Category Archives: ECM

BlueGuru: JetBlue’s MarkLogic-Based Publishing and Content Management System

Just a quick post to highlight and share this great case study by Mitch Kramer of the Patricia Seybold Group on Blue Guru, JetBlue’s content management and publishing system.

Excerpt to tempt you into reading the 26-page document:

XML is BlueGuru’s enabling technology, and MarkLogic Server is its most critical architectural element. XML addresses JetBlue’s requirements for structured documents—multiple types, multiple components within each type, hierarchical relationships between components, and component sharing across documents. MarkLogic Server is an XML content management system that automates BlueGuru’s documentation processes. Its repository stores BlueGuru’s documents and supports their access and retrieval by Crewmembers, partners, and regulators.

This case study report tells the story of JetBlue’s business transformation from a documentation system of decentralized and manually maintained manuals to a distributed content management and publishing system.

I’ve embedded the full document below in Scribd epaper format. Thanks to Mitch for writing a great document and to the folks at JetBlue for their faith in us, for their support of Mitch in writing the case study, and for the help and input they’ve provided us.

Things Not To Do: Declare Your Category Dead

I was reading this interesting post, Emerging Enterprise Content Management Trends, on the Gilbane Group blog this morning when I stumbled into this rather amazing soundbite.

Jeff Fried, VP Product Management for Microsoft’s FAST search engine actually proclaimed that “keyword search is dead!”

Now, last I checked, Fast was doing around $50M — oh sorry, I mean post-correction of accounting irregularities, $35M a quarter in enterprise search revenue and that Microsoft paid $1B for the company in order to do a “best defense is a good offense” strategy vs. Google.

So regardless of what Brother Fried or his PR mavens think, I can assure you that Microsoft doesn’t think keyword search is dead. Oh, and did I forget to mention, as they say in Brooklyn, Bada-Bing!

One of my pet peeves is people or companies who think it’s cool or controversial to declare themselves dead. Why?

The first time I heard something was “dead” was in 1987 at the original Ingres. The thing in question was the relational database. At one company meeting, our executives patiently explained to us unwashed employees that because of the ANSI SQL standard relational databases were “commoditizing” and ergo that we would be de-investing in the core RDBMS engine and instead investing in application development tools.

I’m not sure there’s a font big enough to write this, but OOPS.

In 1987, the RDBMS market in total was maybe $200M. Today it’s a approximately $10B oligopoly shared by Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft. Application development tools are somewhere between 1/10th and 1/100th the size and a high fragmented market by comparison.

What went wrong?

  • Lack of understanding of product differentiation. Yes, the products were arguably becoming more similar due to the SQL standard (e.g., Ingres still primarily spoke Quel at the time), but more similar != identical != commoditized. The possibilities of high-speed, low-cost, parallel-optimized, query-optimized, platform-optimized, non-stop or a dozen other possible bases of differentiation seemed to elude Ingres management. My take: if people can differentiate white rice (e.g., regular, parboiled, in a bag, basmati, jasmine, texmati) then you can sure as hell differentiate technology.
  • Non-observance of industry structure in RDBMS. Product differences is just one piece of “degree of rivalry” in Michael Porter’s five forces analysis. Substitute threats were low (i.e., switching costs were high), buyer power was low, barriers to entry were high, and supplier power was low. By seeing only product and not seeing industry structure, Ingres missed that a huge, oligopolistic market was in formation. (Only Oracle seemed to really get that a landgrab was in progress, that switching costs were high, and that the goal should be to get as much market share as possible in the short term — even at the cost of making a mess — which you could then sort out later.)
  • Missing industry structure in application development tools. The flip-side of the attractive industry structure in RDBMS was a rather appalling industry structure in application development tools. Barriers to entry were low, competitors were numerous, the large number of competitors was putting downward pressure on prices, and the dawn of free runtimes was already under way. Simply put, it’s very hard to make money in tools and that’s one reason why “tool” really is a four-letter word on Sand Hill Road.
  • Confusing being “up the stack” with “value”. One argument is that RDBMS is just plumbing and that tools are higher in the stack and ergo deliver more value and more potential for profit. This is wrong. Why? Because while tools are indeed higher up the stack, profit potential comes from industry structure, not stack altitude. Microsoft makes plenty of profit and they are at the bottom of the stack. The Oracle DBMS business in one level up and is a key driver of Oracle’s 40%ish operating margins. There are many misconceptions about the applications business in this regard, but I won’t go there now. See the Profit Zone for more on this general topic.
  • Too much emphasis on vision. If your vision for the future goes out so far that we’re all dead, then perhaps you should dial it back a bit to make it useful. Yes, we’re all dead in 100 years and one day RDBMS services may be as commoditized as electricity. But, some 20 years later, RDBMSs are nowhere near a commodity and a lot of people have made a lot of money in the meantime. It’s not predicting the eventual end that’s the hard part. It’s figuring out what happens along the way and how to make money during that evolution.

