At the recent AIIM Board Meeting that I attended this month, AIIM President John Mancini asked us to blog using the number 8. Why 8? Because no one else is using that number and AIIM can brand around it. So what better way to start than with my 8 predictions for ECM and Open Source - emphasis on the former. I found that I had a lot more that I could have written, so I cheated and added two more on section 7+1 and section 8+1 for a total of 10. Still, I didn't get around to my thoughts on Apple, mobile, Google, Google Wave, New Applications, Mergers and Acquisitions, etc. Since I have to go home and I am the last one in the office, this will have to do! I know it's a lot, but I have been doing a lot of thinking lately.
In no particular order...
1. Economy's affect on ECM.
Nothing affects the ECM industry more than the economy for good or bad. Any sudden downturn has an immediate effect on practically all enterprise software spending regardless of the payback. Until the consequences of the downturn are understood, financial controllers will hold off on purchases above a certain amount. Generally bad for large enterprise purchases. On the flip side, a recovery can and has been an excellent opportunity for ECM as automation is often a better investment than bringing on the old hires that you let go. Middling growth leads to middling results.The prognosis for the economy is not entirely clear right now. Most recessions endure a double dip, although this one was so sharp it may have washed out most of the bad stuff that a double dip gets rid of. There is a great deal of uncertainty for both downside and upside opportunity in the economy and know one knows for sure what will happen. Most leading indicators are good, but a similar situation arose a couple of years after the 1929 crash and the economy dropped again in the mid-30s. If it gets bad, it can very, very bad as over-stretched governments have very little room for maneuvre. In addition, Tim Geithner has said that prospects for increased employment will not be great in 2010.
My guess is that economic recovery will continue and this could be a good year for ECM and enterprise software in general. Regulation is up, corporate purchasing is up, optimism is up. Content management will be an easier sell than most as investment for the future with less risk than hiring. I'd put the probability at 60-70% for good conditions for ECM. Downside is that is still a pretty risky environment. As the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared!"
Having said all that, government will be a growth area for ECM in 2010. Stimulus packages will kick in and new regulations will emerge to put yet more content pressure on organizations. This is one of the reasons we invested so heavily in Compliance, Governance and Records Management in 2009.
2. ECM in the developing world.
Growth in Asia, particularly India and China, is obviously outpacing Europe and North America. While the developed world spent, the developing world saved with more reserves for investment in infrastructure and IT. Even eastern Europe is doing better than expected because of lower debt. Could the developing world be a major growth area for ECM. Pressure on space and skyrocketing real estate prices in rapidly developing urban areas means that digitization of information can be a valuable tool for freeing up space. ECM is ready for the developing world.If I were a traditional software vendor, I wouldn't count on this for revenue though. These guys got to where they are by being cheap and bargaining ruthlessly. This is no place for a traditional enterprise software sales person. Also, the size and scope of the developing world means that traditional distribution channels won't work and relationship selling can take forever to develop. And it is not just software that is feeling this - so do hardware manufacturers, manufacturing equipment makers, even medical device manufacturers.
I think this is an area where open source will absolutely shine. Internet distribution and download is a much more effective way of getting software to people, but will probably develop new models of monetization. We're seeing a lot of activity in India as an example, but demand is going to come in the form of developer support rather than traditional licenses, particularly in various outsourcing houses. Microsoft too will benefit from the extensive reach of its indirect distribution channels, although the software pirates may benefit as much, if not more.
3. SharePoint in 2010.
You have to hand it to Microsoft; they seem to have scared the bejesus out of the traditional ECM vendors. They have all seemed to rolled over and played dead in the wake of SharePoint 2007. Either that or they have just buried their heads in the sand in complete denial. To claim that SharePoint is not really ECM is ignoring the messages that are coming from the podium of Microsoft conferences. Most seem to say - "Oh we support SharePoint, we offer archiving, records management, etc." Yeah, but who owns the data? SharePoint is not just a front end to your system. It is becoming the platform for knowledge worker applications.This is probably a make or break year for the ECM industry. If you are an ECM vendor, beware the ever tighter integration with office, better web support, new records management, and claims to better scalability and administration. Still, it is not invulnerable. Microsoft has chosen not to address its fundamental architectural flaw of storing content in the database and it is still an exclusively Microsoft-centric platform. Forget whatever database, operating system, language, browser you have - you better get used to SQL-Server, .NET, Windows, IE and don't forget Silverlight. If the traditional vendors can't battle the crap out of that, then they deserve to lose. The next 12 months will be critical during the transition to SharePoint 2010.
