Home > E2.0, ECM > Google Wave killed the ECM star…

Google Wave killed the ECM star…

I don’t get excited by technology much these days. I tend to have a rather cynical view about it – Typically it’s either been done before, or it’s a solution looking for a problem. But occasionally something comes along which makes me sit back and take notice.  I’ve known about Google Wave for a while now. It’s been heralded as an “email killer” or a “wiki on steroids” or a “collaboration on the fly” and various other profound marketing statements. So it’s been sitting in the “wait and see…” corner of my mind for a while. I’m particularly skeptical about products which are declared “game changing” before they are even released…

Yesterday however, I indulged myself in watching the 1:20′ demo video of Google Wave. If you have not seen it, get yourself a cup of coffee and some biscuits, lock yourself in a room, stick the headphones on and be prepared to watch a good movie. You’ll laugh out loud too! This isn’t your typical PowerPoint presentation or even product demo. It’s good fun and it’s important.

However, beyond the functionality that you see demonstrated, pay attention to the personalities of the presenters, the people behind the product. You will begin to understand why Google Wave is significant.  It’s not the technology, it’s the attitude that’s different.

“What’s this got to do with ECM?” you may ask… It has everything to do with ECM. If Google Wave succeeds as a corporate platform (and I see absolutely no reason why it wouldn’t), it will fundamentally change the ECM industry.  Why? because the ECM industry, and Document Management before it, was invented as a workaround to compensate for NOT being able to do what Google Wave does. Let me explain… let’s look at some of the fundamental capabilities of ECM and how they might change in Google Wave world:

1. Check-In / Check – Out: This was invented primarily to overcome the issues of multiple authors trying to edit the same document at the same time and then having to synchronise the edits. Google Wave’s real time authoring synchronisation, removes the need for asynchronous editing and document locking.

2. Version history: Each Wave contains a complete version history of its lifecycle. The “Playback” function allows users to go back in time and trace the lineage of any edit in the document. A much more detailed and granular approach.

3. Lifecycle workflow management: Author, review, comment, modify, authorise edits – all native to the authoring interface and contained within the Wave. With the development of agent/robots I can imagine adding a “Review-y” (when you see the video you’ll understand what I mean…) to the wave, which will make sure that the right people are invited/uninvited to wave at various stages, based on the type of discussion or queries raised. All with complete audit trail information contained in the wave itself.

4. Security: Here we have another paradigm shift: Forget for a moment the traditional Access Control Lists (ACL) that we are all familiar with in the ECM world. Although not explicitly demonstrated in the video, the fact that the protocol supports federation and has the intelligence to allow/disallow the relevant people in and outside the firewall to see parts of the wave, means that it supports contextual security. The Wave’s security model is (appears to be…) contextually adaptive. That means that it will define its access behaviour based on the context/domain that it appears in. So not only you can implement implicit access security, but effectively it comes with Rights Management already built in.

5. Search & retrieval: The search capabilities demonstrated on the video were impressive, and given that this is Google, I don’t think it will have scalability issues, somehow…

6. Publishing: Of course you can take a snapshot of the wave and create a traditional document or another wave, much like we do today. But here’s another shift… (If any of you have seen the Harry Potter movies, you will remember the newspapers with the moving video clips on the page?) Rather than publishing content to websites, blogs, etc. you “embed” the wave on the site. Which means real-time dynamic web-publishing rather than static. The same way that Google Wave obviates the check-in/out, review cycled of traditional ECM, it also eliminates the need for elaborate web content publishing cycles. If you need to use staged publishing (remember, the approval itself is embedded in the wave), it’s easy to have an embedding function that checks for approval and only presents the wave up to the previously approved point!

7. Process / BPM: Process engines can attach Waves as documents, so that’s not an issue. Forms are not an issue either as they are included in the Wave.  Where things are different, is that a Wave is the ultimate “active content”. It is an entirely even-driven engine, which adopts its behaviour to external events. So, by introducing “agents” into the Wave audience, you are effectively embedding both rules processing and predefined behaviours into the wave. Think of this simple example: you added a third party to your wave, asking them to complete a part of a form inside the wave. Since the wave is jointly monitored by both internal and external wave environments, as soon as the information is completed, your process agent (who is a participant to the wave and therefore also monitoring the wave live) immediately recognises this, removes the third party from the wave and continues the process. Remember, the whole audit trail is “recorded” inside the Wave itself!

