SaaS ECM marketplace is partly cloudy

Earlier this week, I blogged about ECM and Open Source -- and the different landscapes buyers will encounter in the Enterprise Content Management marketplace versus the Web Content Management marketplace. I think there's a similar paradigm when it comes to SaaS (Software as a Service). For web content management, there are a plethora of choices including the most significant players that we evaluate in our Web CMS research: CrownPeak, Clickability, and OmniUpdate.

When it comes to SaaS and ECM there are few options out there for buyers to consider. As of today, the best-known ECM SaaS vendor is SpringCM, a relatively small firm that built a multi-tenant SaaS platform from the ground up. Using the SpringCM platform, many VARs (Value Added Resellers) have developed highly specific, document-centric applications. It's a model that can provide highly specialized point solutions for some enterprises.

The reason for the lack of SaaS options for ECM is due in large part, to the complex integration and process management requirements of many ECM deployments, requirements that don't typically gel with SaaS as a delivery model.

This past week the SaaS ECM options expanded a little when EMC announced a joint development with the giant Indian outsourcing firm Wipro. The announcement encompasses a fully hosted Documentum 6.5 offering developed and running on top of Wipro's own SaaS platform. We've issued cautions before about the differences between true SaaS and hosted models for traditional software.  And indeed, this particular hosted solution is a very difficult concept for me to get my head around.

For whereas SpringCM for customers typically means a very specific, pre-configured business application, Documentum 6.5 is not really a product at all. Documentum 6.5 is more of a marketing banner that describes a platform of services including a very wide range of modules, connectors, and add-on's -- more than 150 line items, in fact. How a near infinite number of permutations can be delivered this way is a bit of a mystery to me. My guess is that only a select use case or two will be offered by this Wipro service. Most likely these use cases will be around scenarios like high volume imaging (transactional document management) and archiving; these are solutions that can be configured largely via rules and BPM and that typically run with the same key technology elements each time. In other words, this will not be an offering that truly provides the full breadth and depth of Documentum 6.5, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

For buyers looking for a solution to these types of use cases, this new offering is an interesting new option. But beyond these very specific use cases, I think the jury will be out on this one for a while. There is a world of difference between clearly defined departmental solutions such as "student e-records management" or "bid and proposal management" (as you'll find in the SpringCM solutions list), and more general enterprise-scale information management.

I think SaaS options will continue to grow in nearly all of the areas we cover. But for ECM this growth will be a bit slower and much more "productized" in nature than we're used to in an ECM market that is currently dominated by traditionally installed platform/infrastructure vendors.

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Gil, Partner, Cancentric Solutions Inc.
iStudio Canada Inc.

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