At the EMC Writer’s Summit in NYC, Andrew Chapman led a lively discussion about what would the world be like if ECM was available as commodity. He categorized ECM as commodity into three groups: Infrastructure ECM, Consumer ECM, and Embedded ECM. For some of these, I think the technology already exists today. Lets review the categories in reverse:
The OEM version of ECM products pretty much exist today. I know that both EMC Documentum and MS SharePoint have OEM versions of their ECM products that can be licensed to ISV. I have personally worked with a customer who wanted to replace their proprietary document management system with OEM Documentum as part of their instrumentation collection system. The software installation is pretty straight-forward; the challenge is coming up with a database optimization for a one-size fits all application.
Two main areas that were actively discuss as part of Consumer ECM was consumer content/backup services (eg Mozy) and consumer media management.
There some discussion on whether consumers would pay more for additional services (eg version and/or rendition management) on top of the backup service. Most folks believed that only a small portion of the install base would pay additional fee for these additional ECM services. I tend to agree. If you look at the evolution of ECM features, it has been driven by business requirements to collaborate and process documents. I do not believe that the general public is interested in processing content beyond what they want to archive/backup. As for collaboration, if its informal, then this is mostly done via social networking sites, not via documents versioned on backup site.
Consumer media management also was a hot topic. Many people in the room were excited about having a single application to manage their photos, music, video, etc. The key point here is “application”. Everyone agree that having a single provider store all kinds of media content was NOT necessary, but having a single UI was critical. In order for this to happen, media access standards would have to be developed, similar to POP/IMPA, or the media storage providers would have to support CMIS, in order for a single app to be built. I do see this happening in the near future, given that consumers are constantly pushing for interoperability.
There were three areas of discussion about Infrastructure ECM: Support of 3rd Party Apps (eg SAP, SharePoint, etc), Virtualization of local drives to off premise, and CMIS as service. Most of the technical discussions about these areas centered around EMC software portfolio and whether it supported these use cases.
From 3rd Party Support perspective, Documentum Content Server (and core repository) already provides direct integration to SAP and SharePoint. The integrations are great if you are a customer that already has SAP/Sharepoint and want to have a direct integration with Documentum.
Virtualization of local drives to off premise already exist. From a content storage perspective, you can already store content in the cloud via EMC’s Atmos cloud based storage. If you want to deploy application to the cloud, you do this privately via VMWare or publicly via Amazon and other vendor cloud based offerings.
The most interesting talk from my perspective was CMIS as service. While the discussion started out as CMIS, it quickly turned into discussion of why cant Documentum be provided as service. Laurence Hart and I both chimed out that Documentum projects could be wildly more successful if we didnt have to worry about setting up the infrastructure for all of our clients. The actual installation, configuration, and maintenance of Documentum system can between a quarter and a half of the cost/time of deploying a POC to a new customer. This is especially the case when if the POC is built using xCP. Instead of spending a lot of time on setting up the infrastructure, we can devote more time/resources to solving business problems at hand or delivering solutions faster.
I do believe that CMIS as service holds a lot of potential and may drive ECM to be a commodity. Whether or not ECM vendors want ECM capabilities to be commoditized is a different question. If they do, then they need to starting selling to systems integrators, solution provides, and developers and not to the customers. Yes, customers are asking if a vendor’s technology is in the cloud, but what does that actually mean. I strongly believe that customers are looking for the best solution and if its cloud based, then great. But what is having a cloud based solution that does not address customer’s requirements. Sell to the folks who are the closest to the client.