4. The E in ECM.
The whole idea of Enterprise software in the 21st century seems anachronistic. The term Enterprise really only took hold in the 90s in order to describe systems that were able to scale beyond the department. It meant big, powerful, flexible, but it also meant big, clunky and expensive. As Web 2.0 sites with their cheap (read free), simple, but scalable platforms scaled to millions of users in a matter of months, the whole idea of only being able to support thousands of users and take years to implement became ludicrous. Being Enterprise meaning you can support your heavyweight infrastructure of other Enterprise parts also seems less interesting when you consider that the largest databases on the planet run on MySQL using a concept called Sharding.Support the Enterprise concept if you want, but Brand Enterprise has lost a lot of its value. And while we are at it, so is Management. In a world of wikis, blogs, Facebook and Google, a strictly controlled environment is destined to be locked up in a closet with just a couple of people using it. It's not that control is not valuable, but you need to really consider what would really happen if information were freed up. Transparency and tracking are more valuable tools today than locks, keys and authorization slips. Leave those to the information that really, really needs it. However, the Content in ECM will be more important than ever as more and more of it gets created at an exponential rate. Best to guide it rather than restrain it.
So what replaces Enterprise Content Management? I don't know, but my guess is that we start to find out in 2010. it might even have a new name by December. Hint: I wouldn't jump to the conclusion it is Social Software. Also see Application vs. Platform below.
For the sake of readability of the rest of my predictions though, I am going to stick with ECM.
5. WCM and ECM.
What a funny relationship these two have. ECM was born in the early 90s out of document management. WCM was born in the late 90s because ECM couldn't get out of document management. The in 1999 and the early 2000's (Noughties here in the UK - what do you call them?), both ECM and WCM decided that they were in the same business and started buying up each others capabilities and then jury rigging the architectures together. The logic went that both sides were managing content, they had repositories and their way of handing content was better. From a pure dollar perspective, that one didn't play out as well for the WCM vendors. The largest players from that time, Vignette and Interwoven, are now subsumed by OpenText and Autonomy.Still WCM didn't do too badly in 2009. The web site is the store front of the 21st century. And most apps are web apps and most web apps are web sites, at least as far as the user is concerned. Companies still invested in branding and applications for customers as a way to weather the recession. Because of the plethora of web sites, styles and characteristics, there seems to be a plethora of WCM vendors as well. It must be the most fragmented industry that I have ever seen in the enterprise software space. Due to these characteristics and the fractious nature of WCM, if you see a WCM vendor and an ECM vendor in the same account, often it means that somebody shouldn't be there.
However, I think WCM should play a very important role for and in ECM and hopefully this will become clearer in 2010. ECM as repositories of trusted information predominantly deliver their content via a web interface. If its up to the end user, it would be the web site that they are using. If web applications are presented as web sites, are content rich and want to dynamically deliver content to end users, then the marriage of WCM and ECM makes a lot of sense. This is why Alfresco is investing in its WCM to work well with the Spring Java Framework - to help build web applications that are web sites and provide dynamic content and repository services for content-rich applications.
I hope the mapping of the WCM industry becomes clearer as well for 2010. We believe our positioning of focusing on WCM for Java web applications, particularly Spring applications, means that we can work with other parts of the WCM industry, such as Drupal/Acquia, Joomla and others. In 2010, some other ECM vendors should just go ahead and get out of the WCM business and stick to the knitting. They should cooperate with, rather than compete with the WCM vendors. I think CMIS will make this a lot easier.
