Time For The Big Guys To Go On A Diet!

bigbelly After reading Open source makes development faster, I started thinking about some of John Newton’s comments about how fast Alfresco has been able to develop their ECM solution compared to normal proprietary software development.

Now that IBM is buying FileNET, they are going to have a monumental job ahead of them to begin integrating/absorbing/digesting the FileNET pieces into something that looks like an improved ECM suite. What will make this even more challenging is that FileNET has not really been known for their agility. It took them years to migrate from all the acquisitions to the P8 platform. Also IBM tends be be a bit rotund also…Don’t they call it Big Blue?

And how about Microsoft! When they finally release Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 later this year it will be a full three years since the last version of SharePoint. The folks in Redmond better look around at the Open Source guys and figure out how to deliver incremental new features and improvements in a period less than a year.

Another bloated example is EMC Software. I was talking with my former CTO the other day who had a chance to get a close up look at the new and improved version of Documentum which now manages records in the same repository. They finally consolidated these multiple repositories after over 3 1/2 years since Documentum acquired TrueArc back in November 2002. Wow, that’s a long time!

If the big guys, and for that matter, other traditional ECM software vendors, don’t become more agile we might see the open source alternatives continue to accelerate their growth and acceptance by enterprise customers. The market will not continue to have the patience to wait around 3 or more years for major improvements in functionality and new capabilities when there are more agile alternatives.

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7 thoughts on “Time For The Big Guys To Go On A Diet!

  1. I agree that there’s a definite lack of agility in these big players, and I don’t think that there’s a big future for FileNet’s content management within IBM (see my post on this from last week at http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/column2/archives/2006/08/comments_on_the.php), although the BPM product may fare better.

    That being said, their target markets are exactly agile either, so they may not even notice: financial services and insurance, which makes up around half of FileNet’s current business, and I’m sure a big chunk of IBM’s business as well, are notoriously slow-moving. These companies have been my clients for many years, and there are few of them that are running the current version of any operating system, much less worrying about whether their enterprise application providers have made updates to the products.

  2. Sandy,

    Thanks for your comments and perspective. I agree that many large ECM customers are not very agile. This is especially true for the government customers. I did read your post last week – nice round up and I found your review of the conference calls useful since I did not get to listen to them.

    You do make a good point though. I wonder if the agility of the open source vendors (ECM & BPM) will start generating attention by the market???

    I think FileNet missed a huge opportunity back in 2002 by ignoring SharePoint. I was asked to speak at the FileNet EMEA Summit way back in May 2002 (I know it was a long time ago) and while I was there had a chance to spend a long evening with Lee Roberts (some drinking might have been involved).

    I knew the next version of SharePoint was going to be extremely successful and my advice to Lee was to deeply integrate FileNet’s BPM with SharePoint. I suggested leveraging SharePoint to collaborate on FileNet managed documents and to use FileNet BPM to workflow enable SharePoint documents since SharePoint was not going to have organic workflow capabilities. Anyway, you know how well that advice was received. I could never figure out why they decided to build the Team Collaboration Manager.

    Thought you might find this interesting.

    Best Regards,

    P.S. I enjoy reading you Blog and found your 8 part series on the history of BPM excellent.

  3. Pingback: Content Log
  4. Russ,

    Some of the major players outside of the enterprise market are at least working with open file formats. Unfortunately, as long as Microsoft is the “safe” choice, IT staff will still drive the adoption of Microsoft products. Your blog is great by the way, I’ll be checking in with you daily.



  5. Thanks for stopping by Dan. Glad you find BetterECM useful.

    I am hopeful that Microsoft will cozy up to the ODF and provide better interoperability over time with that open format.

  6. I’ve only just found this posting a year after the initial discussions but I wanted to comment since I think the discussion is still very relevant. I’ve got to a confess a vested interest here since two colleagues and I are setting up a very simple hosted document management service at http://www.tagandfile.com.

    Having just left employment with a major ECM vendor (my own choice!) I think it is still true that the software is complex and geared towards large, conservative, and non-agile customers. All the vendors know that in order to grow, they need to provide simpler, cheaper and more compelling solutions for small businesses. Sharepoint is positioned as ‘Basic Content Services’ but I think the small business market for ECM / EDRM is underserved.

    Also, I think the ECM vendors can learn a lot from the rise of web 2.0 and SaaS. Approaches such as tagging make it easier for users to find information and do not force the entry of particular meta-data which discourages them from entering information into document management systems in the first place.

    I would be very interested in peoples’ views on what response the major ECM vendors will make to web 2.0 and SaaS, or indeed what response they should make!