The way Rohit Ghai puts it, EMC Documentum is done ... fully evolved, so to speak.

"No one is asking for more features or functions," he said.

Ghai is president of EMC's Enterprise Content Division (ECD), which EMC reportedly plans to sell. The sale would affect not only Documentum — the 25 year old, industry leading, enterprise content management product line — but products like LEAP, the new name for Project Horizon, and InfoArchive, too.

Still, most people associate EMC's ECD with Documentum, one of the most widely used ECM platforms in the world. It's deeply rooted in many enterprise architectures, so companies are unlikely to abandon it capriciously.  Others may still even buy it.

The Fate of Documentum

So what happens now? While Documentum may indeed be "complete," the finished product can still be enhanced through upgrades that make it more productive and cheaper to run.

In an interview with CMSWire just before the start EMC World, which runs through Thursday at the Sands Conference Center in Las Vegas, Ghai acknowledged as much. And to help Documentum retain its traction, especially in regulated industries, he and his team will be making a series of announcements from the conference today. 

Take costs, for example.

It's not so much the price of a Documentum license that matters, but the total cost of ownership, said Ghai. So the latest release — Documentum 7.3 (aka Bedrock) — leverages technologies such as Docker for infrastructure, thereby all but eliminating hypervisor-related expenses. The release will also run on open source database Postgres versus Oracle and the other proprietary database technologies for which it was initially designed. 

Upgrading Documentum to new releases will also become less expensive because it will be able to be upgraded in place using containers.

Ghai estimates that infrastructure costs will be reduced 30 percent to 40 percent, database costs 60 percent to 70 percent and upgrade costs 30 percent to 40 percent. When EMC runs 7.3 in its own cloud, it will report on the actual savings.

Documentum 7.3: Cloud First

Beginning with this new release, Documentum will take on what Ghai called a "cloud first" approach. In this case, "cloud first" means that EMC ECD will first run new releases of Documentum in production in its own managed cloud, work out all of the bugs and only then deliver it to customers. The latter won't happen until later this year.

The new approach should reduce the risks of upgrading Documentum, he suggested.

To help companies actualize return-on-investment with Documentum, EMC unveiled a few industry-specific productized solutions in 2013. EMC is now coming to market with a few more —  one for Energy and Engineering and a second, via a partnership with PAREXEL, for end-to-end Regulatory Information Management (RIM) and Regulatory Content Management in the Cloud.

The latter may be of interest to life sciences-related companies that have adopted technologies like Documentum, Core Dossier and eCTDXpress and must comply with strict regulatory requirements. It could also bite into the business that Veeva’s Veeva Vault is going after.

Stuck on Documentum

Few, if any, long-time Documentum customers will be looking for ECM alternatives in the near future, analysts told CMSWire. As Gartner analyst Darin Stewart said, "Some feel they can't" because of how deeply gnarled it is within their application infrastructure.

So making Documentum cheaper to run and less of a hassle might, in and of itself, provide further reason to keep it around. But for those enterprises who buy into EMC ECD's pitch that Documentum and LEAP, are better together, there may be a reason to re-embrace it. At least that's what Ghai hopes.

Taking EMC's LEAP

To incentivize — or as Ghai says to "reward" — Documentum customers with current maintenance licenses, EMC ECD is offering LEAP, its brand new enterprise content management offering for free as part of its "LEAP Together" program. Formerly known as Project Horizon, the move could go a long in re-winning the hearts of weathered Documentum end users if they find the LEAP experience as wonderous as EMC's pitch and analyst reactions suggest.

LEAP, Ghai explained, is "a set of apps built specifically for the enterprise in the digital era."

More specifically, LEAP is a suite of purpose-built, cloud-native content apps meant to address everyday end user needs and activities. While traditional ECM solutions, like Documentum were designed for internal use and, at least initially, for highly sophisticated users, LEAP was designed for the everyday collaborative worker, including those outside of the enterprise. The suite is based in the cloud, offers a consumer-like experience, and meets regulatory and compliance needs, he said.

Taking it down to a more granular level, LEAP consists of five EMC-authored apps.

