Recently, we filled in some questions for an analyst that I thought we should share with the community. These are all part of our strategy and I hope that strategy is open, transparent and clear. It is part of our differentiation. This first question is one that I actually got asked twice yesterday, so I will start with this one.
Question: What do you see as the 3-5 key technology trends in the Content Management space?
The ECM industry will continue to be commoditized and, as a result, will continue to consolidate. The maturing of existing ECM technology makes it difficult for any traditional vendor to distinguish itself from the others with a new level of complexity in handling or processing content. As a result, mass deployments will be dominated by Microsoft SharePoint and Open Source. Currently, although ECM is now deployed by 95% of all Fortune 1000 enterprises, it is only being used by less than 10% of all employees in most enterprises. Microsoft SharePoint has been able to spread beyond the current high-value space of ECM into mass deployment through a lower cost base, the Microsoft distribution channel and exploiting Microsoft's 95% monopoly of the Microsoft Office productivity software. The only other alternative that has been able to challenge Microsoft's distribution channel is open source and Alfresco expects to be able to exploit this trend. The combination of SharePoint and open source will continue to put tremendous price pressure on traditional ECM vendors.
ECM standards will continue to evolve influenced by evolving internet standards. Internet standards will have more widespread adoption and force enterprise systems to comply. The very slow adoption of various SOA/Web Services standards will continue to move slowly, while the Java JCR standard will continue to have limited adoption in the open source domain, although Alfresco will continue to support JCR. W3C, IETF and de facto standards such as OpenSearch, Atom Publishing Protocol, OpenSocial and others will become more widely accepted standard for interoperability. The recently published Microsoft interoperability protocols, released as a result of mandatory compliance with an EU anti-trust case decision from March 2004, will provide a set of de facto standards for interoperability between clients and servers managing content. Adoption of these standards will ultimately create the environment that the relational database systems experienced in the early 1990s. Freed from creating solutions for specific DBMS vendors, application developers were emboldened to invest in new development that could be used on multiple databases and created a much larger market that enabled the creation of the SAP's, Peoplesoft's and Documentum's. In addition, the market for DBMS systems grew 10 fold.
ECM as we knew it, monolithic suites of content functionality that spanned imaging to records and multi-media, will give way to a more service-oriented view enabled by REST-oriented application development that reflects the rapid changes of Web 2.0 that encourages mashing up services and content. Many corporations are disillusioned with the long development times and poor reception of end users of ECM deployments. In addition, IT architects and CIOs that have invested many millions into the development of Service Oriented Architecture based upon SOAP have not seen the expected payoff of interoperation promised by vendors. Even IBM, who has invested hundreds of millions in web services, has firm foot in the REST camp and is actively investing in technologies such as REST, with Sam Ruby actively participating in the Atom Protocol set. Protocols that are web-friendly and encourage access from the browser for mash-ups will encourage integration and interoperability that was unimaginable along the SOAP path. Web Service standards will still have their place in transactional systems, but they are ill-suited to the content streaming required by content-oriented application and will give way to REST-oriented, mashable content services.
Web 2.0 and Social Networking will also affect the way users use content applications. A generational shift of new employees accompanied by the graying and retirement of the baby boomers are bringing in a new expectation of usability that enterprise systems will work as easily as Web 2.0 properties such as Facebook, Flickr and Google and that they will be as democratic and participative as Wikipedia and YouTube. This puts tremendous pressure to make enterprise systems much easier and inclusive. AJAX will become the norm and new Flex and other rich application interfaces, such as Silverlight, will develop that will make thick clients obsolete. Enterprise controls will continue to be important, but more isolated to regulated and controlled portions of the enterprise. Enterprises that value participation of employees and customers will be rewarded with greater loyalty and provide a competitive differentiation. Adoption of these technologies will become less a technical obstacle and more cultural shift that will be won by the next generation of growth companies that utilize the energy of participation of their younger workers and customers.