Posts Tagged ‘IBM’

Defining ECM and where SharePoint® Fits

August 1, 2007

In my last column, I discussed some of the news hype along with the positive effects and potential impacts on the ECM industry that has or will come about with Microsoft’s recent Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) introduction.

Since the last column, Microsoft has announced that SharePoint has generated $800 million in revenue and is projecting a whopping $1 billion impact in 2008.

If this doesn’t spell “g-a-m-e c-h-a-n-g-i-n-g” then I am not sure what it takes to get folks to realize it really IS a whole, new ballgame – for customers, for vendors, and for the broader ECM industry.

Now one of the biggest challenges that has come about from the hype and the huge Microsoft marketing blitz around SharePoint and ECM has been defining “what is SharePoint?” or maybe more importantly “what isn’t SharePoint?” when it comes to describing an ECM solution. In our discussion today, we’re going to review this question and help readers understand, with the aid of some newly crafted Microsoft positioning, exactly where SharePoint fits within an ECM strategy.

To begin: let’s first define ECM or “Enterprise Content Management.” Well, on second thought, that itself could take another two or three month’s worth of columns to cover in its entirety. Let me better narrow my focus to illustrate how most of the industry uses the term “ECM” and what we mean by an ECM solution.

Enterprise Content Management as a term (most credit Documentum for its origination and definition) is not illustrative of the market segment to which solutions are offered (e.g. enterprise, mid-market, small to medium businesses, etc.). Rather, ECM describes a suite that is capable of managing literally all types of business content and the associated technologies and functionality needed to support the capture, storage, management, protection, and delivery of the business content. This seems to fall in line with the usage of the “enterprise” classification, even Microsoft is using this to describe richer functional editions of SQL 2005 and SharePoint itself.

So what are the required functions and technologies of true Enterprise Content Management solutions? Gartner, Forrester, and other analyst groups are now defining specific guidelines in order for a vendor to be able to include their product suite in the ECM category. These guidelines suggest that a vendor must deliver five or six portions of what we call the “ECM stack” in order to be truly categorized and recognized as an ECM provider. One of the reasons for this is that many vendors that provided isolated components of the stack were calling themselves ECM vendors. This is one of the mistakes the AIIM/ECM community has made for years – confusion in posturing and definitions. In response, the analysts have tightened up in order to mitigate some of this confusion.

The “ECM stack” is loosely defined, but most vendors would acknowledge that it is comprised of a majority of the following core technology functions:
a. Document Imaging (including Capture/Scan technologies)
b. Document Management
c. Enterprise Report Management (COLD)
d. Web Content Management
e. Email Management
f. Forms Management
g. Records Management and Retention Services
h. Workflow & Business Process Management (BPM)

Some vendors might also include Digital Asset Management as a component of the stack, and there may still be others I’ve neglected here. But for our purposes, and for defining SharePoint’s position within the ECM category, we’ll limit our stack to the above list.

In my previous column, I mentioned that one of the issues when Microsoft first began messaging and positioning SharePoint within this market was that the usage of the term “ECM” was a little loose and invoked broader functional attributes than what SharePoint could really support or offer out
of the box. This confusion extended around the market from customers, to industry analysts, through resellers and vendors – and perhaps right on into Microsoft internally. Many actually thought SharePoint could be a full spectrum, head-on alternative to the broader and richer ECM suites offered by industry icons like EMC Documentum, IBM, OpenText, and others. However, after further due diligence, it was discovered that while SharePoint’s functionality is rich and quite impressive on many fronts, it is not a full ECM suite or end-to-end “stack” solution; rather, it offers a portion or contribution toward a complete ECM solution.

Now some may not agree with this next statement, but I think many will agree that eventually Microsoft “gets it right.” And to their credit, they have worked closely with various ECM industry analysts, vendors, and other interested constituents to refine their positioning (as most vendors do over the life of their solutions and products). I think many in the industry will be quite pleased with the outcome as this refined and narrowed focus for the strengths of SharePoint is presented to the market.

Essentially, Microsoft has most recently referred to SharePoint’s key functionalities as “ECM Sub- Capabilities.” This messaging highlights that there are key attributes or components of the broader ECM stack that SharePoint fulfills quite nicely – and others that it currently does not speak to. Below is
an excerpt from a recent slide deck presented by Microsoft personnel to illustrate this new positioning.

