Every so often, an idea comes along that stops you in your tracks.
Innovation is happening at the speed of light all around us but most of of the time it consists only of incremental, evolutionary thinking, which takes us a little bit further in the same direction we were going all along. We have become fairly blazé about innovation.
And then you spot something that makes you sit up, pay attention, change direction, and re-think everything. I had one of these moments a few weeks back.
The name “EpyDoc” will probably mean nothing to most of you. Even looking at their existing website I would have dismissed it as a second or third-rate Document Management wannabe. Yet, EpyDoc is launching a new concept in April, that potentially re-defines the whole Data / Content / Information / Process Management industry, as we know it today. You know what happens when you mix comets and dinosaurs? It is that revolutionary.
I have lost track of the number of times over the years that I’ve moaned about the constraints that our current infrastructure is imposing on us:
- The arbitrary segregation of structured and unstructured information [here]
- The inherent synergy of Content and Process management [here]
- The content granularity that stops at the file level [here]
- The security models that protect the container rather than the information [here]
- The lack of governance and lifecycle management of all information, not just records [here]
- The impossibility of defining and predicting information value [here]
…etc. The list goes on. EpyDoc’s “Information Operating System” (a grand, but totally appropriate title), seeks to remove all of these barriers by re-thinking the way we manage information today. Not in small incremental steps, but in a giant leap.
Their approach is so fundamentally different, that I would not do it credit by trying to summarise it here. And if I’m honest, I am still discovering more details behind it. But if you are interested in having a taste on what the future of information management might look like in 5-10 years, I would urge you to read this 10-segment blog set which sets the scene, and let me know your thoughts.
And if, while you are reading through, you are, like me, sceptical about the applicability or commercial viability of this approach, I will leave you with a quote that I saw this morning on the tube:
“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad”
(President of the Michigan Savings Bank, 1903)
P.S. Before my pedant friends start correcting me: I know that dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, not the Jurassic…😉
I like AIIM. I’ve been a member since 1995, and I have enjoyed watching it grow from a semi-obscure huddle of microfilm archivists, to a substantial, international, Information Management industry body. I’ve also witnessed its transformation from an introvert “from the vendors, for the vendors” organisation to one that offers significant value to IM practitioners and end-users through education, webinars, market studies, etc. But AIIM has just irritated a lot of its advocates.
When AIIM introduced the Certified Information Practitioner (CIP) certification back in 2012, I found it a very astute strategic move. Unlike the ECMp, ECMs, ECMm style certifications that preceded it, which were little more than a verification that that you have attended the relevant AIIM course, the CIP certification carried a much more significant value: It demonstrated that its bearers had a good grasp of most technologies in the larger IM scope, and had a sufficient understanding of the value and the issues of ECM-related projects not to embarrass themselves. It wasn’t a trivial exam – even for some of us veterans of ECM – and it was sought after: A badge of honour.
Unfortunately it wasn’t sought after enough, so AIIM has just decided to terminate the CIP program. Apparently, some 1,000 people have achieved CIP certification in the last 4 years, which by any accreditation measure is a significant success. Any measure apart from AIIM’s, that is.
Laurence Hart (aka Word-of-Pie) wrote an excellent article today on the unfulfilled potential of the CIP program (“The CIP, A lost opportunity“), which I totally agree with and I will not repeat here. He hints however to a key problem that plagued CIP from the beginning, the same way it plagued MoReq 2010 and numerous other standards and certifications. Laurence writes: “the CIP needed to be marketed inside and outside the profession“.
To the best of my knowledge, there are only two ways that a standard or an accreditation can succeed: (1) It is mandated by a government, law, or regulatory body, or (2) there is sufficient demand generated for it, to make it a de-facto standard. Otherwise it whithers and dies. There was no plan to ever mandate CIP, so the only way to it would ever be successful would be to generate sufficient demand for it. I am assuming that AIIM used the number of practitioners requesting to be certified as a measure of demand, against its success criteria, before pulling the plug on the project. We can argue whether issuing 1,000 CIP certifications in 4 years should be considered a success of a failure, but that would completely miss the point. That metric is entirely wrong.
