ECM Disruptors – Open Source, The Cloud, Software as a Service and Big Data – What are clients doing?

When it comes to new technology, one Accenture partner once shared an interesting analogy comparing new technology to teenager vices.  Everyone is talking about it, few are doing it, and those that are doing it aren’t doing it very well.   For this post, we will discuss TSG’s ECM clients, The Cloud, Software as a Services (SaaS) and Big Data to shed some light on what our clients are talking about, what they’re actually do doing, and with our thoughts for readers to consider.

ECM and Open Source

Open Source has had the biggest impact on ECM over the last decade.  Some relevant points from our clients:

  • Alfresco emerging as a viable alternative to proprietary legacy ECM vendors.
  • Solr/Lucene replacing proprietary search/database approaches
  • MySQL and PostgreSQL as viable alternatives to Oracle and SQL Server on ECM infrastructures
  • Linux replacing Unix and Windows
  • Tomcat replacing WebSphere and WebLogic

We would anticipate more disruption from open source software.  See our thoughts later in this post regarding big data and open source components including Hadoop.

ECM and the Cloud

TSG’s first cloud client was United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Chicago.  In 2007, we helped UCP move from a makeshift data center (some servers in a closet) to Alfresco in the Amazon Cloud.  We are pretty proud of our work for UCP – if you are interested see the video on the TSG web site.

When it comes to clients, some relevant observations:

  • Virtualized – whether in the cloud or data center, all but one of our ECM clients leverages VMware to virtualize their ECM environment.
  • Clients with robust data centers have kept their ECM implementations in the data center.
  • Clients with data center cost concerns have looked to the cloud to provide a more cost effective alternatives to buying and hosting their own hardware.

For one client that was looking for a lightweight ECM system to cache content from SAP to a Solr consumer repository, the cost savings of Amazon versus internal procurement of development, test, and production servers and support was the difference between an $8,000/year hosting cost versus a $200,000 procurement plus yearly maintenance.

All of our cloud clients have deployed in a private cloud configuration.  Rather than a public cloud where anyone on the internet can access the ECM system, the cloud is often set up as an extended component of the client’s internal network.

ECM and SaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS) represents both the Cloud as well as a new way to procure ECM capabilities.  To promote simplification as well as cost effectiveness, the service would be flexible to vary pricing based on how the service is used, similar to a utility.  The more the service is used the more the price.  Some ECM SaaS observations from our clients:

  • Many use “off the shelf” Sync and Share tools like Dropbox, Google Drive and Box. These tools have not threatened or replaced traditional ECM vendors and are focused more on collaboration.
  • Many use single-focused content tools for specific purposes. Best examples are DocuSign for 3rd party electronic signature as well as a variety of tools for sharing of files.
  • Some have looked at specific vertical solutions but none have replaced their internal ECM tool with a SaaS model. Best example of an specific vertical is Veeva Vault.  Some of our regulated life science clients have looked at Veeva but none have moved to date.

ECM and Big Data

As we have been discussing since early 2015, we see the modern database disruptors from the big data movement disrupting both the underlying database components of ECM as well as disrupting legacy ECM vendors.  Our client experiences include:

We would surmise that, like the Cloud in 2007, the big data disruption is coming for ECM but limited in 2015, for now.


Tying back to our analogy on new technology and disruptors and ECM:

  • Open Source – Everyone is doing it and most are doing it quite well.
  • The Cloud – Many are discussing, some our doing well but mostly as private clouds.
  • SaaS – Clients are doing it but only for certain small functions. Examples include electronic signature and sending of large files.
  • Big Data – Not many doing it to completely replace ECM vendors, but some are implementing for certain scenarios with success.

Let us know your thoughts below.

One thought on “ECM Disruptors – Open Source, The Cloud, Software as a Service and Big Data – What are clients doing?

  1. One quick add – one client sent me an email – “What about Mobile” – it has really faded in regards to ECM over the last couple of years. Seems mobile is great for email, calendar and consumer applications but most of our clients might use it for browsing documents but view their laptops as the core method to leverage ECM. Let me know your thoughts or opinions.

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