Standards and ECM

Yesterday, Laurence Hart (a regional ECM consultant) felt compelled to talk about standards in the context of enterprise content management and asked if they’re getting too much attention. In the process, he linked to one of my EMC Documentum Foundation Services (DFS) posts.

First, let’s talk about ECM standards. Are they getting too much attention, as Laurence suggests, or not enough attention? I would argue the latter based on recurring conversations with customers and also simply by acknowledging the whole of content we all live in.

While it may be true that compliance with standards is an oft-used tactic to satisfy an RFP checkbox that can in turn lead to increased sales–generally speaking not just in ECM space–taking this kind of approach to standards is ill-formed and serves neither the customer nor the service provider. Standards are not an end to themselves; they should represent means to worthwhile ends–and customers ultimately decide what is worthwhile and valuable. Customers increasingly tell me that the right ECM standard is valuable to them and something they want to see implemented by EMC Documentum.


The following figures comes my EMC World presentation on DFS:

Why ECM Standards?

Today’s content-centric and content-driven applications need to access ECM services from multiple content stores (e.g. EMC Documentum, SharePoint, Amazon S3,, etc.). Unless there is an ECM standard for content service providers, the application developer is burdened with adapting to each store as a set of one-off’s. This causes application development not to scale, and the result is fewer applications that make all enterprise content available to knowledge workers. Rather than estimating the cost of implementing an adapter, the application developer and his or her CIO would rather know what new content can come “online” into existing solutions over time and based on standards.

That’s addressing briefly how ECM standards are relevant for customer applications and solutions. What about customer service implementations? What about ECM service providers themselves?

As with most technology providers, ECM software revenue travels up the value mountain. By this I mean that yesterday’s value proposition is today’s commodity and tomorrow’s legacy (e.g. Laurence’s reference to ODMA). While life as a typical ECM provider may have began with a repository, it won’t stay there. In fact, it’s already moving. So, companies like EMC must look to software services to provide customers value long-term. A service that can easily represent and compose with other content stores, not just its native repository, is a more valuable service. The more I can virtualize enterprise content–the more I can provide a consistent service layer above that content–the more relevant I become to your enterprise and its knowledge work.

Laurence stated: “Standards are enclosed in the SOA efforts of [EMC’s] vision.” DFS is the SOA enabler coming in EMC Documentum 6.0, and as you’ll hear me say in my EMC World presentation, DFS is indeed influencing EMC’s work in the ECM standards space.

Roughly a year ago, I blogged about iECM, and I closed by saying that I would provide updates-as-blog-posts as “iECM progresses toward its stated goals.” Since then I haven’t blogged another word about iECM.

What I can say today is that EMC is working on ECM standardization with other industry leaders, and that EMC is very committed to the important work of making ECM interoperability in a standard way. Just as soon as I can say more, I will! :-)