6. The Cloud and ECM.
As my colleague Ian Howells has pointed out, the buzz around Cloud is many times more intense in Silicon Valley as it is outside. And it is a level of buzz that feels like the Web in mid 1990s that was not felt outside the valley. Could we be seeing the start of a huge land rush that we did in 1995? There is a lot of commonality with the experimentation, trials and shear enthusiasm.The economics of the Cloud seem almost no brainers. Two years ago, the cost of running systems in the cloud were 1/3 the cost of on premise. Now according to "Above the Clouds", a report from the University of California on Cloud Computing, the cost is about 1/5 to 1/7. I know it is a stretch to say that if this trend continues we can see computing at 10% and ultimately 1% the cost of on premise, but this is what I believe. The reason is that we are only just beginning to see the industrial scale of Cloud facilities come on line that have enormous buying power, very cheap energy, and nearly free cooling being in cold climates or near cold rivers. The ever increasing bandwidth available means that location of computing is less and less relevant. There are still lots of obstacle to be overcome, particularly in perception of security and reliability as well as real legal issues of data domicile. But the implications of 100X compute power for the same cost as in house is enormous and unknowable.
A lot of people have predicted that 2010 is the year of the cloud. I think that 2010 will be the start of ECM in the Cloud. Steve Ballmer at the SharePoint conference in October made a big point of talking about SharePoint in the Microsoft Cloud. We have been and will be doing a lot of work in using the elastic power of the Cloud with the Alfresco platform. I expect that you will see other ECM platforms working in this area. I would also expect to see lots of open source in the Cloud. This can't be good for
I guess I have been talking about this longer and louder than anyone else out there, so you wouldn't be surprised to see me say I think CMIS will have a significant impact in 2010. In the past two years, I have learned a lot about the standards process, particularly OASIS, and I have learned not to be so optimistic when lots of players are involved, no matter how motivated. But I can see the end is near to getting CMIS 1.0 to an official standard in the Spring 2010. It will not be long before the ECM vendors have their implementations out. But I have also seen portal vendors also building portlets as well to integrate with the ECM systems. I would really be surprised if these aren't out by the end of 2010 and already having an impact.CMIS is both and an opportunity and a threat for traditional ECM vendors. It is a threat because it provides SharePoint in particular an opportunity to ease users out of those traditional platforms and into SharePoint. SharePoint being a value player at the low end will naturally try to gobble up ECM low end implementations. It is an opportunity for a number of different reasons. This is a chance for the larger vendors to consolidate the small holdings of the lesser or defunct competitors. It means that ISVs and system integrators will be able to reuse solutions from other vendors and apply them to other ECM vendors solutions. More solutions will mean more money spent on ECM as it solves real business problems, thus making a bigger ECM pie. This in turn will create more solutions. All this played out with the standardization of the DBMS market and there is no reason to expect that it won't in the ECM market.
Whenever I talk to anyone about integrating with Alfresco, I suggest that they integrate using CMIS. CMIS is very rich and usually good enough to do what they need to do store, access and search content. When the integration is done, it works not just with Alfresco, but any CMIS-enabled repository. We have done this with Drupal, Joomla and Confluence in the last year. Expect lots of early integrations in 2010, particularly with portals. We see lots of Liferay used in conjunction with Alfresco and I would encourage portlets developed by customers to be done with CMIS as an example. Expect CMIS to be on tenders, RFIs and RFPs. Finally, you may see the first companies being formed around CMIS and content applications.
7+1. Content Platform vs. Content Application.
Content management was never like an ERP or CRM system - plop it in, conform your business processes to that system and configure the rest. Content management was in many ways something closer to a database. Sure it has a rich domain model, but ultimately customers want to use it for all sorts of different applications. They want to write queries, build relationships, define business processes and create rich and elaborate user interfaces, particularly for the web and web sites. The better way to look at it is, that some "CEVAs" may be considered applets that are part of a larger application or business process. ECM systems should make those applets work independently as portlets where they can be provided in context. Capture and consumption can really come from anywhere, so provide the APIs that can provide the content access and manipulation required in the language and development environment of the application that needs the content. The reality is that applications need content as much as they need data in a database, so let's give them the same sort of tools that they have with databases. If portions of the application can be packaged as applets, that is part of the job done, but not all of it.
