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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18 comments to E is for Enterprise

  • Peter Monks

    What? No linky linky love for me? Here it is for those who somehow missed my first round of shameless self promotion: http://contentcurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/the-case-for-killing-ecm/

  • Pie

    Changes:
    CM = “WCM + RM + DM + some other things”

    ECM is the strategy for implementing CM across the Enterprise.

    When you think on it, it is more like CM encompasses “WCM, RM, DM, ECM & some other things”.

    ECM has become complex because the vendors are trying to sell ECM. Their ECM platforms are complex. However, a good ECM strategy can be implemented without the platform. That was what I was trying to convey in the 2nd half of that post.

    -Pie

  • Peter Monks

    Pie, I agree with your final paragraph, and would argue that that strengthens the case that the term “ECM” is meaningless. Allowing vendors to define the terminology is putting the cart before the horse – after all they (rarely) face the kinds of content management challenges that enterprises (and governments, and non-profits, and NGOs, and …) have.

  • Note you can also read our label “complex enterprise platforms” as “complex enterprise – platforms.” Whereas “enterprise tier” basically means… nothing.

    I’m not a fan of the “enterprise” label. Unless it’s applied to a starship.

    • Thanks for joining the party, Adriaan. Was the intention “Complex Enterprise – Platforms” or “Complex Enterprise Platforms”? Or intentionally ambiguous?

      Your reports (which I love, for the record) use the phrase “ECM vendor” all the time, by the way. Which doesn’t sit nicely with Pie’s definition IMHO. At the risk of being sued, I quote your WCM report:

      “It is important to recognise these products for what they are: enterprise-level platforms that need serious integration”. So they are a) things you can buy and b) complex as hell.

      And recent history has shown us that simple is killing complex. You’re 100% correct that using these beasts for simple use cases is insane. However, the simpler products are often doing a better job than the beasts at solving “Enterprise Level” problems too …

      In a nutshell, the ECM products had better watch their back, cause the kids are coming …

  • @pie – Right, I see where you’re coming from. But you’ve gotta admit that the terminology is very confusing. If CM = “something you can do and buy a tool for”, how can adding the word “Enterprise” in front turn it into a strategy? And how many people do you need to make a group/company/org an “Enterprise”? Is it ECM when I form my strategy for managing this blog? Is two enough? Ten?

    It’s almost like your “ECM” should take a leaf out of the ERP book should be called “Enterprise Content Management Planning”, or just “Content Management Planning”?

  • Pie

    How about this one….

    Many organizations actually understand what you are talking about when you say ECM. It took 10 years to get here with the education. If you make me start over, I’ll have to jump over the nearest cliff.

    I need a beer.

    -Pie

  • Peter Monks

    The re-education argument holds some weight imvho, but don’t you think it’s a sad inditement if the *only* redeeming feature of the term “ECM” is it’s legacy momentum?

    • I agree. It sucks, but if we all agree on the meaning we’re in a better place. For the same reason that we’re not going to rename the Black Box in an aeroplane to an Orange Box just because they are orange these days.

      • Peter Monks

        I guess I tend to approach things from the other direction – define nirvana first then have reality cruelly smash my naive hopes for a better future into a bezillion razor sharp pieces.

  • I love these type of discussions, but the morning after these CMS/ECM/WCM discussions always feel like that last beer you probably shouldn’t have had.

    I wonder if ECM = CM + UAC. A lot of times the only difference I often see between software for the enterprise and software for the masses comes down to user access control and governance. You can throw in all the Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, social publishing tools you want…but until an enterprise can control it, they don’t want it.

  • Pie

    It isn’t my only argument, but it does help motivate me to keep working on the others.

    Enterprise isn’t ideal, but it isn’t counter to what we are trying to achieve here. Bryan raises a good point and that ECM needs a strategy on how all of that content is controlled, governed, and accessed throughout the organization.

    -Pie

  • Todd Partridge

    “An Enterprise is an organisation. When used in a product name, it normally means stuff that happens behind the firewall.”