Requests for receiving the CIP accreditation is not a measure of demand. It is a consequence of the value (actual or perceived) that CIP practitioners saw in achieving the certification. And that value in turn is a result of two other drivers: The real demand in the market for CIP certified practitioners, and peer recognition. The first one of these is tangible and measurable: How many projects, RFIs, job specifications or Statements of Work, explicitly request CIP certified candidates. I am not aware that there have been many. The latter is harder to measure and I suspect the one that drove most of the 1,000+ CIP certifications issued todate.
AIIM did little to promote either.
I fished out of my archives an email that I wrote to AIIM back in March 2012, soon after I successfully passed the CIP exam:
I believe that, until such time as CIP is a widely accepted (and requested) accreditation, I think we can create marketing drive based on its exclusivity… At the moment it’s a bit of an “elite” club, so let’s make membership to the club desirable! Some ideas:
1) Look at BCS Chartered statuses. I think this extends significantly beyond just the UK: http://www.bcs.org/content/conWebDoc/18215.
If we could somehow get the CIP Certification accredited through BCS (something like “Recognised/Accredited by BCS”) or as a certification that is somehow contributing to achieving higher membership, you will have CIP advertised to a much larger IT community than AIIM can reach.
2) Are there other similar organisations around the world that we could engage with?
3) Add it to LinkedIn as a formal “Skill” – See http://www.linkedin.com/skills/skill/Certified_Internal_Auditor?trk=tyah. Not sure what’s involved in this.
4) Create a LinkedIn “exclusive” group for people who have passed CIP. This could be “by invitation only”. Not only it gives kudos, exclusivity and a community to the members, but it’s a great hunting ground for headhunters and HR people.
5) Negotiate discounts for CIPs for conferences, events, publications, training, etc. Not only with AIIM but with external groups and other communities.
The idea behind all of these, is obviously to create incentives for people to want to become CIPs, because they are getting something back for it.
That was just a starting point and I’m sure there were many other ideas to generate demand. We know that the “build it and they’ll come” principle does not work. Like any other product, CIP needed consistent and persistent marketing to generate visibility and create demand. It needed Case Studies on the value it delivered to practitioners and their clients. It needed nurturing and it needed time to grow. It needed word-of-mouth endorsement and it needed public recognition. It needed an opportunity to mature.
Alas, it received none of that and, by all accounts, it shall remain another great idea, poorly executed.
P.S. The ambiguity in the title is not coincidental…
I must have been about 8 years old, so this would have been around 1972. My father worked for BP in Greece at the time. In his office, was a giant (well, it looked giant to an 8-year old…) machine with a chunky typewriter keyboard and a paper printer in the middle.
My father typed some gobbledygook that I didn’t understand and the machine typed back some response. To an 8 year-old, this was magical! I’ve asked what that was all about. My dad explained that this machine was giving him access to some massive computer somewhere, where he could ask for certain problems to be solved and complex calculations to be performed. He would fire off the question and the computer (somewhere far away…) would come back with the answer.
I wanted to see more. My dad explained that every time he used the machine, the company was charged money. The more he used it, the more it cost. He also explained that many people from across the world would be sending these requests to the computer, and therefore there were sometimes delays while everyone was asking questions at the same time (that’s why it was called a Time sharing computer). And if we asked more, we might be slowing down someone else that needed the answer fast. But he ran a couple of more questions, just to show me and sure enough the response came straight back, a few seconds later.
It took me nearly 45 years to put 2+2 together: A massive shared computing resource, hosted off-premises, executing multi-tenant requests, and charged on a pay-per-use basis. That was my first experience of Cloud computing and SaaS.
Who says innovation is dead? Happy birthday Cloud!
