Who said you can’t go home again?

Every new year represents some change; the hope of new challenges and opportunities. It is not all that often that a fresh new year also brings such literal and fundamental change, as it has for me this year. I ended 2011 on the vendor-side of things – and I am starting 2012 on the analyst side.

Of course, this is highly familiar ground for me. I was not only an analyst with 451 Research previously, but I have also been a demi-analyst of sorts through my blogging and other non-traditional marketing activities with both SugarCRM  and Basho Technologies.

Coming back to 451 Research is exciting for many reasons: this has always been a great team of highly intelligent individuals with great vision, and the type of analysis here is right up my alley.

In that vein, I wanted to give a heads up around the kinds of technology innovation I plan to make my area of focus. I will cover, as I did in my first go-round here, on core CRM, ERP and other packaged applications. But the world of applications is changing, rapidly and in fascinating ways. I will also cover how social media (and other data sets) are influencing how developers build applications – and how end-users interact with them. Also, I see the cloud and platform-as-a-service creating new and exciting applications choices for businesses of all sizes. PaaS means many things to many people, but I believe we will see even more PaaS development around enterprise apps in the coming months.

As noted above, Data in all its forms and sources is changing how we approach business. We have moved from leaving most of our enterprise data out of the applications we use daily to thinking about “Total Data” in just a few short years. This is an exciting area of technology development, and how data analysis plays into modern apps will be a focus. I am excited about working with the like of Matt Aslett and other team members on this research.

I am also excited to be working with Kathleen Reidy around how technologies such as enterprise search, text analytics, and collaboration/content management tools are shaping new concepts like the “social enterprise.”

Mobile apps – in the business sense – have taken much more of a front seat since I last covered applications – so I will try to keep on top of mobile as well. And again, this will be a collaborative effort to augment this existing strong mobile coverage here.

To sum up…essentially, if it lies at the top of the stack, and is indicative of “cool new tech” – I will probably be interested.

I look forward to speaking with some new, old and familiar technology providers. A lot has changed in the last five years since I last wore an analyst’s hat. But following this change from the vendor-side has given me an interesting angle. I hope my research and ideas offered through 451 Research’s many outlets reflects this in a positive and valuable manner for our ever-growing audience.

AIIM perspectives

Is there anything new under the ECM sun? I heard lots of folks commenting this week at the annual AIIMExpo that there doesn’t appear to be.  I found some interesting nuggets though; here’s a sampling:

Open source – maybe I seek these ones out but I think the presence of open source at these content management shows is obviously growing – I’ve commented on this before.  I met with Alfresco, KnowledgeTree and Nuxeo (briefly).

I expected to hear a good deal of talk about information governance. I didn’t really, though there were certainly lots of sessions on the agenda in this vein that I missed. Instead I seemed to hear more about “nuts-and-bolts” ECM – customers, this year in particular, seem to be looking to solve specific process problems with specific apps and are less interested in talking about the “E” in content management. Not sure what that means as far as information governance goes, other than there’s an obvious need to tie governance strategies directly to content apps.

SaaS – I met with SpringCM, which has added more partners building apps on its SaaS ECM platform. Hyland Software also notes decent growth for its OnBase OnLine product.

The ECM heavyweights continue to duke it out. No major changes on this front, though Oracle appears to be more of a disruptive force than it was a year ago, as it ties UCM more aggressively (both technically and from a licensing perspective) to its various apps. I met with some Oracle folks that claim a “triple-digit” growth rate for Oracle’s UCM group in Oracle’s FY08 over the revenue previously generated separately by Stellent and Oracle’s ContentDB product.

SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint – this pervasiveness is not news really. I didn’t go to any sessions specifically intended to be about SharePoint but still I heard about technologies to ensure disposition policies on SharePoint content, manage enterprise meta data structures tied to SharePoint, extend SharePoint’s ECM functions and so on. I also met with several vendors that basically compete with SharePoint from various angles and such discussions aren’t complete without analysis those competitive strategies.

