All ECM is the same these days – so throw a dart already and get on with it
I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been feeling especially cantankerous these days when I sit down to write. It all started with my “SharePoint can’t do records management” series, and I hoped I would cheer up once that was done, but I haven’t.
So, with my heightened cantankerousness in mind, I want to explore something that’s been on my mind for a while now and also see what folks think about it (because you all know how much I love a good heckle-fest).
Basically, I feel like the few viable enterprise content management (ECM) platforms out there (IBM P8/FileNet, EMC Documentum, and OpenText EIM) are, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable, i.e., you could throw a dart to choose one and be as successful as if you did a full, due diligence RFP.
Let’s face it, the answer to “what ECM system should I use?” is (almost) never black and white. In 99% of the cases, the answer is, “You could use any one of the three market leaders and meet 70% of your needs”–but each will meet a different 70%, and you’ll need to decide what 30% you can live without.
And what’s more, for core ECM, you really could just throw a dart and be successful with any of the three, provided you tackled the people/process aspects (policies and procedures, governance, information architecture, etc.) successfully. If you don’t tackle these things, it likely won’t matter which solution you pick: you’ll almost certainly fail.
Can I really throw a dart?
Because despite the high-level overlap between the ECM platforms offered by OpenText, IBM, and EMC, there are some important, more granular distinctions and contextual differences that make one solution a clear winner over others in certain situations. For example:
- The incumbent is always the presumed first choice – in order to justify the switching costs involved in rip and replace scenarios, there better be some huge problem with the current platform or vendor, and “huge” does not mean “we find the UI kludgy” or “adoption has been low”, it usually means something like “we have no clear upgrade path from version X to version X+1, so it’s the equivalent of a new install”, and so on
- Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance will tend towards IBM
- Heavy Industry (mining, oil and gas, manufacturing, construction) will tend towards OpenText
- SAP shops will tend towards OpenText
- If you need SharePoint integration, OpenText is the only one with proven success
- Pharmas will lean heavily towards Documentum
Over and above these situations, we can make some generalizations about each platform to help drive a decision:
- OpenText will be amazing…if you survive the first 18 months – built from a wide range of acquired products on different code bases, with a technical complexity that approaches an ERP platform, and offering the FULL STACK of ECM capabilities, you will have everything you need to succeed with OpenText…if you can manage to successfully deploy it and don’t collapse under its weight.
- Documentum has been a market leader for years, but is struggling of late to find its way – five years ago, they were consistently a top contender; today, they have to fight hard and swim upstream to hold onto their market share. Some of that has to do with misses on the sales/account management side of the house, but a good deal of it has to do with missteps on the product development side. The product development teams have done a tremendous job of late to articulate a compelling vision, but the jury’s still out on whether EMC will manage to execute on it and deliver the goods in time to remain relevant.
- IBM is the middle of the road, solid choice – no one gets fired for hiring IBM, or so the saying goes. They are also pushing the envelope with information life cycle governance and advanced case management solutions–giving them an edge in organizations where these are key use cases.
The final word
I could go on, but this captures the main outlines of the differences (and similarities) between the Big Three ECM vendors. Jump in and let us all know what you think of my take on the ECM vendor space–let’s get the conversation started!