Three trends will get us to think about ECM as platform more than application in 2010. First, CMIS as a platform-style API will get us to think of ECM and repositories as a platform. CMIS will highlight the areas where we need to build and extend applications by initially system integrators creating solutions with CMIS that will be portable to other ECM systems. Second, the desire to build mash-up applications as a result of experience with Web 2.0 will encourage developers to be pragmatic about pulling in the right tools, including ECM into mashed up or Composite applications. The ECM system is not necessarily to going to be the locus of the Composite application, the web site may. From this perspective the ECM system will be perceived as a platform in support of the web site or web application. Finally, the 5 parts service to 1 part product cost ratio (plus or minus) that has been around since the early days of ECM can not endure in our cost conscious times. If we stop pretending it is a whole app and provide the tools that developers need to pull together the whole app in a fraction of the time, particularly with Web 2.0-style scripting over hard core coding, everyone will benefit.
This is not a massive swing of the pendulum, but it is heading in the clear direction of platform. This is where we are thinking. This is also where Microsoft is thinking based upon comments from Steve Ballmer at the SharePoint 2009 conference.
8. Open Source makes strange bedfellows.
We go into 2010 as what a lot of open source experts have described us as the largest private open source company and cash generative to boot. Not bad going as we celebrate our 5th anniversary in January. In those 5 years, we have learned a lot about the politics, business and religion of open source and it has been absolutely fascinating and fun. We have had to think about licensing, pricing, subscriptions, alliances, packaging, downloads, new marketing models, confrontations and who are friends and enemies are. Throw a recession in there as well and it makes for interesting times.As time has passed and we think about how we can apply the open source model, we have focused more on our core competence - Content Services and Content Repository. The more CMIS has become real, the more we can cooperate with others with out locking either party in. Thus we can move away from competition with many players and become best of breed in content services. This has allowed us to more work with a Drupal or a Liferay when in the past there may have been overlap in our product sets. CMIS opens up even more opportunities to work with others as well. Working with others creates a stronger and multiplicative network effect.
Because open source stands parallel to other stacks and encourages others to integrate, particularly through contributions. This opens up alliances that may not require integration work because it has been done by others. We didn't have to build the integration to Kofax or SAP and you will see more integrations in early 2010. Portals - open source or closed - have always worked hand in hand with content management, while not necessarily encroaching on each other's space - SharePoint excepted. These types of integrations in turn allow us to work with other vendors that may need to bolster part of their product set and not feel threatened. Expect to see more integrations and alliances between open source vendors and closed source vendors in 2010.
This is not new for open source. MySQL and JBoss have worked with many non-open source vendors and bolstered their capabilities. In 2010, this will take on a new significance though. The Cloud is requiring many vendors to bolster their product sets for new models of demand and elasticity. The growth and threat of SharePoint and Microsoft product sets can make some products seem incomplete. As we see in the next section, Social software and content management can be very complementary. The ease with which it is now possible to pull together an entire stack of software means that a lot of that stack may be open source and present some really interesting offerings in 2010.
8+1. Social Software and ECM.
Should you buy social software from your ECM vendor asked CMS Watch. Conclusion was maybe not. I personally think that social software will be a category in itself with vendors whose core competency will be social software. Just like any web site could have been Facebook, they weren't because they didn't concentrate on that. A lot of social networking centers on content-centric networking - discussing, arguing and collaborating on content. However, it doesn't necessarily mean that the social platform will own that content. Look at all the YouTube video that show up in social networking sites.I do think that ECM vendors should concentrate on Content Collaboration - the act of working together to create and manage content, but that in and of itself is not Social Computing. It's about sharing ideas and content in the context of a common problem and it should be presented as such. This collaboration could benefit from more focused social computing platforms, such as instant messaging, on-line conferencing, activity feeds a la Facebook, walls, wikis, blogs and forums. By concentrating on providing content services for those platforms, we are creating a win-win situation. More than that, we are focusing on what we are good at - Content Services. These Social Computing or Networking platform usually have only the most rudimentary content services, which make for very complementary products.
SharePoint has a lot to do with why this question would even come up. For lack of anything else to use in the enterprise, people are trying to build these types of solutions. However, what was once labeled as collaboration in SharePoint is now Social Computing, but the reality of it is that it is generally still content collaboration. At least that is what most customers use it for. This may or may not become a stretch too far for SharePoint, but it is one that we are not going to try. I didn't always feel like this and felt that we had a big opportunity in Social Computing. But as we progress the company, we have more to offer integrating with others and sticking to our core. We can get more from others that do the same.