May 2010
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E is for Enterprise

We heard the Sermon on the Mount and I knew it was too complex,
It didn’t amount to anything more than what the broken glass reflects.
When you bite off more than you can chew you pay the penalty,
Somebody’s got to tell the tale,
I guess it must be up to me.
- UP TO ME

Here we go again. Peter (@pmonks) and Laurence (@piewords) are at it again. The current enormously important discussion topic is whether the ‘E’ makes any sense in the term ECM.

I think everyone that matters agrees that Enterprise Content Management defines a problem domain, not a kind of product. I’ve never heard anyone use the term ECMS, and hope that I never do. But Content Management defines a problem domain too, and I don’t like the idea that Content Management is a subset of Enterprise Content Management at all. Or should it be the other way round – ECM is a subset of CM? If either case is true, we need a name for the bit that isn’t identical. How about some set theory to help.

The idea that WCM + ECM = CM is bollocks. I do agree that ECM = WCM + RM + DM + some other things. But what does CM equal? I’m going with Peter here. ECM = CM and the ‘E’ needs to go. If there is a good reason to keep the E, do we also need EDM, ERM and E-EveryThingElse?

In Pie’s blogpost, he lists some important characteristics that form the essense of ECM. However, they all hold true for CM too. They really differentiate between ECM/CM and WCM.

So let’s have a quick look at the word “Enterprise”. Here are some uses:

  • An Enterprise is an organisation. When used in a product name, it normally means stuff that happens behind the firewall. For example, Yammer is an Enterprise Twitter. I’m not sure anyone thinks that ECM is for internal stuff (including partners and suppliers) and CM is for stuff you share with the world. Or do they?
  • Enterprise License – this usage is similar to the above. It’s an all you can eat for your organisation, that starts expensive and gets worse.
  • Enterprise Architect – I’m not sure what this means exactly. It’s not something I’ve ever wanted on my business card. Technical Architect or Solutions Architect work just fine.
  • Enterprise Java Beans – Now that was a fuck up, wasn’t it? It really just means bulky and complex – the opposite of lean and simple. Ask any of the guys at Vignette who are trying to make core changes to the product. Newer, simpler technologies have bitch-slapped EJB’s all over the place. It feels to me like the E in ECM and the E in EJB are the same thing. It’s the E that makes me scared.

Interesting aside: CMSWatch have recently renamed the Enterprise Tier product category in their report to “Complex Enterprise Platforms”. The use of the word Complex here is particularly intriguiging. In my simple mind, Complex is always a bad thing in a product, even when the problem domain has complex problems. The product’s aim in life should be to hide that complexity from everyone. I wonder if the fact that all of the platforms classified by CMS Watch as complex (Autonomy Interwoven, EMC/Documentum, IBM, Open Text/Vignette, Oracle) are J2E based means anything (Interwoven has Perl and other stuff thrown in too). While we’re on it, 5 of the 6 Upper Tier products are Java too, except for Tridion which is a .NET/Java/COM mashup.

Here is the truth – you’ll only hear the words “Free” and “Enterprise” in the same sentence from an economist, never a CMS salesman. And Enterprises are by their very nature big and slow. The closest thing to an Agile Enterprise that you’re likely to see is Captain James T. Kirk taking a sharp left while evading those pesky Klingons. These days, Enterprise is a mindset which implies Complex. And Complex is Bad. Please, Lord, help me keep things simple and take away that E.

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