- Ability to apply a rigid focus to positioning, marketing and selling is nearly always missing – the compulsion to find revenue to sustain the company and the exciting idea is overwhelming and anyone who will listen is consider a “rich target” irrespective on any segmentation and targeting strategy.
- Product features and functions seem to be an obsession over merging a software offering with services to provide a solution or “whole product” as defined in Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm epistle which I think of as a software marketeers “bible”.
- And finally, asking for, and more importantly taking, advice seems to be ridiculously hard to do for these creative entrepreneurs. No matter how tough the road gets and how challenging staying focused on the agreed strategy becomes CEO’s and Managing Directors still believe they know best and simply won’t ask for help.
To read our latest views on the Information Management market and the evolving role for Content Services and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – download our presentation from the recent AIIM & Nuxeo Webinar here >> https://www.slideshare.net/MartynChristian/undrstnd-group-aiim-nuxeo-webinar-information-management-solution
Thoughts on the 2018 AIIM Conference
When considering the fact that our industry does not currently have a name, it is hard not to think about how the world reacted when Prince changed his name to a symbol. As you will recall, there was no pronunciation for the symbol, so people starting calling him “the Artist formally known as Prince.” So, I guess we could be the industry formally known as Enterprise Content Management (ECM), right?
Labels obviously serve a purpose in life, and the software industry makes great use of labels, often just three letter acronyms, to define market segments and more. But labels also have a downside, too. They can be laden with negative connotations and stereotypes, warranted or not, and once you have a nickname, it can be hard to shake. In addition, labels place parameters on what may reasonably be included in the generally accepted definition behind the label. Plus, labels can also make us a bit lazy. Instead of going to the trouble to really communicate what we really do, we just throw out the label and assume the recipient will get it.
So, as I enjoyed a few days in beautiful San Antonio, Texas at The AIIM 2018 Conference this past week, I found it interesting to see how the participants dealt with our nascent identity problem. You know what? They did very well, indeed!
The first thing I noticed was that Vendors were embracing new ECM technologies at an accelerated pace to create innovative solutions that will have a big impact on the use cases traditionally addressed with ECM. All across the show floor, vendors had the chance to show off their machine learning, artificial intelligence, analytics and Robotic Process Automation. In addition, perhaps due to the lack of rigid labels, the vendors focused on really communicating their service and value.
As for the end-user attendees, they appeared unfazed by the new technology. They viewed the vendors exhibiting as a natural source for hybrid solutions built from a combination of historic ECM technology and the newer, modern offerings. As a matter of fact, they were one of the most optimistic, engaged groups of end users I have ever seen at an event in our industry.
I also want to commend the AIIM folks for the hard work and reflection they put into this conference. AIIM made a pitch, suggesting our industry be rebranded as “Intelligent Information Management,” which is the new meaning of the “IIM” in the AIIM name. However, they didn’t force it. Much like those of us without the language to describe our work, they also focused on communicating the value that we bring by delivering innovative solutions that enhance business processes and minimize risk. I especially appreciated that AIIM touted the benefits of improving the customer experience through our solutions — the UNDRSTND Group fully endorses this strategy, and we look forward to expanding its use.
So, as I made my way back home from the Alamo City in my home state, I reflected back on the AIIM Conference with a smile on my face. And thought to myself — you know, maybe it isn’t so bad not having a label for our industry … In fact it can be a bit liberating.
Founder and Managing Partner
Over the years I have seen some great examples of what I call “Market Momentum” – this is when the needs of businesses are deliberately accelerated by vendors into a storm of interest, marketing excitement, showcase customer success and sometimes, just sometimes, not always…. a little bit of overblown hype!
I remember the early days of Microsoft NT and SQL Server – when the industry giants at the time, IBM, Sun, Oracle, were blown away as Microsoft’s marketing machine went to work to establish a new price/performance standard for database servers in the market. Or years later when Salesforce.com grabbed the CRM mantle from Siebel Systems and Oracle to generate an overwhelming interest and demand for Cloud-based customer engagement and management solutions.