In general, AIIM seemed quiet to me this year and those manning booths also commented that foot traffic seemed light. Some of that is no doubt simply because travel is being restricted all around, but like others, I wonder a bit about the relevancy of AIIMExpo going forward.  I don’t necessarily think that folks are going to stop going to tradeshows, but perhaps they want events that are more tailored to a particular vertical and/or technology.  AIIMExpo is a bit hard to pin down, covering content technologies at such a high level as it does. There’s a strong focus on apps that include capture and imaging to be sure, but other than that, it’s a bit of a mish-mash. FatWire Software was the only major independent WCM vendor I saw, despite a full WCM track.  And I didn’t see any social software vendors, even though Tony Byrne gave what I heard was a lively session on the topic.

As for my session on WCM + social software, it was somewhat lightly attended, though it was pitted against 9 other sessions (!), so that’s not exactly surprising. But the audience was engaged and we had some good discussion about adding social components to an existing site versus building a community site that sits as something of a separate arm off the main site.

There were lots of heads nodding when I talked about a move to consolidate social tools – for those orgs that have put up a WordPress blog over here and a wiki over there or maybe a discussion forum for customer support, and now wondering how to pull these together for better profile management, content re-use and overall consistency.  This could bode well for WCM vendors already running the main .com site for such a customer, but most WCM vendors still have a ways to go on the social software front.  Something for discussion at the next content management show, I’m sure…

Saas, open source and “social media” at Gilbane 2008

There were several interesting things happening at The Gilbane Conference this year and for me, these mostly came up during the analyst panel I sat on yesterday afternoon with Melissa Webster from IDC, Stephen Powers from Forrester and Guy Creese from Burton Group.

Frank Gilbane moderated and asked us first to identify a couple of key trends we see for the year ahead and then what we had heard at the conference that we disagreed with.  Here are my responses:

Open source and SaaS have a bigger impact

I was the last panelist to answer the trends question and of course generally agreed with comments made by the other analysts about IT spending cuts and the impact of SharePoint on most segments of this market.  For my bit, I called attention to SaaS and open source and the increasing presence they have in various parts of content management.

Open source was particularly prevalent this year at Gilbane.  I met with folks from Acquia, Hippo, Magnolia, and eZ Systems, and noted that Alfresco, Mindtouch and Jahia were also there (there may have been others as well).  Hippo, Magnolia and eZ are notable as European open source providers that are starting or expanding US offices.  Based on the reported success of these and other vendors, it seems open source is an increasingly viable option in content management and one that may see increased adoption when IT budgets are tight.  This is something I hope to explore more with my CAOS colleagues next year.

SaaS also had a showing though a smaller one in terms of core content management.  Clickability and Crownpeak were there, the usual WCM SaaS suspects, and both report record growth so far in 2008.  But SaaS also shows up in many areas related to content management; web analytics has been a SaaS market for years and SaaS is the dominant model in areas like personalization and A/B or multivariate testing.  Social software is also largely SaaS, particularly in customer-facing environments.  I noted the panelists at the social media panel yesterday represented two SaaS (Awareness and WetPaint) and two open source vendors (Acquia and MindTouch).

Which brings me to my other point…

Social media is too broadly defined

I didn’t disagree with anything specifically that was said during the social media panel that occurred just before our analyst panel but noted (as did others) that lumping all kinds of social technologies under a “social media” banner causes too much confusion for everyone involved.  This panel really highlighted this as the conversation veered widely between internal collaboration goals, issues and technologies, and using social technologies to market to and serve customers online.  The panelists got confused at times about which thing was being discussed and it was clear from the questions being asked that there were some in the audience were confused as well.

I harped on about this in the presentation I gave at our client event last month.   The uses for social software internally are generally pretty different from what companies are trying to accomplish in customer-facing initiatives.  As a result, the requirements of the tools are different as well.  I think it is difficult for vendors to serve both markets (internal and external) well and I expect we’ll see more specialization along these lines in the year ahead.

