Everyone is talking about digital natives, “new users” and the consumerization of IT. No matter what label you use, technology vendors and IT departments, for that matter, are focusing their attention on the end-user experience. They have come to realize that if you (or your products and services) aren’t easy to work with, then customers will get what they need from someone else (and pay their bills instead of yours).

The User Knows Best

It goes to follow that the days of IT departments having the upper hand in selecting technology and telling their internal customers what tools they are “allowed” to use to get their jobs done are all but gone. Today’s users know that they have choices and if IT doesn’t offer a solution that delights them, they can easily get one from someone who does.

It’s tough love, but it’s true.

And sure, IT departments can try to make rules and create roadblocks to try to stop them, but that’s hard to do if they don’t own the hardware or the software. Besides, the last thing IT can afford is to add themselves to a business process owner's “difficult to deal with” supplier list, lest they put themselves out of a job.

This leaves corporate IT in a place it hasn’t been before -- it must now “win” its own company’s business. And IT vendors need to sell to end-users rather than just to IT.

In the new scenario, long “old school” iteration cycles will no longer cut it. Business users’ experiences as consumers have taught them that they can get what they need without having to wait for it. No matter how complex the task at hand, the incoming generation of workers will demand a “there’s an app for that” experience.

EMC Commits to the User

Providing such an experience could prove to be especially challenging for legacy Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors because of all of the intricacies, complexities and business rules involved in the storage, security, version control, governance and associated case management, records management and retention of content. Add to that that they were designed before the 2.0 World existed.

Maybe this is why ECM 1.0 vendors have been so slow to enter and/or delight the users of the 2.0 world.

Companies like EMC Documentum didn’t appear to make its move until it lost market share and later even became unprofitable.

But, as is often said, the only direction to head after you hit bottom is up.

And that’s where Documentum, which was at one time the Rolls Royce of the ECM space, seems to be going right now. EMC’s IIG group, which owns Documentum, has finally acknowledged and made a commitment to the “new user” and promised to deliver “choice computing” and to enable access to content and provide tools for collaboration on the cloud.

Meeting “new users” where and how they work not only makes sense, it’s also a good way for Documentum to shed its relic-like image without alienating its fanboys (and girls).

If EMC plays its cards right, tomorrow’s users will be continuously delighted with the power, features and benefits of its post-2011 offerings and won’t have any experience with the product’s sometimes frustrating past.

Of course, skeptics will say that EMC’s ECM Group (they’ve changed names a few times in the past decade) has shrewdly presented “coming soon” features in the past and then delivered only the emperor’s new clothes, but things seem to be different now.

Consider that EMC IIG’s new (October 2010) president, Rick Devenuti doesn’t shy away from addressing the fact that the group he now heads has had some delivery problems in the past. He makes comments like, “(the) key to satisfying any constituency is to say what you’re going to do, and then doing it” from the podium. Add to that, that IIG has actually begun to deliver on his promises.

In the past year, they’ve introduced:

  • Documentum Mobile, an iPad content management app that’s free for Documentum users with client licenses. It’s worth noting that EMC actually beat some ECM 2.0 vendors to the iTunes store last September. (By the way, this app, or something like it, was originally blue-skyed for both Blackberrys and iPhones as far back as 2008 and possibly even 2007).
  • Documentum On Demand which consists of versions of Documentum, Document Sciences and Captiva that can be run on servers provided by EMC partners and will be managed by EMC.
  • Vcube (technically owned by VMWare in which EMC owns a 40% stake) which is a virtual container that allows Documentum to be moved on and off premise.
  • EMC Documentum D2, a modern and highly-configurable application for rapidly building content solutions that enables business analysts to rapidly match ECM application functionality to their business needs, without the need for coding.
  • Content Management in the Cloud via a partnership with cloud ECM provider Box.net

Final Thoughts

While it’s too early to know whether these improvements will help Documentum regain its market share to again become the ECM vendor of choice, one thing is already clear: that it’s more likely to win its way onto the shortlist of companies shopping for ECM solutions and that its existing clients might give it a second look before walking away.

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