ECM at the Crossroads: Documentum Survey Results

A version of his post first appeared in CMSWire earlier this year.

Doculabs' recent survey shows that ECM is a mature, aging technology.

When OpenText finalized its acquisition of Documentum early last year, a broader discussion of where enterprise content management (ECM) is today and where it may be headed in the future opened up. ECM is a mature, aging technology.

In my last few posts about ECM vendors and the changes coming for the ECM landscape, I laid out my thoughts on what OpenText's acquisition means for organizations currently using Documentum. The resulting discussion inspired us at Doculabs to conduct a survey of our client base to see what their experiences post-acquisition have been and what their go-forward plans for the platform are.

Most Documentum users have been on the platform for more than 10 years.

While the survey results are illuminating regarding Documentum, they were even more illuminating for the larger questions about ECM.

Survey results indicate—and our experience confirms—that ECM is a mature technology. Of the 221 respondents to the survey, 75 percent have been using Documentum for more than five years and 50 percent for more than 10 years. Only 18 percent of respondents have used the platform for fewer than five years. (Although we didn’t survey OpenText or IBM FileNet users, my suspicion drawn from work and conversations within the industry, is that the longevity of users on those platforms is essentially the same.)

While this indicates that the use of Documentum for ECM is long-standing, you could interpret these numbers in two ways. On the one hand, they demonstrate the deep roots that Documentum has in the market due to the high percentage of experienced organizations on the platform. On the other hand, you could interpret the numbers to mean that the platform is out of step with industry needs due to the low percentage of new users.

No matter which way you spin the numbers, the fact remains that ECM is an aging technology with the majority of users having been on the platform for more than 10 years. In and of itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But given responses to other questions in the survey, it may mean that organizations are turning to ECM to solve basic problems and have stopped looking to ECM to solve more pressing, contemporary challenges.

Documentum is primarily used as a basic document repository.

When asked what their primary use of Documentum was, more than four in five respondents said it was being used as a basic document repository, essentially a filing cabinet for electronic documents. The next three most common uses were workflow (50 percent), records management (50 percent), and scan-and-capture (40 percent). The rest of the options (WCM, DAM, SharePoint integration, etc.), each received less than 20 percent.

The 50 percent figure for records management was a surprise. I would have guessed a much lower number. On the other hand, the workflow number is lower than expected, as automating business processes is a key value proposition for ECM software.

Relatively few Documentum users employ scan-and-capture or SharePoint integration capabilities.

The low numbers for the other categories—scan and capture, WCM, DAM, SharePoint integration—were not so much surprising as illuminating. On the whole, firms are not getting the ancillary benefits from the wide capabilities offered by ECM. So either they’re not leveraging technology for these purposes or (more likely) they’re using niche ECM (or non-ECM) solutions for these applications.

Once again, I would expect the answers for OpenText and IBM FileNet users to be much the same. Basic repository would lead the pack, with records and workflow next, followed by a smattering of more advanced functionality.

Enter Content Services as the next big thing in information management.

All of this makes it not so surprising that content services is emerging as the next big thing in information management. Firms have a need for more than simply a bucket to store documents. (For a perspective on IBM’s attempt to automate content services, click here.)

There’s no shortage of talking heads trying to predict the future of ECM (or Content Services, or Information Management, or whatever you choose to call it), and their responses run the gamut from “it’s dead” to “this is an exciting time.” But based on the survey results, the end user population is less certain about the future of ECM.

Survey respondents have uncertain go-forward plans when it comes to ECM.

The majority of survey respondents appear to be in a wait-and-see or maintain mode (or were unsure where they stood) in terms of their go-forward plans for ECM (whether due to the acquisition or to ECM in general). This squares with what I see at industry events and in my work with clients on any ECM platform.

The uncertainty in the vendor landscape, the seismic shifts in how users expect to create and consume content, the dynamic regulatory context (think GDPR, Dodd-Frank, etc.), and the increase in the number and severity of security breaches have all made ECM a difficult domain in which to make progress.

Office 365 is the wild-card when it comes to the future of ECM.

In some ways, the increasing dominance of Microsoft Office 365 has simplified parts of the ECM equation. But in other ways, it’s made ECM more difficult, especially in terms of how to procure associated capabilities like e-discovery, data loss prevention, records management, information rights management and the like. Time will tell whether this wait and see attitude will change to execution and what decisive event will cause this change

Although I’ve been writing about the ECM landscape in general, the genesis of the survey was about Documentum users and their experience post-acquisition. While the responses offered some key nuggets that are useful for thinking about ECM generally, one of the key Documentum-specific takeaways definitely corrected my view that Documentum users are negative on the acquisition.

Most survey takers view the Documentum acquisition in a positive light.

Only 9 percent—fewer than one in 10—of respondents reported feeling negative about the OpenText acquisition. That was far fewer than I would have expected. The majority reported being undecided (50 percent) or not sure (20 percent), leaving 20 percent feeling positive about the acquisition, again a far higher number than I would have expected. And while other responses, especially about go-forward plans for Documentum, suggest they are hesitant to act on positive feelings post-acquisition, the fact remains that in the wider world of Documentum users, more users are positive than negative about the acquisition by a ratio of about two-to-one.

Survey data is always challenging and dangerous to extrapolate from, especially when you try to do so from one narrow category (e.g., Documentum users) to a broader one (e.g., all ECM users). But hopefully I’ve analyzed our survey in a way that illuminates key trends in the ECM space and gives you food for thought about how to be successful with ECM at your organization. 

Rich Medina
Joe Shepley
I’m VP and Practice Lead, focusing on developing Doculabs’ InfoSec practice and its applications in a wide range of industries.