Tuesday, February 1, 2011
As expected, the most plentiful chocolate in the box is eDiscovery. A tweet from Peter Buck (@backofthenapkin) described my sentiment perfectly, "#legaltech is like going to a foreign country if you R not a e-discovery maven." There certainly is no shortage of vendors to talk to about it and it permeates nearly every conversation I've been in thus far.
What was a bit surprising to me was the lack of Social Media sessions being held yesterday. As I said, there were plenty of eDiscovery discussions, but I only saw one Social Media talk on the agenda. When I poked my head in the room it wasn't a huge audience and the most active part of the conversation was about Twitter follower counts...the discussion seemed a bit 'non-attached' to how I believe Social Media can benefit law firms. The lack of info about the topic kind of confirmed for me that the majority of firms, and lawyers, are not yet at a point of eager adoption.
Finally, my favorite part of LegalTech was in full force...reconnecting with customers, partners, and colleagues. I've noticed that there seem to be many more CIO/CTO's in attendance this year which I think is a good thing. But, networking at these events and hearing straight from the customer about their challenges and successes is what conferences like this are all about for me...and it's a communication point that no social media app can completely fill.
Now to see where and when #Tsnow-nami 2011 is going to strike and strand us in NYC. (Credit to @pnear for the Tsnow-nami tag...I was there and he was the first to coin the trending term ;-) )
Monday, January 31, 2011
Another year another LegalTech New York conference. I've been coming to this show for the better part of the last decade and while it would be overstating things to say, "I always look forward to LegalTech,"...I guess I actually do. For me, LegalTech is always kind of a barometer for what the story will be for legal technology until we reach August and the ILTA Conference. There is such an over abundance of topics and technology that it can be easy to get lost in all of the noise. Each year there always seems to be something new to catch the majority's interest and I think that's what entertains me the most hen getting mentally prepared for the experience. I never know if I'll get a fantastic chocolate covered toffee or crunchy nut...or bite into some oddly paired fruit jelly and chocolate combo that makes me cringe.
Ten years ago were the days of chocolate covered almonds...you couldn't walk ten feet on the exhibitor floor without bumping into a time and billing or document management vendor. I think three years ago was when I got a box of coconut filled candies; good for a quick snack, but they get tiresome after too many. SharePoint was the talk of the town and how it was going to take over the world of legal technology. While SharePoint has definitely arrived and is here to stay, it by no means has taken over...especially when firms really get into what document and records management according to Microsoft is all about. Then two years ago there was Social Media at LegalTech; delicious, but messy, caramels. I love caramels just as I really enjoy theorizing about the benefits social media can have in a law firm. But, I don't think the industry was quite ready for the discussion then...seems kind of like we've arrived now. A quick glance at this year's agenda shows that, like last year, the big candy in the box is eDiscovery. This one seems to have legs as far as trade shows go, and I suspect we'll continue to see it dominate for a few more years. Good thing I like nougat inside my chocolate too.
So, while eDiscovery looks to be the story again this year and will let me enjoy that chewy center, I'll keep my ear to the ground looking for that elusive mini Heath Bar and its toffee crunch. Should I happen to find any, and if you like crunchy chocolate, check back here for updates throughout the show.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
On the eDOCS front, we have had a lot of news this week....wouldn't be a trade show for a vendor if we didn't have 'more news.' ;-) Customers are excited and providing good feedback when looking at DM 5.3 and Office 2010. If I had to bet money on it, I'd say that 2011 is going to be a good year for the MS Office business. I know that the uptake of Office 2010 to date has been very slow, but everyone here is asking/talking about it. Also getting a lot of face time with our customers is Open Text Social Workplace. Now that we're providing the integration with eDOCS to add documents to the collaborative experience it's as if everyone's eyes have been opened to the possibilities. Firms are talking to us about two distinct approaches; using OTSW as an internal community and knowledge sharing solution (expertise locator), and using OTSW as a means of securely connecting with their clients and providing new access and customer value from the firm.
