Monday, March 26, 2012

The Future of Content Management

Last week, I had the privilege to participate in a panel at the new AIIM 2012 Conference in San Francisco. The conference was a smashing success for AIIM, selling out weeks in advance and attracting the who-is-who in the content management industry. My panel was titled the Future of Content Management and my fellow panelists were Roland Benedetti, VP of Products at Nuxeo and Robin Daniels, Head of Enterprise Product Marketing at Box who was standing in for Whitney Tidmarsh Bouck, the head of enterprise business at Box. The session was moderated by Laurence Hart, the CIO of AIIM and Cheryl McKinnon,  AIIM’s CMO - both of whom were an essential element to the success of the session.
The goal of the session was to debate the future of Content Management and sure enough, all of the panelists had an opinion about SoLoMo and also cloud, big data and other trends. Prior to the conference, we stated our views in writing which Laurence has published on his blog. But while everyone kept talking about the of cloud, mobility, and user experience, the selection of panelists alone suggested that a different question was hanging in the air.

The panelists represented a traditional vendor (OpenText), a cloud vendor (Box) and an open source vendor (Nuxeo). The elephant in the room was not the technologies of the future but rather the business models.

As for the technologies, everyone agrees on the key trends. What’s important to mention though is that the given 3-5 year time frame for the future was relatively short. At OpenText, we have roadmaps and business plans that go at least 3 years out - we have a pretty good idea what capabilities we plan to deliver in our software. At the same time, anyone who tries to predict the future 5-10 years out and whose name is not Steve Jobs or Bill Gates is probably just making things up. After all, the smartphone didn’t exist 5 years ago, not to mention the iPad.

But back to the business models. The big question hanging in the air was what will the future bring in terms of a business model. Is every piece of software going to be replaced by the cloud? Will all software go open source? Are the on-premise (aka traditional) software vendors going to even exist a few year from now?

Well, my answer was very simple. I have met many enterprise customers and the one thing that I have learned is that almost no customer has ever managed to adopt a single stack or single vendor environment. The reality is that most enterprises have EVERYTHING. I’m not talking about the small or medium sized companies. I’m talking about enterprises with over $1 bln in revenue. They almost always have a mix of different environments, systems, architectures, and applications. It may be not the most efficient solution or the cleanest architecture, but it is the reality. Most enterprises have a lot of software in different stages of maturity and these past investments have to be leveraged.

My answer to the question which business model would prevail in the next 3-5 years was: all of them. Our customers have to find their place of comfort on the scale between all-in-the-cloud and all-on-premise. Most of them are already somewhere in between. Today, many companies in the US use ADP for their payroll which is a cloud-based offering. Many companies use cloud-based talent management or document sharing offerings today. But most enterprises have many on-premise applications today and they will have many 3-5 years from now. There will be a few extreme cases on each end of that scale but most enterprises will  find their comfort zone somewhere in between.

As for open source vs. well, “closed source”, I think a similar scale exists. I have explained before that customers fall into different categories in their desire to customize and enhance on their own vs deploy out of the box solutions. There are other similar scales, by the way. For example, customers will find their comfort zone on the social media scale between conservative and controlling vs. open and engaging.

The bottom line is that the future is not going to be black or white. The last few decades dominated by the Wintel architecture were an anomaly. It is not likely that we will see such dominant monopoly ever again - and that was just the desktops. No doubts about it, more and more services will move into the cloud because it just makes sense. Some services will only become available through the cloud and rest assured that vendors like OpenText are busy innovating their offerings to take advantage of the cloud. But real customers will have plenty of on-premise software to deal with. In the future of content management, we will deal with customers who each have a very different mix of requirements and the successful vendors will be able to cater to them all.

Many thanks to Laurence and Cheryl for inviting me to participate on this panel. It has been a great fun and AIIM put on an awesome conference. I hope to be there again next year, on March 20-22 in New Orleans!


  1. Thanks for this wrap-up Lubor.

    I couldn't agree more on many of the things here and would just like to state, as I wrote in a previous blog post, that Open Source is not precisely a business model but a development model, just to add a little bit more of "this is not black and white" touch.

    Cheers and see you hopefully in New Orleans!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Roland. No disagreement from my side. This is not black and white at all!

      See you in New Orleans!


  2. Sorry I couldn't be at the conference, it sounds like AIIM hit it out of the park with this one! I would agree with your assessment above ... we see it every day, even in those small to medium size businesses. From a vendor perspective, it continues to baffle me that companies and organizations still have not organized their initiatives to start to consolidate and understand what they need, and don't need, with all the new technology and solutions that are available today. We still have major corporations (real big ones) without a Records Manager, despite mountains of paper. No SharePoint Administrator despite licenses on all desktops. And no unified ECM strategy for the corporation, that has led to the situation you explain above and still no attempt to get a handle on it.

    1. I appreciate your comment, Bob. I too am often amazed by the difference between the hype world and the real world!

  3. Lubor, you and your fellow panelists and AIIM moderators were all great, your session was extremely interesting and thought provoking.

    I agree with all you say, I have no idea why we get dragged into the simple black versus white arguments, when we all know the answer is gray scale !

    Thanks again :-)

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Jed. I've had a lot of fun doing this particular panel and I'm glad to hear you found it interesting.