So before you go ahead and declare your business dead, ask yourself some questions:

  • Am I doing this for PR soundbite? If so, is it really the kind of message you want to communicate? Is this the best you can do to sound visionary?
  • If you really believe it, then should you turn in your badge and let someone run the business who doesn’t?

Is Information Architected for Smart Delivery?

Check out this post by Carl Frappaolo, author of several books on knowledge management and co-founder of consultancy Information Architected, Inc., which he recently created with long-time colleague Dan Keldsen.

The post, entitled Is Information Architected for Smart Distribution? Survey Says Not Yet, discusses some recent research done by Carl and makes many analogies between enterprise content management and, of all things, the movie business. Excerpt:

In my last post I provided evidence that from a capture standpoint we are moving forward. There is momentum building in viewing “content” not just as words and pictures, but also sound, video, and albeit much further in the future, smell, touch and taste. But what “special effects” are we adding to the content upon publishing? Technology from vendors such as Mark Logic and Thunderhead, who partially underwrote the research, enables organizations to virtually customize content each time it is used, evaluating the current reason for access and the person accessing it. Leveraging content “chunking” approaches such as XML, and a series of rules and processes, content can “self-assemble” to provide the highest level of personalization and effectiveness.

I like the metaphor of MarkLogic applying special effects to content.

But, as Carl points out, while the vision is there, the reality in most enterprises is not. See this survey result, a response to the question: to what extent is content re-purposed / recombined to make new forms of output?


For more information, see the full MarketIQ report on which Carl worked.

Here is a copy I uploaded to Scribd:

CMS Watch 12 Predictions for 2009

Well, it’s that time of the year: prediction season. As we traverse it, I’ll highlight some of the better predictions lists that I encounter. The first one I’ll pick comes from CMS Watch.

Here are their predictions (the bolded points are their predictions, quoted excerpts of the copy beneath each prediction are theirs, and my commentary appears prefaced by DK):

1. Open source ECM players get an initial boost

DK: I agree. I think Alfresco is leading the way here, bringing an elegant and simple approach to a market that’s overloaded with complexity. It’s telling that the Wikipedia entry for ECM is a disorganized, kitchen-sink list of features, which includes BPM which in turn includes BI (suggesting absurdly that BI is part of ECM), and is prefaced by: “All or part of this article may be confusing or unclear.”

2. Office14 casts long shadow on SharePoint

The build up to the next major release of SharePoint — hitting beta perhaps as early as the end of 2009 — will rightly focus on its deep relationship with Office 14, but will also yield a collective pause among customers as the year progresses. Those that have run wild with SharePoint as a potential ECM replacement throughout the enterprise during 2007 and 2008 will be reassessing their strategies.

DK: I’m more bullish on the replacement of classical ECM systems, such as EMC Documentum, with cheap and cheerful alternatives like SharePoint. To me, ECM is a classic bloatware market, with too much functionality, too much complexity, too many failed projects, and too many unhappy customers. I think it’s begging for a return to simplicity and a focus on what matters: dynamic delivery of content to users (or, to cliche it, delivering the right content to the right person at the right time).

3. “Taxonomies are dead. Long live metadata!”

You should be able to get to information the way you want, which may be different from your colleague’s approach. We still need controlled vocabularies. We still need to tag content. Text mining and auto-tagging software is gradually improving, and extracted terms can be applied as metadata. But that metadata needs to be a lot more fluid, cloud-like, and by no means fixed in a single hierarchy.

DK: we love metadata and we think XML is the right way to represent it. And we think that rich XML content is stored in no better place than MarkLogic Server. By the way, aren’t taxonomies just one form of metadata?

4. Regulatory-compliance concerns reignited

5. Renewed interest in pro-active e-discovery

6. SaaS vendors expand offerings

Many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) customers across a variety of content technology segments — from WCM to social software to e-mail archiving and document management — are asking for more than just technical services from their SaaS providers. Customers will continue to view SaaS vendors as extensions of their internal teams and will increasingly look to them more as one-stop consulting services, rather than just the system used to manage their content and visitor interaction.

DK: I like SaaS and I think both SaaS and perpetual software play a role in the future. Using Geoffrey Moore’s terminlogy, SaaS is for “context” and custom apps built on perpetually-licensed platforms are for “core.” See more of my thoughts in this post: To SaaS or Not To SaaS.

