Category Archives: Documentum

Alfresco: A+ in Positioning as the SharePoint Alternative

Frequent readers will know I’m a pretty tough grader, but I have to give Alfresco an A+ for the positioning and strategy around (if not the naming of) today’s launch of Alfresco Labs Beta 3.

They’re drowning in coverage — press this link to see a list. And the positioning and strategy is simply superb. Why?

  • By positioning as the Microsoft SharePoint alternative they get to dismiss the entire existing enterprise content management (ECM) category, including their most direct and threatening competitors (e.g., EMC / Documentum, OpenText , Interwoven).
  • The SharePoint threat to the existing category is real enough, and the existing vendors wounded, confused, or over-engineered enough, to make that dismissal credible.
  • Alfresco then gets to have an elevator pitch that boils down to: everyone knows SharePoint is going to eat the ECM category, and most people like neither SharePoint nor Microsoft, so wouldn’t you like to have an alternative?

It’s beautiful in it simplicity, logic, and credible dismissal of what I’d guess is their top short-term enemy. Most vendors try to dismiss the current competition in their pitches, but it’s not credible. They either say “we have no competition” (yawn) or “we welcome competition from the 87-foot giant because it’s going to validate our space” (in which you may likely end up roadkill).

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a startup so elegantly, effectively, and credibly dismiss a $1B+ competitor. What’s better is that the strategy backs the messaging. By effectively offering an alternative SharePoint backend, they are able to swap out the plumbing and eliminate the need for underlying Microsoft infrastructure, such as SQL Server and Windows itself.

Great strategy. Great messaging. Great execution.

Well done John, John, and Ian!

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Documentum Post DeWalt: One Year Later

I’ve never met Dave DeWalt, but I’ve met plenty of folks who have, and they universally say good things about him. So I figured it wasn’t great news for the Documentum group at EMC when DeWalt left about a year ago to become CEO of McAfee.

Today I found an excellent post on CMSwire entitled Documentum: One Year After Dave DeWalt. Among other things it points to a superb post by John Newton, co-founder of Documentum and now co-founder and CTO of Alfresco, entitled The Departed, which goes into great depth about what DeWalt accomplished at Documentum and John’s suspicions as to why he left. If nothing else, read Newton’s post; I don’t know how I somehow missed it a year ago.

Here’s an excerpt from the CMSwire post by Marko Sillanpaa:

But gone is the passion and energy Dave and his team brought to content management. While some may disagree with the idea that content management is cool, I doubt few felt that way after seeing Dave’s keynotes. Rappelling from the ceiling or entry on motorcycles or horseback (even with diapers) woke you up in the morning and got you listening to the rest of the presentation, no matter how late you stayed at the table in Vegas.

In contrast, the EMC World 2007 keynotes were given with all the enthusiasm of a tenured professor in a second rate junior college. You could really see the difference between the west coast software and the east coast hardware marketing.

Overall, the post starts with a pretty grim impression of the post-DeWalt world, but then shows signs of hope, starting with the un-retirement of Documentum’s other co-founder, Howard Shao:

Documentum had been a tight knit family. And fortunately, in mid-year Howard Shao came out of retirement to hold the family together. It was disappointing though that while he left with a roar there was not even a peep when he returned. Howard’s return did what it intended. It settled folks down and even brought a few people back.

Joining Howard to take the reigns of CM&A was Mark Lewis, who had held several roles inside EMC including CTO. He’s only been in the role for six months so there’s been little time for change but EMC World is coming up. We’ll see if this long time EMC leader finally looks across all of the EMC products. It still baffles me that after three years few of the product lines talk to each other (EMC’s Newest Competitor EMC?). The other question, can he motivate the troops?

Marko ends his post on an hopeful note for Documentum’s future. I’m slightly less optimistic than he is because of one word: SharePoint. Acutally, two words: SharePoint and Alfresco.

I think a likely future for the ECM category is SharePoint attacking from the left with Microsoft’s standard iterative-improvement approach and Alfresco attacking from the right as the alternative to SharePoint. First-generation ECM vendors end up as the IBM mainframes in that scenario (i.e., they’re expensive and everybody has one, but they aren’t deploying new apps on them). I’ve blogged before on the similarities between ECM and BI, and I believe that while BI jelled as an integrated category that ECM never did.

But then again, I do have a bone to pick, because EMC acquired x-Hive a while back and while there is a high degree complementarity between MarkLogic and Documentum, there is a fair degree of functional overlap with x-Hive.

However, I believe an XML content server is strategic infrastructure for the customers we’re targeting and they won’t just take what comes in the box with a CMS. So while I expect the vendor relationship to be more complex than in the past, I do believe that plenty of customers will use Documentum for content management and MarkLogic for their XML repository.

That said, looking to the future, I do believe that SharePoint will put a squeeze on the classical ECM vendors and become ubiquitous, so we’re increasing our investment in SharePoint and Microsoft Office integration. And we’re thinking about an Alfresco relationship as my spider sense says there’s a good chance they will end up successfully positioning as the SharePoint alternative.

Did EMC Really Buy X-Hive?

You’d think so given the announcement made oddly through an E-Week exclusive story entitled EMC Buys Dutch Software Company on 7/20/07.

But now it’s been more than 3 months since the announcement and you can find nary a trace of X-Hive on EMC’s website. For example:

  • X-Hive isn’t even listed in the software A-Z index. (Guess it somehow skipped X.)

If I were in a sarcastic mood, I’d say that if I bought X-Hive I’d be reluctant to admit it, too. :-)

As for Mark Logic, thus far the impact of the deal has been negligible. We continue to complement Documentum’s core content management system and to provide customers with best-of-breed XML content delivery. The whole situation reminds me a bit of my life back at Business Objects and our relationship with Oracle.

On the one hand, Oracle didn’t like us because they sold a competing BI tool, Oracle Discoverer. On the other hand, having a great BI tool available helped Oracle sell big data warehouse deals. An Oracle salesrep’s logic was if a best-of-breed BI tool can seal a demo that sells a $3-5M data warehouse, then Business Objects can have their $500K worth of BI revenue.

I think the same argument holds with EMC / Documentum. While ECM infrastructure is nice, what customers actually see is content delivery: so content delivery should be done best-of-breed. Put differently, cheap BI tools, cheap parachutes, and cheap XML content delivery platforms are all bad ideas.

Just as Oracle bottom-skimmed the BI market with Discoverer and co-existed with Business Objects for many years, so I predict that EMC will bottom-skim XML content delivery with X-Hive while co-existing with MarkLogic for the large part of the market that realizes content delivery is not the place “go cheap” in the content value chain.