Product Rebranding: The Aluminum Siding of ECM?

May 02

As I originally wrote last year… This repost inspired by discussions this week ┬áby Lubor Ptacek and a response from Lee Dallas at Big Men on Content on the purpose and rationale behind product re-branding in the ECM world.

Platforms vs Suites vs Condominiums

This line came to me a few weeks ago prepping for some conference and webinar presentations… and the more I think about it and talk it over with others, the more I think it accurately describes the ECM landscape today.

The fundamental divide among ECM vendors as I see it today is between vendors who position their offering as a “Suite” and vendors who built their offering as a “Platform”.


Nuxeo is clearly in the “Platform” category. An ECM platform is a cohesive, end to end offering architected and built by a core team with a common vision (vendor or community). It is intended to be a foundation for the content or case-centric applications that business users need. Microsoft Sharepoint, I would argue, is also a platform.

Whether you’re a fan or foe of Microsoft, you have to acknowledge that Sharepoint has absolutely emerged as one of the dominant platforms for enterprise collaboration and basic content management apps. I’d be curious to see if this is a factor in Sharepoint deployment success or failure – building on it as a platform vs. deploying it as general purpose application.

Platforms are intended to be used as infrastructure. It’s the plumbing to make business run in the knowledge economy. This ecosystem of services, plug-ins, APIs allow organizations to be the makers – to build the applications that are meaningful to their information workers and business objectives.


Several of the Suite vendors have been acknowledged as the ECM “leaders” of this last decade. Feature rich product portfolios often assembled via acquisition – less organic internal R&D. Often very strong point solutions, integrated at wildly different levels of depth – depending on the vendor and architectural vision. The value of the Suite vendors can be to provide consistent services, support, single point of contact for customers as they expand their content management needs.

Increasingly I see this distinction as more a past vs. future debate. Of the old guard and the new guard. The Suite approach helped make sense of the diverse content management applications that emerged in the 1990s and logically needed to be consolidated as the power of personal computers and electronic content/communication became mainstream work.

But now we are in the world of the web, and mobile, and social. Information workers aren’t afraid of technology and new devices any more. One size fits all apps that are tough to customize and tailor to specific business processes are frustrating to end-users and systems administrators alike. This is highlighted when the capabilities that sold the ECM Suite are actually from entirely different products. Different installers, system requirements, administrative modules, support for standards – can become burdensome for administrators.

and the Condominiums?

Some of the Suite vendors are more cohesive in their vision and architecture than others.

If every feature used to be a company… if it looks like a nice building from the outside, but through the front door you realize every unit has a separate owner… and is decorated differently… every room its own rent schedule…and the resident’s association won’t let you change anything… some floors are well maintained and others left unrepaired… well then it might not be a Suite… but a Condominium.