Keep ECM Easy


Chad Fowler (@chadfowler) the author of The Passionate Programmer recently twitted that we should stop making things complex. Just by the number of retweets (2.4K) and likes (2K) it is clear that most of us will agree that we end up making things harder than they need to be.



This me to think that about my own area of enterprise content management, and realize that how we end up making things harder, following are some examples:

  • Folders are highly misused form of content organization, we tend to create deep folder hierarchies, we should always ask the question that do we really need that 10-15 level deep folder structure.
  • People love metadata and they understand the benefits of 1 or 2 metadata fields. But when we start asking for 5 or more, they start wondering how that will make their job any easier.
  • Workflow on addition of documents inside a container, I don’t understand why people need a workflow to be initiated for every document being added inside the container. Just think how would users feels when suddenly few hundred workflows are initiated and assigned to users because someone did a bulk upload inside the same folders.
  • Notifications are one of the best way to keep users aware about their pending tasks. Therefore be careful while enabling the notifications for add document or add versions kind of actions, you don’t want to spam users with 300 emails, if someone bulk uploads the documents. These kind of notifications can be the new type of spam messages.
  • Be careful while enabling auditing events for different actions. One example is auditing the document open event, this could be a good for a regulated event but bad for a generic documents and will create millions of rows in database tables. In such cases it become a huge task for system to clean these audit entries, I worked on a project where audit cleanup job used to take 8-10 hrs. Therefore don’t audit if it is not required.
  • Integrating ECM systems integrated into their everyday work environment is an important tool for adoption. But integrating everything without the clear understanding of problem being solved can lead to an expensive money pit which leaves everyone angry. (Read more: Don’t Waste Money on Pointless Integrations By Laurence Hart)

There are many such examples where we end up making things harder for users and systems both. The need for a simple solution that people can use to take advantage of ECM systems remains unfulfilled. The EFSS market isn’t providing enough of a solution because organizations still need the advanced features under the covers to meet their requirements.

The Dyson vacuum cleaner, the Burj Khalifa, Grameen Bank, OOP and SOA and Dropbox are some examples of  simple design with a perfect combination of form and functionality. Jack Dorsey, creator of Twitter and founder of Square, once said:

It’s really complex to make something simple.

You’d think that it’s simple to build a simple product, right? After all — a simple product does not have much features, therefore there is not much to design or build. Right? No, unfortunately that’s not the case.

Dorsey is not the only one with this reasoning. John Lilly, former Mozilla CEO and partner at Greylock , had dealt with this same issue (like many others). Here is how he explains the problem:

The thing is, getting to simple is not simple. It’s hard. Knowing how to simplify ‘ and, actually, crucially, what to simplify is a hard, hard problem. Simple actions that nobody does don’t matter. Hard actions that everyone wants to do are good, but vulnerable to simple solutions.

Simple is incredibly powerful, and super, super sticky because it can quickly get woven into the lives of many people.




ECM and Fitness Trackers


“My new fitness tracker counted 5,000, unfortunately 4,900 of them were to the fridge and back!”

From a fitness perspective wearable products are great at quantifying your activity, but they don’t make you more active, unless you change your habits; you’ll just have an expensive device that tells you how much you don’t do.

On the other hand if you started a regular fitness routine and replace junk food with healthy foods, you would get healthier — with or without the FitBit tracking you.

I can relate this scenario to content management also, need not to say how many times companies will buy the technologies, thinking that it will resolve all of their content management problems. Later realizing that the new fancy toy (technology or tool) has not fixed their content management problems.

This is like blaming the FitBit for not going on my five mile run today.

“Wearable devices have gotten a lot of interest in their potential impact to improve individuals’ health, but there’s been little evidence that these alone can help people sustain changes in behavior,” says author Mitesh S. Patel, MD, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “The more important part is building effective strategies to engage individuals around these devices.”

Technology can give us huge advances, but if enterprises haven’t built a mature content management strategy, pumping money and time into technology is not going to change anything.

