all the obstacles to ECM adoption - e.g., user/culture acceptance, networks bandwidth, cost, security, etc.- were to go away, what would you do with ECM?”
I know for sure that we had the right people in the room and I’m pretty sure that everyone understood the question but we did not really make much progress with the answers.
The only areas where we seemed to get some traction were:
- A general consensus from the audience that delivering ECM without having to deploy ECM would allow customers and partners to focus on their core business challenges rather than technology. Johnny Gee summed it up nicely saying that “…Documentum projects could be wildly more successful if we didn’t have to worry about setting up the infrastructure for all of our clients.”
- Delivering CMIS as a service got a lot of points from the team but as a vendor of ECM I do see that a challenge here would be (1) differentiating yourself from all of the other CMIS-as-a-service ® (not really my registered trademark but it has a great ring to it so maybe I should) and then monetizing that differentiator. Having rendition support is something that differentiates Documentum from SharePoint for instance but if CMIS does not expose renditions what use are they in that model?
- There was interest in ECM as a aggregated consumer content management solution – don’t store music in iTunes, pictures in Picasa, documents on your hard drive and videos on a 2GB external drive. Store them all in a system that understands content types and manages them effectively. Carl once again sums this one up with “Most of us believed that there was a market potential for a personal ECM platform for “everyday users” of the web who face fragmented functionality and repositories such as Flickr, Facebook, SlideShare, etc. Mike Vizard even offered a product name – “MyCrap.com”. “
I was hoping for some game changing new ideas – I had my VC man on speed dial to capitalize on the collective intelligence in the room but we didn’t really ever get off the ground. So, if we had the right people in the room and a good question tabled but failed to elicit innovative responses then I guess one of two things was going on:
- There really are no compelling areas for us to move commoditized ECM into and we should give that idea up, or
- The question was so different to our normal thought patterns that the audience was unable to get their heads around the problem.
- There is a third option which involves me being incompetent but let’s leave that alone for now.
Laurence ‘Word of Pie’ Hart seems to side with option #2. In his summary of the session he says “The problem was that we have been stuffed inside the box so long, we can’t imagine running, we are focused on the concept of just being able to have a good stretch.”
My master plan – if you care – is to keep nibbling away at this question and to keep listening for opportunities. I agree with Pie for a change, we need to climb out of the box, have a stiff drink, look around and then ask ourselves the question.
Just FYI, post the conference Pie posted an entry which talks about ECM as a commodity but focuses not on the ‘and then what?’ aspect but on the cost aspect. He says “For Content Management to be a commodity, and not merely inexpensive, it needs to be on-demand and charge me for what I use.” To me, this is a given, we are all conditioned to pay-as-you-go in the brave new ‘cloud’ world but as a vendor I am interested in how to grow out impact on the world (i.e. my business scope) by providing lower cost, more accessible services.
So do me a favor, think past the logistics, the cost model, the standards, etc. and think about what would happen if we delivered on the promise and lived in the brave new world. What would you do if you could turn on the ECM tap and content services came gushing forth?
One thing that I will say in closing is that the topic was a good choice for a conference like this; if you look at the number of comments on Pie’s posting you’ll see that this is something that people are interested in. Thanks to Dave DeJear for going to bat with me to get this on the agenda.