8. email management: Redundant. The purpose of email management was to convert emails to document objects in order to apply document management rules and controls. As the wave replaces email but is a document in its own right, you get both functions effectively rolled in one

9. Imaging: Imagine embedding both a scanned image and it’s OCR’ed text rendition in a wave, where you have created overlay-ed documents – much like the Satellite/map views of Google maps. Remember, it’s the same people that invented both…

I can go on and on… Yes there are holes in all the above and there will be some niche scenarios where this will not work quite the same way. But for 90% of standard office communications and documents, I can see Google Wave turning the whole ECM industry on its head: My colleagues have heard me rant repeatedly about the need of a new ECM strategy that is no longer bound to the file / folder paradigm.  From what I’ve seen so far, a Wave is exactly that: a self-contained, self-governing multiple-content object, which includes both content and its associated behaviours.

As an ECM practitioner, am I scared? No, I’m excited – very excited! The ECM software, as we know it today, may change dramatically in the next 5 years because of Google Wave.  But the ECM practices and principles are still required. We just need to make sure that we adapt them to the 21st century. So ECM guys, roll your sleeves up, there is A LOT of work to be done here…

  1. Jed
    November 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    An excellent and thought provoking piece, I will link to it and if I get the time today may expand on some of your themes. I think too many of the detractors of Wave are forgetting that this is early days, its as much about the protocol as is the current rough and ready interface.

    • parapadakis
      November 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks Jed 🙂 There’s a big question in terms of when it’s likely to transition from fancy toy to corporate tool, but I have no doubt that it will eventually.

  2. Lee Smith
    November 27, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Excellent post, and yes we should be excited. It creates new solutions to take to people and hopefully get them to work smarter and more efficiently!

    • parapadakis
      November 27, 2009 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks Lee, for the RT too! 🙂

  3. November 27, 2009 at 4:53 pm


    Thanks to share your vision ! It’s a great post and I’m totally agree with your excitation about Wave.

    I post on my blog my feeling too.

    • parapadakis
      November 27, 2009 at 5:03 pm

      Interesting post too JM! We are obviously thinking along similar lines… Thanks for the RT

  4. November 27, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    If only half the features they talk about actually existed! I see where they are going, but all my test says they are not even close.

    • parapadakis
      November 27, 2009 at 8:04 pm

      You may be right, but it’s very early days… I think the principle behind it is sound, and if it gets the Open Source community behind it, the missing functionality will materialise very quickly. I do have reservations about the scalability of the synchronous editing across the world, but I can see the feasibility within the firewall. Time will tell..

  5. November 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    If I ever get chance to work with ya mate, I’m lapping it up! Brilliant piece!

    • parapadakis
      November 27, 2009 at 8:01 pm

      LOL – Thanks, I appreciate it!

  6. November 27, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Great ideas, George! And this is the reason why Microsoft will not only offer Office 2010 in the cloud but as well the Sharepoint 2010. The next battle for standards and markets will in the cloud. And this will generate big problems for traditional ECM vendors who still focus on inhouse installations. This will still be the scene with the big companies, but not with small enterprises and the private persons. Google Wave as well as Sharepoint bring ECM to the masses. And it is a new form of ECM, not the old style client server stuff with a little web polishing, it is driven by the ideas of E 2.0, collaboration and mobile devices. The good thing for the old ECM industry – these developments with Google and Microsoft are still at the beginning but the window is closing for traditional ECM. And there is no difference between content , data, documents, media assets anylonger – so wie are moving to something like integrated information management (IIM). It would be very intersting how your employer, George, IBM, is handling all these trends … Kind regards and have a nice weekend, Ulrich Kampffmeyer

    • parapadakis
      November 27, 2009 at 8:11 pm

      Thanks Uli, insightful response as always! My personal view is that on the technology side, the “old-school” ECM that we’ve grown up with in the last 10 years or so, is due a major revamp. and Google Wave (unlike SharePoint) might be just the kick up the backside it needs. On the practices side however, the “old-school” has a lot to teach the new kids on the block. As you know well, an ECM project is 10% technology, 20% business transformation and 70% change management and governance… And with the fundamental shift in culture that E2.0 brings, that 70% may have just gone up to 90%! ECM may just become fun again 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  7. Matthias Thorner
    November 27, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Yes, this is the same reaction I had, when I saw this product myself. ECM is trying to connect contents which were separated at birth. GWave puts the business case, the process in the center of our attention. I foresee that Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and others will soon come with their own GWave technology. ECM never really worked. After 15 years, only 40% of the potential ECM customers bought a product! What else do want to know? Somehow consumers perceived that something was wrong with this centralized data storage concept. Process centric applications like GWave will change the next years of our software industry. Tell Gartner – they can invent a new nice magic quadrant on it….