Need for MobileUI in ECM Systems


Recently I faced an interesting problem therefore thought to share it here, our ECM system is the single source of truth for standards and policy related documents. Also it’s easy to share the link of the document rather than attaching the whole document while sharing information.

Since most of the users check their emails using mobile devices, therefore now they are facing a new issue. Whenever they try to opens a document link shared using email, it tries to open the document in mobile browser using the same layout as if it was being opened on a desktop. This makes it very hard to open and edit the documents.

This issue has created a demand for a mobile compatible interface for our ECM system so that they can at least browse and read content using mobile devices.

It’s interesting to see, how just moving one application (emails) to mobiles, has created a demand for mobile compatible version of another system (ECM).

Most of the ECM technologies needs add on modules (with extra licensing cost) to support mobile devices. Or a mobile app needs to be developed using SOAP or RESTfull APIs.

We are using one of the product from Leaders Quadrant of Gartner Magic Quadrant for ECM and we have two options 1) either pay to buy a new product for mobile compatibility or 2) develop our own app using APIs.

This is one of the areas where new vendors like have an advantage over established players, as it is built for cloud and mobile. It works smoothly on all kind of devices (desktop, tablet and mobiles) without any need of customization or add-on software.

A piece of advice to ECM vendors, don’t just design a system which works on desktops only, design a adoptive UI so that default it can be accessed from any kind of devices.

Everyone is talking about Documentum


The news of Dell buying EMC has started a discussion in ECM world about the future of Documentum. But before I jump into this discussion following is the most exciting news I read about EMC-ECD(house of Documentum) has been doing this year:

Earlier this year, EMC announced it is replacing Documentum with a set of cloud-based modular apps that can be consumed at will, and due to be launched by the end of 2015, under its Project Horizon program.

The new platform is not just Documentum in the cloud, it’s an entirely new platform and apps marketplace for content management.

Following are some the blogs where experts have been discussing about it:

The general consensus is to wait and watch as more details about the deal is disclosed.

Analysts noted that Documentum, formerly less than 3% of EMC’s revenue, will be an even smaller portion of the Dell/EMC combined company’s revenue.

After reading all of these blogs, overall Dell+EMC deal looks great and promising and if you are focused exclusively on unstructured content, ECM or information governance the future looks cloudy. But if Dell may want to sell Documentum after buying EMC, I can’t see any real buyer. HP, IBM, SAP, Oracle already have setup their ECM shops.

Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management [21-Oct-2015]


Gartner Magic Quadrent for ECM 2015Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management 2015 is out. Gartner did not change the weighting for the major components/core functionalities that an ECM platform should offer.

Vendors Added and Dropped

  • Added: SER Group
  • Dropped: HP, SunGard and Unisys

According to Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant for ECM, the ECM market grew 6.2 percent in 2014 to a worldwide revenue of $5.4 billion.

Here is the link to the report:

I will be updating this blog soon with my observations and opinion.

Dell buys EMC…what will happen to Documentum


Dell has agreed to acquire EMC for LOTS of money, as per the press release, following are the highlights of this deal:

  • Brings together the industry’s leading innovators in digital transformation, software-defined data center, hybrid cloud, converged infrastructure, mobile and security
  • EMC stockholders to receive approximately $33.15 per share (based on the assumptions described below) in a combination of cash as well as tracking stock linked to a portion of EMC’s economic interest in the VMware business
  • VMware to remain an independent, publicly-traded company.

But why it is important for me, I neither own stocks in Dell or EMC nor I work in any of those companies. I care about the future of EMC-ECD (Enterprise Content Division) which is the home of Documentum. If Documentum is vanished, it wouldn’t hurt my job but it will hurt me because Documentum has been a leader in ECM for a very long time and it is the second largest ECM vendor in terms of market share.

Will it be dumped or set-free?
The ECM-ECD (I prefer Documentum) has been on almost on the same place as it was in 2006, since EMC acquired it and it been generating single digit revenue. Also since a large part of this deal is being financed with a new debt, and it has to be paid quickly to provide flexibility to Dell in future. Therefore there are chances that Dell might offload some of the EMC components (e.g. Documentum) to raise more money.