“In U.S. criminal law, means, motive, and opportunity, is a common summation of the three aspects of a crime that must be established before guilt can be determined in a criminal proceeding.” (Wikipedia)
I have been around Enterprise Software Sales & Marketing for over twenty years, both as a buyer and as a vendor. I’ve trained many new and experienced sellers and I’ve got to know both extremely successful ones and spectacularly unsuccessful ones. Selling is an art, not a science.
Over the years, I’ve collected a few nuggets about selling, that they don’t necessarily teach in Sales School. Things which seem to be pretty obvious when you think about them, but which tend to be forgotten in the mad rush to close the Quarter and to make the numbers. So, in the next few articles I’ll relay some of these nuggets and hopefully help some of the less experienced sellers in our industry.
Let’s start with the basics: Sales is not about selling
If you want to succeed as a seller, stop thinking about selling and start thinking about buying. What makes or breaks a sales deal is not your ambition to sell, it’s your buyer’s willingness to buy, so start thinking as a buyer. To get a corporate buyer to send you a Purchase Order, he needs to be committing the perfect crime, and your role is to help him set it up.
Why the perfect crime? Have you ever watched police dramas on TV? CSI, NCIS, Law & Order, that kind of thing? If you have, you’ll know that when detectives qualify someone as the suspect of a crime, they are looking for are means, motive and opportunity (and to commit a perfect crime and get away with it, you also need an alibi). When you are qualifying a corporate sale, you need to look for the same criteria for your buyer.
Motive: Why do something? What’s in it for them? In most cases, the purchase may have a business case that justifies the expense to further the company’s goals. But ultimately, the buyer needs to look good by doing the best for their company: lower costs, achieve compliance, enable growth, retain employees. Why? So that he can further his career: a pat on the back from his manager, a promotion, a better commission. There is no buyer that commits his company’s resources without risk and without an ulterior motive. Find your product’s personal benefit to your buyer and you have his attention.
Opportunity: Why do something now? Here is where you are looking for the compelling event. The biggest enemy you have as a seller, is their option to do nothing. What is it that will compel your buyer to act now, this quarter, this week? A new regulation? A new manufacturing plant? A round of redundancies? A change in strategy? An audit? Your job as a seller is to identify their urgency. What is it that will convince your buyer that they can no longer wait before making this decision. If buying now or in six months makes no difference to them, you don’t have a sale.
Means: It goes without saying that they need to have a budget. Or some other vehicle for releasing funding. No money, no sale! Again, as a seller, you need to understand their funding cycles, approval routes and budget constraints. Also their priorities – there may have been budget allocated for your solution, but an expensive plant failure, or a company acquisition or a legal dispute may take precedence and grab that money. Look for confirmation that the funding is approved and still available, when you expect it to be.
Finally, alibi: You have established that your prospect has a need for the solution, they have the funding and the urgency. Why would they buy your product? How do they justify their decision internally? Your USP, your differentiators, your Total Cost of Ownership, your customer support – what is it that will convince them that your proposal is more defensible to their peers and their manager, over your competitors? You may think that you product is the best in the market, but does your buyer think so too and do they believe it strongly enough to be able to sell their story internally? Your job is not only to convince them but to give them the tools and the confidence to become an advocate and a champion internally.
Buying enterprise solutions is the same as buying anything else: an emotional decision, on top of a rational one. Ultimately, you may not have control over your buyers emotions, but at least you can make sure that the rational part of the decision making – the premeditated part, to continue the crime metaphor – is secure.
I know that comparing a corporate purchase to a crime is a bit crude, but I believe that the analogy of the mental process behind it is accurate. I have found it a useful and quick mental check to qualify and validate new sales opportunities.
Remember: Good sellers don’t sell. They enable their buyers to buy.