Sub-Capabilities of SharePoint

Sub-Capabilities of SharePoint

This slide clearly highlights the strengths and rich functionality that SharePoint provides with the latest release. As you can note, Microsoft highlights four key areas:
a. Document Management
b. Records Management (we believe this also includes Email Management)
c. Forms
d. Web Content Management

Now this isn’t to say that there aren’t other capabilities that SharePoint can fulfill – especially with partner-provided solutions that round out the stack. But let’s save that discussion for another month’s topic… So the best way to think of SharePoint based upon this messaging today is that it truly does provide some great “sub-capabilities” or portions of the broader ECM stack. But today it cannot be seen or classified as a full ECM solution on its own without the complement of partner provided components and solutions.

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Reflections on ECM after the 2007 AIIM Conference & Expo

June 1, 2007

I can remember when each AIIM show in the 1990s would bring about a swell of announcements and new feature introductions – most of them to leapfrog competitors and to differentiate products one from the next.I recall years where the buzz on the floor was about how one vendor could put a red line annotation on a document image, and another could add a yellow highlight. Or that another vendor could store and view a Microsoft Word document. Remember those days?

The AIIM show that probably generated the most buzz and subsequent fall out in recent memory came in 1995 when Microsoft announced their plans to place a free Imaging Viewer into the Windows 95 desktop operating system. Of course, many industry fellows viewed this as the end of the market. Game over – Microsoft now owns the imaging marketplace. The resulting screams of imaging vendors as they leapt from the top of the Moscone Center in anguish could well be heard across all of the San Francisco Bay area – and maybe a little beyond.

Now I bring this up first of all to have a little laugh, because as we all know, this didn’t end the industry as we know it; and I honestly can’t remember one vendor that can attribute their demise to Microsoft’s Imaging Viewer announcement. However, the buzz that resulted from that one singular announcement certainly dominated the news at that show – and subsequent industry reports and speculation for many, many months afterwards.

Secondly, I mention this to compare and contrast how very different the AIIM event has been over the last few years. No real major innovation or compelling functional announcements have stirred the industry nor set the next ruler that every vendor scrambles to incorporate into their offering. Rather the recent shows seem to provide more vendor emphasis on business application requirements and on actually solving business problems.

Overall I think this is good, but I would suggest that the end result is that the ECM space became a little uninteresting – and certainly led to extreme parity between competitive solutions – such that differentiators became a subjective blur. The resulting customer impressions and perceptions were that “all the ECM products we’ve seen look alike.” I think this has made customer decisions difficult – and has led to very little forward movement in overall innovation and contemporary approaches to how ECM is deployed, used, and exploited to the value of the business organization.

I honestly don’t recall a new product launch or introduction that carried more buzz and commentary up and down the expo hall aisles (both leading up to and at the actual event itself) than Microsoft’s launch of Office 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) at the event. If you had not already heard of SharePoint, you have most likely heard about SharePoint during the event and discovered that Microsoft now plays in ECM with this innovative introduction (or you were watching CNN the entire three days of the event in between recuperating from late night vendor parties).

Unlike the town criers that rang gloom and doom with Microsoft’s last announcement, I, like many others, think that Microsoft’s larger-than-life entry into the ECM market via MOSS (also known as SharePoint v3) could represent that “tipping point” for the ECM industry that we’ve all been longing for. At the least, Microsoft will undoubtedly bring a new level of credibility to this market with their household (and business) brand recognition and associate clout. This is something that our industry has sorely lacked for quite a while.

Even though IBM, EMC, and Oracle have been making some small inroads with their offerings, Microsoft will dominate the buzz over these other players. If you don’t believe me, then count on one hand how many announcements you’ve seen reported from the other vendors vs. the number of MOSS-related news and notes that span virtually every publication, website, and email newsletter in some form or fashion since the event in April. I give kudos to Microsoft for this announcement and delivery. I think that this will drive visibility and importance for ECM to the point where it will soon be seen as a “business infrastructure requirement” just like email, accounting systems, and other essential software applications needed to operate a contemporary business.

At the end of the day, perhaps the larger question still looms in many folks minds long after the show buzz has passed. Is MOSS actually an real ECM solution or is it a platform of functionality or in some folks minds…What exactly is SharePoint (or what isn’t it when compared to a traditional ECM functionality matrix?