Margaret Thatcher once said “Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.” Today, Day 2 at AIIM17 Conference, I felt a bit like I was standing in the middle of the road!

The day started with a compelling and motivational presentation from Cheryl Cran, an expert in the future of work and all things “change”. Author of The Art of Change Leadership, she certainly knows a thing or two about how people react to the opportunity (or threat) of change. Listening to Cheryl, I was reflecting on how much change there has been in the digital content management space over the last 20 years.

At FileNet we used to say it was the longest running growth market ever – and that maybe even more true today. This is a huge advantage because it provides a deep and wide supply of expertise and knowledge built over many years and with real world experience on what works and what doesn’t. The challenge, as Cheryl pointed out, is that work as we know it is changing beyond belief. With a work place increasingly populated by millennials, a generation born into a digital age where creating, curating and consuming content is a way of life and not a $1mn systems implementation. In my opinion the solutions offered by the vendors who are represented at the AIIM17 Conference  really change, and not in a “standing in the middle of the street” kind of way.

The radical innovation, growth of subscribers and pricing models of the File Sync & Share vendors like Box, Dropbox, Jive and many others has created a wave in the digital content market that ECM vendors are only just coming to terms with.

Yes, it’s a technology/platform/cloud thing but it’s also a business solutions thing. Customers are always going to deploy easy to use solutions that meet some of their needs some of the time, with Apps this just got easier and cheaper. But the real opportunity, in the digital transformation world we now face, is to deliver fully comprehensive business solutions that empower workers to make huge leaps in productivity, do their work twice as fast and reduce costs substantially – those are things people wouldn’t say about a product like Box or Dropbox….ever.

So, here is ECM standing in the middle of the road, Apps vendors driving down one side, millennials driving down the other, which is a very scary thought. But ECM vendors, users and solution partners have all the skills needed to avoid a serious crash and, even better, to build solutions that will be exciting, impactful and make a difference as the future of work is defined right in front of our very eyes.

Bringing together the market power of MFP providers, with leading intelligent capture capabilities, married to world class ECM and BPM solutions – all delivered on a mobile platform, accessed via the Cloud with pricing models that most investors would lick their lips at…. I truly believe that the current community of ECM vendors can deliver these solutions, they just need to embrace the change, explain clearly their strategies and plans and customers will follow.

As Cheryl said “Change is all about connecting, creating and culture” – connecting to customers, creating great solutions, building a culture of innovation and success…… haven’t all us “ECM” folks been doing that for years?

 

Martyn Christian

Managing Partner & Founder

UNDRSTND Group

The lyrics for the famous Beatles song “Revolution” sung with such angst by a young John Lennon may have pre-dated our current political upheavals and unexpected changes but now, just as then, it is a great question to ask!

John Mancini started his keynote here at the AIIM17 Conference in Orlando today with a reflection on Brexit, President Trump, The Mannequin Challenge, Pokémon Go and other revolutionary aspects of recent months and he ended by describing what he believes the revolution is in the world of digital content technology….. the question he didn’t really answer was “What do you call a revolution before people know it’s happening?”

Wikipedia defines “Revolution” as “a fundamental change in political power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time when the population rises up in revolt against the current authorities“. As far as I can tell nobody in the ECM vendor or buyer community has risen up and certainly nothing happens in the ECM market in a relatively short period of time…. but I found myself agreeing with John on the fact that there is a quiet revolution taking place in the industry, and frankly some people know it is happening and some people do not or are simply choosing to ignore it.

John explained the tell tales signs of the revolution we are facing as ECM vendors, solution providers and customers. The exploding volumes of digital content, the need for insight from content and related data, the need to know if content is good or bad in a way we have never been asked to manage before, empowering business users to exchange content with customers in a dynamic way and managing the risks associated with digital content that sometimes you don’t even know exists. All of these trends are gathering pace and, to be fair, some vendors are reacting through new products and innovative solutions but it seems like many people in the ECM ommunity simply aren’t seeing the revolution on their doorstep.

Recently I tweeted an example of a traditional ECM solution being delivered in a completely different and revolutionary way – I don’t know all the details but I suspect this insurance claims application was delivered at a 1/10th the price of a traditional ECM based solution and I bet the users didn’t have to go to a week’s training to learn how to use it either!

The AIIM17 Conference is buzzing – over 650 attendees, 50% here at the event for the first time according to Peggy Winton the new President of AIIM who shared the keynote with Mancini. It’s not like the AIIM events of old with thousands of attendees but back then we were all happy and excited that we could scan a document and see the image on a screen a few seconds later – our expectations now are much more of the revolutionary type – give me every bit of digital content I need, now, without me asking for it, show me who else likes it, curate and save it for me because I don’t have time…. And after that do it all again and only charge me a few cents for the privilege!

So what do you call a revolution before people know it’s happening and head to the streets? In ECM-land, I think people talk about “Well if its not ECM what is it?”, or “Lets redefine the industry” but our narrative is well behind the reality of what is happening in the wide world of Cloud, Saas, Mobile, App-ification and Social Media – the revolution is here and we need to get out there and support it.

It is time for the community to rise up, to move beyond the silent ECM revolutions of old, it’s time to get vocal, it’s time to share a new vision for digital content solutions with the world…. But hurry up because the revolution has already started and you wouldn’t want to miss it …would you?

 

Martyn Christian

Managing Partner and Founder

UNDRSTND Group

 

https://www.alfresco.com/news/press-releases/alfresco-accelerates-customer-time-value-new-digital-business-platform

Alfresco’s announcement this week of a new digital business platform is another clear indicator of ECM vendors making a move to the world of digital transformation as content gets swept up in a wave of new Apps and solutions for B2B and B2C processes.

Alfresco was founded in 2005 as an open source alternative to the heavy lifting ECM vendors like Documentum and FileNet who at that time were being acquired by even larger companies as part of infrastructure plays targeted at the Fortune 1000. It has had some success in open source ECM solutions but this might be an even bigger play for a company full of talented product people who has never really hit the growth trajectory that many may have expected. One key element needed to fuel fast growth is being as relevant and close to buyer behavior as possible and this move to a digital business platform is a broad and bold move as the Alfresco founders and management team continue to seek that lucrative IPO they have talked about for so long.

The new digital business platform comes with an application development framework built on Angular JS (2.0), with RESTful API’s for integration and extension to other Apps and a Quick Start cloud version based on AWS. This shows there has been some serious product development and that this is not all marketing re-positioning.

This in many ways shows the way forward for ECM & BPM vendors and is similar to the strategy UNDRSTND Group has been promoting to its clients and the market over the last 12-18 months. ECM vendors and their ISV partners can debate if ECM is “dead” or not as a market (its not btw – $6bn markets don’t just die!) but in terms of enticing customers to spend money on new projects not just support and maintenance, a focus on digital transformation and the tools, Apps and solutions needed to manage digital content is a critical part of any product strategy and positioning.

 

Martyn Christian

Founder & Managing Partner – UNDRSTND Group