On Monday ILTA held the Open Text Peer Group Day which was very, very well attended. If you've never been to ILTA, the Peer Groups are something owned and managed by the association itself. We as vendors don't set agendas, don't provide content, in fact it is up to the Peer Group to invite us and decide what topics they would like us to speak to the group about. Hearing comments like, '...it's great to feel part of a real ecosystem again...' is music to my ears. There really is a tangible sense of 'community' around eDOCS and legal this year. Two very active sessions during Peer Group Day were on customer testimonials on how SharePoint is being used in their firms and what that means for DM. All three of the firms that spoke ended up in the same general position...there is much greater value in using SharePoint with you DMS as opposed to trying to make SharePoint your DMS. Two of the three were very specific to say that their use of SharePoint and eDOCS was driving tangible value to their clients; that their clients were actually commenting on how much they liked the new extranet type applications these firms were exposing. The other most active session for the Peer Group was on the topic of Mobility. Many firms are already using our eDOCS WirelessDMS tools and many more are actively looking for solutions. The surprise for me during this session was the number of firms who were actively pursuing solutions for Android. Blackberry, iPhone, and iPad support yes, but I was not expecting the interest in Android. Good thing we have that coming shortly too! ;-) Of course, the demo of the iPad client for eDOCS DM was a hit too.
So, that's my halftime report, I now return you to your regularly scheduled twitter #ECM programming. At this point, the primary question that keeps floating around in my head is this...
As a software vendor are we placing enough emphasis on features and user experience that create value for our customer's customers vs. just thing about what features/solutions we think our direct customers need?
Food for thought for the flight home at the end of the week...
Sunday, July 18, 2010
The last several months have given me lots of time to think about product roadmaps. As I usually do, I’m going to try and pepper this post with actual feedback I received from actual customers within the last two weeks. I think that this fresh commentary from the customers that use ECM products, rather than just all of us ‘in the industry’ is what can really make these discussions exponentially more valuable. My end goal is to have actual customers interact with us, be it via blogs like this or twitter or pick your medium. My question today, should product roadmaps be proactive or reactive? It’s easy to say ‘both,’ but I don’t think that that is a very honest or realistic answer for many products…especially mature products.
A Balanced Approach
So, roadmaps…in the eDOCS world (for those that don’t know, eDOCS is a document management application from Open Text…but I suspect if you’re reading this blog you already know that ) we kicked off our formal planning for DM 5.4 last month. We went through the normal process of consolidating and grouping customer enhancement requests and balancing that with some of the concepts required to take the product in the direction we feel is best for the long term. Now, DM is a mature product, but it is one that is used actively by thousands and thousands of users. In many cases it is considered the mission critical application for customers. For those reasons it continues to have a very active and vocal user community that contributes enhancement requests on a regular basis. At the same time, as the ‘Content Experts’ we on the eDOCS product team are always keeping an eye on the ECM industry at large, and the legal industry specifically, as that is where the majority of eDOCS customers are found. Our goal…our job…is to recognize the trends that are developing in this space and insure that our customer’s investment is protected by adapting the technology to continue to fit their business needs. Overall, the team and I were very pleased with the first workshop for 5.4. In this case, we truly are striking a balance of proactive and reactive roadmap development.
This past week I had the pleasure of sitting down with a legal customer here in the U.S. They primarily wanted to talk about one of the other legal applications in the eDOCS & Legal Solutions portfolio. Now the discussion regarding this product’s roadmap stemmed primarily from a mistake that Open Text has made in taking too long to publish a public, formal product roadmap. A mistake I committed to remedying shortly. Nevertheless, this customer’s natural assumption was that since we had not published a roadmap then we must be planning on ending support and development of the product. My response was that given the lack of information from Open Text I couldn’t blame them for feeling that way, but that it was categorically untrue that we had plans to end support for the application. Once we were over that point we turned to what was actually going to happen with the product, where was it going, etc. After describing things such as platform updates we would be providing, etc., it was the customer who perfectly categorized our roadmap approach for this product as ‘reactive.’ And, it is. But, is that a bad or negative approach? I was left with the feeling that the customer believed it was and hence it’s given me pause to want to write this blog post. The fact is, that in this case we are again dealing with a mature product that while critical to many of its customer’s businesses, sees very little in terms of customer enhancement requests. In fact, a cursory review showed us that there have been only two or three in the last two years. As a software vendor, that should (and does) send up alarms that perhaps people are not using the product or are looking to move away. But, that does not appear to be true as there is little, if any, activity around maintenance cancellation. So, what was the outcome here? This customer left the meeting charged up to try and spark a discussion in the larger product user community at large. They too wanted to see if people were happy with the product as is or had changes they wanted to see. If they could develop enough discussion and collection of common interests then perhaps they could help drive the roadmap. Personally, I thought that was great. Obviously, we can’t commit that we will be able to implement every idea or request that may come from this group, but at least we would be having the dialogue if the user community feels significant enhancements are needed.