    I think this interpretation of the ‘E’ is at the heart of this debate. Especially in describing/defining what ECM is to anyone, the last thing I would think about is it must mean it is all behind the firewall. Instead, the ‘Enterprise’ adjective describes the fact that you are talking about something that has the potential to touch each and every aspect of an organization. I often ask my customers to try and think of a single business process in their organization that does not at some point consume or create a piece of content. Most can’t. Whether I’m talking about ECM in the context of ‘defining an ECM Strategy’ or talking about ECM in the context of specific product solution(s) (there’s always going to be more than one) the ‘E’ is about reaching across the entire Enterprise. CM = the practice of managing and organization’s content and may encompass 1 or more tools to do so. E is just an adjective in front of CM to describe CM when touching any and all aspects of an organization.

  • Nice post Jon – but to your comment “the ECM products had better watch their back, cause the kids are coming …” – I think part of the reason this discussion is almost moot is the kids are already here and in fact, never went away.

    There is an argument that “ECM” as a category of software was cooked up by analysts and marketing folks, not as it transpired forged by market wants and needs or the culture of organisations or how they buy software – to somehow create a market of a handful of dominant players (like the ERP business). 10 years on and the predictions that we should jump on the ECM bus or be dead, has not materialised.

    For fear of granting Mr Monks more ‘linky love’ – I also agree with the parallel with ERP and some of the other points here, I mention it in my comment on his original post – and I really like your idea:

    It’s almost like your “ECM” should take a leaf out of the ERP book should be called “Enterprise Content Management Planning”, or just “Content Management Planning”? – Now that’s worth exploring.

    One thought, has anyone defined ECM as content that only has a purpose inside the Enterprise. A lot of the use cases, from @piewords and folks seem to cite highly regulated industries that have a need to keep records – not for broad public consumption. This would make ECM a niche CMS that serves that purpose.

    The ‘E’ for everything else is also a good point and ties in with your comments with Adriaan, if you want to put the vendor landscape into boxes – how do you describe a WCM system that could be used across a multi-product, multi-national organisation vs one that’s most adept at single sites? In that context the ‘E’ would be a signpost toward reliability, scalability and maybe the complexity you get with choice – yet of course an ‘ECM’ solution would not necessarily be the best fit.

    Anyway, I think I am on the side of ECM as a discipline, a best practice – rather than a single product. I think everyone’s ECM strategy should reflect what they want to do with the content – their ‘content centric business objectives’ to quote my Gilbane colleagues – and then select a tool set that supports that. This then plays greater emphasis on integration, standards etc..

    Cheers,

    Ian

    @iantruscott

  • @Pie

    Quote: Changes:
    CM = “WCM + RM + DM + some other things”

    ECM is the strategy for implementing CM across the Enterprise.

    When you think on it, it is more like CM encompasses “WCM, RM, DM, ECM & some other things”.

    ECM has become complex because the vendors are trying to sell ECM. Their ECM platforms are complex. However, a good ECM strategy can be implemented without the platform. That was what I was trying to convey in the 2nd half of that post.

    Wow, this reminds me of when I was in college. We could always hear all of the students in the tech and systems management class as they walked by our classroom.

    We’d be like, “What the hell are those guys talking about?”

    Acronyms, acronyms, acronyms.. Do they ever stop?

    It’s no wonder people are getting confused these days:-)

  • Pravin

    Hi Jon,

    I need to know what methods people are using to distribute (internally) demo of ipad application wirelessly without having to manage UDID?

    I do not need a solution like testflight or betabuilder, all these requires me to manage UDID in the apple provisioning profile portal.

    I am asking this question because I am seeing another studio doing a much smarter way right now and I wish to know how they did it – With a link they gave to us, we can install their demo application from a simple html over the air, and a provisioning profile magically appears in my ipad. All this happened without me telling them the UDID of my ipad, and therefore definitely without them to recompile the project.

    How did they do it? Thanks!

    Note:- I have individual ($99) and enterprises ($299) account, please provide some tricks as well.

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