Hiring an Expert Consultant in the Multi-Repository World of ECM and RM in 2010

By Michael Alsup posted 05-15-2010 11:30


In an excellent post, Roger Poole, Global Head of Records Management for Barclays Capital, recommends several factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS).  In particular, he notes that organizations might "Hire consultants to undertake the review and give you an unbiased opinion as to the best solution – take care to ensure the consultants are experts in the appropriate business and, preferable, are not “tied” to one or two Global IT Vendors."  I wanted to expand on how this prospect has changed in the last two years, because many of the assumptions in the article have been somewhat invalidated in some scenarios that I have seen recently. 

The EDMS Consulting market has a long and decorated tradition.  EDMS Consultants have come from EDMS vendors, from large users, and from the ranks of larger consulting organizations.  AIIM has participated in the tradition of EDMS requirements analysis, vendor analysis, and project justification.  This tradition was increasingly more relevant and useful as the ranks of the likely EDMS vendors consolidated into a small number of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Suites, dominated at the high end by EMC, Open Text, IBM, Oracle, Hyland, and Alfresco.  There were similar lists of vendors in the SMB market.  What I have seen lately is a break from the relevance of this tradition. 

SharePoint re-introduced the need for multiple ECM repositories to the EDMS market.  (This is not a SharePoint 2010 analysis.  There are several of those analyses that you are surely aware of, and Greg Clark, in his fine tradition, is going to have an interesting post on this site on this topic next week.)  My post is about the impact of multiple ECM repositories, one of which is likely to be SharePoint, on selecting an EDMS vendor, and especially on the impact of SharePoint on requirements for an EDMS consultant.

Above all else, SharePoint defeats the notion of an ECM Suite.  An ECM Suite was intended to be a one stop shop for all ECM capabilities.  No longer would an organization need to know how to integrate six capture solutions into their EDMS repository, because their vendor just acquired a capture vendor.  Business Process Management, Web Content Management, Records Management, and several other niche product categories were consumed by the ECM Suite vendors as they raced to fulfill all of the check boxes of the ECM Suite.  The AIIM Show, which was a “Best of Breed” show in 1995, became a much smaller and less interesting event by 2005, because so many of the best of breed component EDMS vendors were now only visible in the shadow of the ECM Suites.  One less well recognized impact was on the ECM Integrators. 

When it was a best of breed industry, the ECM Integrators had a great business opportunity.  Why?  Because the best of breed components were only part of an ECM solution when they were integrated.  As the industry consolidated, the ECM Suite vendors took the position that their Professional Services organizations were either the best qualified (Open Text, EMC, Hyland, and IBM) or the only qualified (Oracle) providers of professional services and the ranks of the focused ECM Integrators were decimated.  The ECM Integrators were treated somewhat as a food source by the ECM vendor’s professional services organizations. 

SharePoint has changed this equation dramatically.  First, Microsoft has clearly indicated the boundaries of SharePoint for ECM and RM.  There are many areas that have traditionally been part of an ECM Suite that SharePoint 2010 will not include, such as physical records management, business process management, capture, and archival.  Second, Microsoft maintains a fairly minimal Professional Services organization compared to the size of the market, and the demands for architecting enterprise SharePoint solutions far outstrip their available expertise.  Third, most companies don’t expect to source their ECM and RM integration services from the ECM Suite vendors because these organizations are not perceived as integrators as much as they are extensions of the ECM Suite vendor’s products.  Fourth, and most importantly, integrating SharePoint 2010 ECM and RM solutions at an enterprise level is really hard work. 

My companies have been building enterprise ECM and RM solutions (mainly Documentum, but also Open Text and FileNet) over the last 15 years.  In the best tradition of integrators (I come from Accenture and Booz, Allen) we were always on a mission to take the next hill.  We started down the enterprise SharePoint ECM and RM path thinking that we finally had easier tools to work with.  What we have found is that enterprise ECM and RM deployments using either MOSS 2007 and SharePoint 2010 are significantly more difficult to make successful than we expected.  These have been and will be fine solutions, but there are so many nuances to these deployments that it is very difficult to design and architect these solutions without significant hands-on experience.  Not high level briefings, hands-on experience.  Choosing among components and solutions in the multi-repository ECM world of 2010 and the next few years will require detailed knowledge of a new set of issues and components that are somewhat unfamiliar to many ECM and EDMS consultants.  The issues that they have traditionally focused on are still part of the equation, but the new issues are also critical to project success. 

Enterprise ECM and EDMS Consultants, with their feature checklists and spreadsheets and best practices and ROI models have helped countless companies select relevant EDMS and ECM products and solutions.  But most of these folks haven’t had their hands in an architecture or software development project in many years.  They believe that their experience is relevant, but unless they are prepared to re-engage with these multi-repository solutions at a detailed level, their advice is at best only partially relevant, and at worst, misleading. 

SharePoint has made enterprise ECM and RM a best of breed market again.  SharePoint 2010 accelerates this trend, and most enterprise solutions will include components from dozens of vendors, although this may be masked by an integrator.  Next week, I will outline some of the requirements for enterprise content and records management solutions in an environment that includes both SharePoint 2010 and a legacy ECM Suite solution. 

#EDMS #ECM #ElectronicRecordsManagement #Consultants