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Things Can Only Get Better………..

 

“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!

Martyn Christian
Founder and Managing Partner
UNDRSTND Group

Are We Standing in the Middle of the Road?

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

 

Alfresco – from ECM to Digital Business Platform…. just like that!

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

Read Martyn Christian’s latest views on the ECM market on DMCollaborators blog – there’s good news and bad news….

What Was Enterprise Content Management, Grandad?

Enterprise Content Management – Seeking Relevancy in a World of Watson

world-watson

Probably nowhere in the world has the strange state that ECM technology finds itself in been on better display than it was at IBM’s World of Watson Conference (WoW) recently in Las Vegas.  It is clear that valuable mindshare has been ceded to other technologies, that momentum has been lost, and there are poor perceptions and challenges that the ECM industry must address all around.  Paradoxically, the opportunity and potential for future growth and success is also well within reach!  All this was on display in living color for the price of a conference badge and a willingness to subject oneself to Las Vegas for a few days.

 

Before I get to ECM’s tale, a few thoughts on WoW in general (I’m pretty sure IBM doesn’t want this TLA to catch hold, but it is just too hard to resist).  As you would expect, WoW was a non-stop showcase of IBM’s dreams and aspirations for all the things it is throwing under the Watson and Cognitive Computing banner. IBM made a point to highlight commercial Watson successes (to quell the critics who say Watson is technology with limited near term business purposes), alongside the myriad futuristic concept use cases that are not yet completely viable.  Many of the concepts are truly inspiring ideas that would not just line the pockets of big business, but actually improve the lives of people around the world.  So, I give kudos to IBM for the boldness of its bet on Watson and its aspirations to build a smarter planet.  If they pull it off, delivering both the altruistic use cases and commercial success to stem the tide of their long running revenue decline, they will have earned the right to be a proud “Big Blue” once again.

 

ECM’s tale is not so straightforward.  For me, it started at a pre-conference event where a Watson “Marketecture” Chart was shown and ECM found itself relegated to that dreaded spot at the bottom of the chart – basically the plumbing in the basement of a fancy new home, far away and out of sight of the guests (aka customer).  Later in the session, and totally out of context in the Watson and Cognitive lovefest, an IBM Case Manager and Box integration was briefly and awkwardly highlighted.  And such is the state of ECM at IBM and the world at large.  One minute forgotten, the next given a brief chance in the spotlight, just in case somebody is still interested.

 

The paradox continued as the work that IBM is doing with Box was on display in many places throughout the conference.  I found the new offerings linking IBM’s traditional ECM portfolio with Box compelling, along with soon to be launched Box Relay (a lightweight easy to use collaborative workflow tool built from scratch on Box).  In addition, Box’s role as a content repository for use cases such as external collaboration were well articulated and the point was made repeatedly that Box is complementary to, and not a replacement for, IBM’s flagship ECM products.  Still, as a veteran of these IBM Conferences, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that Box got more attention in one Conference than all of IBM’s own repositories combined across the last several of these events.

 

IBM’s ECM Team wouldn’t go to the basement quietly.  The availability of the main ECM stack as a single tenant, managed service in the Cloud with SaaS licensing is real and having some limited commercial success.  They also have much improved Mobile Clients and just maybe can start to stem the tide of ceding ECM centric mobile use cases to other technologies.  They also highlighted Datacap Insights which seems to have broken the code on extracting intelligence from large/complex documents such as mortgage files and medical records.  And this is real Cognitive computing with broad applicability across myriad high value use cases … Watson folks are you listening?  Finally, they did a bit of their own futuristic positioning discussing how ECM stack offerings could transform into plug and play services as part of another IBM high flying product – Bluemix. Cloud/SaaS, Mobile, Cognitive, Collaborative, new modular deployment options … seems to check a lot of boxes (pun intended).

 

Still the relevancy topic looms large.  How IBM can focus on analytics and cognitive strategies while giving little credence to the part of its portfolio that has the best chance of unlocking the knowledge in documents and other unstructured content necessary for those efforts to succeed holistically? This baffles me!  And outside of a few, often sparsely attended backroom breakout sessions, the many and varied customer successes based on the traditional ECM portfolio were never mentioned.  Meanwhile, Watson Robots dotted the hallways ready to engage in conversation on the topic of your choosing.  I would have liked to have asked one of the robots what ECM is, but I’m guessing the answer to that question has never been programmed into their knowledge base!

 

Brent Bussell

Managing Partner – UNDRSTND Group

ECM Industry: It’s Time to Stand Up and Defend Our Birthright!

I am an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) bigot. I admit it without shame. If ECM had a color, I would bleed it. If ECM had a flag, I would salute it. I was there when the term “ECM” was invented  and remember how we struggled with the term because we knew it wasn’t about the technology it was always about the solutions. ECM was forced into becoming a “platform” because it proved to be one of the very best ways to deliver real business solutions especially when combined with Business Process Management – and because I know these solutions help customers make remarkable improvements in their businesses, improve customer service and save millions of dollars I will defend our birthright to the death…….. Or at least until someone proves me wrong!

You must be wondering: “What has got this guy in such a lather?” Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you.  It is because other technologies are encroaching on ECM’s sovereign territory as a solutions platform that can scale across a wide variety of business needs and provide scalable and reusable technology assets. The problem is we’re simply not defending our ground as fervently and passionately as we should and we’re allowing less compelling technologies to take the high ground in digital content and associated customer experience management processes. Did you ever see anyone say they increased customer service 100% with Dropbox, or achieve $20mn in cost savings with Yammer . This is why I am in a bit of a lather!

I just finished reading a series of interesting articles from McKinsey that deliver a very compelling case for companies to focus technology investment today on the Digital Customer Experience (the articles cover more ground than this, so I might suggest that you read them yourselves if you want the whole story). For my purpose, it’s the tremendous opportunity for business transformation enable by digitization that McKinsey is calling out that simply screams “ECM” at me.

My concern comes from the perspective that I believe I’m part of a dwindling number of ECM subject matter experts and that this knowledge and skill is going to be needed more in the future than ever before. The fact that the average business executive will not read those McKinsey articles and say to themselves “I think ECM will help me solve these problems” is as much a marketing problem for our industry as anything else. McKinsey doesn’t use the articles to tell you what technology to buy, and as such they don’t make a case for or against ECM – but we all know ECM vendors across the world are abdicating the digital content and customer experience solutions market to technology providers who know a lot less about customer business problem, sell products that are not as flexible or configurable and frankly don’t have the war wounds and scars needed to be able to implement best practice solutions that will help re-engineer business processes for a new digital age! In my opinion the ECM industry needs to step up and position itself as a critical technology platform in the transformation of a customer’s digital experience. And frankly I am thinking it doesn’t matter if we call these technologies ECM or even Information Management any more – I am more worried that we are focused at being crystal clear in helping customers digitize their critical business moments to help transform their processes for the future  – and in my opinion we are collectively doing a poor job!.

It seems to me that the voice of the ECM industry is ceding the high ground of delivering complete high value solutions.  We all know ECM is more than just an easy to deploy and use scalable repository in the Cloud – that’s the easy bit – and as we as an industry rush to address our long standing Achilles heel of deployment and usability challenges while also catching the Cloud wave we should not cede the ground of delivering real business solutions, especially in the growing market of transforming the digital customer experience as described by McKinsey.  And yes, I’m fully lathered up now and I hope a few of you other ECMers are as well!

Brent Bussell – Managing Partner at UNDRSTND Group