7. Oracle falls behind in battle for knowledge workers

But 2009 will expose Oracle’s weakness with front-office applications at a time when Microsoft, IBM, and many smaller players are fighting for the hearts and minds of knowledge workers.

Customers are already feeling indigestion, as different Oracle teams market overlapping and often incomplete solutions. For example, Oracle is struggling to combine four different enterprise portal offerings, and many customers are chafing at the financial and architectural challenges of aligning with the putative winner, Oracle WebCenter Suite (OWS).

DK: In the spirt of one of my favorite quotes, “when did we become our parents,” let me ask: “when did Oracle become CA?” It’s happened over the last 5 years, almost without noticing. First, they put bankers in charge. Then, what we saw as a new era of software consolidation was in reality little more than a CA replay: Oracle did for the client/server era companies what CA did for the mainframe era ones.

In the end, I think “indigestion” greatly understates the massive integration problem that Oracle has signed up for. A friend once quipped: “I met the chief architect at CA, and that must be one hell of a job, …”

Today, you could say the same of Oracle. In reality, I don’t think they’ll ever integrate. They’ll simply ride the maintenance revenue streams into the sunset and, once a given stream becomes unprofitable, they’ll force migration to a related one.

8. New emphasis on application search

In a world where system users increasingly evaluate the efficacy of their applications by the quality of the underlying search mechanism, vendors have to make adjustments.

“Faceted search” will become an RFP checkbox feature and this, among other things, will cause Web CMS, Portal, and ECM vendors to reassess their bundled search solutions. Expect to see OEM partner relationships get juggled around. For example, some existing OEM deals with FAST and Autonomy might not get renewed.

DK: I agree, and I’d note that Mark Logic’s OEM business is booming. MarkLogic easily enables the features described above (e.g., faceted navigation) and, particularly where the content is stored in XML, MarkLogic can be an ideal enterprise search alternative.

So I’d add MarkLogic on the XML side, and Lucene on the open-source side, to the list of competitors vying for replacement of traditional enterprise search engines, such as Verity, in OEM — and for matter, SaaS –applications.

9. Social computing dif
fuses into the enterprise

There is a growing debate about the relevance and advisability of enterprise investments in social software during an economic downturn that is supposed to focus everyone back on “the basics.” Yet, social software will not fade away, adoption will continue regardless of enterprise policies.

DK: I think social softare is here to stay. While Mark Logic is not currently focused on Enterprise 2.0 applications, we do most certainly make it easy to build web 2.0 style apps (e.g., tagging, annotation) which most of our Information/Media and Government customers do.

Simply put, public websites now set the expectations for functionality and user interface for most classes of software.

10. Long-awaited consolidation comes to the WCM space

11. Mobile and multimedia web analytics become key requirements…and disrupters

DK: Sitemeter, Feedburner, and Google Analytics work just fine for me.

12. Buyers remain in driver’s seat

In the current economic conditions, this leverage of the buyer will remain stronger than ever in 2009. Buyers will be placing more emphasis on researching the vendors and products. There will be a renewed emphasis on identifying a vendor and product’s associated levels of risk.

DK: I have mixed feelings on this one. While the economy suggests reduced IT spending which in turn should increase buyer leverage, let’s not forget the other side of the equation: consolidation greatly reduces buyer leverage. Let’s not forget that both effects are at work.

For example, if you’re a pure Oracle shop and you want ECM, then you are either (1) going to use Oracle offerings or (2) use someone else’s (e.g., IBM, Microsoft) but increase entropy by bringing in another supplier. Since mega-sellers know that most CIOs are (perhaps wrongly) trying to reduce entropy by cutting the number of their suppliers, the net effect might well be to increase seller leverage.

I’ve been noodling on this idea for a while because the herd mentality of IT tends to reduce buyer leverage in the aggregate over time. For example, early on, buyers had quite some leverage on Salesforce. But now, if Salesforce came along and wanted to increase rates 30%, what exactly would you do about it? Other than hold your breath and get angry, you don’t have many alternatives. And the reason you don’t is that everyone else did what you did.

Similarly, if you’re a pure Documentum shop and EMC wants to give you xDB “for free” as part of a big enterprise license, have you (1) gotten a good deal on an piece of technology or (2) reduced your buyer leverage with EMC by increasing your dependency on them and condemned yourself to use an inferior XML Server at the same time?

I think I’ll do a future post on this topic.

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.

EMC Goes Dutch

In what appears to be a bungled press launch, EMC (owner of Documentum) has announced the acquisition of Rotterdam based XML vendor, X-Hive.

Why do I say bungled? Because one of my Google alerts caught this eWeek story on Saturday before I could find an official press release on either companies’ website or the wire services. And I found stories on Gilbane and CMS Watch announcing the deal as well. (And it’s now end of day Monday and I’ve still not seen any official indication of this on either site.)

