Five Information Management Predictions for 2017 Concerning IBM, Documentum, Office 365, and Cloud

A version of this post originally appeared on CMSWire.



This time of year is filled with prediction posts, and I’m guilty of writing my fair share over my 15 years as an information management talking head.

But I have a confession to make: I hate reading them, and I hate writing them. I always feel as if I’m grasping at straws to say something profound that others haven’t said, and no one ever goes back a year (or two or three) to see if they actually came to pass.

Yet I’m writing a 2017 prediction post because, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have some insight into what might happen in this new year. And I vow that in December, I’ll dust this post off and hold myself accountable to see whether any of these predictions came to pass.

1. The End of Enterprise Content Management Vendor Dominance

The last year has wrought significant changes in the enterprise content management (ECM) technology landscape, and in my opinion, none of them are good for the end user.

Documentum's Dizzying Year

Let's start with the successive Documentum acquisitions: first by Dell  and then by OpenText, which brought Documentum out of the frying pan and into the fire … and then into a hotter fire.

EMC’s 2003 acquisition of the company was bad enough for Documentum (just ask any legacy pharma clients how that transition went), but I fear the sale to Dell and then to OpenText has brought Documentum to the end of its run as a major player in the ECM space. Given that OpenText already has a product that does everything in the Documentum product stack, the likely goal is to milk license revenue (which is significant) and to try to convert existing Documentum customers to OpenText products (especially in financial services and pharma, where OpenText has historically been weak).

Even if OpenText planned to use the best of Documentum to replace weaker offerings in its core product, it would be at least 3 years – an eternity in today's business climate – before OpenText would have production-ready products for customers.

Puzzling Moves from IBM

We also saw some puzzling moves by IBM with its ECM group, all of which seem to be engineered (intentionally or not) to gut its ECM practice.

The company let go of a lot of ECM sales folks and then rolled ECM under the Watson group, which so confused end users that their IOD, I mean Insight, I mean World of Watson conference this fall was the most poorly attended in recent memory, in large part due to the fact that ECM customers had no idea the show was for ECM!

Microsoft's Continued Build-out of Office 365

Finally, Microsoft has developed the Office 365 platform to the point that it now provides roughly 60 percent of what users need for ECM, so the value proposition of “big ECM” is getting weaker and weaker with every passing quarter. (More on this below; see Prediction #4.)

By the end of 2017, I predict the dominance of “big ECM” will be, if not over, then at least on its last leg. Two so-so vendors are not enough to meet the complex ECM needs of organizations, and Microsoft and an increasing retinue of cloud and SaaS ECM vendors are ramping up to fill the breach.

2. No Turning Back on the Cloud

In the last 5 years, attitudes toward the cloud have gone from “Great idea, we’ll never do it,” to “Maybe we’ll go in 10 years,” to “If we go, how would we?” to the “We’re going; now, how the heck do we keep from screwing it up?” at the end of 2016.

Given this, 2017 will be a painful year for many firms, with lots of growing pains, mistakes made, and lessons learned. But these organizations are entering 2017 with at least one foot fully in the cloud — and no way of turning back.

3. Information Security and Information Management

Successful information security (InfoSec) is no longer just about building stronger walls; it’s about managing the data behind those walls better to reduce the risk of a breach and lessen the impact when it does inevitably occur.

Information management is the key component for InfoSec to succeed, and cutting-edge Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) are taking the first steps to do something about it.

The shift started roughly 2 years ago, but given the uptick in Doculabs’ business in this area and the increased conversations I’ve been having out in the world (I haven’t met a single CISO lately who isn’t thinking about information management), I predict 2017 will be the year we reach the tipping point and see information management as a natural domain under InfoSec rather than under IT, Records Management, or Legal (although those groups will continue as key stakeholders).

4. The Growing Dominance of Office 365

Say what you want about Microsoft, it’s killing it with Office 365, from both a market share perspective (how couldn’t it, given how well positioned it is to own the stack at most organizations), and a functionality perspective.

If you’ve taken a close look at what Office 365 currently offers, you’ll see a sophisticated, if somewhat scattershot, suite of tools for managing work and the content related to it. And Microsoft is rolling out upgrades and innovations practically every other week. It seems like every time I turn around, the waffle has a new tile or two, with apps that offer increased collaboration and document management functionality.

Yes, the move to Office 365 is much more difficult than Microsoft lets on (in some case, much, much more difficult); yes, the functionality in any given domain isn’t as good as that of a niche player; and yes, the constant (and often unannounced) upgrades are hell to manage for IT departments.

But if the choice is between spending millions on a mixed portfolio of technologies to meet end-user needs for collaboration and content management (the success rates of which are not so promising) or using Office 365 (especially given that most organizations already use Office 365 for things like email and/or SharePoint), the choice is clear.

By the end of 2017, I think Office 365 will have eaten the lunch of most other technologies and be well on its way to being the de facto standard.

5. Uptake in File Analytics (with Realistic Expectations)

For almost 15 years now, we’ve been hearing about how technology will soon be able to scan unstructured content, decide what’s junk and what’s not, and then sort documents into different buckets. And we’re still waiting for this vision to materialize.

The road to file analytics nirvana is littered with the bodies of firms which bought into auto-classification software and failed — often miserably, and to the tune of millions of dollars and thousands of wasted hours.

I don’t think 2017 (or 2018, or 2019, or 2020, for that matter) will bring us any closer to this dream deferred.

But what it will bring, and what is already here, is effective file analytics – i.e. the use of regular expressions to scan content for patterns that allow us to make good guesses about it. For example, finding ###-##-#### in a file will allow us to infer the presence of a social security number (and therefore consider it sensitive data).

Effective file analytics is a much less lofty goal, but nevertheless a valuable one. I’ve seen firms use these analytics tools to reduce their shared drive content by 60 percent — sometimes as by as much as 90 percent — all through regular expressions that allow them to infer junk, stale, and sensitive data, and then act on it.

In the last year, a number of vendors have matured their products to the point where easy and effective file analytics is ready for prime time. And I think 2017 will bring a vastly increased use of these tools to improve how firms manage information.

See You in December

So there you have it: My reluctant forecast for information management in 2017.

I’d love to hear what you think. Do you disagree vehemently, or agree wholeheartedly? I’ll return to these predictions in 12 months to see how I did and call myself out where I was wrong…and to celebrate my genius where I was right!


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.