Someone in the audience during the social media panel asked “don’t we have to be social internally before we can use these technologies with our customers?”  That’s a good question and I think the panel generally gave her an affirmative answer.  Not sure that I agree.  I think it certainly helps if an organization culturally gets social technologies and uses them for internal communication before embarking on some sort of external initiative.  But it’s still primarily about finding the right tool for XYZ job.  Ensuring that everyone internally is using Twitter doesn’t seem a pre-requisite before you get started on some other project, unless of course it really is a pre-requisite for that particular project.

One of my general points, and I saw a lot of nodding heads in the audience when I said this during the analyst panel, is that I generally remain unimpressed with the “newness” of all this, particularly for internal use.  I  noted on the analyst panel yesterday that when I was a product manager at Sun in 2002, we used the team collaboration product from Intraspect (ultimately bought by Vignette) for a lot of stuff.  It had shared workspaces, discussion forums, comments etc.  Is that really all that different from what we’re talking about with social software internally?  There are differences, I’m not saying there aren’t.  But it is an evolution, not a revolution.  That is less true, I think, when using social technologies to interact with customers where there are really fundamentally new models.  Which again gets to my point that these are different markets with different antecedents, different integration requirements, different cultural changes required…

In any event, lots of talk about social technologies at what has always been a content management conference.  There’s no apparent slow down in the collision of these two sectors.  I noted on the panel that this makes sense in the enterprise environment where social networking without a tie to content creation, sharing and access is, as Aaron Fulkerson put it during the social media panel “kind of boring.”


I admit this was my first thought when I read this post by Alex Loddengaard on the Redfin Developers’ Blog. Redfin evaluated a number of open source CMS tools, including Alfresco, Drupal, Joomla, Mambo and Plone but found only Bricolage (written in Perl) met their requirements for multi-site publishing, templating and staging. It seems like the 2.9 release of Alfresco’s Community edition (which maps to the 2.2 Enterprise edition) probably would fit the bill now, but wasn’t available at the time of this initial eval.

I checked in with our open source gurus and they’re familiar with Bricolage and note that it has a substantial following.  But I hadn’t come across it before. There is also a commercial play for Bricolage services and support.

Many of the folks at Redfin, including CEO Glenn Kelman, came from Plumtree Software and I’ve known them for ages. I chatted with them at one point as they were making this choice before they found Bricolage. As they found the open source tools inadequate and the commercial tools to be too much (in more ways than one), I had suggested a SaaS provider like Crownpeak as a reasonably priced alternative – or at least one where the costs get chunked up, making them easier to swallow.

But for a company like Redfin, which provides real estate services online, the website is essentially the product (along with the real estate services themselves, I know) and open source seems a more natural fit, given the technical expertise on hand. This isn’t always the case in a comparably-sized company in a different line of business. It gets to a bit of what I was saying in yesterday’s post about the room that exists in ECM (and in this case the subsector of WCM specifically) for multiple vendors and models. Congrats to the folks at Redfin for finding the right one.

Public ECM companies? Open source and SaaS are next

Just catching up on feed reading (impossible) after being out at AIIM so much last week and saw Dennis Byron’s post at Seeking Alpha about enterprise content management investment opportunities. He looked at the AIIM show floor through the lens of the public markets and found few investment vehicles, at least at present. He missed one or two – consolidation in 2006 did take Stellent and FileNet off the public market, but Open Text, Vignette and Interwoven remain (these last two were absent from the AIIM show floor).

Byron also identifies the right prospects for a year or two out. Alfresco (open source) and SpringCM (SaaS) both had big booths at AIIM and are two of the most interesting companies to watch in ECM at the moment. Alfresco may be a bit further along — John Powell, Alfresco’s CEO, is on record saying 2009 is a target for an IPO. But the two are comparably sized with 70ish employees and probably something like $10m for a bookings run rates (both have annual subscription models).

This is of course peanuts to the Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and EMC crowd that dominates ECM these days but may point to the future nonetheless — or at least a future. We consistently hear from traditional ECM players that open source and SaaS don’t come up much competitively, which I think is an indication that change will be slow in coming. It’s also a reminder though that “ECM” is a fractured market with many sub-sectors and room for many players (SpringCM and Alfresco don’t really compete, for example, even with business models aside). Success of new vendors and models doesn’t necessarily displace established ones particularly in ECM, which means many things.