Therefore the question comes for the future of Documentum under Dell leadership, will it be dumped or set free.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, 451 Research Group analyst, once said, “Documentum wasn’t a good fit within EMC and there doesn’t seem to be a logical fit for them within Dell.”

The ECM-ECG products are valid business applications, but Dell is not a business application company; it provides provides the infrastructure for applications to run on. I think if Documentum were to become independent, then it would have a fresh incentive to fight hard, refresh the product and revive the brand. It’s something that Documentum enthusiasts have been hoping for  a long, long time.

Sharing Documents through Email


Email is the easiest way to communicate with people as we have been using it for decades, but it poses few challenges while when we start sharing or collaborating on documents through email.

Sharing document through email, crates multiple copies of document and if needs to be modified, then everyone has to wait for their turn to add their inputs and comments and in this process, multiple copies of document will be made and we will have no track which one is the updated one. Documents in email will be quickly outdated.

Also sharing a document over email is a security issue, as everyone can edit the document and they may end up sharing this document with others which can pose issues if the document contains confidential information. Security is irrelevant while sharing a document through email.

The struggles with email collaboration

  • Dozens of emails from various team members, most featuring identical subject lines that make it difficult to weed out crucial responses from irrelevant ones, especially when conversations fork into multiple threads.
  • It’s nearly impossible to maintain clarity about what needs to get done, and by whom.
  • Poor version control: Just when you think the document is final, you find out two different people made extensive edits… to yesterday’s file. Keeping track of the most current version of an attached document is the modern-era’s needle in a haystack.
  • Lack of transparency: It’s hard to track which pieces of information are still missing and where approvals stand.
  • Limited reuse: The approved document’s final resting place is someone’s inbox, never to be shared again unless you specifically remember that someone proposed something similar last year.
  • Group conversations grow unwieldy too quickly.

Email-communication-vs-collaborationDon’t get me wrong, email is an incredibly useful tool, it’s just a misused one. Email is an effective means for communication, but when it comes to collaborating with your team on projects and getting work done, it’s a major hindrance to your team’s productivity. Therefore the question arises, is email a communication tool or a collaboration tool? Is there even a difference between communication and collaboration? While there is a myriad of definitions and well written explanations of the differences between communication and collaboration, my personal favorite comes from Anthony Bradley at Gartner Research. Anthony says that [1]:

“Communication is the exchange of information to achieve a better understanding.”


“Collaboration is the exchange of information, and things, to advance the state of a collaborative product.”

Collaboration is different, even though communication and collaboration will seem like same, but they are not. Collaboration is a higher form of communication. That is to say that communication is required for collaboration but not all communication is collaboration. Also I like the following definition of collaboration from AIIM [2]:

“Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit.”

How a collaboration helps you

  • Instead of endless email, team members can participate in discussion threads that efficiently summarize where various facets of the document stand.
  • Document management: Everyone has access to the latest draft, and you can check the proposal document out of the system like a library book while you’re working on your piece, single source of truth.
  • Searchable files: You can apply metadata or tag files to make them easy to find later. This means you can quickly locate the document after six month also.
  • Security: Apply security policies to documents, so that only authorized personals have access to documents.
  • Auditing: A well-established auditing policies can keep track of who and when the document was accessed, it is particularly useful in regulatory environments.

The closing remark, an ECM system with focus on collaboration can solve all of the above mentioned, and many more, issues and can effectively improve the productivity and quality of information being created and stored.

Send links to documents, which is stored in the ECM system rather than sending the document itself, it will store the change history, audit and managed and IP stays safely inside the firewall, seen only by authorized users.

[1] Click here to check out Anthony Bradley’s part 1 of 4-part blog about how email is anti-social (read other Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 here)
[2] What is Collaboration?

Disclaimer: This post is inspired from an experience, where I was using a document to implement the taxonomy for a new BU in our ECM system. I received the document through email and I came to know that old version of the document was shared, as few more changes were made on the flight. This caused a lot of rework for us. Therefore I thought to document my observations and learning in this post. Thanks for reading.