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SharePoint will own ECM – revisited

April 30, 2013

Almost three years ago, I did some prognostication about SharePoint owning enterprise content management (ECM) in the not-too-distant future.

At the time, SharePoint 2010 was just released to market and the post raised some eyebrows because I thought it entirely plausible that one day SharePoint could be all the ECM anyone needed (other than heavy-duty workflow and image management).

Before you rush to judge me one way or the other, you need both to understand that I was fresh of the heels of a pretty amazing demo at a F500 client who had made the decision to use SharePoint 2010 as their sole ECM platform and to remember that in the summer of 2010, traditional ECM vendors were scrambling pretty hard to figure out how to position themselves relative to SharePoint.

Three years later, what do I think of my prediction?

It all depends

One the one hand, I was right, because SharePoint does own ECM today, in the sense that, no matter what other ECM tool(s) an organization has, they almost certainly have SharePoint. No other ECM vendor can make that claim.

On the other hand, I was wrong, because, as successful as SharePoint has been and as much market share as it’s taken from traditional ECM in the last three years, it has not displaced (or significantly disrupted) OpenText, IBM, EMC, Oracle, Hyland, etc., at the majority of F1000 organizations.

So, knowing what I know today, I have to admit that I’m less bullish on SharePoint owning ECM in the sense of being the sole/primary ECM system for the majority of F1000 organizations anytime soon.

Too risky, too costly, other targets

The main reason is that the risk profile of SharePoint as primary ECM system for a F1000 organization is higher than the risk profile of SharePoint plus a traditional ECM tool. Full stop.

I’m happy to scrap with Microsoft partners in the comments on this one (you all know I love a good fight), but I’d be much more interested to hear from all you end users out there on this one: would you rather bet on OpenText, IBM, EMC, Oracle, etc. as your provider for capabilities SharePoint can’t provide (e.g., workflow, image management, ERP integration, LOB applications) or a range of generally smaller Microsoft partners?

My guess is that having SharePoint plus two, three, four (or more) smaller partners is just going to be too risky for most F1000 firms to justify getting rid of traditional ECM in favor of this path. These partners are mostly under $200M – $300M in revenue–some of them way under. So as a responsible F1000 firm, you have to ask yourself what your plan is if they get bought, go out of business, change product direction, etc. All of which are very real risks to consider.

You also need to take into account the significant time, effort, and cost organizations have already put into making traditional ECM work for them. And while sometimes this is an inadvisable throwing good money after bad type situation, in the majority of cases, F1000 organizations have some flavor of ECM  humming along nicely, thank you very much. Quite rightly, then, they would balk at the idea of ripping and replacing their existing ECM with SharePoint. I just don’t think the ROI is consistently there to justify it…especially if you add in the heightened vendor risk I mentioned earlier. To me, taking all this into consideration, it becomes almost a total non starter.

The final reason I don’t think SharePoint will be the sole ECM system for F1000 organizations anytime soon is that I don’t think this is Microsoft’s goal anymore. Nothing in their product strategy for SharePoint suggests that they want to have organizations move hundreds of millions of images, for example, out of Mobius or IBM CMOD and into SharePoint; nor do they want to displace IBM, OpenText, Pega, K2, or whatever, as the workflow engine of choice.

Instead, I think they’ve eaten as much of traditional ECM’s lunch as they care to and are now moving on to a domain that holds out the potential for a much larger and much more lucritive lunch to eat: cloud content management providers like Box and Dropbox. I think they have their eye on all those terabytes and petabytes of unstructured shared drive and hard drive content just begging to be moved into a more managed repository, which traditional ECM vendors are not only bad at doing, but have pretty much given up on: enter SharePoint backed by Office 365.

 The final word

Okay, so that’s my take on SharePoint owning ECM in 2013. What do you all think? Jump in, share your thoughts, maybe some specifics about what your organization is doing, and let’s get a good discussion going on this one!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Adrian permalink
    May 1, 2013 4:11 am

    Open structure appears to be winning … SP, in my opinion, grew to something that turns off a lot of groups (and by groups I mean teams of individuals in large companies). Simple file sharing does support multi-group collaboration effectively – no matter the type of file.

  2. May 3, 2013 9:14 am

    Great review and analysis. With the deployment of Sharepoint 2013 in Office 365 and the inclusion of Skydrive Microsoft has put their car back in the middle of the road. The new Sharepoint system is vastly more simple and intuitive compared to previous versions. The integration of Skydrive is targeted soley at Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

    Having upgraded several clients recently I can attest to the much improved Sharepoint 2013 controls and tools. It will remain to be seen what the rest of the SMB’s think about these changes

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