The State of ECM in EMEA

I’m back in my home away from home, SeaTac Airport, on my was to London for a week of customer meetings, networking a la SharePint Wednesday night (watch the Twitterverse for central London location and time), and another day-long think-tank with the AIIM.org executive leadership council. I’m very interested to see what differences, if any, there are in what the EMEA participants define as the state of enterprise content management (ECM) compared to that of the Americas, which took place earlier this month. If anything, I’m sure it will be thought-provoking, and similar to the Chicago event, I’m expecting to walk away with pages of notes, ideas for new content, and dozens of new contacts.image

What is happening to ECM? The mad rush toward social collaboration seems to be leaving in its wake years and years of structured collaboration investments. I do believe there is a sizeable portion of organizations pushing toward the new social gold rush without fully understanding the impact to their businesses, but, the reality is that most of those organizations were never fully realizing the full benefits of their platforms anyway. Why? Some over-built for end users and processes that were just not ready for such a structured system. Others failed to align what was being built to their core businesses processes. And most forgot to include the end user experience within their planning, keeping people from fully embracing what was there. In almost every failed deployment of ECM, an ROI was not achieved, and executive team became frustrated, and someone decided to take action –> and a decision was made to try out this social collaboration thing.

When Yammer started to pick up steam – prior to the Microsoft acquisition – and my company, Axceler, began looking at the various social platforms to better understand which were the leaders who would most likely blend well into the SharePoint story and our own story of governance and administration, we began talking with Yammer, as we saw their platform as the most intuitive and the most likely to have near-tern break out growth. Boy, were we right. Funny to think that at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles two years ago, there was hardly anyone as the Yammer rooftop party. I think the Axceler team was half of the attendees. What a difference two years makes.

From day one, my thought process was that Yammer and SharePoint were complementary, with different value propositions – and to some extent, different customers. Even with all of Microsoft hard-selling to put Yammer in the hands of every customer as part of their overall push to the cloud, I still see them as two different value props: SharePoint for structured collaboration, which is hard, takes a ton of planning and ongoing governance to be successful, and Yammer for unstructured collaboration, which is more about employee engagement and community building. If you look at all the reasons why ECM has failed (that is, if you buy into that premise to begin with), it is largely because what those organizations really needed was unstructured collaboration – the simple ability for people to connect, communicate, and share. Most orgs are unable, or unwilling, to take the steps to build out and properly manage (on an ongoing basis) their ECM platforms in a way that supports the growing, changing, evolving needs of the end user. But the unstructured collaboration platforms, such as Yammer, are relatively easy to understand, and quick to deliver on the basic benefits that organizations need. Hence, their rapid adoption.

There are several reasons why Microsoft bought Yammer. One main reason was that Yammer saw that to grow they were going to have to add SharePoint-like structured collaboration capabilities, and Microsoft saw that as a serious threat because of all of Yammer’s unstructured collaboration strengths. But the trick will be to either integrate Yammer’s story into the structured collaboration strengths of SharePoint over time, or to expand that native structured collaboration capability in the platform itself. That has to be the path forward for businesses to truly recognize the ROI of these tools. Without a blend of structured collaboration, the social tools of today will find themselves falling out of favor soon enough (I predict 2 to 3 years).

The same is true for every social collaboration vendor, not just Yammer. The future of ECM is, I believe, social collaboration. But the future for social is also to build closer ties to ECM, giving organizations the best of both worlds: structured, process-centric capabilities and strong governance models, but with the flexibility and communication strength of social.

I hope this topic comes up this week at the AIIM ELC. If not, I think we’ll be missing the boat.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.