On-Premise is an architectural deployment decision (On-premise vs. Cloud). It defines where your software would physically be deployed, and the access and connectivity options available to you. It’s a decision that has to be taken in context of the rest of your enterprise architecture landscape and your long-term design strategies.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a licensing model and, if you are comparing it with anything, it would be with Perpetual Licensing which has been the traditional IT licensing model for many years. This relates to how you are going to pay for using the solution: Pay a large sum (usually) up front as capital expense (Cap-Ex), and you own a perpetual license to access the solution forever. It is then your choice if you also pay and an annual support fee as an Operational Expense(Op-Ex). But the license to use the software is yours forever. Alternatively, in SaaS, you pay a much smaller amount per user/per month (all Op-Ex), which is flexible as your requirements change. In the SaaS model, you don’t actually own any licenses you are effectively “paying rent” only for as long as you are using the solution. This has nothing to do with where the solution is physically deployed.
And just to confuse the definitions even further, SaaS is also sometimes used to refer to the responsibility for administering the systems and supporting the solution. Typically, in a perpetually licensed environment, the license owner is responsible for the administration of the solution (or a third-party, if Application Management has been outsourced). In the SaaS model, the administration burden typically lies with the solution provider, not the organisation paying for the services.
The confusion has come about by the fact that, most commonly, perpetually licensed software tends to be deployed on-premise and managed by the license owner, whereas SaaS software tends to be deployed on cloud and administered by the service provider. But it does not have to be that way: Theoretically at least, there is nothing stopping you from deploying your perpetually licensed software on a private cloud, instead of on-premise. There is also nothing stopping you from negotiating a SaaS payment model with your software vendor, even if the software is deployed on-premise.
So the question of “On-Premise vs SaaS” usually implies: “On-Premise, perpetually licensed, self administered VS Cloud hosted, Pay-as-you-use, provider managed”.
And I’m not even going to start talking about what this implies for private vs public vs hybrid clouds and Single instance vs Multi-tenant architectures, which are also often lumped under the “SaaS” moniker, even though they have nothing to do with SaaS.
I know the differences are semantic but, as Information Management professionals, we have a duty to be clear about the terminology we use. Our clients have more than enough to be confused about, we don’t need to make it any worse.
P.S. As my good friend and fellow pedant, Chris Walker reminded me, the correct term is “On-Premises” not “On-Premise”. He is right of course. There is no excuse for bad English either!
Two days ago, IBM and Box announced their new partnership. It’s big news in the ECM and EFSS space, but not earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things. However, looking at the twittersphere and blogs, it seems to have created more buzz than other similar partnerships in this space. There are good reasons why: The partnership seems to bleed into other technology spaces – Collaboration and Analytics being the most obvious ones – and everyone is trying to read between the lines of the announcement, to understand the motivations, benefits, impacts and strategies underlying the move.
The announcement was not altogether a surprise. Maybe the specific tying of IBM to Box was unexpected, but a major move of this type in the EFSS market was very much predicted by pundits, including Chris Walker, Apoorv Durga and by yours truly. Following the original partnership announcement however, and Box’s own blog, I have read many comments on the impact of the announcement including Cheryl McKinnon, Jake O’Donnell, Alan Lepofsky, Michal Lev-Ram, Steve Lohr etc. Many others will surely follow in the next few days.
I want to share some additional thoughts on what this announcement means and its potential impact.
Not an acquisition – yet
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Three years ago, this announcement would have read very different. IBM’s acquisition spree was in full swing, and acquiring someone like Box would have been an obvious and easy target. IBM’s cash wallet however has since zipped up and, with few exceptions, partnerships are the flavour of the day. I can’t help thinking however that, unlike the Apple and Facebook partnerships announced previously, this is more of a “try before you buy” type of partnership. Also, Box’s market penetration and revenue is very much dependent on their other partnerships, competitive to IBM, so an out and out acquisition would have crippled that revenue. This is a very modern, poly-amorous affair…
Impact on Enterprise Content Management
The announcement focuses on three distinct IBM software areas: Content Management (IBM ECM,) Analytics (IBM Watson) and Collaboration (IBM Connections). I don’t have insight as to which of the three groups led the discussions, but I can certainly see the most direct impact being in the ECM portfolio, so I suspect it started there.