Two weeks ago I was in in London for our annual Legal CIO Advisory Board meeting. One of the customers I had the opportunity to speak with there is in our pilot program for the Open Text Social Workplace (OTSW) product. It’s a secure, turn-key social media/collaboration product that has gained tremendous interest in the legal community. In fact, Open Text was recently selected as one of only five vendors to present in the Innovative Technology session at next month’s ILTA Conference. Now, when I think about the roadmap for OTSW, I see it being much more proactive. For the most part, our existing customers don’t use this type of technology today. They’re thinking about it and they’re thinking about how it can be useful for their business, but they don’t use it yet. Therefore, almost everything that is in the OTSW roadmap from a feature/function point of view has come directly from our own volition and market research rather than from individual customer enhancement requests. This left the customer I mention above wondering why the feedback and functionality requests they were asking for were not yet available. They were able to see some, but not all, in the roadmap and wanted to know why we were not reacting quickly to their requests. OTSW is a perfect example of a vendor realizing the change in a market and proactively choosing to invest in a specific area in the belief that it will benefit their customers in the long run.
Is one approach better than another or are they both just facts of any given product’s lifecycle? Obviously, newer products are always going to be a bit more proactive and more mature products are always going to be a bit more reactive. While it’s easy to say “we blend both approaches,” unless you’re only dealing with one product (or very small set of products) then that is probably not very candid. The truth is that from an R&D perspective there is always a finite amount of resources that must be prioritized over a seemingly infinite number of potential projects. The secret sauce is in knowing which projects to invest in and when. Naturally, this may put off new customers who purchase a product that is currently in a reactive state or frustrate customers on the bleeding edge buying a product that is in the proactive state. But, in the immortal words of Michael Corelone, “It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business.” That’s why, in my opinion, the most important ingredient in that ‘secret sauce’ I mention above is communication with your customers.
Let me know what you think in the comments below…Till next time…
Friday, June 4, 2010
OK, for most of the last month those of us that play in the ECM playground have all been a buzz about SharePoint 2010 and the doom it spells for ‘legacy’ ECM vendors. At the same time, I’ve seen ‘new’ (less than 7 years old) ECM vendors jump on the bandwagon of opportunity to take a shot at the stalwarts of the industry. Whether we’re talking about a longtime vendor’s inability or ‘slowness’ to change its architecture, the commoditization of basic content services, or the pro’s and con’s of an open source model, to me it is all beginning to sound like the same boring noise….
“SharePoint has won…”
“Open Text tries to be a platform but can’t get all its acquired technologies in order…”
“EMC/Documentum has lost focus of selling an ECM platform in exchange for vertical case management solutions…”
“Open source let’s you test your implementation strategy before having to pay for it…”
It’s taken me a few weeks, but I’ve finally honed in on what is really bugging me about this virtual conversation. It’s being had mostly by vendors and consultants (including SI’s, etc.) and very rarely is there input from actual customers of ECM. At the end of the day for any of us who are blogging or tweeting about this subject, theorizing about what’s going to happen in our industry, isn’t it our customers who really have the final say? We can banter around our opinions with each other, but I think it would be very valuable for us all, vendors/partners/consultants/customers, to share what real world decisions are being made instead of what we in the industry think is going to happen. Isn’t that supposed to be the true value of all this social media and networking tools, to bring the whole community together?
So, to hold myself to this standard here are my thoughts on the effect SharePoint may have on the ECM industry. I’ve based these on real conversations of the last 45 days with actual customers/users (AmLaw 200 law firms, US Federal Government, Global Media/Entertainment, State & Local Government, and a Global Consulting and Accounting firm) of ECM technologies (SharePoint, Open Text, Documentum, and Autonomy iManage):
- New Buyers of Basic Document and Records Management: For organizations of any size that, today, do not have a document management solution, SharePoint will be the de facto leader. It is a natural extension of Office, it just makes sense. The same is probably true for organizations first beginning to venture into the world of records management….especially the smaller ones and those not overly concerned with physical records. Again, it just makes sense. Does this mean that the legacy vendors or up and comers won’t take some of this business? No. But, if anyone’s business case for growth is still based on an assumption that there is great opportunity here they are in trouble. Enterprise, as in ‘the whole organization; every single piece of content',’ Records Management is a different animal I’ll come to in a bit. Open source alternatives here will thrive in local government and new companies that consider themselves technologically savvy and cutting edge.
