Thursday, April 19, 2007

What does ECM Stand for?

(Apart from Enterpise Content Management...)

Ron Miller's post on returning from AIIM really rang loud with me.

"...It was the complete lack of innovation. I can't help feeling that ECM has lost its wow factor. It has matured to the point it really has nothing new and exciting to offer customers."
I work for an ECM company. It's a good one, and my company has plenty of experience and a great product. But I can't shake the feeling that the whole world of enterprise software is utterly devoid of any real innovation. There's nobody thinking different. The most interesting thing to really happen to the ECM industry in the last three years has been SharePoint, and it's not really very interesting at all.

Add to that the whole round of market consolidation that's happened recently has ensured that things are going to be more consistent than ever before. There's no pressure on any one of the major ECM vendors to deliver anything revolutionary. The RFP process ensures that the whole industry is focussed on box-checking, staid and static feature sets that deliver questionable value. Even worse, that same procurement process ultimately places the decisions into the hands of people who aren't going to really interact with the solution all that much - so the people who use the software aren't important enough to effect change.

And so, there's no real impetus for change in the market. It's more about business as usual. About services costs, and new license revenue wars. About sales demos and shipping software that nobody uses. About delivering the same old stuff.

Although I can't find the reference, I believe it was Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of some of the world's best video games, who once said:

"If all you do is give customers what they are asking for, you will be able to keep them happy. But you will never be able to really surprise them."

It's not the kind of thing that is going to inspire the next generation of people to become better at what they do, or save them from ridiculous working hours.

John Newton and the guys over at Alfresco have recognized that this is the case. But it's going to take more than just a different business model. Safe is risky, remember? For a long time I've held on to the notion that what we really needed was some truly great, inspirational software. But even this might not be enough. (Hey, maybe enterprises want boring, hard to learn and use unhelpful software. It does keep them busy, after all.)

I really feel that software needs to improve people's lives, or else it's just a complete waste of time. Change the world, or go home. It's Tail-Chasing. It's nothing more than a bunch of stuff that we all did while we occupied the planet in order to 'pay the bills'.

There is such a huge amount of potential in both our technology and our ingenuity, to improve the way that we do things. And at the heart of all this activity are those nebulous organizations of people that we refer to as 'Enterprises'. Managing their content is important, no doubt. But improving the way they function is more so.

Better functioning enterprises benefit us all -because we are their employees, their customers, their citizens. Enterprises only exist because they are made up of people, and they exist solely to interact with people like us.

Striving to maintain the status quo is actively retarding the (already slow) development of enterprises, and that doesn't help anyone at all.

If they work better, we all work better.

1 comment:

  1. Snoop Dan Keldsen ... Dan and I have been exchanging email and tweets for months ... great guy, works for AIIM ... Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, the obvious places.
    Doesn't seem to be a blogger though. *shrug*