Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Future of Enterprise Content Management

John Newton (co-founder of Documentum and Alfresco) has an interesting post on 'The future of Enterprise Content Management'. This guy knows a lot about ECM and I find him a thought-leader in this area. Here's some of what he had to say in his long, but very interesting post:
My guess as to what will happen to the ECM market is:
  • SAP will buy an ECM vendor further filling out one of the prime stacks in Geoff’s Stack Wars
  • OpenText continues to look for a buyer. Could they hook up with SAP after being jilted by Oracle? OpenText’s iXOS acquisition makes this an attractive pairing.
  • Vignette, partnering with companies like Microsoft, are testing the waters for a possible acquisition
  • Interwoven is testing a niche play by retreating into Marketing applications, but may still opt for being acquired. EMC could do worse than to acquire Interwoven. They could also help Microsoft.
  • The remaining players (other than Alfresco) will retreat into niche areas either around verticals or technical specialization. After the current boom in web redesign, this is a sure path to the living dead.
  • Alfresco may end up being last independent ECM vendor
  • The introduction of Microsoft Sharepoint 2007 will be the single most disruptive factor in the ECM market
  • Sharepoint 2007 has not really launched yet, but in competitive situations, Microsoft has told customers that a new version will be out (Service Pack 1?) with additional Web 2.0 features. Will this be the time that Sharepoint launches along with all the customers that Microsoft has been giving free consulting to?
  • Continued expansion of Alfresco will be the second most disruptive factor
So, further consolidation in this market ending up with four major ECM vendors, and Alfresco, as the open source alternative. Newton also points at Sharepoint 2007 (SP) as an important vendor. Further on in his post he says this about SP:
The subject then turned to Sharepoint. Many companies represented also have Sharepoint implementations. No one seemed especially pleased with it, but felt that it implementation was inevitable largely due to Sharepoint’s connection to Office. This is consistent with my observation that Sharepoint is an extension of the Office monopoly. I reiterated my point that I made in What the Heck is Sharepoint 2007 that Microsoft is still not clear on what Sharepoint is. (...) However, I conceded that Sharepoint is addressing a need in the enterprise that was not being met by the other ECM vendors. It is a knowledge worker stack for building knowledge worker applications as long as all the tools, platform and databases are Microsoft.
I agree with Newton's vision on Sharepoint that it is a very important factor in the ECM market. SP is indeed addressing the day-to-day collaboration and document management issues of teams and employees. But I find that this is just the start for SP. Newton seems to easily hop over SP. Why is SP "the single most disruptive" factor? The fact that to companies it's not clear what SP is, really doesn't matters to those companies. The integration with Office (the 2007 version is ever more tightly integrated) and the fact that it comes with Windows server is the reason why many companies don't look further and adopt Sharepoint. (Or implement a combination of a big ECM vendor and Sharepoint.) Furthermore, MS has the money and the power to be what they want to be in the ECM market. And they clearly want to be seen as a serious document and records management vendor. They even set up a blog to tell this to the world.

Samuel

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