- Existing Owners of Document and Records Management Applications: As long as they don’t feel they are being gouged by their vendor, they’re probably not going to take on the expense of migration to a new platform. I had one of the multi-billion dollar customer actually laugh at my suggestion that they might consider migrating at some point. “Why would we do that,” was his response, “let’s talk about our three year vision.” There simply is nothing so compelling about SharePoint to warrant this group throwing away all of the money they’ve invested in it for years. Of course there are exceptions; those that do feel they are being gouged on maintenance, those that simply never saw value or were incessantly plagued with bugs, etc. In these circumstances, I think SharePoint will be the ‘go to’ position as well. That said, customers who have owned and used ECM technologies are a bit more educated and will probably give others a look as well.
But, the obvious key here is value…the customer has to continue to see the value of their investment. If they don’t, then the incumbent is toast and SP will likely eat them for breakfast.
- The Hybrids, Enterprise Records Management, and CMIS: Many of the largest users of ECM today don’t know it, but CMIS will be the answer to many of their long time prayers. Rarely do I speak with a customer today that does not already have more than one ECM technology in play. Yet, they all have continuously looked for a way to unify them. I think this is another area where SharePoint will greatly benefit…as well as the ‘legacy’ vendors. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve spoken with a customer that has technology X in use as its official RM application but has very little up-take by end users beyond those involved with the RM practice by trade or those mandated to use it. What both SharePoint and CMIS provide the legacies with is a way to truly execute an Enterprise RM Strategy. SharePoint is probably the easiest application out there to get end users to use….they already use Office every day. It’s not a stretch to believe that SharePoint can become the front end to nearly any and all ECM initiatives. On the backend, the CMIS protocol(s) potentially allow an organization to surface the content in all of the disparate apps they may have in a consistent SharePoint UI while also providing the mechanism by which a single RM app could manage said content regardless of where it originated from. Of course, in my opinion, a lot of that vision depends on how/if the CMIS standard evolves. Laurence Hart (@piewords) has a tremendous discussion and wish list for CMIS 2.0 here http://wordofpie.com/2009/12/08/looking-at-cmis-1-0-thinking-of-2-0/
To date, not a single Global 1000 customer that I’ve personally spoken to (at least 100 over the last 12 months) is seriously considering using SharePoint 2010 as an enterprise wide RM standard. Does that mean some won’t someday? No. I’m just sharing actual facts from actual customer conversations. Plenty are considering using SP 2010 for departmental RM initiatives and plenty of smaller companies are going this route, but for the big guys…as soon as you begin talking about more than office documents as records the SP discussion fades away. This is where the longtime RM vendors can live in the RM space for the next 5 to 10 years.
I guess the one thing I’m trying to get across to my industry colleagues is that customers are still going to buy the solution they feel best fits their own individual needs. No matter how many tweets we have for or against a particular vendor, no matter the amount of money spent on marketing, the ECM customers I speak to want a solution that works for them. As much as I enjoy reading all of the conversation and viewpoints between all of us ‘in the industry,’ I really wish that our discussion in the ether could better involve the customers we all service. As great as our social media tools are, I fear that the terrific dialogue we have is lost on the customers. Are they not using these tools yet? Are they just lurking? What can we do, collectively, to bring them into our conversations? I’d like to blog and write more about my thoughts and opinions on ECM, but I want it to be heard by my existing and future customers. Without them, all this blog or #ecm Twitter streams are good for is getting me “known” by my peers. That might help me get another job someday, but it certainly won’t help me grow my business. For that, I’ll keep the personal conversations alive and well…after all, my golden rule has always been “People buy from People.”