  8. November 29, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Oh, it seems that you had the time to write down what I think. 😉 I think that the ideas behind Google Wave will revolutionize how collaboration will be done.
    The question is, how long will it take and how fast we get adaption? The first steps were done, because Open Fire was placed under LGPL.

    • parapadakis
      November 30, 2009 at 10:44 pm

      Indeed! Adoption curves have changed significantly. Five years ago nobody would have predicted the rate of adoption of Twitter. So who knows? Wave may burst in its own bubble or it may spread like wildfire.

  9. Athol Hill
    November 29, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    I thinks its probably a little early to be calling this, particularly on ECM as a whole. ECM encompasses so many components and google wave only covers off on a couple of them. Whilst its a great concept, its still not a full ECM system and wouldn’t cover most corporate content management requirements. For the mining industry as an example, the ECM functionality would be far too weak for controlled document management so this is really only competing with low end ECM like SharePoint.

    It also doesn’t integrate into existing ERP systems. In SAP, you can tie ECM systems into transactional information. I.e. link a PO to a scanned invoice so the invoice travels with the original purchase order for approval. This type of ERP integrated functionality is used by some of the largest corporate entities in the world and until this type of functionality is offered, google won’t be an option unless companies are expected to run multiple ECM system. Other world class ECM systems like OpenText, Documentum etc offer this integration in ERP.

    It does offer potential, but at this stage, I don’t see it replacing any major vendors at large customers.

    • parapadakis
      November 30, 2009 at 10:50 pm

      Hi Athol, I agree it’s absolutely too early to make any conclusions. But my point here was to imagine how Wave could be used as a collaborative authoring tool. Weather it succeeds or not will depend on the pick-up speed of the market. Things like connections to ERP do not worry me. It took the traditional ECM vendors over ten years to realise their value, and the actual live integrated systems are still the exception rather than the rule. The actual technology of integrating is not complex and could easily be replicated on the Wave APIs. So I agree, today it’s not in a state to be adopted as a corporate tool. But as Daniel said in his comments, the question is “when”?

  10. November 30, 2009 at 10:36 pm


    there are good ideas, but not sure if I do agree. Wave is (at the moment) 100 years beyond the way “traditional ” way people are working and thinking. People still think in files and networks. These are the paradigms. And I don’t see, how wave will handle compliance.

    Sorry. You are on the Wave. To much hype, not enough reality,


    • parapadakis
      November 30, 2009 at 11:16 pm

      Hi Stefan 🙂 Too much hype? Absolutely, at this stage! Much like Twitter was before it started becoming a marketing tool, or Facebook when it was used just to find your school mates. But you know first hand how quickly these became mainstream. You also know how behind is today’s ECM technology from crossing the chasm to providing governance for the E2.0 generation of content. I agree with you that if Wave is to succeed, it will require a radical cultural shift in the way people work. But I don’t think this will come organically, I think it has already happened. I think there is a new generation of users that is no longer thinking in terms of files and networks. They think in microblogs and wikis and 24×7 mobile connectivity. A generation that finds email a slow, antiquated method of communication. For that generation, it won’t be a question of “how Wave will fit into ECM” but more “how will ECM morph itself around E2.0”. Don’t get me wrong… Google Wave is not ready for this today. But I don’t believe that Google Wave is 100 years behind. I don’t even think it’s 5. This new generation that lives in the iPhone “I can have any App I want” world, does not have the patience to wait for the traditional software “maturity” cycles to catch up… IMHO, as always!

    • Matthias Thorner
      December 1, 2009 at 6:59 am

      a few days ago, I participated in an event on SasS with big German customers. I asked them about the need to integrate E20 in the traditional systems. Half of the IT responsibles reported that they have strong policies which forbid the use of chat or twitter in their companies. Than someone from the biggest German bank stood up and told us that they are presently doing most of their business with the nordic countries by chat. It is certainly a challenge how to integrate chat in a regular DMS, but it can be solved. For me that experience was the concrete proof of E20 getting mainstream much faster then we all thought. Google Wave is an opportunity to bring Chat, Facebook and Twitter in a regulated and compliant environment.

  11. December 1, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Hi George
    as always a very nice written and thought provoking piece. I agree with most of the things that you are saying and looking at some of the responses, it is also nice to see that that ECM gurus are paying attention. GWave currently is all hype and unless you have a good number of people that need to work together and have access then it will remain the province of those that tweet about… ‘Gwave – now what?’

