For Most Enterprises: “An ECM Solution From a Single Vendor is a Myth!”

Lego Blocks I made this declaration while speaking at the AIIM’s Document Management Service Providers Executive Forum last month in Austin, TX. None of the 150 executives in the audience disagreed with me.

Why do I make this claim?

Well, in some instances small to midsize organizations will be able to deploy an ECM solution on one vendors’ technology. But in reality, most larger organizations have many different document management, web content management, records management, etc. technologies deployed.

Typically this happens because of mergers and acquisitions where each organization deployed different technologies over time. Or it happens because technologies were chosen at different time periods over the last 10-15 years. A good example of this phenomenon happens when an organization implemented web content management many years ago and then chose an ECM solution several years later. The ECM solution may not be from the same web content management chosen. Now most ECM vendors provide a complete set of functionality. Most have done this through acquisition of the different capabilities, but 10 years ago the most ECM leaders (EMC Documentum, IBM (FileNet), Oracle, Microsoft, and Open Text) did not have web content management.

My organization uses both Documentum and SharePoint. We also have a some Open Text, Interwoven, and Vingette deployed.

So what can you do? Pick one vendors’ technology and throw out the others over time? In some cases this strategy is not realistic.

In the next series of posts I will talk about moving to what I call a “Common Information Infrastructure”.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on “For Most Enterprises: “An ECM Solution From a Single Vendor is a Myth!”

  1. Russ – I to have come to believe in recent years that single source for content management is more of a myth than reality, especially in large organizations that have accumulated solutions due to acquisitions, as you pointed out. I think what is important is to ensure that you have policies, processes and procedures that are consistent in how the content is managed, regardless of the source. That with some type of portal or mashup that delivers content to users regardless of the source, would mask the source repository from the users. Federated records management and enterprise search would need to be thought out, as well as common metadata and taxonomy. I look forward to reading as you develop this topic further.

  2. Completely agree! I’m on a proof-of-concept project that is working toward consolidation efforts or at least maximizing ROI from existing investments with a strategy for the future. Vignette, Microsoft SharePoint, and IBM are the existing challenges I am faced with… across intranet, extranet, and internet environments. Concepts such as Service Oriented Architecture, “Universal UI”, and Master Data Management are currently independent projects, so I’ve been trying to open communications. I’m attempting to identify integration opportunities between the technologies… Web Services, Web Services for Remote Portlets, Vignette’s Web Connector feature, SharePoint’s web services API, Vignette’s and IBM’s support for JSR standards, SharePoint’s Business Data Catalog, Web Parts and Portlets, simple IFrames, etc. Never ending fun!

    Crafting it all into a solution that really enables the business is the key challenge and doing so involves a coordinated effort across the enterprise. I am hoping to personally review many of the architecture frameworks (TOGAF, ITIL, Zachman, etc.) for a better way to approach broad technology problems exactly like this.

  3. Russ –

    Glad to see you back among the living! We’ve missed your insight.

    A couple of questions here. Are you suggesting a single-vendor solution is not possible at this point? Is it realistic to consider that a long-term goal?

    Also, where is the best place to invest your resources? Is it better to try to consolidate myriad technologies into a small number of solutions or integrate existing solutions across the enterprise?

  4. I agree with you when you talk about the current major ECM solutions out there. The functionality of most of these products if fairly rigid in the sense that it is built with hard-coded data models, GUIs and processes. And still those products only fulfill as small subsecton of what a corporate ECM solution really needs. Thus you see major vendors such as EMC buying products left and right in trying to prop up their product offering. It will be years until these are integrated. EMC’s current approach is: WE ARE INTEGRATED – WITH ECLIPSE!? Integration means you can hard-code what you need. Where is the agility I ask you???

    Fact: THERE IS NOT PROCESS WITHOUT CONTENT AND NO CONTENT WITHOUT PROCESS. Thats the way it used to be before IT and nothing has changed. IT just made it more complex, especially the PC world.
    Sharepoint is a problem in itself that tries to solve the problems that the uncontrolled use of MS-Office has created for business. A business user should NOT be allowed to create a document without a business context and outside of a business process. Once that happens you don’t need search engines and most of the other ECM products out there today. The more ECM/BPM/WCM, bla-bla-bla products you have, the more you are fragmenting the view of the business user onto the customer. And that needs to change …

    We at ISIS Papyrus have chosen an adaptive approach. Since 2001 we are proposing our Inbound/Process/Outbound concept using the Papyrus Platform. It is a meta-data modeled solution using a central repository that is totally flexible for the user in its functionality and will never require any C++ or Java coding. We do not even provide APIs! We propose that a business can move all ECM, BPM, CRM, WCM, EMM, BI and BR to a set of THEIR OWN application frameworks onto Papyrus Platform. One step at a time without big-bang projects and by enabling the business user to do things themselves with as little IT involvement as possible. And then they will just need one product that provides a singular context for all business information.

  5. Russ, your observation about a single ECM vendor is correct, it is difficult to settle on just one. One consideration is that even if a company picks a one ECM vendor strategy internally, that may not hold up once you consider how you need to work with your suppliers and customers. Many large oil companies rely on specialized suppliers (for example, offshore oil platform builders) who are already using one ECM application to deliver documentation. Forcing a key supplier to switch would seriously impact their ability to deliver and may drive up costs. Another way to look at is from the customer side. If your largest customer calls and says they use ECM platform X, how do you think they would respond if you tell them “Sorry, we use ECM platform Y so we no longer want you as a customer!
    Multiple ECM platforms are here to stay!

  6. Russ,

    The reason no one disagreed with you is because you are correct! Most every organization has legacy systems and business units who insist on operating to the beat of their own ECM drum. Notwithstanding, those with legal and compliance responsibilities need efficient means to access content, irrespective of the platform on which it sits. Among our New Years resolutions here at Lexakos is to develop a cost-effective solution (or skin) organizations can use on a subscription basis access information from multiple ECM platforms.

    Best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!

  7. I think its not only mergers and acquisitions that lead the large or mid size, organization to have various sub-ECM products from different vendors but it’s the piling of softwares that grows during the period. The reasons may be a not-so future oriented solution from service providers or a highly effective sale person or a customer with no or very less IT experience.
    There are numerous cases where customers have enough ECM softwares and do not know what to do. E.g. I have come across with customer with Sharepoint already in place and looking for Livelink as DMS or customers with Livelink as DMS and Fatwire as WCM in place and then looking for integration.