  1. LEAP Courier — branded "Content Exchange without the Chaos" — facilitates secured and structured content exchange between internal and external parties. This is something that almost every enterprise sync and share (EFSS) solution promises to do. LEAP’s differentiator may be that it leaves content in place.
  2. LEAP Snap — "Enterprise Capture for Everyone" — leverages EMC Captiva’s Advanced Recognition technology. It automatically captures, categorizes and organizes documents and related document information in real-time, turning unstructured content into actionable digital business information. Ghai told CMSWire that an environment can be spun up in less than five minutes. The app includes a template design service to start the capture process without the need for any configuration or development.
  3. LEAP Concert — "Collaborative Document Authoring with Control" — is for creating and collaborating on documents in a controlled environment. What is somewhat unique is that it offers the ability to identify and assign work to be done on documents and provides review workflows including sections to be approved and completed. Ghai noted that owners can protect existing content, only allowing users to modify the individual sections that have been assigned to them.
  4. LEAP Express — "Anywhere, Anytime Access to Your Content" — makes it easy to browse, access, search and approve all content, no matter where it lives. It supports multiple form factors including web, tablet and mobile, and offers edgy security features like touch ID. It is repository independent, meaning that it enables a unified view of all documents and tasks, so that you don’t need to jump across apps when you work with content.
  5. LEAP Focus — Optimized Document Viewing Designed for Mobile — was built to make documents easy to work with via your phone. Geared toward sales teams and others who sometimes need to read contracts remotely, it automatically reformats documents based on selected font size for the device, so that you don't have to "pinch to zoom" or go find a computer or tablet to review a document.

EMC LEAP

EMC ECD does not plan to write every LEAP app on its own. Ghai said that his team will invite top tier app builders to fill in the gaps. The first of these apps, eSignature and Digital Transaction Management, comes from San Francisco-based DocuSign.

EMC is also offering a channel reseller program, which Ghai expects that current Documentum partners will want to join.

The Big LEAP Ahead

LEAP should represent a big win for Documentum customers who are "likely more than ready for fresh, modern, simple, collaborative apps," Forrester analyst Cheryl McKinnon told CMSWire.

McKinnon, who saw a preview of LEAP, said the new product fills EMC ECD's "long standing gap in the user-focused, more collaborative segment of content management or collaboration." She pointed specifically to the focus of each app, "designed to solve specific pain points that day to day information workers face, without a lot distracting feature bloat."

McKinnon expects that Documentum's existing customers will be the first to adopt LEAP, both because it is being offered free of charge and because it promises to deliver the modern, digital experience that Documentum users have been longing for for years.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, VP and Managing Director VOCalis at Digital Clarity Group, said LEAP is overdue. "The bottom line is that digital transformation and the customer experience has until now been focused largely on the web/external customer experience, ignoring the reality of the back office process and internal application needs."

He offered that LEAP "seems to do a pretty good job of taking the core document management (which will never go away and never not be critical) elements and packages them into digestible, cloud native and easy on the eye chunks. These key information management elements have been overlooked or oversimplified for some years now but the complexity and criticality of them remains."

LEAP Courier and LEAP Snap are available to a limited number of customers today and will be generally available in June. LEAP Concert, LEAP Express and LEAP Focus are in active recruitment for beta customers right now with general availability in the second half of 2016.

Understanding EMC's ECD Strategy

Documentum co-founder, John Newton, now chair and CTO of Alfresco, seems to have perfectly articulated Ghai’s Documentum plus LEAP strategy in an un-related tweet. It said, "There is no innovation without disruption, but there is no progress without stability."

That's precisely what Ghai is trying to pull-off by maintaining Documentum's stability even as he takes the LEAP to gain a competitive edge over what's currently available in the market. 

Documentum is respected for its "security, regulatory compliance and process management elements that underpin the LEAP suite," Pelz-Sharpe said.

Those attributes made Documentum a hit in its heyday — and could help it maintain its shine into its golden years, right alongside LEAP.

Title image "Leap of Faith" (CC BY 2.0) by T. Fernandes