The Globalization of Enterprise Content Management Software

From SharePoint to Documentum to Interwoven, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software provides the information infrastructure for  large enterprises, both internally and externally.

And although most ECM developers will eagerly say their software is “global” — not all software is equal when it comes to supporting all languages and locales. As one point of reference, SharePoint 2010 will be available in 40 languages by year end.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, Principal Analyst and Director of The Real Story Group, has been covering the ECM industry for years and I recently asked him a few questions specific to the globalization of ECM software.

Here is the interview:

Q: You mentioned in your 2010 ECM Market Analysis that international vendors continued to thrive. Can you provide an example or two of vendors who have been innovating in this area?

The best known vendors, the market leaders in Gartner or Forrester research papers tend to be American.  However the actual market is huge with a multitude of vendors that get no coverage at all from major analyst firms.  Most of these vendors are “local” to some degree, be that predominantly active in a country such as Germany (Fabasoft) or Australia (Objective) — or even within a local market such as Chicago.

Q: Your report also referenced the consolidation at the top end of the market. Is this a good thing, or bad thing, with respect to international support?

That’s a tricky question — in that though there is a great deal of consolidation at the high end of the market (and likely more to come), there is new entrants coming into the market every week so it sort of balances out.  Support in your time zone, in your language is one the most important thing we stress to buyers, and even though the high end of the market claims to offer 24/7 support globally, that typically only works for their major products (storage infrastructure/databases) rather than their content management products, which are considered niche.

Q: To what extent are international requirements playing a role in product selection?

Ever more so.  This past year we have seen a very notable pick up with larger enterprises really starting to address international requirements either for their customers or their employees.  Its a tough nut to crack, but some of the largest (tens of millions of dollar) projects in the ECM market today are focused on multi-language, multi-location issues.

Q: Supporting social networking across locales and languages is becoming a pain point for many companies. Do what degree are ECM vendors addressing this pain. What platforms are leading in this regard?

ECM vendors are struggling to know what to do with social networking.  On the one hand the press and analyst community are talking of nothing else, on the other hand there is virtually no demand from end users and buyers of this technology for ECM to address the pain.  In as much as the pain is no more than the the normal consumer world leaking into the enterprise world, usually restricted to a handful of people or teams.  If there is a compliancy problem (the usual concern) then best to ignore its happening than to start out on a major project that has little chance of success.

Q: Given the pace of change in technologies, social networks, etc. what advice do you have for companies planning to buy or upgrade their ECM platforms?

Open standards — always open standards — never ever proprietary.  Your ECM platform should be just that, a platform. Capable of chatting and interacting will all parts of your business and IT infrastructure, many fall short of that expectation. The other thing to say is be realistic, you can’t now and never will be able to manage all your organizations information/content – focus in on priorities, content that is genuinely mission critical and do that well.

For more information, visit www.realstorygroup.com

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

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