Of course this never happened in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM), now “Content Services” market, much to chagrin of CEO’s at Documentum (who tried hard but ultimately were a mid-tier B2B solution vendor who managed Wall Street expectations extremely well), FileNet (who never invested enough in marketing and sales to drive the market awareness and adoption needed) and others who endured the slowest burn growth market of all time.
Geoffrey Moore explained this massive market momentum acceleration in his book Inside the Tornado – it seemed a bit of a fantasist ride for most software industry veterans but talking to peers who worked for Microsoft, Siebel, Salesforce.com etc. when it happens it really is a wild ride of unbridled enthusiasm with vendors feeding on the newly established projects and budgets from the customer – and sometimes everything just comes together for a year or two to create great growth and a degree of hype that vendors love to wrap themselves in if they possibly can.
Now that ECM has moved to Content Services, and Business Process Management (BPM) has been unleashed into the world of digital business automation and doused with the jet fuel of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)… are we about to see another of these market momentum accelerations?
This week I spent an hour with an executive of one of the world’s leading RPA vendors – stories of doubling employee headcount, 100%+ revenue growth, building subsidiaries in 20 countries around the globe, customer events with double the number of expected attendees…. this all started to sound very exciting to me.
Next week in Las Vegas, IBM’s customer conference THINK! will be held for the first time – I would expect attendee figures to possibly be as high as 35,000 – and at the center will be a huge push for digital business and business process automation with keynotes from such information management luminaries at Geoffrey Moore himself, Aaron Levie, CEO of BOX and CIO’s from companies like American Airlines and Bradesco Bank. One doesn’t normal associate IBM with surfing the market momentum wave, yes, they try hard and create innovative solutions like Watson but at their heart they are a business process automation company – always were, probably always will be – with thousands of business consultant, business process technologies from database to analytics and everything in between.
My point here is that the ECM and Information Management markets that we know so well and have been around forever were always driven by workflow, business process automation, and robotic process automation before anyone ever coined the RPA term. Managing information at rest is interesting but the cost savings and productivity benefits are slim pickings BUT when information moves, inside companies or outside to customers, to vendors, to supply chains – now the productivity improvements and cost savings of managing those workflows and processes better can be immense.
It was always my belief that when the market understood that business process automation was where the real value in information management is then there would be a big shift and acceleration in growth…maybe this is the time?
My RPA company executive made me smile with thoughts of a tornado like future for vendors I work with today who have worked diligently to build solutions that manage content and its associated business processes for many years – it doesn’t matter what you want to call it but automating workflows that accelerate business and increase productivity is what is going to make people, companies and even whole economies successful in the years ahead – market momentum is indeed a beautiful thing!
Founder & Managing Partner, UNDRSTND Group LLC
The state of the art in marketing practices continues to evolve at a breakneck pace in our social, mobile, viral, info-tainment, personalized experience and short attention span driven world. And the small software and services companies that we work with at UNDRSTND Group are finding it challenging to keep up. So, let’s think about this practically and pragmatically, because for these B-2-B technology solution businesses, marketing is just a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.
If you don’t have a thought provoking, compelling and actively updated Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Web presence does this make you a bad company? No, of course not, but expectations are high for many that use these tools. So, for the person who relies on Twitter for much of their news and interaction with the world at large, your failure to engage them on that platform could be problematic, if they are good target for your solutions. But if you repeat this line of thinking for every viable channel of communications to your target audience it can become overwhelming and beyond the means of a small software and services company to address.
The story is similar on the content front. Thought leadership blogs or more ambitious white papers are popular today. Other people respond best to short videos but they better be entertaining and professionally produced which can become expensive. And many people would prefer to consume complete self-discovery experiences on your website where they learn most everything they need to know about your offerings at their own pace without having to interact with a human and it better not be boring either (think about our experience as consumers on automobile manufacturer web sites exploring and building our dream car). And of course, the pressure to constantly update material is greater than ever. Oh, and have you implemented a chat function on your website? Not yet? then you better get after it!