Thursday, April 22, 2010
On my way, yesterday, to have a nice face to face with 200 or so customers, I read the following tweet from Cheryl:
"RM is the foundation for KM" - a message often lost in this era of noxious Compliance FUD. http://cli.gs/Q6WZn6"To which I responded:
@CherylMcKinnon Completely agree that RM is foundation of KM, but implying that compliance is FUD is a bit extreme IMOAnd, so I ask, is compliance still king of the business drivers for ECM? From my point of view, I hope it is or at least a crowned prince. There's no question that times have changed, that the market demands have matured and expanded almost simultaneously. But, the implication that compliance is FUD is...well...extreme. To me, compliance is more than ensuring that I keep certain types of content a certain period of time as defined by a certain external law or governing body for fear of penalty. Compliance also extends to an enterprise's self imposed guidelines or best practices. I talk to so many customers today who are concerned about the loss of knowledge as the older portion of their workforce enters retirement. Unfortunately, many of them are scrambling around now and trying to find 'easy' tools that will help capture and retain said knowledge before it's gone. Well, hindsight is always 20/20 but I would argue that had the organization had a solid knowledge management program earlier, and been compliant with it, they may not be facing an issue as big as it is today.
Organizations embarking on their first ECM journeys today must include compliance as part of their total ECM strategy. Is it the only driver, no, certainly not. Years ago a financial institution may have told its employees, 'you are required to store your documents in this software system whether you like it or not because if you don't we'll get fined by the SEC and then we'll fire you.' As President Obama outlines his plans for derivatives reform in NYC today, that may still be the case for my FinServ peeps, but that type of compliance statement only holds water for a narrow portion of the ECM market today. The compliance question that almost every customer I meet with is asking is, 'how do I give my team the content tools they want and need and maintain the standards of security, privacy, and control set forth by my firm?' I had this exact conversation this week with an AMLaw 200 firm in NYC who's looking to bring the E2.0 tools their young lawyers are looking for into practice. To me, they are getting it right. They have their eyes open to what their users are asking for in terms of content mgmt. They have a traditional DM platform in place (not mine I'm sad to say). And, they are bringing in vendors to talk about things like social workplaces for collaboration, email management, and mobility. Most importantly, they want to know how/if these technologies can help them comply with their standards, those of the State Bar, and their clients.
A complete ECM strategy must at least include compliance as an equal to knowledge sharing and knowledge preservation. As Cheryl said, 'RM is the foundation for KM,' and there is a reason for that....compliance is important whether you're complying with the FRCP or the NFL's Code of Conduct. Maybe if the NFL had a solid content management and sharing platform in place, young Mr. Roethlisberger wouldn't be worried about his job in Pittsburgh (sorry, NFL draft tonight couldn't resist the reference...GO PATS!)
Thursday, September 10, 2009
There's a great little conversation, recently started by my former OT'er Cheryl Mckinnon and a friend of her's, running around some ECM blogs out there. The premise is to tell the story of how you got started in the ECM world. You can read some of the 'first ecm' stories here http://wordofpie.com/2009/09/08/my-first-content-management-application/#comment-7087
I actually came to the ECM world via a very WCM focused perspective. My first ECM/WCM project was actually a set of home grown tools written in Perl. Around 1997-98 I was hired by a great start-startup named Interactive8 in NYC. Like many we were capitalizing on the dotcom bubble and had developed the online presence for several companies ahead of the curve in creating their online brand; A&E Television (biography.com, historychannel.com, etc.), M&M Mars, DeBeers Diamonds, Maybelline… Anyway, we had a creative team, a strategy team, and my technical team that was responsible for the light web development of the time (online quizzes, polls, and a cool e-comm store on a customized implementation of Intershop) and running our own hosting center. When I arrived, a typical day was creative folks mocking up screens, HTML/production folks making it into something browsers could view, and us writing Perl/MySQL apps and getting the stuff hosted and replicated. That obviously didn’t scale so we actually wrote some slick little apps that would do things like allow copywriters to save text files in a certain directory that a cron job would pick up and update relevant html files.
Well, capitalizing on the bubble…the tail end of the bubble, we merged with 7 other companies and did an IPO and formed Luminant Worldwide. One of the other 7 companies was Align Solutions from Houston where I met Mike Alsup, Quack, and colleagues. They quickly educated me on the in’s and out’s of DCTM and core docman. Soon after that I was on a project for a large telecomm where we integrated DCTM 4i, Verity K2, and Epicentric portal.
So, my ‘first’ I still have to give to our custom tools for wcm. My first ‘commercial’ ECM project goes to DCTM.
Great idea Cheryl and Laurence!