This year has seen a lot of change at the executive levels of multiple Content Management vendors. This has spawned a long list of articles of people speculating what must be going on at the various companies. All the speculation I’ve been able to validate has been wrong. What is really happening is quite simple.

People are starting to panic.

The cloud has introduced severe disruption into the market. After coasting along for a decade, established vendors are no longer fighting to take market share from each other. They are having to fend off new cloud vendors like the Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) market. The continued pressure to produce sales has lead to greater turnover as some people decide to cut their losses and move on to new things.

Pressure from Above

The model used to be simple: Watch your competitors. Talk to clients. Pick new features for the next version. Take customers from the other players faster than you lost customers. New license revenue flowed in and all was well.

Then EFSS vendors arrived with their shiny toys that were quickly adopted by people at organizations across the board. At first the EFSS vendors were dismissed. As vendors like Box and Dropbox gained traction with CIOs, the legacy vendors realized that they needed to change strategy. Everyone decided that they needed a desktop sync capability.

Cloud entered roadmap discussions. Cloud had been dismissed before, as clients hadn’t been asking for the cloud. Customers hadn’t asked because they determined that the legacy vendors were the wrong people to ask. This was evidenced by the legacy vendors assuming cloud meant installing their software into Amazon. It wasn’t until last year that they started to realize that a SaaS service was what was truly needed.

It is no shock that these changes haven't made a big difference so far. Customers view these offerings as “me too” capabilities that validate the approach of the EFSS vendors. Pressure is increasing on the product, marketing and sales teams. This has forced some companies to shake things up as they look for fresh energy and ideas.

It has also led to people jumping ship.

Musical Chairs

For every person who has been forced out, several more have left on their own accord. Some have left for the EFSS companies or departed the Content Management industry completely. This is creating gaps that others within the industry are filling. People make the change, discover the grass isn’t greener and shift again.

These changes have a tendency to cascade as well. If a VP of Product jumps ship for a startup, a replacement will have to be hired. That person will likely come from within the industry, which creates another role to be filled somewhere else. The cascade can become complicated even if there are no other staff changes related to the move.

Many people leave because they are looking for a new challenge. There may be nothing wrong with their current company. On the flip side, product may not be delivering or budgets may not be getting approved. Maybe they decide to try a startup out and decide that the culture isn’t a good fit or isn't ready for a more mature approach to product or marketing.

The cycle continues. Multiple waves of change are happening simultaneously making it difficult for outsiders to reach any conclusion.

The Cycle Continues

Everyone wants to be on a winning team. Everyone wants to do bigger and better things. There are a lot of opportunities being created right now in the chaos and people are taking advantage of them. In many ways, this is a period of "catch-up" for people as they make the job shifts that they should have done years ago.

What can we read into any particular change? Very little. Even short stays are to be expected as the current market doesn’t demand that a person has to stay with a bad choice for a long time. In the current state of the industry, not seeing turnover this rapid would be abnormal.

People realizing that they have maxed-out a position and they need to go elsewhere is not big news. A whole team departing, yes. A couple people on the same team, no.

The real news is what people do wherever they land.