First, let’s look at the numbers. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, so we don’t have much to work with, but they did say that X-Hive currently employs 25 people. With that, plus some standard ratios and basic math, we can work up a valuation estimate.

Assuming sales/employee/year in the broad range of $200K to $300K yields annual revenues of $5.0M to $7.5M. Since X-Hive is 11 years old and employs 25 people, it’s safe to assume the average growth rate has been quite low over the company’s history. But, let’s be charitable and assume that they were getting some traction with their recent s1000d initiative, so let’s guess they were growing from at 25% to 50% over the past few years.

That, plus a look at EMC’s historical deals, suggests a valuation of 2 to 5 times annual revenues, implying a valuation range of $10M to $37.5M. Eyeball correcting that, and knowing the company is venture-backed, suggests to me a range of $25M to $50M. If I had to guess one number in the range, I’d say $35M.

Next, let’s analyze strategy. X-Hive has three primary product lines.

X-Hive/DB, an XML content server with built-in search capabilities, in the same category as MarkLogic

X-Hive/Docato, an XML content management system, in the same category as Vasont, Astoria, and XyEnterprise.

X-Hive/AMDS, an aviation document management system that I believe was built for Northwest Airlines, in the same rough category as offerings from Jouve/InfoTrust.

My strategic concern with X-Hive has always been focus. While the offerings are layered on each other, the reality is you have a 25-person company in the Netherlands conducting war on three fronts. All three categories in which the company competes are highly competitive, and X-Hive has approximately 8 people working per category. That strikes me as way below critical mass.

Perhaps controversially, I believe that X-Hive’s strategy in moving towards aviation was divergent from EMC’s interest. It’s well known that Documentum has poor XML handling. While X-Hive was heading off to aviation, I think that EMC was looking to improve its XML capabilities. But I think EMC has taken a more tactical than strategic approach.

Why? If you think about it, EMC has an interesting problem. While they have strong positions in the storage and ECM layers of the stack, they have no presence at the database layer, which is controlled by the MOI (Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM) oligopoly. What’s worse, the MOI are rising up from the database level and attacking Documentum on its home turf — e.g., Microsoft’s increasing investment in SharePoint, Oracle’s purchase of Stellent, and IBM’s FileNet acquisition.

A creative strategy for EMC would be to play defense at the ECM layer by playing offense at the database layer (which in this context includes relational database, enterprise search, and content server technology), by integrating best-of-breed technologies at that level and then attacking with a strong unified data/content database story.

But I think EMC views XML the same way that Oracle viewed BI – as a tactical, tick-box item, and not as a strategic opportunity.

Let’s talk about that some more. As you may know, I was part of the executive team that took Business Objects from $30M in 1994 to nearly $1B in 2004 when I left to join Mark Logic. Over an approximately 15-year period, a $1B company was built directly underneath the nose of Oracle, one of the most viciously competitive companies in high-technology.

What’s more, Oracle had competing products (Reports, Discoverer) from day one. Business Objects was founded by a marketing director and a sales manager from Oracle France, after they unsuccessfully ran the idea up the corporate flagpole at Oracle, so the company was on Oracle radar from day one. Thus, I can derive the non-existence of Business Objects from first-principles quite easily. But – and here’s the catch – it does exist, and today it’s about a $1.5B company.

So how in the world did that happen? My take:

• Oracle never saw BI as strategic. For them and many other companies, “tool” was a four-letter word, and BI a tick-box category to be avoided. Consequently, Oracle’s best people never worked on BI.

• Oracle was distracted. Its repeated failings in the much larger applications (e.g., ERP, CRM) market were a constant source of distraction. There were always bigger fish to fry.

• The market structure lent itself to independents. Most customers had multiple DBMSs and ERP/CRM systems and wanted BI as a unifying layer across that underlying chaos – this lent credence to players who could credibly claim agnosticism across the lower layers.

The result? Oracle made disposable BI products that were good enough to throw-in free on a purchase order as a discounting alternative, but not good enough to be seriously considered by someone who viewed BI as strategic. In effect, Oracle skimmed the sludge from the bottom of the market, leaving the cream for vendors like Business Objects and Cognos.

That’s my belief for how things will work out with EMC, Documentum, and X-Hive. By taking this approach to both EMC’s database-layer problem and Documentum’s XML problem, they are (in my humble opinion) screaming “tick box” and not strategic.

Finally, in the event that I’ve gotten it wrong and EMC really does believe that they are going to attack Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM at the database layer with (1/3rd of) 25 folks in Holland, then I’d say that I think they’re tilting at windmills, if you’ll pardon the pun.