IBM’s Content Navigator on Cloud, which includes IBM ECM’s existing EFSS functionality, was developed directly on SoftLayer. Its market share however, compared to the on-premise version, has been minimal. Rather than trying to compete with Box, this partnership brings a dominant cloud market footprint, which gives IBM a shortcut into extending the rest of its ECM portfolio to a cloud audience.
The jewel in that portfolio’s crown would be IBM Case Management, allowing Box customers to easily layer line-of-business functionality on top of their existing content footprint. IBM recently announced availability of IBM Case Management on their development cloud and, presumably, that will soon be followed by a true instance of cloud-based Case Management. Bringing Box, and their market footprint, to the same infrastructure platform provides an excellent jumpstart for true SaaS process management for IBM.
Capture and Imaging are an obvious feed mechanism for ingesting Box content, but I don’t see that being a dominant business driver here.
Information Governance on the other hand, in the form of StoredIQ, creates a much more exciting proposition: Just like SharePoint in the past, Box “estates” have had little or no visibility of what corporate content is actually being stored in the cloud, what risks it exposes, what disposition schedules it is supposed to follow, who it is being shared with, or how it is preserved. StoredIQ can help address all of these issues for existing Box users by analysing and cataloguing existing content (using both metadata and Content Analytics) and then forcing governance actions to regain control over that content. Huge opportunity for IBM sales, and a great boost in Box’s credibility in the Enterprise world. It would be very interesting to follow how the messaging develops alongside Box’s own Governance announcement just a day before the partnership, especially as it overlaps with IBM’s own Records Management and eDiscovery functionality.
Impact on Collaboration, Analytics and Enterprise cloud
Alan Lepofsky has already covered the Collaboration angle in detail. The key here is to notice that Box may be directly clashing with the IBM Connection Files EFSS offering, but less so on the true collaboration functionality of the IBM Connections platform and its Social Business messaging. To all intents and purposes, it’s another content repository to store content in and, just like for ECM, provides a good footprint for IBM in the cloud market space to use as an upsale opportunity.
IBM Content Analytics (previously part of the ECM portfolio, now part of Watson) offers an interesting twist: Frank Gens (IDC) said that “This deal is largely about using IBM’s artificial intelligence on the corporate content in the Box service […]”. I am not sure it’s largely about that, but it certainly has a role to play: I have no doubt that Box sees this as a huge marketing attraction in its efforts to woo Corporate markets, but I don’t see as much of a benefit for IBM. It’s another content repository to farm, and a very messy one at that. The value of this exercise is predicated on governance being applied to the content first to minimise ROT, and on finding real life use-cases where this “artificial intelligence” (or, more accurately, natural language processing analytics) will provide true insight. It remains to be seen if the huge volumes of content currently held in the Box cloud, have much more insight to offer than just duplication of content that is available on file systems and other on-premise repositories.
The final little gem in the announcement is “Enterprise Cloud”. This has potentially huge implications for both parties: By moving their content to IBM’s SoftLayer Cloud infrastructure, Box are gaining a great, geographically distributed, cloud footprint that is underwritten by one of the biggest names in the industry. Not only it offers a great credibility boost for the Enterprise market, but it also allows Box to concentrate on the product functionality leaving IBM to manage the back-end infrastructure. IBM on the other hand, gets a sudden and immense content load transferred to its Cloud platform, significantly increasing its market share (in both volume and users) over its cloud platform competitors. Win-Win for both!
It will be very interesting to see how much the Box partnership penetrates the rest of IBM’s software group. Besides ECM, Connections and Watson, there are several other parts of IBM’s software portfolio that could potentially take advantage of this deal. IBM Process Management is currently integrating to content repositories mainly through CMIS. Will they target the Box user base for line-of-business solutions? Asset Management, Risk Management, Digital Marketing, Customer Experience, eCommerce, all have a need to store and share content, and it’s almost guaranteed that a lot of that content currently sits in Box. Will they also try to connect?
Speculating, just two days after an announcement, is a dangerous thing. We will know in the next six months how realistic any of these ideas will be. But I can see why this partnership made sense, on paper at least, for both parties and for our market.