Unlocking the Value of Information:
The Move from Content Management to Intelligently Managing All Enterprise Information—
A talk with David Mennie, Director of Product Marketing, EMC
David Mennie wasn't always the product marketing manager for EMC's Information Intelligence Group. Before that he (like me) was in the telecom industry, and he (unlike me) earned a masters degree in electrical engineering. So he brings to the marketing job an additional level of competence and knowledge. He's also a former software engineer and worked in network management, which during the heyday of telecom was a big deal. He then somehow slid into digital asset management (DAM), which led to his eventual position at Documentum, which then in turn led to his current life at EMC. (I know... it's a goat chase to follow these careers sometimes, but I find it fascinating to discover how people reach their status through time, and in this case, I can attest that David knows his stuff.)
"It wasn't all that unusual. There were a lot of document management vendors during that time acquiring digital asset management companies," David recalls. But it was scattered. There were Mac-based video studios which were at the outside/upside edge of video DAM. But at the same time there were more mainstream marketing organizations which needed to manage content and brand assets, no matter what format it was in. So they went down through the check box, and they realized that a more general approach to DAM-plus-content was more market-worthy. And that's the same conclusion many content management companies arrived at during that period, making it a hot competitive market. But David has stuck it out, and is a very important market leader at a very important content management company. Good call.
David went on to develop records management technologies and has some patents in that space, so he is not only a valuable asset for the Information Intelligence Group, but also is an unusual marketing leader—he has technical experience beyond the normal "J-school" training, and so his credibility in the "full ECM sphere," as he puts it, is solid with me.
It's unusual when a marketing guy can speak with the salesforce from a solid technical background, and at the same time address customer concerns and interact in a product marketing capacity. David is very good at all of that. Impressive guy.
The Movement to Dynamic Case Management and Smarter, Process-Driven Applications
I suggested to David that I was being cautious about bringing in the subject of "case management." It's kind of in a hype-cycle now, and the traditional BPM vendors have, in my experience, been somewhat reluctant to go there. I wasn't sure whether David wanted to address "case" during our conversation. But he was more than happy to talk about EMC's case management market position and how it's evolving into more of a smarter process application story.
"If you look at our (Documentum/EMC) history, we got into the BPM game around 2006. Before that we had been doing workflow and various review and approval cycles with ECM since the beginning. That's fine, and it means following content around in a document-centric workflow. But the business process management side allows you to do much more advanced interactions with systems, whether they're ECM-based or otherwise. So we took steps to take the underpinnings of Documentum, and marry it to a BPM engine that could capture both content and process analytics and provide information about how the system was performing, and create dashboards and business activity monitoring and things like that. And we realized that the opportunity for this emerging space called ‘case management' was something we were very well positioned for. Most BPM vendors come at this from a very structured, transactional workflow automation perspective. Let's squeeze every last efficiency we can out of this process," David says. "And that's been done to death; if you want to enter the BPM market today, you're basically saying, ‘Uh, hello. Me too.'"
He continued: "We looked at it differently. We determined that content is a fundamental part of the equation. We decided that you can't make intelligent business decisions based on process path alone or just content stored in an ECM system. It's really about leveraging both—gaining visibility to all information within your enterprise within a single, flexible application and using business processes as the key to agility and interactions with systems within the enterprise. So we looked at our portfolio. We had a design tool to allow developers to build flexible user experiences without writing code. We had business process management with process analytics support. We had document management with built-in collaboration. We had a powerful search engine with content analytics and intelligence. We had connectors to most back-end systems in the enterprise. And we decided if you married this stuff up, we had the ability to build dynamic case management and smarter, process-centric applications better than anyone else—the result was Documentum xCP. We thought we were well positioned to do it, because most of the pure BPM guys saw content repositories as a ‘dumb bit bucket'—a place to store content—but the BPM vendors had no awareness or ability to make changes to the content. We thought we were well aware and well equipped to tackle this emerging market, and therefore we fueled the early thought leadership around dynamic case management and smart process applications."
BPM is for the daily predictable transactions that, frankly, maintain the business. But what customers really want is to handle the unexpected and make smart, well-informed choices based on all available information. "These emerging applications are what I mean by the ‘next wave' of innovation," says David. "The new applications are much more dynamic, agile and collaborative. BPM is a very structured, straight-through workflow, and has a lot of hard-wired connections to various systems. But new smarter, process-driven applications allow you to change the UI, change the path and assemble relevant information from other systems without knowing anything except the outcome you want to achieve." Over the years, says David, other enabling technologies such as enterprise capture systems like EMC Captiva have provided an "on-ramp" to automatically create new cases from paper-based documents or images taken from users' smartphones and tablets through the recently released Captiva Mobile Toolkit. And to ensure that the customer experience is improved and the state of the case is provided when users want it, targeted, personalized communications rendered in the form factor the user wants (e-mail, SMS message, print, etc.) can be provided with integrated customer communications management systems like EMC Document Sciences.
The Next Wave—Managing All Enterprise Information
The way to do that, David tells me, is to bring all the available information systems together in a single context. "Think about it this way: You've got ERP systems like SAP sitting there; you've got content management systems like Documentum; you've got SharePoint; CRM applications like Salesforce.com..." It's a mishmash, in other words. "But every one of those applications has its own context, and having visibility across all those information sources is the critical first step. Because fundamentally, information management is about making the best possible decision for the business as quickly and efficiently as you can in an informed way. If you have to ignore information sources simply because you can't access them... well, that's not good and that's what we're trying to solve."
As far as agility goes, it's about being able to add new information sources and make changes as they come into your organization, David explains. "There can be new information sources. There can be new regulatory demands. There can be requests from the business users who want information presented in the user experience in a different way. Being able to change according to flux within the business requirements is something that true information management can do that traditional BPM or document management has not done a great job of doing," he says.
Recently, IIG further expanded its push into the information management space by introducing a product called the EMC InfoArchive. It can handle all sources of information: unstructured content (e.g., documents), structured data (e.g., databases), and even handle hybrid information in a single, unified archive. This eliminates silos of information in the enterprise, enables companies to retire legacy systems that they may be keeping around simply for compliance reasons, and unlocks the information for use in smarter, higher-value applications. It's based on IIG's native and very scalable XML database called xDB—it can handle billions of objects and hundreds of terabytes of information. Now that's Big Data.
Who's in Charge?
So it becomes obvious to me that there is an organizational imperative at work here. So I ask: "Who's in charge of making this fundamental change? Is it a line-of-business-driven decision? Or is it still an IT thing?
"That's been a fundamental shift, you're right. We've seen it become an increasingly business-driven decision," agrees David. "Not only are the pursestrings controlled by business, not IT, but IT has shifted to be an influencer, but not a decision-maker." And that's because of the nature of information management, I think. He uses the example of loan origination or a new account opening use-case in banking. One bad decision by a loan officer could undo the profits of a hundred good loans. So it's mission-critical that those decisions are well-informed and based on all available and the best information that they have.