EMC Conference Peers into the Future of ECM

Apr 11, 2008

Writers, consultants and EMC employees gathered at the Nine Zero Hotel in Boston last Friday for the Content Management Writers’ Summit to discuss the future of enterprise content management (ECM) in general with a focus on where EMC hopes to take the EMC-Documentum platform.

The conference was moderated by Carl Frappaolo, VP of marketing intelligence at AIIM and consisted of a series of presentations from EMC employees accompanied by wide-ranging discussion on the future trends in ECM and how EMC is adapting their current approach to accommodate industry changes. Mark Lewis, president of content management and archiving at EMC kicked off the discussion with a presentation about general trends in the industry. He pointed out that today we talk about pure storage and retrieval issues, but in the future he believes that we will move toward a personalized, contextualized view of information based on individual needs. To that end, he sees the industry (and EMC) moving away from integration-heavy applications toward flexible applications that a company can adapt and modify as needed for the changing requirements of the organization.

Howard Shao, one of the founders of Documentum and now senior VP of content management and archiving at EMC spoke about EMC’s future vision of a flexible delivery platform in which EMC could provide applications across the platform as software as a service (SaaS); in-house behind the firewall; or in a hybrid approach where some components, such as storage of mission-critical information, might remain behind the company firewall while certain applications, such as the content management system, could be hosted. Shao said they are working to deliver parts of this vision as early as the end of this year.

Shao also talked of a unified approach to the delivery mechanism. For instance, instead of forcing customers to buy one solution for email archiving and another for other types of content archiving, EMC will instead ship a unified archiving repository with a uniform set of rules, regardless of the content type. Meanwhile, Razmik Abnous, CTO at EMC and a founding engineer at Documentum, described how EMC is embracing Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and working to build services all the way up the application stack. He stressed that this was a future vision and they are only a small part of the way there, but they are working towards a goal of exposing the different parts of the application stack as services. He said that embracing SOA should provide a way for applications, regardless of the vendor, to work together more easily.

There was an ongoing discussion throughout the day about the impact of Web 2.0 (or Enterprise 2.0 as it is called when these concepts move inside the enterprise), and its impact on EMC and the industry in general. The trend raises several issues for organizations including implementation, archiving, and storage and compliance. AIIM’s Frappaolo summed this up when he said there was a spectrum with security risk on one end and collaboration and knowledge sharing on the other, and he said that it’s really up to organizations to decide where they want to fall on that spectrum in terms of how much they are willing to embrace Enterprise 2.0 concepts of sharing and collaboration.

Frappaolo went on to say that Enterprise 2.0 is an evolutionary advancement in one-to-many communication—not necessarily an entirely new form of  communication—but it’s one that IT departments and other interested parties have to be aware of and manage just as they do other types of content in the enterprise.

No discussion of content management would be complete without talking about search. The way EMC’s Lewis sees it, he doesn’t want to rely on any one search or indexing technique. In the end, he actually wants to move beyond the model where the user simply finds the information to a flexible (semantic?) environment where the system understands the user’s needs and displays information to him in the context of his work. Perhaps, says Mark Coblentz, group product marketing manager for knowledge worker products at EMC, tagging can provide a way to help users today to find the information they need, whether through a tag cloud or a logical keyword tags.

These presentations and discussions raised a lot of issues that every company should be thinking about moving forward. Regardless of the chosen vendor, companies need to find ways to make their delivery methods more flexible, while applications from different vendors need to interact better and vendors need a find a way to incorporate and monitor new types of content, such as social networking and Enterprise 2.0 tools. This conference was just part of an on-going conversation about these issues and how they will affect content management and general corporate computing in the future.