Is Your ECM ELA Killing Your Innovation?

Those of us who know the content and document management market spaces have lived through a number of software buying waves. The early stages were focused on buying one-off solutions for image capture or basic archive, with most large enterprises having six to eight  different vendor solutions or instances of the same solution, providing the same (or much the same) functionality.  Solutions were immature, and the market was flooded with technology. Innovation abounded; it really wasn’t that bad or expensive to try out a bunch of tools.

Then came consolidation, when buyers decided that they needed at most one or two platform/ instances that would manage their information across an enterprise. This was great for building on the idea of providing more efficiency in IT management of systems. But the business culture of having your own tool caused a great deal of strife between IT and the business. During this time there was also a lot of upheaval in the product community. As customers consolidated, the larger ECM players wanted to maintain their foothold – and the sure path for the vendors seemed to be buying other tools to create the ultimate portfolio of complete ECM functionality. However the consolidated products were not quite jelled, and the customers who’d bought off on these ECM “suite” solutions struggled with the value of the large investments they’d made in software from these large providers.

Then came the age of the enterprise license agreement (ELA). Vendors offered discounts to customers willing to make investments in their tools for multiple years. For a time, this approach also provided great benefit to the buyers, as the vendors were offering bigger discounts for content and document management software.

More recently, the dynamics are undergoing yet another change, as larger providers like HP, IBM, SAP, and others have included document management, records management, CRM, storage, analytics, archiving, and other solutions in enterprise software agreements. (Sounds great – one-stop shopping, right?) However, the challenge is that we see the sales organizations of these large providers spending as much time fighting for their share of the ELA revenue as they are in getting their customers to succeed in leveraging the tools they are licensing in the ELA.  Which leads to one of the longer-term issues that a company must face when it’s looking at ELAs: the issue of being stuck in a rut with tools you don’t want, need, or even deploy.

What you really want is to be able to find the best tool that fits your architecture, solves a business problem, and creates better productivity. How can you do that if your vendor’s sales team has its eyes on the prize – i.e. is just making sure they get the right piece of the investment pie?

My parting advice: Don’t just sign up for your ELA renewal, but instead work with your procurement organization to make sure the tools you’re signing up for are the ones you need. Make sure your needs aren’t just getting lumped into an “either-or” enterprise license against the folks over in Human Resources; make sure your ELA is working for you.

In fact, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the contract you have with your vendor, in which case you might want to give us a call. Doculabs has been helping the document and records folks right-size their software investments in technology for 23 years. How can we help you?

Rich Medina
Rick Tucker
I’m Doculabs' VP of Sales and Marketing. I work with our consultants developing new services to meet the needs of Doculabs’ clients.