    The potential is there and it is a paradigm shift, something that at AIIM they are talking about and will continue to talk about. I agree, it is new and if you look at how quickly enterprise ready products have come up around the public Twitter, I am very curious to see what apart from Lotus Pulse is coming up from the big vendors. Uli mentions SharePoint 2010, but what about Oracle, Open Text and the others ?

    It is an exiting time that we live it and once more it looks like the people as Google have changed the game, just like they did with Gmail many years ago.

    Keep writing your thought provoking pieces and we will continue to enjoy reading them 🙂

    • parapadakis
      December 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

      Thank you my friend 🙂 Occasionally, we need something to get excited about, even if we can’t guess what the final picture will end up looking like…

  12. Jed
    December 1, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Finally got round to writing something based on your posting and some stuff about Google Chrome OS too, apologies for the delay !



  13. December 2, 2009 at 3:16 am

    Interesting trail of conversations. I am neither on the fence nor on any side of it. Right now, not even in the neighbourhood of checking it out.

    But one interesting aspect was mentioned above of Google Wave becoming for the masses and may for various reasons not initially be lapped up by big companies.

    Apart from being on the cloud, I am not really sure if the heads of IT would like to give up control to Google.

    Secondly, we assume that people actually work on content in a true digital world. While many I have worked with do use Track Changes or Comments to collaborate, they do these after the traditional method of printing it out, commenting with their pencils and then writing them on Word. And they are very active on Facebook, Gtalk, on their Berries and iPhones.

    The fact here is that Fast Food is fine when it comes to having a chilled meal at home or with friends, but, if invited or hosting a formal dinner, I assure you its not MacDonalds that’s on the dining table.

    • parapadakis
      December 2, 2009 at 10:30 am

      Thanks Sanooj. You make some very interesting observations here… On your first point, I have no illusions that IT heads will hand everything over to Google. I think that assumption would be naive. However I do see Google Wave environments replacing traditional email servers within the firewall, but with the Wave Protocol allowing seamless interaction across domains.

      On your second point you raise an interesting point which I think has more social implications than technical. Our generation (and I put myself firmly in the mid-forties bracket) has an aversion to full on-line authoring. But we’ve grown up by necessity with a paradigm of “books” and “documents” where the slow and cumbersome publishing process meant that we try and cram as much text as possible in each “published” iteration. And of course there is no way to annotate a 100-page document online.

      But today there is a lot more information being written and produced, than read. This balance is slowly shifting and I can see from my children (now in their teens) that the patience to write, read or consume huge verbose tomes of information is just not there. They want short digestible pieces, succinct and to the point. They live (and study) in a wikipedia world with the assumption that sufficient information about any topic can be quickly found through a search engine and quickly digested with in a 10-minute sitting, before their attention span expires.

      I believe that the way information is consumed in a corporate environment will also dramatically change with the next generations. There will no longer be huge documents that cannot be reviewed online. There will no longer be a luxury of time to print and annotate a document on paper and then type in. Much in the same way that today we don’t have the luxury of waiting for a lawyer to dictate a letter to his secretary which then goes to a pool of typists to arrive at a client a week later. When I send an email question to my solicitor, I expect an email answer within 24 hours. Not a written thesis.

      I’m sorry, I’ve developed your response to a blog piece 🙂 But you get my point: Today, your observation is totally valid. But I think in the future, it won’t be because the audience’s expectations are changing dramatically.


  14. February 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Wicked cheers, very use full information. thank you.

  15. March 14, 2010 at 5:36 am

    Thanks for some quality thoughts there. I am kind of new to online , so I printed this off to put in my file, any better way to go about keeping track of it then printing?

  16. July 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Hey! Thank you for sharing this with the community. I really like your posts Google Wave killed the ECM star… For what it's worth… :o)

  17. July 11, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Kinda late to the party but Google tends to be ahead of the curve on a lot of thinks . I guess as time goes by and it play out we will have a better understanding how effective it is

    Just look at the new +1 feature they are promoting now. Not sure how well it will be accepted. Facebook and Twitter are still the Giants in social media


    • July 12, 2011 at 10:47 am

      Thaks Rudy, I agree. Obviously since I wrote this, GoogleWave has fallen from grace, but I still think that it heralded a lot of change. It will be interesting to see what impact Google+ will have, outsid the early IT interest.

  1. December 10, 2009 at 2:28 pm
  2. November 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm
  3. September 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm

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