Now that we have shocked and depressed the small software and services business owner with a modest marketing budget, let’s get back to what we are trying to achieve with our marketing efforts and that is to drive revenue. We’re not trying to win marketing awards or impress our neighbors with the cool company we are running … we’re trying to make our sales targets. And to that end, let’s get practical and pragmatic with some ideas for how to make marketing work for us today:
- Less can be more. You’re better off investing in five really good marketing assets than spreading yourself too thin trying to have twenty pieces of collateral that end up being not compelling and become dated before you can circle around to all of them on a refresh cycle.
- Have a compelling website. It is the outside world’s window into your business. So, don’t let that be a window into your cluttered garage full of old boxes and lawn equipment. And remember that less can be more, so five really compelling pages is better than twenty pages of dated material.
- Drive them to your website. Once you’ve made sure that your website is good, use many of the other channels to drive people to your website. A modest but compelling presence on social media that motivates people to visit your website is a good step.
- Multi-Channel Your Content. Do one really nice video to make sure to touch the YouTube crowd and reuse it across all your channels.
- Leverage other people’s content. Find well thought of businesses with larger marketing budgets with whom you don’t compete and ride their coat tails through thoughtful links and commentary around their thought leadership.
- Make marketing everybody’s job. Just about everybody in a small company can pitch it and help with your social presence. The whole team should be active on social media building a following and promoting your brand and your message as part of their everyday jobs.
These are just a few high level practical ideas that we hope will spur your thinking and get you started down the road to successful marketing on a small budget in today’s world. And if you still need help on this front, we’re always here at UNDRSTND Group.
Founder and Managing Partner
In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley set in AD 2540 a new world order has emerged while older, lower castes struggle to find their identity. I cite this book and author because for the past 18 months or so I have been blogging and speaking at conferences about the need for the digital content industry, to embrace major strategic change of direction at a vendor level – essentially to find their own “brave new world”.
At Docville in 2016 and again earlier this year, I spoke about “What Is Your Next Best Action?” and “Building a Growth Strategy” in my keynotes speeches and in our UNDRSTND Group blog I have called attention to the echo chamber in which we seem to live and our indecisiveness as an industry but finally I really do believe that things are getting better and that we are now quickly moving beyond the “green shoots” of a new industry narrative and strategy for Enterprise Content Management. The brave new world is upon us and its exciting.
Some recent events have caught my eye and really give me hope:
- Upland Software’s acquisition strategy is well documented but their recent $24.4mn acquisition of Waterfall, a cloud-based mobile messaging platform, to fuel their customer engagement solutions strategy shows a more creative use of digital content technologies than some of their other acquisitions. This also makes Upland a $100mn revenue per annum player in what they call the “Enterprise Work Management” market.
- Ephesoft became a VC darling recently with a $15mn raise from Mercato Partners that will allow them to attack the cloud-based document capture market with new vigor. Founded in 2010 by ex-Kofax executives you might expect Ephesoft to be suffering from the same challenges as the former independent document capture industry leader, but instead they are charging ahead and posting significant growth while others decline.
- Nuxeo, founded in the early 2000’s in France raised $20mn from Goldman Sachs in September 2016 to help them expand into North America. This alone would have you ranking them as a vendor to watch but then recently they hired both Chris McLaughlin and Danny Pidutti – former FileNet and Documentum talents that have a strong reputation for leading transformative change in product and marketing strategy. No doubt some creative solutions and go-to-market strategies will follow!
- M-Files, a Finnish company, raised €33mn in 2016 to juice up international growth and are now making big in-roads into the SME solutions space for digital content solutions and not just in accounts payable! They have a broad range of solutions templates on offer to speed the deployment of content management for customers and partners alike.
- Hyland’s acquisition of Perceptive and the Brainware suite looks to be a smart move to re-energize their business and certainly makes them a force to be reckoned with globally. It’s great to see a private equity investor, in this case Thoma Bravo the long-time backers of Hyland, stepping in to help fuel growth not just look for synergies, efficiencies and cost savings.
These vendors each have a vision and are putting financial resources behind that vision and seeing positive results – this is not status quo, consolidation stuff! These examples help me to believe there is a strong case for growth in the ECM and related solutions space. The larger vendors who consolidated the market in the mid-2000’s (IBM, EMC, Oracle) have other priorities these days but customers still have a serious need to move information to where it is needed and allow their customers, employees and business partners to make better decisions faster. They see value in these types of solutions and modifying standard products to specific business processes is the way to gain market advantage in an increasingly competitive world.
I am looking forward to my upcoming client workshops and speaking engagements and I feel that I can confidently share that growth is back in the digital content and process solutions space – assuming you are living in the Brave New World and not on the Islands that is! 😊
Founder and Managing Partner
“Things Can Only Get Better” was the title of a 1985 anthem by mop haired Brit Pop icon Howard Jones (not to be confused with D:Ream another Brit band who also had a hit with the same title in 1993 which became the theme tune to New Labour’s momentous election win in 1997 that put Tony Blair in power in the UK for over a decade)…….
Although nobody was bouncing around singing or dancing in the aisles at this years Docville 2017 – International Networking Event for the Information Management Industry conference, there sure was a more positive outlook and some real world examples of growth, success and things just getting better I guess.
The conference was held this week in Brussels. Michael Ziegler and Heiner van den Berg did a great job hosting and preparing the event and making it a true networking event and not just endless presentations from sponsoring vendors. I was asked to keynote again this year and took a more upbeat approach than in 2016. I focused on growth strategies for vendors and ISV’s in the ECM, BPM and IM space, and offered some insights and advice on how best to move forward and be successful. The keynote preceded the 15 roundtables that are run continuously throughout the rest of the day and the conference concluded with a series of short summaries of the roundtable findings accompanied by some predictions.
Some key highlights from the roundtable summaries included:
- Digital Transformation – the biggest challenge is getting employees within the vendor community to engage in the change process needed – not necessarily convincing customers.
- New Solution Selling Model – vendors believe that to grow in the digital transformation world they need a new, more virtual sales process with inside sales, multi-channel marketing tactics and nurturing campaigns based on content marketing disciplines.
- GDPR – it’s scary and most people don’t really know what it is even though it’s a year from becoming law in the EU with fines of up to 4% of total revenue for infringement.
- ECM or Content Services? – the audience was split on whether this was an important distinction and definition change in the market or just Gartner trying to make more money from a moribund market segment.
- Product Portfolio and Branding – it was estimated that in the next 2-3 years 50% of vendors in the community will significantly change their product portfolio (buy or build) or rebrand… or both.
Attendance was strong, I would estimate over 100 attendees for sure and the quality of attendee and dialog seemed to be better than last year when my keynote was a “wake up and smell the coffee” message. Also about 30% of attendees were attending Docville for the first time which is a really positive trend. New vendors and solutions providers coming into the market is a healthy sign. I had one conversation with an incredibly enthusiastic vendor who was building a great new product and wanted to raise money and expand as quickly as possible. It wasn’t like a Silicon Valley event with VC’s jumping all over Stanford MBA’s but it was a positive vibe and I think the ECM community in Europe may just have turned a corner.
And as Howard Jones said in his rendition of Things Can Only Get Better…
Future dreams we have to realize
A thousand skeptic hands won’t keep us from the things we plan
Lets hope the dreams of the attendees at Docville this week will all come true!
Founder and Managing Partner
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?
Managing Partner & Founder
About Undrstnd Group
UNDRSTND combines the strategy, product positioning and sales acceleration capabilities of a management & marketing consultancy with the value creation skills of an M&A advisor – based on real world, operational experience of creating strategies, go to market plans and executing M&A with world class software & systems companies in the ECM, BPM & information management market.
Range of Offerings
- • Business Strategy & Positioning
- • Sales Channel Acceleration
- • Product and Solutions Portfolio Management
- • Growth Initiatives & Acquisitions
- • Competitive Positioning & Differentiation
- • Go to Market Optimization
- • Branding and Messaging
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